Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fallout 4 Tips for Success

For the sake of people newer to the series, Fallout is such a big game with such a wide range of things to experience. It can be pretty overwhelming at first. So, with that in mind and about a weeks worth of Fallout 4 in the books, here's what I've learned.

These tips are mostly simple basic things that even a Fallout veteran like myself sometimes forgets.

Bottle Caps:
Caps are the Fallout world's form of currency, and sometimes they feel like they're in short supply, especially when you're first starting out. But there are many ways to acquire them.
  • Always pick up Nuka-Colas when you find them, even if you don't necessarily have the inventory space. Drinking them gains you health (and a few nasty rads), but will also grant you one cap each. 
  • Always pick up pre-war money and packs of Cigarettes and Cigars. Even if you're short on inventory space, they're worth grabbing, as vendors will pay caps to acquire them. Whenever I trade with a vendor I make sure I get rid of these items in order to either gain a few caps or to make the price of the items I'm buying go down.
  • The Fortune Finder Perk (in the Luck skill tree) allows you to find more bottle caps in containers as you're wandering the wasteland. It has 4 levels that you can spend your precious perk points on, just in case you're really looking to get rich quick.
  • Also bottle cap mines, when detonated leave a pile of caps that you can pick up and reuse.
Improve and customize your weapons by crafting them! Then give them a cool new name!

The only thing more important than bottle caps is ammunition. Unless you're building yourself a melee character, you'll need ammo to use that shiny new (or rather old and rusted) combat shotgun that does incendiary damage. And you'll find yourself in a world of hurt if you run out of ammo just as a pack of mirelurks or feral ghouls come out of nowhere for a sneak attack.
  • One of the often overlooked methods of accumulating ammo is to pick up every weapon you find even if you don't want to keep it. It might get a little tedious picking up weapons and going into your inventory to drop them right away, but doing so will net you whatever ammo happens to be loaded in the weapon at the time. So next time you loot one of your victims or the safe you just cracked, be sure to grab the weapon in addition to whatever rounds happen to be listed.
  • Similar to the Fortune Finder Perk, the Scrounger perk (in the Luck skill tree) allows you to find more ammo in containers, and has a few upgrades worth taking to make sure you never run out of ammo. And if you find yourself with more than enough ammo (or a particular type of ammo for weapons you never use), you might find that vendors will pay well to take them off your hands.
  • Use the type of ammo that your enemies are using. If you're attacking raiders and finding lots of .308 ammo, or the institute wielding their own brand of laser weapons, one strategy to keep from running out of any particular ammo type is to use what you happen to be picking up. Use it and immediately replace it, as it were.
Health and Drugs:
Fighting your way through a raider camp or that building full of Super Mutants tends to leave you a little banged up. Fallout 4 features crafting of food and drugs at cooking and chemical stations.

  • Pick up animal meats, and cook them at your cooking station next time you drop off gear at your preferred settlement. Cooked food tends to give you as much or more health than Stimpaks, and some types of meat even give you special bonuses like extra health points or -50 rads. Also cooking the meat before consuming clears it of any nasty rads.
    • Squirrel Stew: 1 Bloodleaf, 1 Carrot, 2 Dirty Water, 1 Squirrel Bits, 1 Tato = +2% XP boost for 2 hours and replenishes 105 HP.
  • Save your Stimpaks for when you break a limb during combat. Only they can restore your limbs. Eat foods instead.
  • Buffout, Mentats, Jet and Med-X have some powerful effects, but when you combine them at chemical stations they become ultra powerful. In one particular situation I found myself up against a deathclaw in close quarters combat without power armor. It's worth noting you can bring up your pip-boy in the heat of battle to pause things and medicate yourself. A healthy dose of drugs later (don't do drugs in real life kids) and I successfully stood toe to toe with the deathclaw and survived.

The wasteland is full of people and creatures that want to kill you. They don't know why, maybe they just don't like the look of you. One thing is sure though, when they see you, they're going to attack you. As such, you'll find yourself in combat a lot, so you better get used to it.
  • If you find yourself dying a lot, chances are you aren't bring up your pip-boy during the battle to eat that freshly cooked mirelurk meat, or to pop some drugs that grants extra action points for VATS, or damage resistance and bonus damage for your weapons. Getting addicted has its negative effects, but you can always pay a doctor to remove them later, so long as you survive the encounter you're currently engaged in.
  • Press the right thumbstick to crouch. Sneaking is a great way to get the drop on enemies and to make yourself aware of if and when enemies are aware of you. When your status says [Hidden] or [Caution] you can get bonus damage, which can make all the difference.
  • Focus your perk points into one particular weapon set (at least at first). Whether it's melee weapons, pistols, rifles or automatic weapons you'll be better off if you specialize in one rather than attempting to make yourself a jack of all trades. If you end up a master of none, you'll find many encounters (particularly later in the game) harder than they should have been.

Journeying the wasteland is far better done with a friend. Fallout 4 has lots to choose from and each tend to specialize in different types of combat. You can equip them with a fresh set of weapons and armor if you transfer some to their inventory and press the equip button. And some can even pick locks and hack terminals for you saving you from having to use your precious perk points on those skills.
  • The Lone Wanderer perk works with Dogmeat! Since your faithful canine companion can't speak to you, or pick locks (minus the Cryolator fetch exploit) he seems to be considered a half companion. And the Lone Wanderer perk is certainly worth taking as it grants an increase in carry weight and a decrease in damage taken. 
  • Use your companion as a pack mule. They nearly double the amount you can carry, and since the crafting and building of settlements requires you to become a hoarder, you'll need the extra carrying capacity.
  • Speak to your companions. They often have some interesting dialogue for you, and even some quests. This fact alone makes it worthwhile to spend some time with each of the companions, if you can spare the time.  

Everyone builds their character differently, and the truth is depending on your play style, there really is no wrong answer. Having said that, it can be confusing and overwhelming to newcomers. Don't worry too much about how you aligned your points at the start of the game, you can always put more perk points into each stat later, and tracking down those collectible bobbleheads and skill books will help as well. In fact, I'd recommend against maxing any skill with your points, since you're likely to find collectibles to do that for you (it's worth exploring and finding these pretty early on).

It's also worth mentioning that the Luck skill tree might just feature the best set of perks from top to bottom in the game. Each skill tree has its throwaway perks, but none will better help you find more stuff and get lucky kills with bonus damage.

However, with all of that said, the three basic skills I tend to find most useful in Fallout (and even Elder Scrolls games) are Lockpicking (in the Perception skill tree), Hacking (in the Intelligence skill tree) and Charisma. They aren't the most glamorous and they won't make you a wrecking ball in combat, but they are typically the most useful. 
  • Lockpicking opens safes and doors to alternate rooms/routes where you'll find worthwhile valuables like bottle caps, ammo, legendary weapons, bobbleheads and skill books.
  • Hacking computer consoles also opens the door (pun intended) for more loot and gives you an opportunity to make battles easier by shutting down enemy turrets. It also grants access to log entries that better flesh out the world around you and the people inhabiting it. It's a feature that feels more like one Bethesda should give you, rather than make you purchase yourself. 
  • And finally Charisma opens new dialogue options that amount to speech challenges. Do a quicksave before each one and if you fail, reload your save and try again. Passing those speech challenges earns you XP and tends to lead to the best possible outcome when you're doing quests. You can also talk people into giving you more bottle caps when accepting quests from them.

Additional Tips:
  • Slow down and talk to everyone (at least everyone with a name). They'll likely have something interesting to say, and may just have a quest for you. At one point I found myself running into people in Diamond City that wanted to speak with me about things I had already done in the game. It would have been all to easy to miss these dialogue options if I had been impatiently running (or fast travelling) to my next destination.
  • Save early, save often. When approaching a group of enemies, quicksave. Before picking that lock, quicksave. Before attempting a speech challenge, quicksave. When in doubt quicksave. After every major quest (or even every hours worth of gameplay) make a new full save. Bethesda games are known for their bugs, and being able to reload a quicksave may just keep you from losing a lot of progress due to getting stuck in the environment or killed during combat.
  • Tell all companions to go to the same settlement. As you meet more people, some will be available to join you. Accept, and if you don't want to travel with them at the moment, dismiss them and it will give you the option to tell them where to wait. Sending them all to the same spot will make them easy to find next time you want to talk to them. It'll save you from forgetting where you found them in the first place.
  • Sleep for an hour whenever you find a mattress (and the area is clear of enemies). It'll heal you so you don't have to use up food or Stimpaks, and will grant you a well rested bonus.
  • If you use the Fallout pip-boy companion app that serves as the second screen experience for the game, you can use it in offline mode which will allow you to show your friends the cool weapon or piece of armor you just found. It also lets you play the games from your pip-boy on your smartphone while on the go.
  • Don't forget about VATS! Fallout veterans may be surprised to realize that Fallout 4 doesn't teach you to use it. So newcomers may not even think to try it. As much improved as the gunplay is in Fallout 4 over past Fallout games, I still find myself needing VATS particularly when being rushed by feral ghouls or a pack of animals. Just hit the L1 button (or Left Bumper on XBOX) to slow time and target specific parts of your target's body. You can even trigger critical shots! And I cannot confirm, but it seems as though you might get some damage reduction while using VATS. 
  • This time around there is no karma system outside of what your companion thinks about your actions (which if you're with dogmeat is no problem). So feel free to crouch till it says you're hidden and steal whatever you need.
  • Sort your inventory by weight or your weapons by damage. If you're looking to offload your heaviest junk either to your workbench or your companion, sorting your items can save you a lot of time.
  • If you're out and about and find yourself over encumbered drinking an alcoholic beverage typically grants you a bonus to strength, which may give you enough time to grab the gear you want and fast travel to your favorite home base to drop it all off.
Fallout games are the types of games that you can chat with a friend about and discover you've both had pretty different experiences. The skill trees and the dialogue options (as well as some players tendency to shoot first and ask questions later) tends to make for some diverse experiences. It's a rich world that Bethesda has crafted, and despite its technical flaws, its one of the best games of the year. Hopefully these tips are as helpful to you in your journey as they have been to me.

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