You'll be able to play as a ghoul in Fallout 76 early next year and channel your inner Walton Goggins from the Fallout TV show

Fallout 76
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

After six years of wandering West Virginia’s wasteland, Fallout 76 players will soon have the option to give in to the radiation and become a ghoul. It’s just like Walton Goggins said: 'I’m you, sweetie. You just give it a little time.'

“Years of continuous nuclear bombardment has taken its toll on our brave adventurers,” says the MMO’s creative director, Jon Rush. The choice to leave behind your skin will unlock at level 50, in the form of a new quest that will begin the “mysterious process”. 

It’ll arrive in an update planned for early 2025.

Fallout TV show

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Ghouls are former humans who have survived prolonged exposure to the radiation outside of Fallout’s vaults. Side effects tend to include infertility, severe dermatological problems, and an extended lifespan. This is the first time in the history of the Fallout series that ghouls have been playable, which means many of the mechanical implications for players are unexplored.

“Should they choose to become a ghoul, they’re granted innate abilities such as unique benefits to radiation, dozens of ghoul-specific perk cards to use in addition to the base game perk cards, and a distinct appearance,” Rush says. “Which could land them in some trouble with some groups.” 

At a recent press event in London, Rush asked a rhetorical question: “What kind of in-game experiences would incentivize me to turn into a ghoul? We handle the Scorchbeast Queen every time, and Expeditions have kind of become a vacation retreat.” He promises we’ll get answers to that question later this year. To my ears, it sounds as if more fearsome endgame opponents are also coming to Fallout 76 - something for new ghouls to get their yellowing teeth into.


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Fallout TV show

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In an accompanying interview, I asked Rush what kind of new possibilities ghoul-exclusive perks would introduce to the game. He pointed out that, with immunity to radiation as standard, ghouls won’t have to lean on power armor and the accompanying perks that make stomping around in a metal can more efficient.

“If I don't have to wear power armor, great - now I’ve got a whole bunch of perk points I can use in other things,” he says. “There’s a whole new playstyle on its own. You layer the 35 new perk cards on top of that, and the other innate abilities and mechanics of the ghoul, and you’ve got multiple new viable playstyles.” 

It’s hard to overstate how significant a change this could be. As it stands, you’ll see most high level players in Fallout 76 suited up in power armor. The bonuses to weight management and resistances to damage and radiation are simply too great to be turned down. But a ghoul in power armor isn’t going to feel the benefit of a healthy green glow.

Fallout tv show Easter eggs

(Image credit: Amazon/Bethesda)

“There are ways that our ghouls will be able to harness that radiation and build it up,” Rush says. Suddenly, it’ll make sense to start reversing some well-learned Fallout behaviors. That bathroom sink you’d never touch? Time to turn on the tap and start guzzling dirty water. “It’s gonna be really interesting to see how people slot that into our current playstyles,” Rush says, “and how the current playstyles change or adapt.”

If ghouls can harness radiation, does that mean they can unleash it in some form, or use it to empower their abilities? “Perhaps,” Rush says. “A lot of that comes through in the new perk cards. And since this is a later game experience for players, the ghoul-specific perk cards are geared towards later-game things that you want, as a ghoul.” 

Very alluring. And yet, if decades of Fallout games have taught us anything, it’s that there are downsides to being a ghoul. Faction interactions will be impacted by your changed appearance. “There are big upsides to being a human,” Rush says. “So I think most players are gonna hop in, try the ghoul out. Maybe some will change back to human. But there’s gonna be a nice balance.”

Roll on 2025, and the rapid deterioration of our skincare regimen.

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Jeremy Peel

Jeremy is a freelance editor and writer with a decade’s experience across publications like GamesRadar, Rock Paper Shotgun, PC Gamer and Edge. He specialises in features and interviews, and gets a special kick out of meeting the word count exactly. He missed the golden age of magazines, so is making up for lost time while maintaining a healthy modern guilt over the paper waste. Jeremy was once told off by the director of Dishonored 2 for not having played Dishonored 2, an error he has since corrected.