Survive The Commonwealth Wasteland in Fallout 4… Plus Starting Builds (PRO TIPS)

Survive The Commonwealth Wasteland in Fallout 4… Plus Starting Builds (PRO TIPS)

written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)

With our review in process, Jay Hammon is tackling the Wasteland’s biggest and baddest, I wanted to sound off on some tips to better ensure your survivability in Bethesda’s latest entry in the Fallout series. I’ve already logged a good 40 hours into my Fallout 4 campaign and from the look of it, I’m just at the halfway point. While these tips are mostly dependent on your skill level and playstyle, there are some general bits of knowledge that can help.

Everyone is S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

If you’ve never played a Fallout game before or even if you have, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the game’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system; which stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Agility, and Luck. When you first start the game, it’s always a good idea to tailor this to your playstyle. One of the biggest changes to the Fallout gameplay from Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas is how Fallout 4 handles the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system and perks. Now, with each time you level up, you earn a point you can plug into either your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. or one of the Perks. Perks augment in game mechanics while S.P.E.C.I.A.L. governs the efficiency of said in game mechanics.

First bit to note is what each S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat does for the player:

Strength: Modifies your Sole Survivor’s Melee damage and Carry Weight.
    Key Algorithms:    Carry Weight = 200 + Strength X 10
                DMG Multiplier = 1 + Strength X 0.1

Perception: modifies environmental awareness and weapon accuracy in V.A.T.S. Also allows you to specialize in stealthy perks like lock-picking, pick-pocketing, etc…

Endurance: The measure of your overall physical fitness, affecting your total HP and the rate in which your AP drains while sprinting. Also affects total HP gained with each level. As a side note, HP per level is retroactive in Fallout 4; meaning with each time you raise Endurance you gain the HP a character your level should have had.
    Key Algorithms:    HP = 80 + Endurance X 5
                HP per LVL = 2.5 + Endurance X 0.5

Charisma: This is how charming your character is, this is the main attribute that governs how likely a persuasion attempt will be successful and also affects prices for bartering, meaning what you buy costs less and what you sell earns more.

Intelligence: This attribute has changed significantly and should be noted for those who played Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Intelligence no longer governs how many skill points your character earns, rather it governs how much XP you gain throughout the entire game, think of it like having a high intelligence gives you a permanent XP boost.
    Key Algothims:    XP Earned = Base X (1 + 0.03 X Intelligence)

Agility: This is the key attribute you want to plug in to if you prefer to roll a stealth based character or would rather rely on VATS as opposed to standard FPS gunplay. Agility affects the number of ability points you have, yielding 10 AP per point in Agility.

Luck: Your general fortune (or misfortune) when exploring the Commonwealth. Also, in a more tangible way, luck also affects how fast your critical meter charges. Rolling crits are less of a game of chance in Fallout 4.

Get a running start…

As far as building your character goes… this is solely up to you and your playstyle. The following will break down three character builds I personally favor, each one curtailing to a very specific playstyle inspired by another post-apocalyptia series The Walking Dead; the “Grimes”, the “Glen,” and the “Governor.”

The Grimes is your gunner, specializing in weaponry and flexible in both real time gunplay and VATS. The key abilities you want to plug points in to are are Agility, Perception, and Intelligence.

S (5) P (6) E (2) C (1) I (6) A (6) L (2)

Plugging into Perception allows you to better see enemies before they see you, Agility can augment your VATS proficiency and a decent Strength stat allows you to load up on at each type of weapon; a hand gun, rifle, shotgun, automatic rifle, and heavy armament. Intelligence grants access to better weapon mods.

Tips to build: You’ll be a little weak so ensuring you have decent armor and HP restoring items is a plus, as you play you want to plug points into Endurance to assure your survivability. A few key perks to buy are Gun Nut to unlock better weapon mods, Gunslinger and Commando augment your pistol and automatic weapon DMG respectively, and Rifleman bumps up your DMG with non-automatic rifles. If you feel like grinding a bit, plug extra points into Charisma as well as Strength; this opens up better Speech interactions and can eventually unlock Steady Aim (in Strength) to improve your hip fire accuracy.

The Glen is your get-in/get-out scavenger, specializing in Stealth kills. The key abilities you want to plug in to are very similar to the Gunner; Agility, Perception, and Luck.

S (4) P (7) E (2) C (1) I (1) A (7) L (6)

Perception will allow you to see your enemies as you sneak, Agility augments your sneaking ability while Luck helps you build your critical meter faster, making one shot kills much easier.

Tips to build: You will be very weak, so plugging into Endurance as well as stocking up on Stimpacks and strong armor will greatly help you here. You’re going to want to pick up Sneak and Gunslinger. Sneak makes you much harder to detect when infiltrating and gunslinger ups the damage of your pistols. You’re going to want to find pistols with suppressors to keep yourself better hidden. Plugging points in to Mister Sandman and Action Boy make VATS kills much easier and eventually unlocking Ninja will increase your DMG with ranged and melee sneak attacks.

The Governor will be the Wasteland de-fact-o leader. Building settlements is one of the newest gameplay elements in Fallout 4. So if you want to build a well-rounded combatant with a strong support system, you’ll need strong settlements and focus on abilities that augment your crafting abilities. Key stats are Charisma and Intelligence.

S (4) P (4) E (3) C (7) I (6) A (2) L (2)

Charisma will be your key stat, this is how you will be the Wasteland’s leader and get what you want, in many ways without ever firing a shot.

Tips to build: The Local Leader perk should be one of your first perks to nab, this allows you to establish supply lines between settlements. Managing resources can be a pain, so having supply lines that let you share crafting supplies across multiple settlements make building structures quite a bit less painstaking. For combat, you’ll want to grab Gun Nut to unlock better weapon mods and Science to unlock better science mods, for all those times you can’t just talk your way out of trouble. The Scrapper perk allows you to get uncommon components like screws, aluminum, and copper from scrapping weapons and armor (trust me on this!). You’ll be weak, so pushing additional points into Endurance and Strength will be quite helpful.

These are all starting builds and you’ll notice how a good bit of my personal play style is reflected in these builds. I favor characters that can be more than just walking tanks, but how you build a character is up to you. Despite how flimsy my builds tend to be, having a strong base should help keep you alive for longer… especially early on in the game where even Radroaches can pose a danger.

Tactical combatant…

Knowing how to tackle certain enemy types and how to tangle with them can make all the difference in combat. Let’s focus first one one of the more terrifying enemy types in Fallout 4 and one that has become one of the more challenging foes this time around.

The Walking Irradiated, better known as Feral Ghouls, have become more zombie-like in Fallout 4. While dealing with one isn’t that bad, despite how fast they move, it’s taking down a hoard of quick and unpredictable Rad-Beasts that can spell certain doom for you and your trusty companion, this level of danger is even more heightened when facing Legendary ghouls and the ever deadly Glowing Ones.

Whether you’re facing a standard Feral Ghoul or one of the Glowing Ones, they all succumb to one simple move… taking them out at the legs. It doesn’t matter if it’s in VATS or in real time, shooting the legs off a Feral Ghoul cripples them indefinitely and can also allow you to save on wasting rounds; just take out their legs and equip your favorite melee weapon for some up close and personal Ghoul extermination. The best weapon for kneecapping the Wasteland’s zombies will be a Combat Shotgun; the rounds have incredible spread and unlike the double barrel variety, your rate of fire ensures a higher chance at crippling entire waves of Ferals.



Taking out limbs can be useful, but keep in mind that some enemies will become deadlier depending on how you take them out, Robots that lose their limbs… especially Assaultrons… will rush the player and self destruct if they no longer have the capacity to fight back. For these ones it’s best to empty round after round in their chrome domes rather than risking a suicide rush.

Targeting specific points in VATS can also benefit you with unique results, Super Mutant Suiciders, a new and incredibly deadly variant of Super Mutant, rushes at you armed with a Mini Nuke ready to take down both you and itself in a devastating blaze of glory… but if you target the specific limb it’s holding the Mini Nuke in, you can send that beast straight to hell in one of the most satisfying ways. Humans rocking power armor, from the Brotherhood of Steel to Raiders who restored old suits of Power Armor, have a definite weakness you can target if sneaking is more your thing. Taking aim for the Fusion Core causes the unsuspecting target to explode, the only caveat is you need to be positioned behind them… a rare positioning when facing Power Armored foes. Like in previous games, robots can have their combat inhibitor targeted, this can help turn the tide in combat especially when faced with enemies who utilize Sentry Bots or the Gunners who seem to favor utilizing Assaultrons. A frenzied Robot will still attack you, but it also attacks its former allies, helping to thin out a group.

arma yourself wisely

arma yourself wisely

Picking the right weapon for the right enemy can make all the difference in the world, energy weapons work great against synths and other mechanized baddies from Protectrons to Sentry Bots, but when it comes to Super Mutants and other rad-infused baddies, it’s best to stick with traditional ballistic rounds. Humans are still one of the easiest to tackle, and luckily these enemy types are more plentiful in the world, whether ballistic rounds or energy weapons… if it causes damage it can make humans hurt pretty bad.

If you are forced to face down some of the Commonwealth Wasteland’s bigger and badder of the radiated baddies… like the Super Mutant Behemoth or the Mirelurk Queen, don’t be afraid to let loose with the Mini Nukes and Missiles. Speaking of the ammo that goes boom… you really shouldn’t waste them on smaller groups, but if you do manage to scavenge a decent stockpile of them, why not let em rip every now and again? I know when I faced Kellogg I had zero qualms about letting him burn at the business end of a Fat Man… slight spoilers.

Making use of the game’s mechanics…

Settlement building is mostly optional, but offers a wide variability to the gameplay. So while you are building up a settlement from humble shambles to whatever grandiose scale you wish, you do earn XP with every floor panel and cosmetic decoration you place in the world, so why not get the most out of it? Sleeping will grant you the Well Rested temporary perk, allowing you to increase XP earned by 10% for 12 hours, this can be further utilized when traveling with a companion who you’ve developed a romantic relationship with since the the Lover’s Embrace temporary perk does the same as Well Rested but grants a 15% increase in XP… as a note though they unfortunately do not stack with Lover’s Embrace taking precedence over Well Rested.

crit like a boss!

crit like a boss!

Critical Hits have changed significantly, now you can slowly build up the Critical Hit meter in VATS, allowing you to pick and choose when you execute your crits. If you peek back up top at the segment focusing on Luck, a higher Luck stat allows you to build up your Critical Meter faster. If has to be noted that Criticals NEVER MISS, this is a super useful game mechanic to remember when you’re pinned down or when you are targeting specific point in VATS like say a Power Armored foe’s Fushion Core or a Robot’s combat inhibitor. You can also pour some points into the Critical Banker perk which (when maxed out) allows you to save up to three crits. Super useful perk for the “Glen” build I previously laid out for you.

h4CK TEH pl4ne7!

h4CK TEH pl4ne7!

Hacking terminals has always been a game of chance, but did you know that you can select strings of code that can remove duds or even reset your number of tries? If you see a string of characters closed between two parenthesis/brackets/braces/those alligator teeth things, selecting them will highlight multiple characters much like it would if you were selecting a word. Fortunately, you no longer get locked out of terminals after failing all attempts, but like in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, you can always just back out on your last attempt if you don’t want to risk being locked out for 10 seconds.

Quicksave before Persuasion checks

Quicksave before Persuasion checks

The game’s new Quick Save mechanic has been a godsend for Speech checkpoints, instead of rolling the dice on a speech check, you can Quick Save before selecting and if you fail you simply have to reload the Quick Save allowing you to try the Speech Check again. Since even those with a 1 Charisma stat can have a chance of success, this greatly changes the gameplay when tackling conversations, especially when pressing NPCs for more Caps when negotiating jobs since you generally have to pass three speech checks of increased difficulty when trying to strong arm a random Waster.


I’m toying with the idea of building full character builds, these will be more in depth and will most likely play into my three starting builds I shared up top. Still, I hope this article was useful to you to help my fellow gamer get a decent running start in the world of Fallout. Because while consoles may change, specs may change, the characters and the setting generally always changes… but one thing stays the same, War… War never changes. Stay safe out there Sole Survivor.

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