In Fallout 76's depiction of a worldwide nuclear exchange, West Virginia is left largely untouched by the devastation that wracks nearly every other corner of the United States. Not to say Appalachia is bereft of its own radioactive problems, but that's another story. Point is, the country needs to be rebuilt, and the wilderness surrounding Vault 76 doesn't seem like a bad place to start.
Initially, anyway. Turns out Appalachia has a few nuclear missiles nestled snugly in their silos, just waiting for some maniac to fire them off. And as Bethesda demonstrated shortly after Fallout 76 was announced, you can be that maniac.
People are understandably nervous about Fallout 76's "Nuke 'Em" feature. Are we going to be at the mercy of trolls who can reduce our campsites and settlements into ash? Will we lose everything if a nuke just nicks us by accident? How often will we see a mushroom cloud blossom over the West Virginian mountains?
Not very often, it turns out. Maybe not at all if you're not part of a group hell-bent on making a coordinated effort to find and launch a missile. After going hands-on with Fallout 76 last week and listening to its developers talk about (and demonstrate!) how nukes work, I realized finding and launching Fallout 76's missiles are an activity tailored for high-level groups of players. While you absolutely can fire them at a rival camp, someone who goes to the trouble of finding the codes necessary to initiate a missile launch is primarily interested in creating an irradiated pocket of land full of rare resources and super-tough monsters. It's doubtful anyone is going to make it their mission to rain down nukes on some level-7 schmuck boiling a haunch of Radstag over their dinky stove.
"When you get to a higher level, you can get the nuke codes and actually set one off," said Chris Meyer, development director at Bethesda, during a roundtable interview. "That changes the region you nuke into a sort of high-level zone where the creatures are glowing, and you can get some of the highest-level ingredients to craft the best weapons in the game."
Moreover, Fallout 76 is not a game where you can make enemies easily. At last week's event, Bethesda confirmed there are 20 to 24 players on a server at once. That's about two dozen people scuttling around a landscape that's four times the size of Fallout 4's world. If you want to be left alone, you're in luck; you can play for hours and never see anyone at all.
On the off-chance you're having a very bad day, and someone sets off nuclear weapons in your neighborhood, the destruction doesn't happen right away. Even Minuteman missiles take time to reach their destination. You get your proverbial three-minute warning, at which point you can pack up your camp and fast-travel somewhere out of the blast zone.
Do consider standing still and witnessing the End of Times, though: Fallout 76's nukes are the spectacle you expect them to be. Enjoy the show while you can, because a lethal radiation bath makes soup out of your cells and you drop dead in less than a minute. Luckily, you only lose some of the scrap you collected when you die. When you revive and locate to cleaner land, you can rebuild your camp / settlement by recalling its blueprint and pressing a button. Additional material requirements are minimal, or nil.
All told, we have nothing to fear from Fallout 76's nuclear missiles. They're hard to acquire, they're not worth wasting on petty troll antics, and rebuilding is simple if the worst does happen. We probably stand a better chance of getting hit by actual nuclear weapons in the real world. Take that factoid to bed with you and sleep tight!