Fallout 76 has unleashed its megaton havoc on the internet at large and for most players, this bleak Appalachian landscape might seem nearly as alien as the moon. For me, however, this is a unique opportunity to see how the rest of the world might see my home state. Spending the last couple weeks first in the beta and now the retail version just hunting around the map, I’ve been surprised at how many familiar sites I’ve found.
That’s not to say Fallout 76’s depiction of West Virginia is actually accurate in any realistic way–it’s not. The geography is often completely wrong in terms of where things are and, especially, the distances between any two points. That’s not unexpected for a game you have to traverse on foot. Just don’t get the idea that, should you ever visit the real State, Flatwoods is just over the hill from the Mothman museum or New River Gorge bridge. Fallout 76 offers a very condensed Appalachian experience.
Whether you’re wandering the wasteland, or decide to do some good ol’ fashioned video game tourism in real life, here are five points on the Fallout 76 map that align pretty closely to their real-world counterparts.
1. New River Gorge Bridge
This is easily one of the most famous (and largest) landmarks in West Virginia. The bridge actually opened in 1977 (note that it looks unfinished in the game) and is most noted for the sheer number of people who jump off it.
The bridge is 3030 feet from end-to-end and almost 900 feet over the river. The landmark and its gorge have attracted all manner of aerial acrobats over the years. Testing gravity on this spot is so popular, West Virginia just made it a holiday. The so-named Bridge Day has been a tradition since 1980. It’s a one-day festival where very special people fling themselves off the bridge in the name of Extremeness, while thousands of others watch in shock, awe, and amazement—presumably wondering what the hell is wrong with those people.
But hey, if flinging yourself into the void with only a thin piece of fabric to slow your descent is your bag, the next Bridge Day is Oct. 19, 2019!
2. The Hutte Restaurant
One of the my personal favorite aspects of West Virginia is the sheer number of questionably named towns here. We have places with names like Odd, Nitro, Hundred, Pie, Man, Kermit, Big Ugly, War… Trust me, there’s more.
There’s also Helvetia, which is definitely in Fallout 76 and largely represented by its most notable landmark: the Hutte Restaurant. This authentic Swiss family restaurant is surprisingly famous for its cuisine. Although it seems less popular after the bombs dropped. Bethesda renamed the place, presumably to avoid copyright laws. But the structure is visually unmistakable.
Ah, Morgantown. That’s my town! It’s also home to West Virginia University and the Mountaineers; a college football team so revered here you’d think Jesus was their quarterback. Morgantown is where you go for schools, hospitals, diversity, and (though not represented in the game as far as I can tell) fantastic Teriyaki Chicken from Yama’s and the Lavender Cafe’s Salt and Pepper Squid.
Since Fallout 76 replaces hole in the wall dining with literal gaping holes in walls, you’ll come to Morgantown to de-ghoul the noble and hallowed halls of WVU. Run along the tracks of the University’s train system (the PRT) to find some Power Armor. That is, sadly, not represented in the real world.
WVU (which is very protective of its copyright and ability to make money from any use of its name and/or blue and gold colors) is actually called “VaultTek University” in-game—where every good boy does Pip! Fallout 76’s version of the town, and especially the university is, to put it mildly, compressed. But Bethesda got the look of those old brick buildings right (particularly the ones like Woodburn Hall). Walking through some of the darkened hallways and classrooms was eerily true to my actual classroom experiences there. Take that however you like.
4. Weston State Hospital
If you want a building that essentially manufactures nightmares wholesale, this is it. In the game, the old mental asylum is now “Fort Defiance,” home of the Brotherhood of Steel. In reality, the place was closed in 1994. Before that, it handed out horrors to its poor denizens starting after the Civil War.
This dark spot originally went by the charmingly upbeat name Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Then in 1913 it changed to the misleadingly boring moniker of Weston State Hospital. This place was a terrifying local legend growing up. Even now, suckers pay money every year to get a “ghost” tour of the place.
If there was ever a location where tormented souls hang around, this is it. Chain restraints are embedded in the concrete of its cells. Suspect stains line the floors and bizarre apparatuses look like scenery from a horror flick. This was the sort of place that locked people up for being (and this is the actual official term they used) “mental defectives.”
Weston was also home to the West Virginia Lobotomy Project of the 1950s. It was a stunningly appalling attempt to stem the extreme overcrowding in the hospital through, as the name suggests, the generous application of lobotomies. So, honestly, most of you should rest easy knowing you’ve never actually been to the real place. Instead, just enjoy the happier in-game version.
For those attracted to this sort of thing, the former “hospital’s” current owners are busily forming marketing plans to milk every possible dollar they can from the site’s sudden rise in notoriety.
5. Point Pleasant
Here in West Virginia, I’ve only recently learned we have a lot of local monster superstitions. Fallout 76 takes advantage of every one (as it should). But it’s nothing compared to the tiny town of Point Pleasant’s PR push around the hallucinations of some drunken rednecks in the late 60s.
The town has brilliantly built a cottage industry on their local crypto fauna, the Mothman. They hold a shockingly popular Mothman Festival every year and sport a literally-larger-than-life metal statue of the supposed harbinger of doom and omens. There’s even a museum devoted to the bugger!
You can find the town, the museum, and the statue in Fallout 76. And all around the statue? Mothman eggs! Explore the museum a bit and you’ll even find evidence of a Mothman cult. I’m pretty sure that’s not actually part of the real museum, but I’m willing to believe anyway.