Don't just survive. Thrive
Fallout 4 , in classic Bethesda style, is an overwhelmingly huge, deep open-world sandbox with an incomprehensible amount of stuff to do, see and find. If you're an Xbox or PC player who hasn't visited the Commonwealth yet, the good news is you can try it out for free between May 25 and 28.
Despite being familiar to its predecessors in many ways, it's bigger, funnier and more vibrant, with a lot of new systems to learn about and watch out for when you're wandering the wastes of the Commonwealth. Those things that that - as Leon points out in our review - will eventually congeal into a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable journey through a damnably real-feeling world, but will initially take a good while to really get a handle on, whether you've played Fallout before or not.
Fortunately I can set you up right here and now. I've been shooting, looting and tooting for dozens of hours now, learning the new systems and poring over the best perks. I've got to grips with the new future well in advance, so here are my top tips for survival in the 23rd century.
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Crafting has been expanded massively in Fallout 4. As well as potentially taking up hours of your time as you tinker and experiment with the literally thousands of different options at your disposal, it's a fantastic way for you to personalise your own experience. But, there's a lot to it, so listen up.
All the junk you pick up along your travels is made up of individual component parts that can be put to better use for upgrading armour, modifying weapons and so forth. Clipboards, tin cans, desk fans - everything has a hidden value. You should always check your workbenches to see what components you're missing for whatever it is you're looking to build - that scope you like, that receiver that looks cool, that awesome new paint job for your armor - and then use the Tag for Search function on that particular crafting item. From then on, your PipBoy will conveniently highlight those components when you're looting, so you can quickly and easily grab the things you need for your upgrades. But do remember to untag things once you've found enough, otherwise you'll end up searching for everything, all the time, forever.
Crafting bigger projects
There are some things about Fallout 4's crafting that are a little obtuse. You can pick up lots of stuff like tin cans, glue, lamps during your travels, but not other things like tires or sinks. Those precious items can only be harvested when you're in an area close to a work bench, like the Red Rocket gas station or the town of Sanctuary. Enter work bench mode, then - and this is the part the game doesn't mention - walk away from the work bench to start wandering around and scrapping everything you can see.
Trees, cars, traffic pylons, street lamps, mailboxes, ruined houses, all of it gets broken into its components and stored in your workbenches. Each workbench in an area shares all of its stuff with every other workbench in that area, so just dump the junk you've gathered from the wasteland into whatever bench is most convenient. But be aware that only the benches in a single settlement share resources, so if you want to use all the steel you gathered at the Starlight Drive-In to make houses in Sanctuary, you're going to have to pick it up and move it. Pretty much everything is good for something, but you may want to peruse your construction options to see what elements you need most. (Go for the ceramic and copper. Trust me.)
Make the most of your modding
Modding your weapons and armour is just one part of crafting, and it's a fantastic - albeit time-consuming - way to keep your guns up to scratch as you come up against tougher foes. You can also tweak guns to fit other purposes, adding scopes to pistols, or attaching scattered barrels to laser rifles to turn them into laser shotguns.
In order to get the best available from quite early on, you should invest in the mod specific perks that open up later ranks for you to play around with - there are separate ones for melee weapons and firearms. You'll still need to find the necessary components to build these mods, so it's not a easy win when it comes to arming yourself to the teeth, but every little helps when you're surviving in a post nuclear wasteland.
Choose the right companion for the job (and manage them carefully)
There are several companions in Fallout 4, each with their own interesting and well-fleshed out personalities and backstories, and tons of different dialogue options for you to discover. The most obvious is your faithful canine, Dogmeat, who's great for searching abandoned buildings for good treasure, and robot butler Codsworth is not only hilarious but pretty decent in battle and really rather durable. You can talk to them, find out about their history, and even unlock unique companion quests when you reach certain affinities with them. But it can be quite difficult to keep a track of where they are, as the game doesn't have a companion screen to see exactly where they're at.
Keep close track of them, and when you dismiss them from your service to go back to one of your settlements, try to remember where you sent them. For ease, I used Sanctuary Hills as my main hub of operations - in fact this is smart advice in general; it's much easier to keep track of all your gear, companions and components if you store it in a central location - but still came into trouble a couple of times. If this should become an issue for you, just wait or sleep for 24-hours and you should find your companions hanging around. Remember: when you dismiss a companion to a settlement, they walk there - they don't fast travel!
Power armour is great, but use it economically
Unlike in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, power armour in Fallout 4 isn't a late-game discovery. Instead, you get your power suit pretty early on as part of the quest line, and it's designed more like a power-up than a suit of armour you can have equipped at all times. Like pretty much everything in the game, you can customise it to your tastes, swapping out individual parts, adding paint jobs, jetpack boosters and unique capabilities, but it requires fusion cores to run. These are fairly commonly found on your adventures, but they're definitively finite.
Equipping your power armour, and any action you perform while suited up - walking, jumping, sprinting - depletes the fusion core inside. Its also the only piece of armour you can equip that takes damage and requires repairs, and the maintenance takes up valuable resources. You should therefore be conservative, but always be aware you've got the extra firepower capabilities available when you need them - power armour can turn the tide when trying to take down a particularly mean Deathclaw.
Build settlements, but don't forget to maintain them
Fallout 4 puts you in charge of settlements - little outcrops that you open up along your adventure, and can then manage, expand and customise to your liking. Your character's pre-war hometown, Sanctuary Hills, is your first stop once you exit the vault, and it forms the central hub of your operations. Settlement building is a great way to put you in control of rebuilding the once-great Commonwealth, from constructing your own personal house to creating shelters for your settlers, crops and water supplies, right down to crafting furniture, and setting supply routes so that traders can come and sell you wares.
Of course, setting up bastions of hope in such a desolate place attracts the unwanted attention of raiders, so you'll need to set up defences, too. Keep close eyes on your resources and junk materials, and dont forget that you can always go into craft mode and scrap most things in the world - crumbling houses, trees, cars and all furniture - to make better use of their individual components. Be vigilant, and be versatile.
Don't go swimming
Ok, so, heres the thing: the water in Fallout 4 can kill you. Not in the typical oh, swimming = instant death manner that's typical to video games, but in the this pond is a sparkling pit of deadly radiation kind of way. Radiation is inevitable in the wasteland, and very difficult to get rid of in the first few hours, so stay out of the water. Its not all deadly, but you're safer assuming it is. Physical damage (even crippled limbs) is easy to heal - just take a nap and you're good to go - but radiation sticks with you unless you can find some Radaway or certain foods that remove it, so be mindful of your surroundings.
Your Pip-Boy does more than you think
As well as giving you constantly up to date stats on your character's physical well being, perks, status effects, inventory, outfit options, world and local maps, radio, and all the information you need to be a questing, settlement-managing hero - you know, the basics - the Pip-Boy has a couple of other great features I only stumbled upon after a few hours play.
You'll pick up listenable holotapes as you explore, and these little recordings give you incidental storytelling options to discover more about particular, unique places, and even open up questlines. To listen, just find them in the Misc part of your inventory and slot them into the holotape compartment on the top of your Pip-Boy to listen to more of the world's secrets. You can even find little mini-games to play when you want some downtime!
Be smart about saving your ammo
Ammunition can be incredibly sparse in Fallout 4. More than in any previous game, you have to regularly switch between your best weapons as you manage ammo supplies, only occasionally being able to shell out invaluable bottlecaps to buy bullets, fusion cells, grenades and such at stores. Make sure you have a decent variety of guns with you at all times in order to hedge your bets.
When the going does finally get tough, and you're down to your last couple of rounds, you shouldnt forget that the pipe weapons are some of the most commonly used in the Commonwealth. The preferred firepower of raider scum, and other human enemies, keeping a pipe weapon in your inventory is a sure fire way of making sure you've always got a backup to rely on should you ever need it. I've currently got over 800 pipe rounds just sitting there waiting for me. Safety.
There are a ton of perks in Fallout 4, from passive improvements to active effects that can completely change your playstyle. If you want to do best in the game, you'll need to study the perk chart regularly, always planning your next move. I recommend buffing your Strength, Charisma and Intelligence skills to start with, as this will give you an introductory boost in the areas of physical capability, conversation skills, and levelling. Perception is also pretty useful, and Luck can give you some great unexpected boons, but it's not essential.
Certain locks can't be picked if you're not skilled enough with the pickpocketing perk, while encrypted computer terminals will be inaccessible at certain levels of encryption unless you invest in multiple levels of one perk. You'll find certain conversation options aren't available or always fail if you haven't got a high enough charisma level, while building settlements is massively improved if you invest in the Local Leader perk from early on. Perks even affect crafting and modding, so check out the Science perk, as well as a couple of others, to unlock access to more powerful mods for guns, armour and melee weapons. Oh, and as always, don't forget Bloody Mess.
Keep your radio on
The radio on your PipBoy in Fallout 4 is still as wonderful as its ever been. Diamond City Radio is a constant companion, playing out '50s jives about uranium fever and slow songs about heartbreak, and you can always rely on the Classical Radio station to give your fights against feral ghouls a nudge into the orchestrally epic.
But you should keep a close eye on the radio frequencies you pick up as you wander the wastes. You'll find many of them as you trek from place to place, and tuning into them while they're available can give you clues to certain hideouts or people in need, and entire quest lines waiting to be embarked upon.
Don't heal Dogmeat
Yes, his whimpers are heart breaking and you'll feel like a monster letting him limp around, but dont waste a Stimpak on Dogmeat unless you really need him backing you up immediately. Stimpaks are a valuable and rare resource in the first few hours of the game, and you'll need them way more than he does.
He can't die, and will heal as soon as the fighting stops, so just leave him be and take revenge on the jerks who hurt him. Violent, brutal revenge.
Melee the small stuff
Ammo is at a premium in the wasteland, and the first few enemies you'll encounter - mostly radroaches and bloatflies - are pretty puny as things go and won't really hurt you all that much. They're startling and very much up in your face, but a knock or two will put them down for good.
The police baton is a good starter melee weapon, but you'll find machetes, baseball bats, and combat knives soon enough. Keep them at the ready in your weapon wheel to deal with lesser enemies so you don't waste precious ammo.
Keep away from the Feral Ghouls for a while
One of the great things about Fallout 4 is that you'll find all manner of interesting things on your way to your next mission, but some of those interesting things are way, way more powerful than you at first, and it's hard to tell which is which. Raiders look tough, what with their Mad Maxian sartorial flair, but go down fairly easily, whereas the zombie-esque Feral Ghouls will straight up murder you.
They're not only ferocious but also typically appear in large numbers, which is way more than you can handle before you've equipped better gear. Just give em a wide berth and then come back to mop em up later. They'll wait.
How to modify your power armor
The good news is that you get power armor pretty quickly in the game. The bad news is that Fallout 4 doesn't try very hard to tell you how to use it. Oh, getting into it is easy enough, but how do you fix it when it's broken? Or upgrade the legs? Or paint it?
First, find a power armor rack - its a yellow rack that'll be near some workbench locations. You can exit your power armor anywhere (hold X and step backwards), but it has to be near the rack for you to work on it. Once it's parked in the right spot, highlight the rack and you'll have the option to tweak your armor how you see fit. You won't have all the options immediately, though; you'll have to find certain magazines around the wasteland to learn new paint schemes. (Go for the flames. The flames are awesome.)
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