Fallout 4 gives you a great deal of freedom and not a lot of guidance on how to take advantage. We’re here to help.
No, I hear you, buddy: Fallout 4 is pretty damn overwhelming. The inventory menu on your Pip-Boy makes your eyes glaze over. The explanatory tutorial prompts pop up behind trophy notifications and can’t be retrieved. The quest descriptions are uninformative.
This is the legacy of hardcore, old-school CRPGs – and Fallout fans wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s definitely worth persevering through the initial confusion, so let’s talk through crafting, base building and the Sanctuary quest.
Don’t start crafting till you unlock the Sanctuary Workshop
Soon after you leave Vault 111, the main story quest will prompt you to visit Concord. You definitely want to do this, as it’s where you get your Power Armor, but most importantly you should finish the quest here and then meet a group of Wastelanders back in Sanctuary. Speaking to the Wastelanders after they arrive kicks off a series of crafting tasks, which are designed to introduce you to the core concepts of base building while surrounded by resources and provided with a few bodies to perform tasks.
This is the point at which you should start hoarding materials, investigating the workshop menu and crafting stuff; trying to make sense of it all before you have settlers and a good range of resources puts you at a disadvantage.
So ignore the tempting Red Rocket service station and power through those first few hours of play; it’ll all make sense soon. (On subsequent playthroughs, note that you can actually activate the Sanctuary Hills Workshop before heading to Concord if you like.)
Understanding the Workshop menu
Whenever you’re within the boundaries of a Workshop you can open the Workshop menu by holding down the switch view button (touch pad on PS4). You can also open the menu from some of the Workshop’s machines.
When you approach a Workshop device you’ll be given the option to transfer items rather than start crafting; offload all your junk and unwanted inventory items here. Unfortunately, inventory items aren’t shared between workshops, so you’ll need to collect these items and carry them off with you when you decide to start or improve another settlement.
When you have the Workshop Menu open, you don’t have to stand still. You can walk freely around the available base-building area, which is marked by a glowing green border.
The Workshop menu is context sensitive and can be a bit baffling. While it’s open, you can highlight objects while looking directly at them. Depending on what you find, you can pick objects up and move them around (press confirm – Cross or A – to pick up and again to position when you’re ready), scrap objects (Square/X) or store them in your Workshop inventory (Circle/B). If you like, walk around Sanctuary scrapping broken items and detritus like fallen trees and tyres, and storing anything in working order.
If you don’t have an object highlighted, you can use Cross on PS4 or A on Xbox One to make choices in the menu at the bottom of the screen, which is navigated with the D-pad. When you find what you want to build, and have enough resources, position it and press Cross/A to place it. You can’t place items where there’s no room; a green glow means you’re good to go, and a red one means you need to move elsewhere.
By the way, if you have an inventory full of weapons and armour you don’t want, you can scrap most of these at Workshop devices – the weapons and armour bench. This is also where you add mods to your gear.
Building beds for Sanctuary
The first task the Sanctuary quest sets you after your settlers arrive is to build five beds and place them in a sheltered location. The first, most basic bed in the furniture menu will do nicely, as will sleeping bags and mattresses.
The easiest way to complete this is to put the beds in existing houses, including the one with all the Workshop devices. Just scrap or store the items in any room (even the bathroom is fine!) and plonk some beds down. If you build your own house you may find you haven’t done a good enough job for it to count as “sheltered”.
Walk around the town scrapping rugs and furniture if you don’t have enough materials; there’s plenty of wood and cloth available. If you want to role play by giving everyone their own house feel free, but you can ensure they’re always easy to find by plonking them down in one house.
Providing food and water for Sanctuary
Once you have enough beds, you need basic resources for Sanctuary. Water’s pretty easy; go to the resources section and pick the first item – a hand pump. Place a bunch of them anywhere there’s some spare dirt; in a row just outside the Workshop is fine.
Food is a bit trickier as you need seeds, and you probably haven’t found any on your travels yet. Go behind the house with all the Workshop devices and you’ll find melons and a gourd plant. Exit the Workshop menu and with luck you’ll be given the option to harvest these plants. You’ll see that they keep growing.
Now open your Workshop menu again, navigating to resources -> food. Scroll along and you’ll find the plants you just harvested; place them as you would any other object, with the proviso that they can only be plonked down in bare dirt.
Plants need a farmer assigned to them in order to grow, but one of the settlers is a farmer already and will automatically begin tending them. If you’re worried, find the grumpy lady, open the Workshop menu, highlight her and press Cross (PS4) or A (Xbox One) and you’ll see her context command changes to “Go”. Walk back to the plants and highlight them, then confirm. Once assigned to a resource, a settler will manage up to six points worth of that resource at once.
Now that you have the idea, you need more seeds. You can either wait for your current crops to yield, or go looking. You can find many Tato plants at the Abernathy farm, southwest of the Red Rocket Workshop.
Providing defences for Sanctuary
Bases aren’t safe until their defence rating is at least as high as their food or water rating – whichever is larger. To raise the defence rating you can place guard posts and towers, turrets and traps.
It’s unlikely you’ll have the necessary resources for anything but guard posts and towers at Sanctuary, but just plonking them down won’t actually make them useful – you need to assign someone to them.
You can do as you like here, but one nice approach is to place any three guard posts or towers in the street outside the workshop. If you group them together, You only need to assign one settler to raise your defence stat to six; they will automatically cover up to six points of that particular resource.
Later, when you have more materials and skills, consider placing turrets and traps; these don’t need manpower to function.
Keep doing Preston’s quests
When the settlers have everything they need, the Sanctuary quest ends (although there’s an optional, miscellaneous chance to make a chair for your psychic friend; look in the “Special” menu at the Workshop bench).
Preston wants to rebuild the Minutemen, and if you play along you’ll find it’s worth your while; not only does he scout out potentially friendly settlements, he’ll even find you new sites.
On one of your earliest missions for Preston, you’ll be given enough goodies to build a generator and radio beacon, and guided through powering them up. After this, you can pretty much consider yourself an expert.
If you want to make crafting, base building and the many benefits of both a central part of your Fallout 4 experience, there are a couple of things you need to know.
First, crafting perks are governed by the Intelligence SPECIAL stat. You need at least five points of Intelligence to salvage uncommon parts when junking gear, and must be level 23 to salvage rare components from weapons and armour. Even a simple turret requires an uncommon component, so this becomes useful quickly.
There are several crafting perks in the Intelligence and Strength trees, too – have a good poke around.
Charisma is important, too – the Local Leader perk opens trade routes and new device builds, and is available with six points of Charisma. It can be levelled up at level 14.
One good trick is to click the “mark for search” button while looking at advanced crafting diagrams in the Workshop menu. Now when you’re roaming the Commonwealth, you’ll see a magnifying glass icon on items you should definitely snaffle.
Go forth and have fun
Your adventures in base-building don’t have to end with the related questlines, though. You can investigate bringing power in, chucking up a border fence, pimping out the houses – whatever you fancy.
Once you have the appropriate charisma perks, you can get some pretty sweet bonuses out of strong, linked settlements. If you’d rather roll solo, consider setting up a base in the Red Rocket Workshop, but beware of Mole Rats – or worse!
Fiddling around with base building should also bring in plenty of materials and give you a better idea of navigating Fallout 4’s somewhat cumbersome menu and inventory system. That’s a solid foundation for exploring weapons and armour crafting. Oh yeah, now we’re talking.