The naysayers have been proven wrong; Bethesda Game Studios' director Todd Howard confirmed that Fallout 76 is an always-online game, with a shared world between different players.
The game is set years before any of the previous games and follows individuals as they leave Vault 76 a mere 25 years after the bombs dropped. All these individuals will be actual, real players and a single server is set to be shared between a few dozen players. The exact mechanics of how servers will work were not shared, but Howard did indicate players will be able to travel to their friends' worlds with all of their character progression intact.
Howard emphasised that the game will have many of the single-player RPG elements and the emphasis on stories and questing which the studio's games are beloved for, and that players can choose to play the game entirely on their own if they wanted to.
In terms of story, the game will be a prequel to the previous games, and will explore the experience of leaving the vault so soon after the world was devastated by nuclear war. Players will, then, seek to reclaim the world from the many dangers that now lurk in, including some entirely new creatures never seen before in the Fallout universe, such as weirdly mutated humanoids akin to the Hagravens in Skyrim, ginormous toads and even some type of flesh monster known as the Beast of Grafton.
The game will be set in West Virginia, with the map divided into six different regions/biomes, each with their own flavour. The game even uses some of West Virginia's folklore to flesh out the world a little more.
It places a strong emphasis on rebuilding the world and, to that effect, Fallout 4's limitations on building have been removed in the new title. Players can build a base wherever they choose to in the game world, and even move it all to another region later on.
An exciting new feature, which will likely be both hated and loved simultaneously, is the existence of live nuclear silos across the wasteland. Search long and hard enough, and you'll be able to find the codes for these weapons of wanton destruction and set them on your foes. Thankfully, Howard clarified, deaths in the game are not permanent and you don't lose anything when you die. He called this 'softcore survival'.
The game is set to be available on November 14 later this year, and will be supported for years to come - which may indicate the company is gravitating towards an at least partially games-as-a-service model for Fallout 76 and will be pushing regular content updates to it akin to, say, Destiny. Those who can't wait to get their hands on the game will be pleased that, owing to the online nature of the game, Bethesda will be holding a beta for Fallout 76 at some point before the game's release.