When I heard the announcement of Fallout 4 coming out, I was understandably excited. I thoroughly enjoyed Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.
When I saw Bethesda’s showcase of Fallout 4 at E3 I became concerned. I recognize certain things in games that I can end up losing myself in, and Fallout 4 had an awful lot of those things. All that junk I pick up is suddenly useful? You can rebuild parts of the wasteland and start communities that you custom build from the ground up? I am going to be found dead at my computer.
I’m still alive, but I have spent at least one day where I realized I had played Fallout 4 for 18 hours straight. I just plum lost track of time. Fallout 4 certainly hits all the right buttons for me. However, it nonetheless has its flaws as one would expect.
I have over 100 hours in Fallout 4 so far and I’ve arguably spent the majority of that time messing around with settlements. I’m finding the lack of some features to be a terribly frustrating thing. It’s not just that these certain things are not in the game, it’s that they ought to be so trivially easy for Bethesda to implement that it seems like a grievous oversight on some parts that they haven’t been. To wit, a fair few of the following examples can be remedied through functions that already exist in the game in some fashion or actions that can be done in the console on PC.
I’ve quite a few problems with how Fallout 4 has turned out so far, but I’ll mainly be focusing on the problems I’ve noticed with settlements and how they can be fixed (similar in vein to my 18 Things Fallout Shelter Needs To Fix article.). I’m writing this not just because these things bug me but because I feel they would largely make the settlement-building portion of the game more engaging and better to play with minimal work on Bethesda’s part.
1. Planted crops ought to be harvested automatically.
The Problem: You can plant crops in your settlements in Fallout 4. They’re a necessary component of survival; your settlers need food, after all. After a short period of in-game time the crops will grow and you can harvest them for food. Some of these food items are particularly useful in terms of crafting, such as the all-important combination of Tato, Corn, and Mutfruit—these three crops can be combined to give you Vegetable Starch, which in turn makes the highly valuable Adhesive crafting component.
However, you have to manually harvest these crops. There are around thirty settlements in the game. If you wanted to use them to their full potential, you would end up doing an awful lot of fast travelling. Furthermore, there are already several auto-harvest mechanics built into the game. Water purifiers automatically deposit Purified Water into that settlement’s workbench, and stores automatically deposit caps into that settlement’s Workbench.
The Fix: Assigned crops ought to have their harvest automatically put in the workbench just as so many other things already are.
2. Settlers keep touching my stuff.
The Problem: I’ve built a nice little house for myself in Sanctuary. However, I keep finding people just rolling up in my house and touching all of my stuff. There’s apparently very little respect for personal property in the post-apocalyptic Commonwealth. (I realize the irony of this statement considering how often Fallout 4 players stuff their pockets with everything that isn’t nailed down.)
I’d really like to keep them out of my home entirely so I can actually make it into my home. When someone is standing on a narrow stairway and looking to make a conversation with you, it’s a bit difficult to squeeze past them.
Some players have taken to dedicating an entire settlement as a home of their own so as to prevent anyone from walking through their house all the time. (I’ve found a common choice of personal home is Red Rocket due to its proximity to Sanctuary.)
Another solution is using console commands to manually lock and unlock your door so no one can get in.
The Fix: Settlers can’t make their way through locked doors. Doors can be unlocked and re-locked as evidenced by console commands and NPCs locking their homes up at night. It would be nice if you could build a lock and key and be able to lock your home up so no one walks through your living room if you don’t want them to.
3. Settlers keep sleeping in my bed.
The Problem: Aside from taking a seat in my dining room and annoying me, my settlers also have a fondness for sleeping in my bed. If the former is impolite, the latter is downright unacceptable. I can understand why some players have gone as far as to have an entire settlement dedicated solely to themselves.
The Fix: The game already has the concept of “Owned Beds.” You can notice this by trying to go to sleep in the bed of someone’s house and finding that you can’t.
You can already assign settlers to jobs by selecting them in Workshop mode and then clicking on a resource such as a crop or Scavenging Station. Take the bit of “this NPC owns this bed” code and mush it together with the “assign settlers to this thing” code, and the problem is solved. It’d be nice if we can assign settlers and companions to specific beds.
Aside from the bonus of keeping unwanted persons from sleeping in my bed, it would also have the added roleplay bonus of allowing the player to customize the homes of settlers. It’d be nice to give Preston Garvey a heavily Minuteman-themed home and do similar thematically-interesting things for the other NPCs.
4. Surrounding your settlements with a wall may not be the best idea or even work how you think it should.
The Problem: The natural assumption of a player may be to put a wall around their settlement so as to keep threats out. And this is true to a degree—roaming wildlife will not be able to just waltz into your settlement. However, the random “settlements are being attacked!’ events don’t factor in AI pathing in relation to walls. The enemies spawn inside the settlement and so walls may be useless in this regard.
I have had a few situations where they’re useful, of course. I walled-in the portion of Starlight Drive-In surrounding the diner and the attacking enemies spawned near the movie screen. The invading feral ghouls were mostly shredded by my perimiter defenses, and the settlers took care of the rest (with a little fire support from myself, of course).
The Fix: Attackers should spawn outside of a settlement and have to path their way in. This may be the case already, but as far as I’ve seen it’s a bit of a diceroll as to whether or not it actually plays out like that. Building walls would then actually be as useful as you would expect them to be.
5. Some settlement-related radiant quests don’t make sense.
The Problem: One of the infinitely-repeatable quests in Fallout 4 is settlements having problems such as raiders, super mutants, or feral ghouls harassing them. Sometimes people are kidnapped by Super Mutants or Raiders.
This makes sense in the early game of Fallout 4 when your settlements may be barely defended, but they don’t really seem to factor in the defensive capabilities of the settlement. If I have a perimeter of 20 turrets surrounding the outside of the settlement, I find it really unlikely that they’re going to have a problem with some Raiders or Super Mutants, much less that someone managed to break in and kidnap someone.
The Fix: A settlement’s defense rating ought to be factor in which of these quests spawn. I wouldn’t believe my version of Sanctuary would have a problem with a handful of Super Mutants. However, I’d absolutely believe if a settlement had a problem with a Super Mutant Behemoth or a Mirelurk Queen knocking at their door. Add some tougher versions of these quests so that they make a little more sense.
6. Organizing and assigning your settlers is an awful chore, especially when it comes to tracking down provisioners.
The Problem: You can have as many as 30 settlers in one place in Fallout 4 (as far as I’ve seen). When you need to assign them different jobs it can be rather difficult when you’re operating in a first person interface.
You can build a cheap Town Bell that calls everyone in the settlement to once place, but you still need to click on settlers one at a time and assign them to individual resources. Sometimes they seem to stop working at a particular station with no reason whatsoever. I’ve taken to assigning people uniforms like some sort of Damn Commie country so I know who is supposed to be working where and how to get them back on task.
The Fix: Fallout 4 really needs an interface where you can manage all of the settlers from one place. Assign them work and they’ll just smartly pick it up. You could have this all be done via a terminal much like a personnel file. Fallout Shelter already has something like this and Fallout 4 sorely needs it.
7. It’d be neat to be able to rename your settlers.
The Problem: I’m taking another cue from Fallout Shelter here. I liked being able to rename people for funsies. It’d be nice to do the same in Fallout 4. You can already accomplish this via console, but it’s not natively built into the game.
The Fix: Howsabout letting people rename settlers for the sake of fun? It’s not a huge thing and it would make the roleplaying in Fallout 4 a bit more immersive.
8. The settlement system in Fallout 4 sorely needs some better in-game documentation and/or tutorials.
The Problem: One thing Fallout Shelter succeeded at was explaining most of the game with in-game help files. There’s not really a sufficient in-game tutorial or explanation for a lot of the stuff you can do in settlement building.
For example, did you know that you can hold E while moving or building a piece and move it around? I didn’t either until I read it on the /r/fo4 subreddit. Fallout 4 has a lot of cool stuff like this already in the game but it does a poor job of bringing it to the player’s attention.
The Fix: A little bit of in-game documentation with some of this basic stuff or some kind of tutorial would be nice.
9. Placing objects could use a bit more variety in orientation.
The Problem: As I mentioned above, you can move objects around by holding E (or the equivalent on consoles). However, I’ve yet to find a way to rotate things around. If I want to, say, place a glass upside down on a counter I’ll have to grab it in the normal gameplay mode and set it down hoping for the best.
The Fix: Add an ability to rotate and better transform objects in build mode.
10. Snapping objects together can be a godsend and sometimes it can be a pain in the butt.
The Problem: Certain objects will naturally snap together. If you hold a wall piece up to another wall piece it will link up, which allows you to make a straight wall.
But, if you wanted to make a slightly curved wall it is a very difficult prospect in Fallout 4. You end up with 1-2 foot gaps in-between which you have to fill in with End Walls (which don’t snap to anything). It can be very frustrating and finicky at times.
The Fix: Give players a toggle for snapping so they can turn it off altogether.
11. Building can be a little bit too restrictive at times.
The Problem: Fallout 4’s far more generous with their building than Skyrim was, but it still has some limitations. Some are understandable and some other things … not so much. Sometimes I’d like to stick a wall or floor in a certain place and have it just go there but the game won’t let me.
The Fix: Allow players to just turn off collision altogether and place things wherever they like. If a problem results from it, so be it. Give players that freedom. It’s almost impossible to create a game where players can’t outsmart the AI, so you have to just accept that as an inevitability. I have built quite a few things that would look much nicer if it weren’t for that damnable red outline preventing me from placing a certain object somewhere.
12. A little more variety in building pieces would be great, especially when it comes to the overall aesthetic.
The Problem: The aesthetic of “rusted out derelicts” in Fallout 4 (and previous Fallout games) makes a bit of sense at first glance.
However, I’m the son of a Master Carpenter. My family home was torn down to the framing and rebuilt before I was born. I’ve worked with my father on countless carpentry, plumbing, and electrical jobs and so I know what is and isn’t possible with a small crew.
It certainly ought to be possible to have some nicer looking building pieces in Fallout 4. I don’t know about you, but if I were rebuilding civilization I would take some of that Abraxo cleaner laying around and make the metal just a wee bit less rusty. I’d sand down the wood and slap some paint on my shiny new wasteland home. Just because it’s made from salvaged materials doesn’t mean it has to look bad.
Fallout 4 has gone a bit further with making the world a bit more colorful and lively. Give players that option too!
The Fix: I’m sure we’ll see some new pieces added for building purposes in Fallout 4. I really hope that some of them will be a bit nicer. I’d like to see concrete walls so I can make some nice pillboxes for my defenders to hunker down in. Just some variety in material alone would be nice.
You can even use some in-game mechanics so that it makes sense—building a clean metal wall would require a unit of Abraxo cleaner. Building a nice, clean painted wall would require a can of paint. It’d just be nice to have some more options beyond “foreclosed house in Detroit” in terms of how things look in Fallout 4.
13. Speaking of buildings, there’s seemingly little logic as to what you can and can’t remove in settlements.
The Problem: The Fallout 4 E3 showcase showed the player scrapping some ruined houses in Sanctuary. What it didn’t show you was that you just can’t remove certain structures for … some reason? It’s not really explained.
And when it comes to these structures, your only real option is to ignore them entirely or to try to retrofit them. I’m finding myself placing crappy wooden floors and walls to close up holes in the structure when I would just rather trash the entire building.
The Fix: I think players ought to be offered two options in this regard.
Firstly, they ought to be able to remove absolutely everything in a settlement in terms of a settlement. Right now there are just some structures and objects that you can’t remove and there’s no explanation why. I’d much prefer to scrap everything and make custom buildings from scratch.
Secondly, players should be able to repair unique buildings. It would have to be a less dynamic option, of course, but it would be nice to patch up the wall in The Castle with cement or close up the holes in the houses with some wood and steel.
14. I’d like to be able to put my weapons and armor on display.
The Problem: Fallout 4 and its settlement mechanics can be traced in part back to Skyrim’s expansion Hearthfire. It’s really just an improved version of what you were capable of in Skyrim.
However, some things that I really liked about Skyrim are just flat-out missing in Fallout 4. I rather enjoyed weapon racks and armor mannequins in Skyrim and those just don’t seem to be an option in Fallout 4. I’ve taken to putting power connectors on walls to display my weapons as an ad-hoc solution, but it would be nice to have a dedicated object for displaying my weapons. Sadly, there’s no way to display armor on a mannequin even though there’s already mannequins in the game. Some of them are even wearing clothes!
The Fix: Give us some weapon rack and mannequin objects so we can display all of our stuff, please.
15. Finding resources for building nice settlements can be a bit grindy.
The Problem: I’ve spent probably 60-80 hours messing around with settlements in Fallout 4, and as a result I understand why abandoned houses end up being stripped of all their copper. I’d do a quest for Copper over Caps any day of the week.
You can create Scavenging Stations that will give you a trickle of junk resources, but it would be nice if you could establish a little industry in Fallout 4. How about capturing a quarry which would enable production of concrete? Capture a metal foundry and allow production of steel or copper. Flesh the world mechanics out a little bit. And hey, even after you’ve built all of your settlements to your satisfaction you’ll still need a lot of these components for weapon crafting. And besides, you can always sell the excess.
The Fix: This is probably the most technically demanding idea for Fallout 4 on my part, but it’d be nice to just have unique settlements that can produce resources for you. If you’re intent on rebuilding the Wasteland you’re logically going to need infrastructure as well.
16. A little more complex crafting would be great.
The Problem: One of the things I liked about Fallout: New Vegas was the ability to craft ammo. I wouldn’t just like to be able to do stuff like this in Fallout 4, I’d like to have some of my hundreds of settlers do it for me.
The Fix: I’d like a little more complex supply chain that allowed for more advanced crafting. Ingredients in, finished product out. It would add a little more to the whole “rebuild civilization” idea of the game. Civilization can’t survive on Tatos and Purified Water alone.
Fallout 4 has an awful lot of things I like and a whole bunch of things it could improve. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining because I dislike Fallout 4, I’m complaining because I like Fallout 4 and some minor fixes could make the settlement building aspect so much better.
I understand Bethesda games can be a bit buggy and light on features on launch. Fallout 4 is no different. I sincerely hope that some of these (admittedly minor) issues will be addressed and fixed in future patches of Fallout 4. Fingers crossed! And hey, if Bethesda themselves don’t get to it I’m sure the modders will. And I really hope they do, because a lot of this stuff should be terribly easy to do from a development standpoint and would fix a lot of the little frustrations that I’ve seen in building settlements.
What do you think about the settlement building feature in Fallout 4? Have you encountered any major problems with it? What would you add to settlement building to make it better? Let us know in the comments below!More About This Game