Of all the announcements to come out of E3 2018, one of the more controversial of the bunch is that the next Fallout game, Fallout 76, is going to be more multiplayer-oriented than what some may be comfortable with. Long story short, Fallout 76 will be playable by yourself or with your friends, but there will always be an opportunity for some random people to literally come out of the woodwork and kill you. As far as can be told, other people can't outright steal your stuff, but they can launch a nuclear missile (or for that matter, regular missiles and or Fat Man shells) at that custom settlement that you spent hours crafting to turn it into a smoking crater in the ground.
Fortunately, Bethesda seems to be aware of the fact that most of the people that you meet online are complete and utter scumbags who will do everything in their power to annoy you, so it appears as though the settlements that you make and your inventory will be effectively linked to your profile. Unfortunately, it does bring up a lot of questions as to how the game will actually play. At the most basic level, one has to ask how often and or easy is it for random players to meet each other. Can people choose to play completely by themselves if they wanted to? What safeguards will there be to prevent outright griefing and or cheating? From a more practical standpoint, one also has to ask just how populated the Fallout 76 version of West Virginia is going to be. Todd Howard stated that every human that you see in the game will be an actual person, so does that mean that traditional NPCs will not be in the game?
There are still a bevy of questions that haunt Fallout 76, and when you consider how the open world multiplayer genre hasn't exactly done much to impress lately, you can see why some of the more zealous Bethesda-era Fallout fans are less than pleased at the implications of what is essentially Fallout: The MMO. Generally speaking, most of the fears about Fallout 76 boil down to the singular concern of the game not "feeling" like a Fallout game. It would be safe to say that no one buys a Fallout game with the expectation that some guy who has spent thousands of hours (and or real money on microtransactions) will melt your face off from a mile away the moment you leave the Vault. Similarly, as annoying as some of the NPCs may have been, no one really wants them gone, or at least not entirely, seeing as how no small number of the Bethesda-era Fallout NPCs (especially the companions) have proven to be quite memorable. Of course, the elephant in the room is that no one knows how mods will be handled, or if there will be any mod support at all.
That being said, conjecture is fun and all, but more information has come to light (not from E3, but from a documentary of all places) that may reveal what Bethesda has planned for Fallout 76. While the documentary does confirm some of the fears that people may have, especially in regards to the lack of human NPCs in the game, it also demonstrates that the developers may not be as clueless to the desires of players as some may suggest.
Compared to previous modern Fallout games, 76 will be the most survival-oriented yet, with built in features like rotting food, degrading equipment, and mutations. Raid-esque activities, world bosses/events, and a far more diverse pool of unique and powerful mutated creatures will also be making their way to 76, features that feel like a logical next step for the Fallout series. The addition of non-combat oriented specializations and activities are undoubtedly a response to the lack of such features in other open world multiplayer games. Perhaps the most comforting tidbit of all is that Fallout 76 will have a drop in, drop out approach to multiplayer, meaning that you can join and leave your friends at will, and effectively leave and create a new session if the other two dozen or so random people are being too annoying. It goes without saying that these are but some of the more practical features that 76 will have. If Bethesda is to be believed, there will be so much to explore that you will have to actively pursue other players if you wish to fight them, and that's not even mentioning whatever game engine improvements and whatnot are happening in the background. Traditional quests and an actual story will also allegedly be a feature of 76, so you can rest easy if you were concerned about having no real overarching goal in a sandbox game.
Assuming that nothing drastic happens between now and release, the full picture is that Fallout 76 will be conceptually similar to games like Sea of Thieves, Rust, Minecraft, etc. Obviously not the most comforting of comparisons, but that is the most basic level to which one can distill such games. Once you look past that though, Bethesda clearly has the resources, experience, and the incentive to make sure that 76 will actually live up to its pre-release promises, so if any developer can pull off such a fairly ambitious project, it would be Bethesda. Even if most of the information regarding 76 proves to be nothing more than pure exaggeration, the fact remains that the game will lay the groundwork for future survival, non-combat, and end-game features. True, the target audience may be a bit overly skeptical, but at the end of the day, who really cares so long as the game is fun and fair?
If one were to look at Fallout 76 purely from the perspective of it being a good Fallout game, then yes, one could be quite disappointed. However, if one were to look at Fallout 76 from the perspective of it being a proving ground for future game features, then it might be a good idea to maintain a level of cautious optimism. After all, it would've been years before the next main Fallout game would've been released anyways, and by releasing 76 faster than anyone would've expected, virtually everyone wins in some way or another. Bethesda gets a quick buck, those who are looking for a multiplayer experience that isn't battle royale related get a potentially interesting game, single player devotees get a sneak peak of sorts at what kind of plans Bethesda has for the next main game, and the world gets to see what a (hopefully) fully realized open world FPS looter shooter would look like after years of disappointment.
Is it enough to dispel some peoples' fears about the direction that the Fallout franchise is heading? Probably not, but unless 76 turns out to be the next No Man's Sky or Sea of Thieves, there really isn't much to be concerned about—certainly not enough to the point where one can say that the Fallout franchise is dead.