Live games have come up with all sorts of creative ways to repackage the grind of killing things over and over again in the hopes of earning rare loot. Fallout 76’s Meat Week cookouts are by far some of the strangest I’ve seen, and I absolutely love them.
Fallout 76 is often criticised for not having any non-player characters, and while that’s true in a general sense, there are technically characters with whom you can interact that aren’t other players. They just happen to not be human. Almost all of them are robots. And then there’s also Grahm, a friendly super mutant you’ll occasionally bump into while wandering around Appalachia.
Never without his trusty two-headed cow companion Chally the moo-moo by his side, Grahm is a travelling merchant who sells workshop plans in exchange for caps. Nobody knows much about his life history, or even what his exact patrol route is. If other enemies are around when you run across him, he’ll even help you fight them.
Grahm also apparently likes to barbecue, which is why he’s spent the last week inviting players to help him throw cookouts at an abandoned moonshine shack set into the hills right near Vault 76.
The point of these cookouts, outside of trying to break up the monotony of these hot summer days, is to help players grind. In exchange for helping with the cookout, Grahm awards players with Legendary Scrip, a currency that can be cashed in for Legendary loot. And when I say help with the cookout, I really do mean help with the cookout, from supplying the meat to rotating it around the fire so it doesn’t get burned.
Imagine throwing a summer bash in a game like Animal Crossing or The Sims, but instead of seeing people hang out and chill in their hottest summer outfits, you’re instead watching a motley crew of post-apocalyptic strangers sweat like Party Down’s Ken Marino as they try to appease a super mutant in the hopes of getting a big, fat tip.
The activity is made up of two parts. The first revolves around short quests called Prime Cuts that randomly spawn every so often across the map. When one pops up, you head to that area, fight several waves of monsters, and then get awarded 4-5 cuts of prime meat. There’s even a chance for a legendary enemy to spawn, like the Grafton monster or a Sheepsquatch, the killing of which will deliver up its own random piece of legendary gear.
The second part involves taking all of the prime meat you’ve harvested to Grahm’s shack so he can grill it. It sounds simple. It is not. Grahm has drums he wants you to play to liven up the party. He’s got hors d’oeuvres that need serving. He’s also a bit generous with the flames, so you’ll need to channel Smokey the Bear and put out any burgeoning forest fires.
He also needs people to keep the spits turning so the meat doesn’t burn, and for someone else to clear away all the meat that goes bad. Meanwhile, that two-headed cow Chally is shitting up a storm, which is really killing the vibe, so that needs to be cleaned up as well.
Grahm will give everyone involved a reward of Legendary Scrip equal to the number of prime meat cuts they each deposited for the cookout, but players can also get additional rewards based on his mood and how the cookout went. The happier he is, they more they get.
If the party’s a bust because someone forgot to play the drums or because nobody cleaned up after the mutant cow, then the quest fails, sort of like if Gordon Ramsay invited you over for his birthday party and then stormed out because you forgot to refresh the charcuterie.
The event is set to come to an end tomorrow, and I still can’t get over how fun it’s been. Not only does it creatively recast the usual mission prompt of “kill stuff, get stuff” into an interesting social sim, it’s also incredibly lucrative. In addition to the Scrip you get from Grahm, which can be spent to acquire new end-game equipment, harvesting prime cuts also doles out a fair amount of experience points. If Bethesda’s intent was to fatten players up before the game’s first raid drops later this month, they seem to have been successful.
Fallout 76 has always sat uncomfortably between being a single-player role-playing game focused on survival and exploration and an MMO based around levelling up, hunting big monsters, and rummaging through their corporse for legendary items. Meat Week, as strange as its been, and as weird a phrase as it still is to write, has bridged that divide better than I ever would have expected.