Fallout 76 is the first online-only entry in the popular Fallout role-playing game franchise. Although the multi-player aspects are often poorly integrated, it maintains a keen interest in the ways that societies organize even after total collapse.
The Fallout games are set in sprawling mock-ups of post-apocalyptic landscapes-in this case, the ruins of West Virginia-that make deft use of environmental storytelling. Scenic dioramas scattered throughout the game world show how the pre-apocalyptic residents lived and died.
You regularly come across communities cobbled together from the ashes of the old world, struggling to survive in a damaged new one. Many of these ramshackle groups have ruling orders-governments or town leaders or family elders-and the storylines often revolve around internal disputes and squabbles over local politics.
The Fallout games are premised on the assumption that people tend to self-organize into little bands and tribes, that most will be peaceful but some will be violent, and that, in any case, shabby, petty politics will inevitably intrude and make life a little less pleasant. The games thrust players into a world where government has failed, and where it continues to fail.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Fallout 76".