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Fallout 76 Skyline Valley hands-on preview – plenty of Vault intrigue under unnaturally stormy skies makes this a Ghoul’s paradise

Welcome to Shenandoah, where a creepy manor, some family matters, and lots of red await.

The player looking at the storm in Fallout 76's Skyline Valley expansion.
Image credit: Bethesda

The first thing that’ll strike you when you make your way over to the new map region of Shenandoah after installing Fallout 76’s Skyline Valley expansion will be the sky.

Thanks to a mysterious and constantly-raging storm, it’s dyed a deep crimson that’s almost reminiscent of the hue cast over Fallout New Vegas’ Sierra Madre by its infamous cloud. While this one didn’t seem to be as deadly, the fact that its epicentre - hanging directly over the ruined manor house at the centre of Shenandoah which helps immediately establish where the expansion’s main story is going - is Vault 63, the door of which you’ll already have found jettisoned near The Wayward.

Most of the events of Skyline Valley revolve around this vault, which is populated entirely by ghouls, with some being of the regular variety and others being a new variant you won’t have seen before. That second group is ‘The Lost’, and they’re essentially infused with electricity, giving them a pretty cool black and blue aesthetic. A bit like Glowing Ones, the majority are feral, but - as is always the case - there’s an exception.

Hugo Stolz is that, and he’s the overseer of 63, which you’ll find nestled under that manor house. Once you’ve made your way there, he’ll enlist your services to help solve the vault’s problems. Namely, calming that storm. From what I played, a lot of effort has been put into the backstory of Stolz and the members of his family, all of whom play key roles in the story.

Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, the actions of the overseer - who I can best describe as feeling a bit like the lovechild of NV’s Jason Bright and Fallout 3’s Dr Braun; a blend of psychic mystery and cold calculation - and his complicated relationships with his daughter Audrey feel like they’ll have to be unravelled in order to get the bottom of things. The observatory Audrey lives in also has some huge mech-suited robo-brains outside, which play into the story in some capacity, though they were just derelict wrecks during the time I spent with the expansion.

Vault 63's door in Fallout 76's Skyline Valley expansion.
Somebody knocked a bit too hard. | Image credit: Bethesda

While they might dominate many of the 12 new quests, 63’s residents aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to Skyline Valley. For example, during one mission, I also encountered a cowardly pre-war park ranger who needed help shooing some eccentric visitors out of his bunker. Ideally, the 20 points of interest that make up the area - which is roughly the same size as one of the base game’s regions, and sits to the south of them all - would also hold a couple of interesting encounters that aren’t explicitly linked to the main missions, though that’s something I didn’t get a chance to properly check out.

Interestingly, when I asked Fallout 76 lead producer Bill LaCoste if there were any aspects of the DLC he’d flag to folks as ‘can’t miss’, he highlighted the new boss battle - though didn’t want to spoil too much about it for those who haven’t already gotten a taste via Skyline Valley’s public tests on PC. “It's got a lot of mechanics with it that are a little bit different from some of the other bosses that are in the game,” he said. “It's definitely way different from Earle [Williams], a little bit different from Scorchbeast Queen, [though] there are probably some little similarities with the latter.”

When I wasn’t working my way through missions, I gave Skyline Valley’s new event, Dangerous Pastimes, a go with a gang of fellow dwellers. Based around powering up a makeshift lightning rod (in-keeping with the whole storm theme, naturally) it was a decent twist on the formula that gives you a chance to battle waves of the different variants that make up The Lost as an enemy faction.

A super mutant in Fallout 76's Skyline Valley expansion.
Old foes and new await you in Shenandoah. | Image credit: Bethesda

Some Lost act like regular feral ghouls, berserker-style ones that explode when killed with electric blast which makes them pretty deadly to melee-focused characters without heavy armour. Then there are armoured officers that wield guns and fight like regular ranged human enemies - these being the trickiest of the new foes, in my estimation - and power-armoured heavy champions armed with big guns. The Lost feel quite varied to fight, then; you’re not just battling another horde of standard ferals in a Super Duper Mart.

That said, the event did seem a pretty standard ‘shoot waves of these dudes while you wait for this timer to tick down/collect the things and add them to the thing/power up X by killing a certain amount of these’ kind-of affair, with a giant hermit crab serving as the final boss. So, if you’ve never gotten much of a kick out of that kind of gameplay, it may not do much for you. But MMOs are going to MMO, at the end of the day.

While I didn’t spend much time looking for good spots to set up C.A.M.P, what I saw of Shenandoah’s dense and, in places, charred forests and hills definitely seems like it’ll serve as a nice backdrop to your home of choice. Though, the whole storm thing might make stargazing a bit difficult.

A location in Fallout 76's Skyline Valley expansion.
The ideal place to go camping, right? | Image credit: Bethesda

Whatever you end up doing under that sky, Skyline Valley definitely seems worth a go - with its developers pretty bullish that among the trees and ghoul-filled vaults, there’ll be plenty for both established vets and relative Appalachia newbies to enjoy.

In truth, Fallout 76 is the entry in the series I’ve played the least of to this point, but the fact I came out of this little taste of Skyline Valley even more keen to carry on my recent delve back into it so I can head right to Shenandoah once the update drops, is a pretty strong endorsement. Sometimes, you just can’t resist the call of the wasteland, especially when there are so many Lost things to be found under a stormy sky.

Fallout 76's Skyline Valley expansion arrives today, June 12, with the game being taken offline for itsa deployment at 3PM BST/10AM ET/7AM PT.

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