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When talking about Fallout 4, I think most people tend to focus on things such as the main story or how the lore was ‘underutilized,’ whatever that means. Still, one of my favorite talking points has to be the Settlements system that was newly introduced to the Fallout IP with this game.
The inclusion of this system brought with it another whole area of gameplay to the franchise, allowing players like myself, who have spent years playing base-building games such as Rust and Minecraft, the opportunity to change our experience of Fallout, giving us a much grander goal than simply killing a couple of mutants along the way to finding Shaun.
So, when I managed to get the main Fallout 4 quest out of the way during my first playthrough, that’s what I did; I threw myself head first into the settlement system of Fallout 4, intrigued by just how far I could push it and what amazing things could come out of it.
I quickly learned that the system was much more complex, fiddly, and cumbersome than it had to be typical Bethesda issues. Therefore, I have spent the last few years of gameplay figuring out the best ways to set up, run, and optimize your Fallout 4 settlements, and I am here today to share this information with you. How generous of me!
So, with all this in mind, in this Fallout 4 settlements guide, we’re going to cover everything there is to know about the settlement system in Fallout 4 and how you can maximize your settlement’s performance.
One of the first things you will do in your playthrough is discovered the settlement system, including a little tutorial quest that walks you through the entire process of setting up your first camp. However, most of this stuff is self-explanatory and takes place in Sanctuary Hills, a location that is best left alone until you already have a couple of stable bases set up.
However, we should look at some of the generical steps you must take for every settlement in the beginning. These include:
Many settlement locations in the game will require the player to do some sort of quest before you are given access to the workshop and the settlement build menu. These quests can be quite annoying, such as the initial settlement tutorial quest “Sanctuary,” which falls under the Minutemen’s “When Freedom Calls” questline.
Most of these quests are pretty easy to find and will be presented to the player in some shape or form from either the original residents of the settlement or via main/side quests in the game.
Each settlement will require the player to set up a radio beacon in order to attract new settlers to the location. This is a fairly easy process and requires a small generator to get the whole thing up and running. Once this is done, you can move on to the more exciting aspects of the base building.
When you first open up your settlement menu, you will see a bar at the top of your screen indicating the size of your base and the number of things you have built there. This progress bar will fill until you hit the maximum build allowance per settlement.
Keep in mind that the structures and items already in the settlement when you arrive will factor into this allowance. Therefore, make sure to tear down everything you do not want or need on the property to free up some building space.
In relation to settlement build parameters, each settlement has a height cap, preventing you from building mega-structures into the sky. This height limit is calculated based on sea level.
Lastly, when selecting and placing items to build in your settlements, an opaque outline of the item will appear before the player on the location you are looking at. If the item cannot be placed there or does not fit for some reason, a red outline will appear, encouraging the player to think of another way to place the item.
You can play around with the positioning of these objects by changing their orientation; this sometimes fixes any placement issues you may have.
Top Tip: If you want to build tall structures, head for Spectacle Island, this location has the highest build height in the game.
To build anything in Fallout 4, you will need the correct supplies first. This means going out into the world, exploring the wreckage of the Great War, and finding components and trash that fit your needs.
Primarily, you will want to start this process in your settlement area, clearing up any big pieces of rubble or materials that could prove useful down the line. Many settlements will have large supplies of metal or wood in the form of broken houses and trees. Go around collecting these so you can immediately get started with any of the big structures for your base.
After the big stuff is taken care of, you will want to identify what items you need next for your base. Things like sentry turrets and generators require many working parts; therefore, in the settlements menu, you can flag up individual materials that you need.
When you come across an item with this component or material in the wild, a little search/magnifying glass icon will appear beside it, letting you know you need it. This process is called selective looting, and it can give you hours of fun gameplay by encouraging you to explore the map.
Outside of this, the player can also set up Scavenging Stations in their settlements. These stands only require a small bit of wood and steel to get going, yet will garner many useful materials over their lifecycle. They also only require one settler to run them and no power.
I usually set many of these stands up at the beginning of my settlement building process and tear them down to make further use of the settler when construction is complete.
Lastly, when it comes to supplies and building an empire of settlements around the Commonwealth wasteland, you are going to want to set up supply lines between your settlements. This is done by acquiring the Local Leader perk and using one of your settlers as a supply runner. You will have to assign this job, like any other, in your settlement menu.
Top Tip: You will need a lot of adhesive going forward. You can cook your own in the form of vegetable starch with ingredients made by your own settlements farm.
One of the main components of building a thriving settlement is the happiness or satisfaction of your residents. Much like Sims, these people need a steady supply of food, water, and shelter if you want them to be even marginally happy.
The main items you must take care of first are food, water, and power supplies. Everything in a settlement hinges on a good power supply, so make sure to build a decent number of generators before spending your resources on future-proofing your water supply.
After all, your settler count will increase slowly over time, so there is no rush on things like this. We will take a deeper look at all the things you can do with this power later on.
Ensuring you have enough water and food should be your next concern. Both of these can be achieved fairly easily. Should your settlement be located near a water supply, build and power a couple of Water Purifiers and place them in the nearby supply; a couple of them should supply enough water for decent-sized camps.
In terms of food, the easiest and most efficient way to ensure your food supply remains constant is to plot out a decent area of farming land per settlement and assign some settlers to work it.
Top tip – Set up a few farming-based settlements that provide a great surplus of food; by using supply lines, these farming settlements can prop up the food supply of your other settlements in less arable areas.
Lastly, you are going to need a good supply of beds in your settlement. Annoyingly, you have to assign these beds to each settler for this to work; simply placing the bed will do nothing.
While the Defense is part of the general satisfaction metrics in the settlement system, Defense can be complicated enough to warrant a complete section.
For your settlers to feel satisfied and happy, it stands to reason that they must feel safe. Therefore, in a world where your camp may be routinely attacked by raiders, you better set up some defenses to keep everyone alive.
You can do this in numerous ways. First of all, walls and locked doors will do nothing for the defense rating of your settlement. Even if raiders cannot get access to your settlers via mazes of steel walls, your defense score can be low.
The best and most efficient way to rack up some much-needed points in the defense collum is by attaining the ‘Gun Nut’ and ‘Science!’ skills. With these skills unlocked, the player can start building complex traps with tripwires and pressure plates alongside tones of defense turrets.
In the beginning, you will probably opt for manned guard posts for defense, but these are inefficient and should be replaced when you have enough materials.
Also, while walls and defensive structures like them may not help to increase your defense rating, you should still install them, but not as blockers; use them more like funnels to guide raiders into heavily defended areas that they can be dealt with quickly in.
Top Tip: If storing your banks of power armor in a settlement, make sure to block settler access to them. They will jump in them whenever any fighting starts, wrecking your placement of them.
Satisfaction and happiness are intrinsically linked in the settlement system. However, even when all of their needs are met, some settlements can still have a low happiness score.
The best and most predictable way to increase settler happiness in your base is to build stands for them that will meet some of their less definable needs. This will require the second rank of ‘Local Leader,’ but the skill investment is worthwhile. Particularly, clinic and clothing stands tend to boost morale the greatest when all other base needs are met.
Lastly, when all else has failed in terms of boosting happiness, try taking on some quests from Preston Garvey to defend besieged settlements across the wasteland. While these quests are definitely annoying, completing a decent number of them will increase general happiness across your network.
Benevolent Leader Achievement
When you become familiar with settlements in Fallout 4 and how to increase your bases’ happiness progressively, you will want to shoot for the Benevolent Leader achievement. This achievement can only be earned via acquiring a maximum happiness score in a large settlement.
Of course, you can acquire this achievement in any large settlement, but I suggest you try it out at the Red Rocket base outside Sanctuary Hills. Here the player can achieve maximum happiness relatively easily without having to go all out for a massive population of settlers.
Optimizing Your Base
When setting up your base to deal with any attack and raider plot, you can do a couple of things to make your base especially hard to infiltrate.
First of all, there is no need for your base to be on complete lockdown at all times. Therefore, you should get familiar with some of the game’s tripwire and pressure plate systems and hook up certain aspects of your defense to toggle switches. By doing this, you can easily arm and disarm booby traps as and when needed.
Next, you are going to want to defend the areas that raiders want access to the most, your food and water supplies. I recommend building bridges and elevated towers around this area to allow full turret coverage. Do not build walls in the farming area, as this can limit the scope of your turrets, allowing raiders to progress through your blind spots.
Bridges, in general, are a great idea for base defense. By ensuring that each of your bridges can see one another, you can help to ensure the full protection of your entire landmass.
Putting Everyone to Work
One of the most annoying things about settlements with a decent population is ensuring everyone has been given a job and isn’t living off of their hard work for free.
Thankfully, Bethesda has thought of a solution to this issue. As the leader of the settlement and defacto Mayor, you have the ability to call a town meeting by using the bell. The bell can be built with 4 wood and 4 steel, and ringing it will gather everyone to the location.
Once everyone has gathered, you can quickly check who has and has not been assigned a job, quickly sorting things out.
There are many mods out there that improve the game’s default settlement builder mechanics. From simple mods that allow the player to build past the original size cap to complete overhaul systems, there is a mod out there for everyone.
If you want to keep everything working well together and still consider your playthrough to be legit, keep it simple with mods that add extra functionality or different buildable items to the game. Here are a couple of amazing mods I think you should check out:
1. Immersive Settlers by Marmo1233
I think we can all agree that the settlers in Fallout 4 could do with a little bit of work. This mod helps to increase your immersion in the game by giving settlers names. Allowing them to become their own person.
2. Workshop Plus by Kinggath
This mod is focused on improving the feeling of settlement-building by tweaking menus, allowing access to advanced building tools, and generally making the whole experience less painful.
3. Sim Settlements 2 by Kinggath
This mod is widely accepted as the most popular and interesting settlement mod currently on the Nexus. While this mod does come with a storyline, its main feature is the overhaul of the original settlement building and gameplay system.
This mod will allow the player to take their ideas and designs to the next level.
If you are looking to build the best possible base, you are probably willing to part with a little extra cash to get your hands on all settlement-building content Bethesda has designed for the game. The Wasteland Workshop was the second official DLC released for Fallout 4, and it comes with many new items that you can use in your base-building career.
The Wasteland Workshop DLC works by adding numerous new objects to the game and the workshop menu when building/designing your base, expanding your options. This DLC will help keep things looking good and well put together, from large structures to lighting options.
Optimizing Your Character for Settlement Life
One of the most important things when building your character for settlement work is to get a decent Charisma level right from the beginning. This will allow your character to acquire the Local Leader perk quickly. You will want to reach level two in this skill as quickly as possible to maximize efficiency when starting your settlement.
Of course, you will also want to unlock the Cap Collector level 2 perk in the Charisma skill tree. This will allow you to build the highest-level shops. Combine your Charisma skills with perks such as Medic, Science, and Scrapper level 3 to see your settlements flourish.
The Best Settlement Locations
While I recommend having a lot of settlements, with some serving as feeder locations to your main bases, you should look at some definite standout locations for your main base of operations.
This settlement location is one that initially showed the most promise when I first played through Fallout 4. The location is completely surrounded by water and already comes with a generator capable of putting out 20 units of power.
This location has tonnes of decent loot in the watery depths that surround it, making looting a fun and interesting experience. This, combined with the vast amount of wood already found on the island (trees) and the fact that the building area for this settlement is the largest in the game, makes Spectacle Island rather appealing.
However, one thing you will have to deal with is the annoying glitches that occur due to the island’s size and location. As it is surrounded by water, raiders cannot walk up to your settlement naturally. Therefore, they will spawn inside your walls and attack you from there, making setting up defenses rather difficult.
Also, as the settlement area is so large, the player can walk to one end of their settlement and despawn the other side of their base, causing glitches to occur when they head back. There is also a glitch where the player can see the old horizon of the island, disregarding the work you have done when far enough away.
Red Rocket Truck Stop
While this settlement is definitely not one of the best when it comes to late-game building due to its small size and relatively annoying surrounding environment, it is one of the best starter settlement locations.
When I set up a base here, I usually plot out a small and self-sufficient area that can store a lot of the collectibles I don’t want to carry around with me. Here, I store my magazines and Bobbleheads, but also my suits of power armor atop the roof, making a rather cool sight.
If you are new to settlement building in Fallout 4, I recommend using this site as a first step before moving to wider expanses.
When choosing a spot for a settlement, I love some natural defenses. This settlement comes with a home base for the player in the lighthouse building, but it is also backed by the sea, removing any need to defend that area and saving you some precious resources.
Because of this, raiders will only attack from the dock or front area, locations that are easily defended by overlapping turret fire.
If you have some building skills, this location can look really cool if you use the lighthouse as the base of your build. While the settlement building area is not massive here, there is enough room to produce more than enough food for the settlers here.
When you land at Starlight Drive-In for the first time and unlock it as a settlement, you are gifted with a great supply of valuable resources through the abandoned cars and radioactive barrels on site. This will help you throw up the majority of buildings and defensive walls needed to secure this base.
One issue I found with this location is the food supply for the many settlers this location is made for. You will definitely need to feed this location with your supply routes to ensure everyone is fed.
The Mechanist’s Lair
If you have the Automatron DLC installed, this settlement is perfect for players who value aesthetics over effort. As everything is practically already completed for the player, you can move in and start enjoying your new life as king of the robots.
While this may sound silly, the main thing I enjoy about this base is its secret entrance, reminding me of the Dawnstar temple in Skyrim.
This location has the highest possible cool factor of any settlement in the game. If you take over this area, the unfinished vault can become something truly amazing, filled with display areas for your cool sets of power armor and any other trophies you may be particularly proud of.
As a vault, this location does have some limitations when it comes to the building; however, the ability to semi-customize your own vault without the need for further DLC is pretty cool, regardless of some limitations.
This base location is widely appreciated as the best spot in the entire game. When you take this location as part of the Minutemen quest line, you will already have access to beds, medical facilities, electric power, and a water purifier. Therefore, this settlement is already self-sufficient from the get-go. You also have the added defensive bonus of being in a literal castle built to repel attacks.
After you fully defend the hole in the wall left by the Mirelurk Queen in the past, this base is virtually impossible to overcome, requiring very little in the way of manual protection from the player.
The one drawback of this base has to deal with the Minutemen and Preston Garvey in particular, but we all must make some sacrifices for the things we love.
Not every location in this game could earn a place on this list. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t show them some love when you have some free time. Let’s have a look at some honorable mentions:
- Abernathy Farm
- Sanctuary Hills
- Warwick Homestead
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Where is the Best Settlement in Fallout 4?
Answer: There can never be one definitely best settlement in Fallout 4 as each player looks for something different in their camps. However, places such as Covenant and Home Plate are perfect for players who do not want to invest much time in the base setup and management. At the same time, locations such as Spectacle Island and The Castle offer the best of both worlds.
Question: Should I Build All Settlements in Fallout 4?
Answer: There really is no reason why you shouldn’t build in all locations, provided that you are prepared to loot the wasteland for all the necessary materials. However, you will need at least three decent settlements in order to run any large settlements that cannot survive without trade routes. Places like Starlight Drive-In need that extra support structure for food delivery, for example.
Question: How many Hours does it Take to Complete Fallout 4?
Answer: If you focus on the main storyline, the player should only need about 25 hours to complete the main game as a complete beginner. However, if you want to get all of the content completed, you will need to spend upwards of 150 hours.
When beginning your settlement-building journey in Fallout 4, there are definitely some rules you should follow to maximize your base’s efficiency and get the most out of each location. However, at the end of the day, these locations should be about expressing your creativity and making something really cool that feels like an achievement.
With this in mind, I really hope you enjoyed this article and got some useful tips from it. I look forward to seeing you again soon and wish you the best of luck.