Written by Jonathan Wojcik
FALLOUT 76 CREATURES
The Fallout series is probably one of the few really mainstream games I ever get that interested in, but you know me - I'm way more invested in the world building and enemy design than anything else, so when I heard that the next game would focus much more on wilderness exploration and a map devoid of human NPC's, I was actually delighted. Not so much by the idea of it being exclusively online, no, and now that the game is out, it's been plagued by errors, poor reviews and glaring customer service failures.
That's a real shame, too, because a Fallout game populated primarily by quirky robots and mutant monsters really is everything I ever wanted from this series, and the creatures added to its irradiated West Virginian setting, unlike so much else connected with this game, are not at all a disappointment, and you'll see fairly quickly why I felt a review of them was appropriate for our Halloween II season.
We'll get the un-spookiest out of the way first, though if you ask me, sloths have plenty of potential to be ghastlier. They're so slow they accumulate algae, fungi, their own species of moths, beetles, lice and more species of tick than any other known mammal, and it's too bad they didn't run with any of that for these irradiated giants. If you're wondering why they're present in West Virginia, it's because the state is actually home to a quasi-famous sloth sanctuary.
THE MEGA SLOTH
One of my favorite animals and childhood nemeses, mutant ticks are an all-too-appropriate choice for the forests and mountains of the Northeastern United States; you practically can't avoid them out there.
Fallout's giant ticks are just a 1:1 translation of the real thing, but there's nothing wrong with that, except they're never seen in a perfectly flattened state; they're always fat enough that they would have had to have recently fed. For reasons mentioned above, they really ought to have some kind of special symbiosis with the mega sloth!
(Screenshots by Rad Roach!) You actually have to keep track of your hunger and thirst in this game, and a number of relatively harmless creatures have been added for players to hunt. These include hairless, mangy foxes, rabbits and squirrels along with a few stranger mutations, like these beavers covered in jagged, defensive spikes of bone.
Another one that can't hurt you, but I like how the possum resembles multiple individuals melded together, with a scattering of incomplete tails poking out of its fur like a nest of worms!
(Screenshots by Rad Roach!) The most lovable of the edible wildlife, however, has got to be the frogs who run and leap on their greatly enlarged front legs...and come in this electrical variation.
And at long last, Fallout introduces a non-hostile mutated arthropod! I love the fat blobbiness of the firefly's abdomen, and the interesting ways they've incorporated it into the setting. It's even hunted and eaten by the radtoads we'll get to in a moment, so you can harvest glowing firefly guts from the bugs themselves or the stomachs of the toads.
(Screenshots by Rad Roach!) Killer plants are always a joy as well, though Fallout as a series has only skirted with the idea a couple of times. 76 takes a subtler approach again, with plants that don't really animate or "attack" much but do release clouds of toxic gas when you approach. The smaller, more insidious variety resembles a single, massive pitcher plant trap with a lining of teeth just inside its entryway, beautiful!
Even more dramatic might be the giant, mutated sundews, which have grown to the size of trees and can gas you from above!
(Screenshot by Rogue Lavellan) An even grander addition, mutant frogs feel like they were a long time coming to the Fallout setting, and the Radtoad incorporates everything you could have wanted; multiple froggy eyes, a giant mouth, a sticky tongue (which actually appears to be several fused tongues) and even a back loaded with eggs, like the "Surinam toad" or Pipa pipa!
The toads are also remarkably formidable at lower levels, by which I mean a huge pain in the ass, and I feel like they deserve that status. You SHOULD have to learn to fear big toads.
I'm torn here, because I do really like the idea of gas-masked human miners becoming "mole people" and I like the way these fellas dress and act, but they're still canonically just humans who were "driven mad" and trapped in their mining suits. Come on! Put some claws on these guys! Don't promise us mole people if you can't deliver!
THE MOLE MINER
At least the mole miners did apparently befriend the giant mole rats that have been a staple Fallout creature for several games straight, which is adorable. Mole rats attack all other humans on sight, so what the heck caused them to recognize these people as friends? Was it simple domestication and training over time, or is there something about the look and smell of the mole miners that appeals to mole rats??
(Screenshot by Rad Roach!)
This is easily one of the coolest mutant arthropods in the whole series, though perhaps that's because it's one of the few to really embellish its inspiration into a more original monster. Whether it's a honeybee colony with an excessively huge queen or two species working together, it consists of an aggressive swarm of normal-sized bees whose hive is built directly on the back of a more massive Hymenopteran, too heavy to employ her wings for flight. It's a very cool concept and a striking visual I hope they won't leave behind if we ever see another Fallout game...though at this point, there really isn't any guarantee of that happening.
THE HONEY BEAST
Speaking of atomic zombies, the Scorched are a new brand of pseudo-"undead" in a game that already has the "ghouls" of previous titles, and personally, I find the Scorched a little too gauche on top of being redundant. It's only their origin story that really sets them apart, and the fact that they eventually crystallize into eerie, immobile statues.
(Screenshot by Catastrotaffy) SPOILER, that origin story we just mentioned is that the Scorched are created by an infectious fungus, and that infectious fungus is spread by humongous, fire-breathing, mutated bats. Was this at all inspired by the widespread devastation of bat populations by white nose syndrome? I like the idea of bats as dragon-like enemies, obviously, and bats as such a huge deal in general. They've earned it! The relationship between the two enemies definitely makes the Scorched more interesting. I can definitely get behind the high-grade spookocity of a fungal zombie plague spread by Chiroptera.
(Screenshot by Rad Roach!) And now we get to the real draw of this game for any creature lover; a whole series of higher level monsters lovingly drawn from the real cryptozoology and folklore of Appalachia! The legendary Snallygaster actually originates from the neighboring state of Maryland, where I happened to spend my entire childhood and teens, though I was surprisingly enough never told about the Snally until later still.
The original creature is said to be a flying, bird-like monstrosity with multiple tongues or tentacles it uses to suck the blood from humans and livestock, but Fallout's take is a flightless mutant of fascinatingly ambiguous taxonomic origin, with a mouth stuffed full of almost human-like teeth, eyeballs scattered on its prickly hunch-back and a long, slimy, hook-covered tongue it can whip out to attack! It may not have a whole lot in common with the Snallygaster of myth when you really break it down, but it somehow feels like it lives up to the name nonetheless, and all in all I just love how GOOFY this thing looks.
(Screenshot by Radbeetle!)
Use of Native American folklore in horror fiction with no actual Native American artists or writers (that I know of) can be of questionable taste, but at least Fallout's Wendigo is truer to the authentic lore than average. Countless other games, films and books portray these creatures as glorified werewolves or antlered beast-men, but the gaunt, corpse-like giant we're seeing here is far more accurate to Algonquian ghost stories, and in both cases, the creature originates when a human resorts to cannibalism.
One of our more obscure cryptids over in the Northeast, this monster was described as a pale, shaggy, gorilla-like beast with no discernible face or head, and was reported almost twenty times by over thirty people in the course of a single week around the town of Grafton in 1964. Did any of them really see something, or did one tall tale just go that viral throughout a bored and isolated town?
THE GRAFTON COUNTY MONSTER
Whatever the case, I'm loving the straightforward accuracy of Fallout's version, minus the fur of course, which perhaps we can chalk up to all that radiation. It doesn't do much besides try to pummel you into the ground, but its tumorous appearance and headlessness go a long way to making this a memorable beast.
You ALL know who this is! Don't you?! I shouldn't have to re-tell the story of the looming, monstrous robot reported one dark, eerie night in the fall of 1952. Fallout's version doesn't look like any other interpretation I've ever seen, but the inspiration still comes through aesthetically. I really love the vagueness of its bubble-enclosed head and glowing eyes, gloved hands and what seems to be wrinkly, grey flesh.
THE FLATWOODS MONSTER
Few players have really encountered this rare, high level enemy, and its origins are still a mystery. Space aliens have appeared in Fallout before, but mostly in jokey DLC material of questionable canonicity, and it's just as possible this creature is some sort of experimental, cybernetic weapon run amok.
(Screenshot by Rad Roach!) And you should REALLY know this one! Who doesn't, by now?! I'm happy to say I've lived to see the Mothman go from a fairly underground icon of the paranormal to one of the most famous, beloved figures in popular culture, though this is surprisingly among its most mainstream media appearances yet, and perhaps one of the most fleshed out, fully realized interpretations of the creature I've ever seen.
Fallout's Mothman is an entire species of huge, mutated, intelligent insect, and does a fantastic job of merging the look and feel of the legendary phantom with otherwise realistic Lepidopteran anatomy. These mothmen even lay delicate, barrel-shaped eggs similar to those of some real-world moths and butterflies, can be attracted by light sources and have a sonic attack inspired by the squealing of Death's Head hawk moths.
(Screenshot by Vagabond-Outcast)
The dev team seemed to recognize immediately that this was more than just another monster, but a cultural icon that came with a fervent built-in fandom, and peppered Mothman lore throughout the setting. A local cult had apparently built up around the worship of Mothman not long before we emerged from our vault, we can listen to a short horror radio drama inspired by the legend, Point Pleasant's famous real-world chrome statue of the being (or a loose facsimile, anyway) can be found in-game, and so can the abandoned remnants of a Mothman museum.
Mothman is also one of the few new monsters that is not always hostile by default. Purple eyes indicate a passive mothman, yellow eyes are cautious, and only red are a sign that you've really pissed it off. There's even a Mothman that's always "friendly," which you can attract to an old lighthouse to gain a temporary experience boost. Of all the things they arguably screwed up in this game, a lot of obvious love and respect went into their incorporation of such a beloved icon.
Fallout 76 came with a lot of unfortunate errors, but I can appreciate what somebody had hoped< to achieve with what may actually be my favorite setting in the series. Fixable errors and glitches aside, it would easily be my favorite game in the series with some stronger writing and a little more to do that didn't involve random internet strangers. The emphasis on creatures and environmental lore over the politics of human survival and social interaction is an excellent idea if you ask me, and it's one of the aspects of this game they didn't seem to botch. If they ever had the nerve to dive even deeper into what this entry flirts with, I could see a result not unlike a more sci-fi flavored Monster Hunter.
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