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The Great War came quickly and ended just as swiftly. It left no corner of the world in the Fallout universe untouched, and certainly, no part of the United States was left unharmed from the devastation caused by the nuclear bombs. It only took one day to wipe out the entirety of human civilization, but the consequences have lasted for hundreds of years.
One such consequence is the rise of the deathclaw. Originally a pre-war, genetically-engineered replacement for soldiers in close combat situations, deathclaws now roam the wasteland as one of its fiercest creatures, sitting atop a mangled food chain. Once provoked, this powerful species knows no restraint and will lunge and swing with its sharp claws until its prey is dead.
The deathclaw is an iconic part of Fallout lore and a reappearing enemy type throughout the series. These brutes are tough to take down, making for some of the most exciting enemy encounters in any of the games.
However, despite their deceptively straightforward aggression towards you, deathclaws aren’t always the violent monsters they are made out to be. They are intelligent, but that intelligence was wasted for war. Some might even say their very existence is a tragedy; maybe even a crime against nature.
If you’re looking to learn more about deathclaws, their origin, and their role in the Fallout series, you’ve come to the right place. This Fallout Deathclaw guide will cover all of the essential information you need to know about this enemy and its origins. Knowledge is a key to survival in the Wasteland, so let’s dive in.
Bottom Line Up Front
- Deathclaws are a type of enemy found in the video game series Fallout.
- They were created before the Great War by the United States military, but have thrived in a post-apocalyptic environment.
- Deathclaws exist in numerous variations, from babies to alphas to matriarchs.
- They are some of the toughest enemies to defeat in any of the Fallout games, so come prepared for a fight.
What is a Deathclaw?
A deathclaw is, for all intents and purposes, a genetically-modified Jackson’s chameleon. In the lead-up to the Great War, the United States military began to experiment with animals that could take the place of troops on the ground in close combat situations.
However, before they could be deployed in live combat against the United States’ biggest pre-war foe, China, the bombs fell and so did the countries dropping them. Now, deathclaws have taken up residence in the wastes, living in packs as far away from what remains of civilization as they can get.
Deathclaws are horrifying-looking creatures, as their name suggests. The three-horned chameleon, or Jackson’s chameleon, used as the genetic base for the creature is a small, four-legged reptile that survives mostly on insects. Those same horns, sometimes only two instead of three, are intact on a deathclaw, albeit much bigger, sharper, and deadlier. You can tell the gender of a deathclaw by looking at its horns; males have horns that grow forward, while a female’s horns grow back and up.
The “claw” portion of a deathclaw is nothing to sneeze at either. A deathclaw has five fingers on each hand, including an opposable thumb, just like a human. Each finger tapers down into a sharp claw that allows the creature to slice and dice an enemy with relative ease.
The rest of their bodies are covered in a thick hide that offers protection from blunt weapons. Even some laser weapons have trouble piercing the skin if they aren’t powerful enough. They were designed to be killing machines, so it makes sense that their entire physical form is wrapped in muscles that power their overwhelming strength and ability to outlast most enemies.
Deathclaws stand upright, an evolutionary difference from their genetic ancestor. This allows for a larger field of vision, but at the cost of speed, though that’s not much comfort when you’re being attacked by one, and certainly not if one happens to lower to all fours to charge at you.
Several varieties of deathclaw exist in addition to the normal adult type. The latest game in the series, Fallout 76, had a list of 10 different kinds of deathclaw, from alpha deathclaws to chameleon deathclaws that can change the color of their skin.
While all of that sounds scary, and even more so when you’re up against one, deathclaws are not without their weaknesses. Their eyesight isn’t the best and they can be blinded by something like a flare or flash grenade.
Strong laser weapons and guns can pierce their thick skin, so they aren’t completely immune to firepower. Just remember: encounters with deathclaws can drag on, so make sure you’re fully prepared with enough ammo to outlast them.
Fighting and Defeating a Deathclaw
You need three things to fight a deathclaw: good armor, a powerful weapon, and the resolve to outlast it. In every game in the series, deathclaws have been powerful enemies with higher stats than most.
The last single-player entry in the series, Fallout 4, had a regular deathclaw at 500 HP and up, and with high levels of Damage Resistance, Energy Resistance, and Poison Resistance – 100, 250, and 250, respectively.
If I know for sure that I’m going to be fighting deathclaws, I like to prepare a big gun (like a minigun or Fat Man), a suit of power armor (any kind will do for the extra protection), and a Stealth Boy to ensure I get the jump on them, not the other way around.
It’s certainly possible to defeat a deathclaw without these items, but not having them makes life a lot more difficult, especially when dealing with an alpha or legendary deathclaw.
Defeating any kind of deathclaw usually results in a drop that includes a deathclaw hand and deathclaw meat. Deathclaw hide can also be obtained by killing regular adult deathclaws. Some varieties have drops that include very different items, like the glowing deathclaw of Fallout 4 that drops nuclear material and irradiated blood.
Key Encounters in the Fallout Series
The Deathclaw Warehouse in Boneyard
After the Great War, the main villain of the first Fallout game, simply known as the Master, continued to shape the deathclaw species into the fearsome beast it is today. As time passed, they began to spread throughout California. As mentioned before, deathclaws tend to stay as isolated from civilization as possible, but the occasional one will become a big nuisance for wastelanders.
An example of this is the mother deathclaw that takes up residence in a warehouse in the Boneyard. The top level of the warehouse is inhabited by multiple deathclaws, while the mother resides in the basement, where she protects her eggs. Killing all of them and the eggs is part of the “Exterminate the deathclaws” quest given to you by Gabriel of the Gun Runners.
The isometric camera and dated graphics of the first Fallout make the encounter a little less terrifying, but all of the deathclaws are still tough to bring down, especially the mother.
With 320 HP and an armor class of 30, acting as pest control for the Gun Runners and the citizens of Boneyard is no easy feat. Destroying the mother deathclaw, her spawn, and her eggs is the only way to complete the quest and allow the Gun Runners to continue their scavenging operations.
Gruthar and Vault 13
Continued experiments by the Enclave, the shadowy post-Great War remnants of the United States government, eventually exposed deathclaws to the Forced Evolutionary Virus or FEV.
FEV is the same virus that the Master used to spawn the super mutants that now inhabit the wasteland. The Enclave intended to use FEV to raise the intelligence level of deathclaws to carry out their orders.
Heightened deathclaw intelligence proved to be a difficult thing to control. Now armed with brains to match their brawn, this group of smart deathclaws led by Gruthar took up residence in Vault 13, defying their Enclave-given orders to kill any curious wastelanders in the area.
You, playing as the Chosen One in Fallout 2, can journey to Vault 13 as an option for completing the game’s main quest of finding a working G.E.C.K. unit for the village of Arroyo. Gruthar and his deathclaws live in a pack together with humans in the vault, displaying the ability of the fearsome-looking creatures to adapt to living with other intelligent species.
Gruthar himself is extremely smart and empathetic as he displays regret for the humans he killed while carrying out the Enclave’s mission. His son Goris is just as intelligent and is a possible companion for the Chosen One.
While Gruthar is willing to help the Chosen One on their quest, he has a major request that must be fulfilled before letting you take the G.E.C.K.: fix the computer in Vault 13. Vault 13’s computer runs all of the operations necessary to maintain the livable environment inside the vault. The deathclaws of Vault 13 used to communicate with the computer through voice commands, but the part necessary to do this has malfunctioned.
Once you return with a Vault-Tec voice recognition module, which you can buy from Eldrige in New Reno or find in Vault 8, Gruthar will let you search for the G.E.C.K. in Vault 13, which you eventually find.
After these events, one of two possible fates befalls Gruthar and his band of intelligent deathclaws. Seeking revenge for their rebellion, the Enclave returns to Vault 13 and wipes out the entire pack, leaving no being alive. This happens two weeks after Gruthar gives you the G.E.C.K.
The other possible ending for the deathclaws of Vault 13 involves killing Dr. Schreber, an Enclave scientist. Doing so prevents the Enclave from killing Gruthar and the other inhabitants, allowing them to prosper and eventually spread to other areas of the wasteland.
This outcome is bugged in the vanilla version of Fallout 2, but an available patch fixes the game and allows you to save these special deathclaws.
Enclave Deathclaws and the Deathclaw Sanctuary
After completing the quest “The Waters of Life” in Fallout 3, the Enclave makes a grand entrance – reappearance might be more accurate – into the Capital Wasteland. A side effect of the completion of this quest is the new Enclave outposts that pop up on your PipBoy 3000 map.
A potential enemy at these outposts is the mind-controlled deathclaw, which is exactly what the name suggests: a deathclaw that the Enclave has successfully exercised mind-controller over by using special devices placed on the head. These devices can be targeted and shot off using V.A.T.S., which will cause the deathclaw to attack anything and everything. This can be a useful tactic when battling multiple Enclave deathclaws or multiple Enclave soldiers.
One such Enclave outpost is known as the Deathclaw Sanctuary. The entrance to this area is littered with the bodies of Enclave and other wastelanders, a testament to the havoc an angry deathclaw can wreak. If you’re brave enough to journey inside of a cave located just under the outpost, make sure you’ve got plenty of ammo and stimpaks.
Deathclaws roam the caverns of this cave and their handiwork is easy to find. You’ll encounter multiple piles of the bodies of Deathclaw victims, plus a few Brahmin carcasses. Every turn is a potential ambush in this cave, so proceed cautiously, but exploring the entirety of the cave nets you a ton of loot, including the unique Gatling laser Vengence, the powerful melee weapon Jack the Ripper, and the Endurance bobblehead.
Fallout: New Vegas
The Deathclaw Promontory
There are no quests that are specifically related to the deathclaw promontory, but it’s important because it’s the home of the largest group of deathclaws present in the Mojave Wasteland.
Up to 36 deathclaws of different varieties can be found here and you’ll have to fight a good many of them to get the loot that’s in the area. The best items include a complete suit of T-51b power armor, a suit of Remnants power armor missing its helmet, a tri-beam laser rifle, and my favorite, a multiplas rifle.
Dead Wind Cavern
Dead Wind Cavern is another location in Fallout: New Vegas that’s filled to the brim with deathclaws waiting to slice through your limbs. You might be led here by the quest “Bleed Me Dry,” in which you have to gather deathclaw eggs to give to Red Lucy. This location is similar to the deathclaw promontory in that there is a lot of good loot to find here provided you can deal with the deathclaws.
The final room of Dead Wind Cavern is the most difficult. It contains two regular deathclaws and a legendary deathclaw. Dealing with them will allow you to freely gather what’s lying around: a full suit of Brotherhood T-45d power armor and the unique grenade machine gun, Mercy.
Quarry Junction is another possible area for you to gather deathclaw eggs from for the “Bleed Me Dry” quest, but you can also complete the quests “Claws Out” and “You Gotta Break Out a Few Eggs.”
The New California Republic uses the quarry for cement and concrete mixing, but the workers have been unable to do anything since deathclaws have moved in.
This location is home to some very powerful deathclaws, including an alpha male and a mother. The mother in particular will attack aggressively to protect her young.
Like the deathclaw promontory and Dead Wind Cavern, there are some good items to be found here if you can brave the pack of ferocious beasts trying to rip you apart. A Fat Man and a minigun are yours for the taking provided you survive.
Museum of Freedom in Concord
The first major encounter of Fallout 4 finds the Sole Survivor doing battle with a powerful Deathclaw. While defending Preston Garvey and his group of travelers from raiders outside of the Museum of Freedom in Concord, a Deathclaw suddenly erupts from underground.
Depending on your distance from the Deathclaw when it appears, it may attack the raiders before setting its sights on you. This Deathclaw makes use of quick side-to-side movements to dodge attacks and will often charge to get close enough to swipe at you.
Luckily, before this encounter, you should have just climbed into the T-45 power armor located on the roof of the Museum of Freedom.
You’ll also be armed with the minigun from the crashed vertibird. Despite this, Deathclaws are hardly ever an easy foe, so keep moving, keep shooting, and keep an eye on your health.
Flavors of Mayhem Quest
As part of this quest, Rose, the leader of the Cutthroats raider gang, will ask the player to try to recruit like the former Diehards gang. This gang didn’t kill for fun like other raiders but instead tried to make friends in the wasteland. To test out this strategy, you’re asked to try to make friends with none other than a deathclaw!
This goes about as well as you’d expect. Once you’re close enough to interact with the deathclaw, it will attack you. There’s no making friends in this case and seems Rose knew this, as she states that she didn’t think you’d go through with it. You have the option of killing or fleeing from the deathclaw after your failure.
Question: How do I defeat the deathclaw in Concord without a minigun in Fallout 4?
Answer: This is the first major encounter you’ll come across in Fallout 4 and killing the deathclaw at the Museum of Freedom without the Vertibird’s minigun is a challenge. The most common reason that players end up fighting without the minigun at their disposal is that they simply run out of ammo.
If this is the case, you’ll have to rely on the weapons at your disposal, any explosives you may have in your inventory, and V.A.T.S. to target vital parts of the deathclaw’s body to slow it down.
Don’t forget to utilize your environment – shooting at the abandoned cars in the streets of Concord and causing them to explode can take a significant chunk out of the deathclaw’s health.
Question: What causes deathclaw attacks in Fallout Shelter?
Answer: Deathclaw attacks are random in Fallout Shelter, but certain actions make an attack more likely. Opening the vault doors, sending vault dwellers into the wasteland for any reason, and broadcasting a radio station all raise the chances of a deathclaw attack occurring on your vault.
Question: How do I tame a deathclaw in Fallout 76?
Answer: There are three requirements to tame any creature in Fallout 76: the Animal Friend perk (it must be equipped), a C.A.M.P. that’s been set up, and a player level equivalent to the creature that you’re trying to tame. To specifically tame a deathclaw, your Animal Friend perk must be rank 3.
Like most of the warped, mutated creatures we come across as we travel the wastes, there’s more to deathclaws than meet the eye. Though their horns and claws would suggest otherwise, a deathclaw isn’t innately aggressive unless threatened by someone or something.
When you throw in their intelligence and ability to speak and communicate, deathclaws make for unlikely equals, and sometimes superiors, for human wastelanders. Because of their appearance, deathclaws are possibly the most misunderstood creature in the wasteland. I hope that the next entry in the Fallout series prominently features this beast similar to how Fallout 2 did.
Now, armed with the knowledge of their creation and their place in the Fallout universe, perhaps you’ll look at the next deathclaw you encounter with a different set of eyes.
You may have no choice but to kill it, but I know that I think twice about every showdown with a deathclaw. Stay safe out there, fellow wastelanders.