Apocalypse #8: Fallout 76: The Pitt
A return to Fallout’s grimmest city — but are Expeditions worth returning to Fallout 76?
When The Pitt expansion for Fallout 3 released, it turned heads for its intense, nightmarish atmosphere and an attempt at a more nuanced, grey-and-grey storyline that took players away from the ruins of Washington D.C. to post-apocalypse Pittsburgh, a hell on earth dominated by violent gangs and feral, subhuman mutants amidst a toxic warren of industrial pollution and intense radiation. For a game that sometimes seemed to be more of a jumble of incomplete ideas than a coherent experience, The Pitt felt a little more put-together than the base game.
So it’s probably not a surprise that Bethesda has decided to revisit the eponymous Pitt, the high point of their earliest foray into the weird world of Fallout, in something they’re calling Expeditions, the newest addition to Fallout 76, their former survival sim-cum-quasi-MMO. The basic idea is that after close to four years of operation, players are likely sick of looking at Appalachia by now, and Expeditions give players a chance to travel to new places.
But don’t get it twisted: this isn’t really an expansion; it’s barely even story content like the Brotherhood of Steel stuff. At most, it’s effectively a glorified Daily Op, a sort of instanced dungeon with objectives introduced to the game a while back. And I think that really lays bare how much trouble the game seems to be having in deciding what it wants to be. When Fallout 76 first came out, I admired its purity of vision: a semi-hardcore survival sim with RPG elements, no NPCs and a big world to explore, with other players providing much of the emergent gameplay. Over the last several years since the Wastelanders update, the game has felt less and less like a survival sim and more like a half-baked Fallout 4.5 that can’t decide if it wants to appeal to lore-obsessed explorers or loot-chasing rushers, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Expeditions.
The basic premise behind the Pitt expeditions is that survivors from Pittsburgh have been arriving in Appalachia in droves, to the point that the Responders, that erstwhile group built out of first response agencies and volunteers that once sought to rebuild Appalachia, has been revived for a new generation to deal with the influx of refugees. Things are quite bad in the Pitt, between the subhuman Trogs and the inhuman Fanatic gangers, and the good people of the Pitt (known as the Union) are asking for help. This is where you come in.
The Responders have taken over the old Whitespring Hotel, which has been kept in immaculate shape by the robots who run the place, and turned it into a brand new Responders headquarters. On the roof is a fully functional vertibird — this universe’s version of helicopters — that can take you to the Pitt for one of the two expeditions offered — provided you have the Ultracite-powered batteries needed to start the engines, which are earned by doing daily quests for the Responders.
Once you actually get where you’re going, you’ll be plopped in one of two places depending on which expedition you chose. One expedition has you breaking into a steel foundry taken over by the Fanatics to find plans for an upcoming operation; the other has you working your way through a collapsed portion of the city to find a way into a cathedral where the Fanatics are holding slaves. This latter expedition reminds me quite a bit of the Lonesome Road expansion from Fallout New Vegas; it’s as if the very ground has given out from under the city, leaving buildings at odd angles hanging over a disgusting toxic soup, swarming with Trogs.
If the original Fallout 3 expansion appealed to you, you’ll likely feel a little like you’ve come home, as Bethesda has lovingly rendered a post-apocalypse Pittsburgh in the modern engine. But it’s not as expansive as you’d expect — the expeditions only cover a relatively small area without much to explore. While there’s quite a few readables scattered around, the nature of the expedition means that unless you’re playing solo or with an RP group that intends to explore, you’re probably not going to have time to read them. Making matters worse is that the finale of both expeditions involve extremely difficult boss fights that are probably best handled with a group — in both cases I had to exploit pathing problems to trick them into not taking action while I spent ages whittling down their health (a common problem with a lot of boss enemies in the game.) You’re also not given a lot of time to get to know anyone, as the characters in one expedition don’t appear in the other.
While Expeditions is a bit of a paltry offering on the outset, the core conceit at least allows room for more varied content after four years of bumming around West Virginia. But I can’t help but restate my growing dissatisfaction with the game’s direction, or lack thereof, and once again I find myself wishing that they would bring back the Wild Appalachia version of the game, perhaps as a “mod.” Country roads, take me home, indeed.