It's a harsh wasteland out there, fellow vault dwellers. Horrors can be found in every corner of the Commonwealth. Making it through Fallout 4 in one piece can be tough — especially at first. Thankfully, we're here to help.
A few of us here at Kotaku have been playing the game non-stop for the last week, and we've compiled a list of tips and hints that we think will help you out on your journey to find your son. So put away that copy of Grognak, and let's talk shop.
Don't Worry Too Much About Your SPECIAL Build
There's no level cap in Fallout 4. If you play for long enough, you'll be able to max out, or nearly max out, pretty much everything on your Perk chart. So, sure — take a moment and peruse the chart; imagine what type of playthrough you'll want to take; choose a SPECIAL build that opens up the types of Perks you're interested in. Just don't overthink it. You'll be fine.
Some Builds Are Better Than Others, Though
If you're still struggling with picking a build, here are some specifics you might want to make note of:
- Some basic lockpicking and hacking skills are useful to get inside of locked areas.
- The Scrounger perk is good because ammo is relatively scarce compared to Fallout 3 and New Vegas.
- The Luck SPECIAL attribute is more obviously useful this time around, in general. Bloody Mess is as fun as it is handy. Mysterious Stranger can save your skin. Better yet, companions like Valentine react to the Mysterious Stranger's appearance, and it's the best.
- Action Boy makes regenerating Action Points ridiculously fast.
- Winning speech checks is nice, but a charisma build can feel unsatisfying thanks to Fallout 4's thin dialogue.
- The lead belly perk might seem enticing given how much food you can find in the wasteland, but healing via Stimpaks is better. Food heals you a certain amount, whereas Stimpaks heal a certain percentage.
Grab The Gun At The End of the First Vault
There's a container near the Overseer's office in Vault 111. It requires a master lockpick — which there's no way to have at the start of the game. But shortly after you leave the vault, you'll find Dogmeat, your trusty canine companion. If you go back into the vault and tell Dogmeat to fetch near the locked case, he will grab the powerful gun for you. Here's a video walkthrough, if you're a visual learner:
Explore Your Old Stomping Grounds
Once you leave Vault 111, there's plenty to see and loot back in the ruins of your old neighbourhood. You can find Codsworth, your former robot butler, roaming the nearby streets. You can pick up bobby pins, which are necessary for lockpicking. And you can find goodies at your old house, too: the room in the back-right of the hallway has a "You're SPECIAL" book on the floor. Picking it up grants you one SPECIAL point of your choosing.
Stick To The Story Missions (At First)
While it may be tempting to go wandering into the wasteland, you're probably not prepared for most Commonwealth encounters just yet. I suggest doing some story missions to start out. Within a few hours, the main quests will give you decent equipment (including Power Armour), as well as lead you to Diamond City — where you can find a couple of companions, a variety of quests, and many, many shops.
Collect The Right Junk
You can pick up and make use of nearly everything in Fallout — but you still shouldn't lug around every single piece of garbage lying around. That packrat mentality is just a quick way of becoming over-encumbered, which will lead to you spending way too much time in menus, sorting through crap, instead of adventuring.
You should check out the "junk" tab in your inventory, where you can switch to "component view." There, you can tag various components that you may want to keep an eye out for in the wild. It's a good idea to tag screws, adhesive, aluminium, fibreglass, antiseptic, ballistic fibre, circuitry, crystal, oil, as well as whatever you're interested in scavenging.
Seriously: Fallout 4 is harder than both Fallout 3 and New Vegas. You will die often. I've lost a ton of progress because I didn't save enough; don't let the same thing happen to you. Save every 15-20 minutes or so. Save when you enter a new area. Save when you make good progress. You can even save in the middle of conversations! Change up your quicksaves and "hard saves," as well. Kirk tells me his rule of thumb is: "Quicksave in combat, hard save before combat."
Along the way, you'll find plenty of locked doors, caches, and difficult terminals that you can't investigate yet. Write down their locations, and come back later, when you have the right specs. There's a ton of awesome treasure hidden behind locks and terminals!
Read The Signs
Survivors have scribbled all sorts of things on the walls and streets of the Commonwealth. These always means something. A "KEEP OUT" sign might mean the difference between walking into a super mutant hideout, and living. And a "traders welcome" sign might actually be a Raider trap, hilariously enough.
Occasionally, you'll also find symbols scattered about. These mean signal specific things, too:
Look Out For Collectibles
Bobbleheads can increase your SPECIAL stats. Magazines can give you special abilities, or stat boosts. And unique weapons can grant you a combat advantage. If you want to know where all these items are hiding, make sure to check out the the (unofficial) Fallout Tracker website — it will tell you where every single one of these objects is tucked away. If you want to discover them on your own, that's cool too. Just make sure to check every nook and cranny for collectibles!
Use VATS To Scope Stuff Out
Even when you don't see enemies, it's a good idea to tap the VATs button every so often. This is a good way to catch mines, and to identify faraway enemies. More than once, tapping VATs outside of combat alerted me to dormant ghouls. Thanks to this trick, I'm not ambushed by those sneaky bastards nearly as much as Bethesda planned.
Do The Cambridge Police Station Quest Early
[Image source: Fallout Wikia]
Not only will you get a great weapon for completing this quest, you'll also gain access to the Brotherhood of Steel questline. I'm still using the gun I got from this location after beating the game, and the Brotherhood itself is a good resource to have, even if you don't agree with their goals.
Use The Junk Gun
If you really can't help yourself from collecting every single piece of crap from the wasteland, good news! Doing the initial Brotherhood of Steel quest gives you access to the "Junk Jet" gun, which uses random junk as ammo.
Hack Like A Pro
The animation at the start of a terminal session is pretty long, but you can skip it by tapping the action button. Once the potential passwords are in front of you, look out for any letters or patterns that repeat themselves a few times: these are a good way to make an initial educated guess. Here's the key thing the game doesn't explain very well: The number of "matched" letters aren't just in the word, they're in that place in the word. After picking a potential password, pay attention to how many letters you got right. Picking a word with zero matches is actually very valuable — you can rule out a bunch of possibilities that way.
If it comes down to the wire, look out for any <>, (), and  entries hidden in the code. Selecting these will get rid of duds, as well as replenish your tries. If that still doesn't work, remember that you can always back out and start a new session.
And if you really can't be bothered with this stuff, use the Fallout Hack Tool. There, you can input your word choices from the hacking mini-game, and it will tell you what your most optimal choice for success is. Awesome.
Use Enemy Weaknesses To Your Advantage
Every enemy has a weakness. Make use of them. Off the top of my head...shoot ghouls in the leg; they break easily and can stop these enemies from rushing you down. Deathclaws have fragile bellies. Robots go down faster with Pulse and Plasma weapons. Shoot humans in the head for massive damage, or aim for their weapon hand, to stop them from attacking. And if you ever, ever see a Super Mutant Suicider, IMMEDIATELY SHOOT THEIR RIGHT ARM. They're carrying mini-nukes and will try to tackle you while holding them. This is instant death.
If you're curious about more weaknesses, take the Awareness perk, which tells you more about what enemies are susceptible to.
Know Your Enemy
When you see a skull next to an enemy's name, that means they are higher level than you — and can thus be tough to kill. If you see a star next to an enemy's name, that means they're legendary. Legendaries are tough to kill, because they can "mutate" mid-fight — an ability which heals them. It's super-annoying. While running away from tough battles is a viable strategy, if you can swing it, it's definitely worth killing these enemies. They will drop randomly-generated gear with all sorts of cool and unusual abilities that you can't get any other way. Some examples...
Don't Forget About Sidequests
While the main quests are pretty awesome, Fallout 4's sidequests is where the game really shines. Once you've got decent gear, peruse some of your optional quests — including the ones under the "Miscellaneous" tab in the Quests menu. Read through them, and do the ones that sound interesting to you.
Don't Wait Too Long For Certain Quests
Some sidequests operate on a timer, and can be failed if you don't do them quickly enough. Unfortunately the game doesn't let you know about this until you actually fail the quests.
Without going into spoilers, a good rule of thumb is this: if it seems time-sensitive, it very well might be. For example: if a friend gets kidnapped and the assailants tell you you need to hurry to save him, if you wait too long, that friend might actually die.
Use Your Companions To Your Advantage
Companions are useful outside of combat! Certain characters can do things like lockpicking or hacking, which is great if your character didn't spec for that stuff. To get you started: Nick Valentine (from Diamond City) is good at hacking, and Cait (from Combat Zone) is great at lockpicking.
Talk To Your Companions
Getting closer to your buddies means unlocking special quests, and eventually, companion-specific perks. You can only gain a companion's trust by making decisions they like, though — so you'll want to talk to them to get a feel for what each companion "stands" for. Quick tip: Nick Valentine and Piper like it when you help people. If you're the 'steal everything' or 'only look out for yourself' type, you'll want to avoid having those companions around — they will hate everything you do.
Should you romance a partner, you'll even gain a special bonus after sleeping in a bed with those characters nearby.
Keep Your Companions Stocked Up
And remember: your companions are only as good as the gear they're equipped with. Don't hog all the best items; give some great gear to your followers, too. Make sure that they actually equip that stuff; you can control this via their inventory menu. Note that the weapons companions come with never run out of ammo, but any weapons you give them will.
...But Don't Give Companions Explosives
Grenades, molotovs, missiles, and mini-nuke weapons should not be given to companions. Your friends will use these weapons at the worst time, and you'll be caught in the blast radius.
Dress Dogmeat Up
He can't wear normal armour, but he CAN wear bandanas, collars, dog armour, and certain goggles. Good boy!
Remember, Dogmeat Can Fetch
You never know what the pup will find lying around. Dogmeat is known to retrieve everything from ammo to Fat Mans. Every so often, tell Dogmeat to fetch, just for kicks: maybe he'll bring back something killer.
HE CAN PLAY WITH TEDDY BEARS IF YOU EQUIP THEM ON HIM.
Don't Forget His Doghouse
If you build a doghouse at your settlement, he'll hang out there. If you should ever swap him out with another follower and send him back to your settlement at Sanctuary, he'll automatically go to one of the doghouses in town. If you're worried you've lost him, check those.
Listen To The Diamond City Radio
The DJ is hilarious.
Pick A Base of Operations
You have two options at the start of the game: Red Rocket truck stop, and Sanctuary. Both have a variety of useful stations: storage chests for extra junk, armour workbenches, cooking pits, a Power Armour dock, a chemistry station, and even a bed. Sanctuary provides more space for you to build your settlement, but it also requires more work to put together. Red Rocket is smaller, but it has a nicer, more signature look starting out. Neither is a bad choice, but you should still focus on only one, at least to start out.
Build Your Settlements
If you play your cards right, you can build your settlement to be so self-sufficient and resourceful, it will have more amenities and shops than Diamond City itself. For that, you'll want to invest in the Charisma tree most of all, especially the Perk that lets you share resources between settlements.
Break Down What You Don't Need
Everything you see in your settlement can be moved around and broken down into scrap. Here's a quick guide to get you started on that.
Grow Your Own Stuff
On a very basic level, you can use your settlements to provide some useful materials that can aid you on your adventure. Under the "resources" tab, you can find options to build water pumps and water purifiers — which can provide you with a free way to heal yourself. You can also use the resources tab to plant food, which you can then use in recipes to cook your own food. Squirrel Stew in particular boosts your XP gain by 2% for two hours, and it requires bloodleaf, carrot, tato, and squirrel bits to make it. You can read more about cooking here.
Crops are good for cooking, but they're also great for crafting. Most notably, you'll want to use the Cooking Station to build Vegetable Starch. Vegetable starch breaks down into 5 adhesive, which is one of the most useful crafting items around:
The recipe calls for 3 corn, 3 muttfruit, 1 purified water, and 3 tatos. All of these items are easy to find out in the land, and many storeowners carry at least a couple of these. You can provide your own purified water, provided you build a purifier on your settlement, too. Once you have everything, I'd suggest going into your workshop and planting these items, like so:
It will take a bit of time for these crops to grow, but once they do, you'll multiply the number of components you initially had, and you'll be able to count on more of those items in the future, when you need more adhesive. Hooray, farming!
It doesn't happen often, but your settlements can get attacked by Raiders and Super Mutants. These attackers can even steal your items, which is especially troubling if they get a hold of any of your docked Power Armour. To avoid this, you should at least invest in some basic turrets on the settlements you care about, if not give your settlers some basic weapons. They might help your settlement from getting wrecked.
Customise Your Power Armour
It will take a lot of resources, but if you keep an eye out for some of the junk listed earlier in this article, tweaking your Power Armour should be a zinch. You'll want to do it, too: customisation allows you to tailor your Power Suit to your specific playstyle.
Here's my suit:
I've built it so that it grants me extra damage and energy resistance, extra strength, it boosts my action point refresh, and even increases my VATs hit chance. If you find a Hot Rodder magazine in the wasteland, you'll even be able to unlock custom paint jobs for your rig. Neat.
Invest In The Jetpack Mod
Some high locations/special items can only be reached with this mod installed on your Power Armour — hence why you've probably encountered enemies on roofs while adventuring. You can find the Jetpack mod option in the Power Armour customisation menu, which is accessed in the Power Armour rack. You'll need rank four of Science! to build it.
Customise Your Weapons
Every weapon can be modified to add a variety of effects, including better damage, range, and recoil. Naturally, you'll want to make your weapons as good as they can be, so make sure to stop by your weapons station and peruse your available modification options for your favourite weapons. Don't bother upgrading weapons you don't use. Make sure to tag any components you're missing, so you can find them out in the wild.
It helps to have the right perks here, too. Otherwise, your customisation options will be pretty limited. For those of you that like shooting bullets, you'll want the Gun Nut perk for your weapon customisation needs. If you plan on using energy weapons, get the Science! perk, instead.
Name Your Guns
Chances are you'll wind up with a few main guns that you like to use. Take the time to name them while at the weapon crafting table. It will help you tell them apart from other guns you may pick up, and it's always fun to come up with good weapon names. Kirk sent me this screenshot of his:
Reserve Your Fusion Cores
Don't take out your Power Armour on a whim. Fusion cores are scarce at the start of the game, so save Power Armour for tough dungeons, or boss fights. Worth keeping in mind that walking around and standing still use less Fusion Core energy than sprinting or using VATS, and fast travelling uses none of your core. When you leave a suit behind at your base, make sure to take the Fusion Core with you — else settlers or attackers might get in the suit and use up your fuel.
Steal Fusion Cores From The Brotherhood of Steel
This one guy, to be specific. For whatever reason, this specific soldier at the Brotherhood of Steel base regenerates Fusion Cores indefinitely, as you can see in this video by Gametastik:
Obviously, you'll want to save before attempting, and it helps to actually have some pickpocketing/sneaking perks on your character.
Sell Your Fusion Cores Before They Run Out
You can get full price for a Fusion Core at a vendor if you swap it out before the gauge reaches zero.
When you're hidden, there'll be brackets around the word "hidden" on your screen. The closer those brackets get to the word, the closer you are to being detected.
Even if you didn't build your character for stealth, you can still use stealth to your advantage. For instance: if you ever see an enemy that hasn't noticed you yet, crouch down before shooting them. Not only will this steady your aim on certain weapons, you'll also gain a sneak attack bonus critical, regardless of what you specced for.
Snipe In Real Time
Take your first stealthy shot in real time, too, not VATs. Your real-time accuracy will likely be better, particularly when sniping, than VATS. Save VATS for actual combat.
Use Your Critical Attacks
In VATS, your hits will slowly charge up your critical meter. It's very easy to forget you have that, but if you're fighting an enemy and need them to take a ton of damage right effing now, trigger your critical before your shot lands.
You can aim from around cover in first-person. Walk up to a corner or other piece of cover and try aiming — your character should pop around the cover and aim at what's beyond it.
Look Up (And Down)
Fallout 4's environments have a lot of verticality. If you can't tell where the shots are coming from, look up — there might be an enemy on the roof, or on the next floor. Sometimes, the enemy might even be underneath you.
Don't Start Firefights Near Cars
Cars that take damage will eventually explode. Definitely don't take cover behind cars, or stand near them in the middle of a battle. Cars in Fallout were powered by mini nuclear bombs, so you don't want to be nearby when one explodes.
Beware of Radiation
Radiation eats up your health, so you'll want to avoid it. Make sure to keep a stockpile of Radaway, and don't eat random food from the wasteland unless you absolutely have to. Every so often, the Commonwealth will be hit with radiation storms that can pile on radiation damage, too. You'll want to go indoors for those, or better yet, keep a radiation-resistant outfit (like a Hazmat suit) or a gas mask at the ready for when these hit. These items will protect you. If you're exploring and wind up in a radiation storm, you can always just fast-travel away, too.
Take A Swim
There's a lot of water in Fallout 4. Some of it covers areas of interest, like special locations of stashes of items. Provided you're equipped to deal with radiation, don't be afraid to dip into the water and see what it stores. Just know that while Power Armour shields you from radiation, it also makes you sink to the bottom of any water sources, which can make navigating a pain in the arse.
Take A Snooze
Sleeping not only heals you, it gives you a short 10% experience bonus. Worth doing every once in a while, even if you're fully healed.
Listen To The Game's Built-In Soundtrack
Yes, the radio is great. But the game's original soundtrack is fantastic, and can especially set the mood in more desolate/creepier areas.
Use Outfits To Your Advantage
Outfits aren't just about high damage resistance. Clothes can be useful in other situations, especially if they boot your SPECIAL up. It's worth keeping outfits that boost your bartering and speech skills, and to swap into those threads before doing those activities. Most of the time, said outfits don't weigh much, either, so you can carry them around with you.
Listen to NPCs
When you get to a new area — even hostile areas like raider bases — stop and listen to the NPC chatter. Sometimes, it's funny. Sometimes, you'll learn about new locations, or be given quests. And sometimes they just react to stuff you've done around the world.
Synths Are Closer Than You Realise
Not to make you paranoid or anything...but your settlers can and will be replaced by synths from time to time. These doppelgangers will turn on your settlement, after which you'll find synth parts on their body — revealing the betrayal. Yeah: this game is wild.
When All Else Fails, Cheat
You may not want to deal with Fallout 4's difficulty. Maybe you're just here to have some fun. I don't judge, man. If this describes you, know that Fallout 4 has an infinite caps glitch that lets you buy pretty much anything you want, and that players have discovered an item duplication glitch that be used to give yourself max SPECIAL points, too. Here's YouTuber Genie, walking you through the process:
Other assorted tips
- If you've never played a Fallout game before, don't sweat it. It's not necessary to enjoy Fallout 4 (though it can certainly help. There are some returning characters/plot points!)
- You should customise the colour of your Pipboy/UI in the options menu.
- Press down the B/O button for a while to turn on your flashlight. You can customise the colour of your flashlight in your Power Armour.
- You can pick up objects and move them around by holding down the interact button.
- You can swap mods from one gun to another, provided they both use it.
- You can eject an enemy from its Power Armour by shooting at its Fusion Core
- Build a bell in your settlement to have an easy way to summon all your settlers in one place.
- Stop and look/listen to your companions every one in a while. They have rad idle animations, and will sometimes interact with other characters or objects in the world.
- Do not get rid of overdue books. Certain locations will take them and give you rewards in exchange for collecting them.
- Holster your weapon while you're not using it. Having it out slows you down!
- "Quiet reflection" - gain 5% extra XP for a limited amount of time after sitting in a pew in the Diamond City chapel.