Fallout 4: A 12-Point Quick Survival Guide

Fallout 4 is here! The long-awaited game hit stores across multiple platforms to critical acclaim earlier this week. We’re still working on our review, but the game is easily meeting and exceeding expectations. The Fallout series is well known for its detailed world, complex crafting systems, and plethora of enemies. With that said, you maybe wondering “how do I get started?” – Well, we’ve made some mistakes so you don’t have to. Here are some friendly tips to keep you alive and well, even when everything else around you is dead or dying.

  1. Take your time. The Boston area in Fallout 4 is huge, and it’s full of strange, wonderful, and deadly things. You may want to systematically search around your main settlement (Sanctuary Hills) before venturing out on quest missions. The reason for doing this is simple: you’re able to collect some experience points and start unlocking some perks. In addition, you may also come across some weapons, and some of those weapons may have useful modifications you may want to try out later. I’ve tried following some of the side missions, and they are not created equally. If you make a beeline for your objective, you may find yourself stumbling upon extremely tough enemies. This usually results in certain death or a lengthy detour.
  2. Be cautious. In previous Fallout games, you always had a chance to run into a Super Mutant Behemoth or a dreaded Deathclaw. In Fallout 4, there are all kinds of nasty enemies around. I highly recommend checking out enemies in V.A.T.S. before engaging them. If there’s a red skull at the end of their name, back away. The icon is used to indicate enemies at a significantly higher level than your character. Unfortunately, some of these enemies can be found not all that far from your base. I spent a good 20 minutes sniping at Super Mutant Behemoth from the safety of an overpass just south of Sunshine Tidings Co-Op, which is pretty much a stone’s throw from Sanctuary Hills.
  3. Save often. It’s the seasoned Fallout player’s mantra. Thankfully Bethesda has included a “quicksave” feature, allowing you to save the game without significantly interrupting the gameplay. Simply press “start,” and it’s the first option available. It’s a great idea to save periodically, so your progress isn’t terribly impacted when you stumble upon a Super Mutant Suicider and it greets you with a mini-nuke explosion. I’d also recommend making a standard save file periodically, in the event you quicksaved without knowing the aforementioned Super Mutant Suicider was standing right behind you just before you quicksaved.
  4. Decide your character’s build early on. Is your character handy with a pistol? Does he or she prefer ballistic or energy weapons? Do you plan to use V.A.T.S. a lot? Certain perks boost particular aspects of  your character. For instance, the base “Rifleman” perk grants you +20% damage and +15% armor penetration when using a non-automatic rifle. Higher ranks of the perk increase those bonuses even more. The “Strong Back” perk allows you to carry more items, while “Cap Collector” guarantees you’ll find more caps in containers you discover in the wasteland. You should plot out a rough perk selection chart for your character before you start. It’s also good to remember that with Fallout 4, the system for hacking and lockpicking now is rooted in the perk system. You’ll have to choose particular perks to pick higher level locks and crack tougher terminals. Additionally, some weapon and armor mods require perks to create. Take a good look at the chart so you know what you want to unlock.
  5. Watch your rads. Unlike previous Fallout games, radiation has a more noticeable effect. Radiation used to only affect the character at a certain level of rads, resulting in reduced S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats.  In Fallout 4, it eats away at your overall health capacity. Hang around those radioactive waste barrels too long, and your overall health has been cut in half. This makes your character much more fragile and susceptible to an early demise. Some weapons and creatures do radioactive damage, too – so keep an eye on your health bar. The only way to remove the radiation is to use Radaway, which is relatively uncommon in the Wasteland (though it is easily crafted from antiseptic, glowing fungus, plastic, and purified water).
  6. Craft what you like. You’ll quickly discover that in Fallout 4, you will need to craft to survive. Say you come across a nice hunting rifle with iron sights, but you want a scope on it. No problem! You can craft scopes and other weapon modifications at the weapon table at settlements (they are also occasionally found in the Wasteland). You can modify weapons in all manner of ways – different stocks, barrels, sights, magazines, calibers – the list goes on and on. You can make even the most pitiful pipe pistol a force to be reckoned with through the right modifications. This also applies to armor. At the armor station, you can craft different modifications for armor, increasing damage resistance or adding new modifiers (my current favorite is “pocketed,” which allows your character to carry more weight). There is also a similar system for power armor. At the power armor station, you’re able to change the paint, damage resistance, and even the headlamp color. Given Fallout 4’s emphasis on power armor, there is a robust selection of modifications to choose from so you’ll easily stand out from the Brotherhood of Steel. Just remember to grab every fusion core you find – the power armor in Fallout 4 has limited fuel.
  7. Know your junk. One of the biggest changes in Fallout 4 is the sudden usefulness of all the wasteland junk. In Fallout 3, you could easily gunk-up your inventory with junk – a pain considering it negatively impacted how much you could carry. In Fallout 4, it’s totally different. Each item has some sort of purpose. It may not be the most obvious purpose, but you will find yourself scrambling for Wonderglue, cameras, and microscopes all the time. Weapon modifications, armor modifications, and items within your settlements all require the raw materials obtained by scavenging items in the Wasteland. Not all junk is a “good deal” when it comes to it’s weight-to-usefulness ratio. You’ll find a lot of wood and steel inside your settlement boundaries, so scavenging in buildings for items that contain those materials is not advisable. You’re better off saving that inventory space for junk items that contain hard to find materials, like aluminum, copper, crystals, and fiber optics. These materials are indispensable when it comes to creating power generators, turrets, traps, and weapon modifications. Thankfully, Fallout 4 tells you in the crafting menu exactly what materials (and perks) are required to create certain items. However, it does not tell you what junk contains what materials. You are able to use the “tag for search” function in the crafting menu to help highlight objects that contain the necessary materials, but it may be easier for you to make a shopping list.
  8. Don’t miss out on Settlements. Creating and upkeeping settlements may be optional, but they’re a lot of fun. Bethesda has basically given the player the ability to create their own functioning town through a Minecraft-like game design. It’s wonderful – like some sort of strange, cathartic Zen activity. You’re able to make the Wasteland  look more civilized (or barbaric, depending on how you play), and it’s easy. Settlements require a few basic things: settlers, water, food, beds, power, and defense. The creation menu is intuitive and it works very well. You’ll often find yourself returning to the Wasteland to scavenge more material, just to complete your perimeter fence, resources, or defenses. And speaking of defenses, don’t forget to protect your settlements! Your settlers are vulnerable to raider attacks, so limiting entrances to your settlements and defending them effectively is important. It’s quite amazing that on top of all the other improvements over Fallout 3, Bethesda introduced this tower defense mechanic. Constructing choke-points to funnel enemy raiders into machine-gun turret fire is particularly effective – and your settlers will also try to defend themselves with their own weaponry. You can even get creative with your defenses – among the items in the creation menu are pressure plates, laser tripmines, and spotlights. There’s good reason to protect your settlements, too. With the right perks, you’re able to attract merchants and create stores on site. On top of all this, you’re also able to run supply caravans between settlements to help make up for any supply shortcomings.
  9. Store all junk. Before you start working on something at a workbench, and after, make it a habit to “store all junk.” It’s a quick and easy way to keep your inventory clear of junk items, and to make sure you don’t have to decide in the Wasteland if a telephone or alarm clock is more valuable to you (hint: it’s generally the alarm clock).  Don’t forget to store all the mods you make or remove from items, either. Each mod weighs 0.5, and that adds up quickly.
  10. Items you store at one settlement stay there. Unfortunately, each settlement is its own animal – for better or worse. Just as you can’t bring defenses from one settlement to another and people from one settlement can’t use beds from another settlement, the items you store at one settlement stay there. Say for instance you wanted to make a laser turret in Sunshine Tidings Co-Op and you have the materials in Sanctuary Hills, you’re going to have to go get those materials. It is frustrating at times, albeit more realistic.
  11. Stay healthy. I’m not talking about in-game, though that’s important, too. Sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy and can lead to potential health problems like back issues and DVT. It’s easy to play a game like Fallout 4 and forget about time. Set an alarm clock on your phone every hour or two to ensure you get up to move around, stretch, exercise, or eat a healthy snack. This point may seem a little ridiculous, but I say it as someone who has seen the benefits of making fitness as much a priority as video games.
  12. Enjoy yourself. There are lots of ways in which to play Fallout 4. You don’t have to take my advice. You don’t have to take anyone’s advice – you’re The Lone Wanderer. Make mistakes, learn on the fly, try new things. Bethesda has created an epic game with a nearly limitless variety of ways to play. There’s something for everyone in Fallout 4, and whatever it is, you’ll find it in the Wasteland. Good luck.


Let's go, pal!
Let’s go, pal!