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15 essential Fallout 4 tips to know before you play

Fallout 4
(Image credit: Bethesda)

These Fallout 4 tips are going to be handy if you're about to set off into its huge radioactive open world. There's a lot to see and do, and a lot to learn. You can do it the hard way - by trial and error, or you can use these tips to let you in on the things you need to know.

There's a lot going on here. From crafting gear to modding it; companions to find and use, power armor, settlements. It’s a Bethesda RPG, after all, which means it’s going to be a truly huge open world sandbox that's almost intimidating in its scale. If you want help with any of that then we've spent hundreds of hours scouring the wasteland, visiting all the locations, talking to every NPC, to help you with these Fallout 4 tips.

1. Collect everything for crafting and tag resources to find what you need

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. All the junk you pick up is made up of 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 and then use the 'Tag for Search' function. 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.

2. Use Workbenches to scrap and build bigger things at settlements

Certain items like tires or sinks can only be harvested when you're in an area close to a workbench, like the Red Rocket gas station or the town of Sanctuary. At these locations you you can scrap trees, cars, traffic pylons, street lamps, mailboxes, ruined houses. All of which 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.)

3. Use Perks to 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.

4. Choose the right companion for the job and remember where you sent them

Fallout 4

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There are several companions in Fallout 4, all with different skills, strengths and weaknesses to use. 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!

5. Power armour needs to be used 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. It's 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.

6.  You can mod your power armor at racks

Power Armor is cool straight away but how do you fix it when it's broken? Or upgrade the legs? Or paint it? First, find a power armour rack - it's a yellow rack that'll be near some workbench locations. You can exit your power armour 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 armour 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.)

7. Build settlements, but don't forget to maintain them

Fallout 4 puts you in charge of settlements you 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 don't 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.

8. Avoid swimming, the rads aren't worth it

The water in Fallout 4 can kill you. Not in a swimming = instant death manner that's typical to video games, but it's full of deadly radiation. Rads are inevitable in the wasteland, and very difficult to get rid of in the first few hours, so stay out of the water which will literally soak you in the stuff. It's 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.

9. 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!

10. 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.

11. ... and melee weaker enemies to save ammo

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.

12. Priority perks

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. 

Buff 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.

How you progress depends on how you want to play and what you want to do. Certain locks can't be picked if you're not skilled enough with the pickpocketing perk for example, while encrypted computer terminals will be inaccessible at certain levels unless you invest in multiple levels of the requisite 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 to build certain buildings and set up supply lines between settlements. 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 which just makes enemies die in far more creative, explodey ways..

13. Keep your radio on for new signals as you explore

The radio on your PipBoy in Fallout 4 is still as wonderful as it's 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.

14. Don't waste Stimpacks on 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.

15. Keep away from Feral Ghouls until you can handle a fight

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.

Looking to modify your Fallout 4 experience? Then check out our selection of the best Fallout 4 mods for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Sam White

Sam is a freelance writer, who primarily works as the Games Writer for British GQ. He's been writing about games for over 10 years, and his work has appeared in publications including The Independent, International Business Times, Trusted Reviews, VG247, PCGamesN, 247Sports, GamesRadar, and more. 

With contributions from