It’s 25 years after humanity has been obliterated, and you emerge, somewhat bleary-eyed, from the safety of your underground vault into the West Virginia wilderness. With nothing in your possession but your C.A.M.P, a few meds, and a party hat, you spot some weapons and ammo clutched in the arms of a nearby corpse (ewww). You quickly grab what you can and head for the hills, steeling yourself against facing whatever may be out there.
After spending a few hours roaming in the shadows and ending up nowhere in particular, you randomly turn around and find yourself standing face-to-face with a robot! A robot that…seems friendly?
“Stop! Target acquired,” it says. (Um, you were already stopped, so…)
After a brief pause, the robot then says “I considered attacking you on sight, but I don’t think I could hurt you any more than life already has. Zing.” The thing then hands you something and ends with “Thank you for your participation.” And along its merry way the Protectron goes without so much as an argument.
Confused, you quickly check your inventory to find that you have just been insulted by the Insult Bot!
For all its problems, Fallout 76 really does have some good things going for it, several of which are its random encounters. These encounters can certainly spice up one’s time in Appalachia, and they help break up the monotony in a game that’s low on options. Indeed, there’s nothing like running into a random lemonade stand or dodging a dude who deathly afraid of chickens while you’re trying to make your way from point A to point B. But no random encounter character in the game carries more sass than the Insult Bot. But aside from making use of its database of wisecracking quips upon unsuspecting former vault-dwellers, what is Insult Bot’s purpose? The note it gives you reads as follows:
Insult Bot is a social experiment brought to you by the Robotics Club at Watoga High School – Go Lions!
Insult Bot operates in 3 primary phases – data gathering, data analysis, and insult delivery. Its purpose is to observe a target, formulate a custom insult based on the target, and then deliver the insult.
Insult Bot then gathers emotional reaction data and stores it for further analysis by students in a state-of-the-art facility provided by RobCo Industries. Thank you for participating in this very important study!
Within Fallout’s lore, RobCo Industries is responsible for nearly all the robots seen throughout the games, not to mention the all-important Pip-Boy. Over the course of its history, RobCo teamed up with all sorts of organizations for various projects, from the U. S. government to pharmaceutical companies, to, apparently, schools. Considering that most Protectrons are walking deadly weapons, the fact that RobCo thought one would be a suitable for a high school robotics club to tinker with is interesting, and questionable. Fact is, when I had my first encounter with Insult Bot, I nearly shot him to death, because I thought it was a regular, lasers-at-the-ready Protectron. It wasn’t until I had a very sudden face-to-face encounter with him that I got the joke, literally.
So if you find yourself traveling across Fallout 76’s West Virginia wilds, and you see a lone, random Protectron in your sights (he might be golden in color these days), holster your weapon, and get ready to be slighted by the cheekiest automaton this side of the Mississippi!
In-line image taken by author during PS4 gameplay of Fallout 76 © Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Game Studios Austin (2018-2021).