Building a settlement is the biggest new addition to Fallout 4, and sadly, the game doesn't really hold your hand when it comes to building your very own town. Sure, it's great that the game gives players so much freedom, but it doesn't necessarily do the best job of explaining everything.
That doesn't mean building a settlement is hard—it can just be a bit convoluted. That's why we've put together this guide on developing and expanding settlements: if you're stuck trying to figure out what to do with your town, or you're looking to get a head start on virtual city planning, this guide should help point you in the right direction.
Surprisingly, building a settlement doesn't start after you exit the Vault—in fact, if you're really looking to perfect your towns, it's good to start planning before you even start the game. Building the right character can make a big difference as the game goes on: namely, you'll want to focus on one trait in particular.
First things first: if you really want to focus on building your settlements, start with a character that's high in Charisma. Not only will you get better prices on materials and supplies, but you'll be able to unlock the 'Local Leader' perk early on. This unlocks more advanced crafting options, including stores and trade routes—which, you guessed it, leads to more perks.
On top of that, while it's tempting to continue on to Diamond City after freeing Concord, it's definitely worth it to follow Preston and the Minutemen after you save them. In a lot of ways, Preston's quest line is an extended tutorial on how to build out settlements, as well as on unlocking new locations to claim.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, though—the real fun begins once you unlock a settlement.
Pick A Settlement And Focus On It
As you play through the game, you'll unlock a number of different settlements quickly, especially if you stick with the Minutemen. While it's possible to manage and maintain a number of different settlements all at once, it's best to find one that you like and stick with it at first. If you want to stabilize other settlements so they don't get attacked, that's fine—but if you're just starting out, managing a bunch of different workshops at once could be a nightmare.
If there's one thing that every settlement shares in common, it's that they all start out as an absolute mess. Thankfully, all the muck and garbage can be cleared out and turned into valuable scrap. Unless you know you're going to use something (such as a crafting station), it's best just to scrap everything as soon as you arrive—it'll give you a lot more space to build, and you won't have to try and rearrange your settlement later on.
Build Your Shelter ...
In Fallout 3, there were only a few different places that players could call home, but that's not the case in Fallout 4. Taking the time to build a personal shelter with a bed and some containers will come in handy later—not only will it serve as a place to sleep and restore health, but it's an easy way to store excess gear and weaponry.
... And Then Build A Few More Houses
When it comes to building up a settlement, beds are one of the most important items to consider—after all, new citizens won't settle down if there's nowhere to sleep. These secondary homes don't have to be complex: as long as there's a roof over the mattress, the survivors will be happy. Plus, cloth is relatively easy to find—chances are, you'll have enough for a few beds just by cleaning out the settlement.
Plant Some Food, Clean Some Water
Of course, it doesn't matter if your settlers have somewhere to sleep if they don't have anything to eat or drink. As with bedding, survivors won't even approach your new settlement if there's not enough food and water to go around—thankfully, planting food and building water pumps cost next to nothing, and most settlements come with a few of both already in place.
On top of all that, water pumps will automatically add Purified Water into your Workshop every so often. Considering it's one of the recovery items in the game, it's definitely worth building a few extra pumps if you can afford it.
Build A Generator And Recruit Some Settlers
You should have plenty of beds, food and water by this point—now, it's time to actually bring the survivors to you.
To recruit settlers, you'll need two things: a generator and a recruitment radio beacon (both are located under the 'Power' section of the workshop). They'll require quite a bit more materials than anything else you've built thus far, and you may have to do a bit of exploring before you find everything.
Once you have them built, use the 'Attach Wire' function to run a power cable from the generator to the recruitment beacon, and you're good to go! You'll know it's working when the 'Recruitment Radio Beacon' station appears in your Pip-Boy radio—after that, it's just a matter of time before survivors start settling in.
Start Expanding (And Defending)
Now that you've got settlers coming in, you'll need to make sure that there's always room for more people—if there's no room, people aren't going to stay. It's good to make sure that there are at least two extra beds at all times, and having a surplus of food and water won't hurt, either (just don't go too crazy). Defense is also something that can be taken care of ahead of time, though the components are a bit harder to find, so don't worry if your settlement isn't covered in machine gun turrets right away.
Just don't expect your settlement to turn into a bustling city overnight—recruiting settlers takes time, as does finding all of the different components required to build everything.
Once you've got plenty of people living in your settlement, you can really start expanding. If you have the Local Leader perk, you can start building stores and setting up trade routes between settlements. Or, if you like, you can take the time to start building up other locations. It's really up to you—aside from reminding you that one of your settlements needs more food or defense, Fallout 4 will never force you to build out a specific spot in a specific way.
It's best to stick with wooden buildings at first. Yes, we know—you want to build a 10-story skyscraper out of steel. While that's not a bad plan, wood will be far more readily available than any other building material during the early hours of the game. Plus, there are far more wooden objects to play around with, so you'll likely have an easier time building exactly what you want.
Supply lines can be a huge time-saver, but the game doesn't exactly tell you how they work. Basically, you can assign a settler to transport supplies between two different supply posts, which means you can access your building supplies from any connected workshop. It's as simple as highlighting a settler and hitting the right bumper, but it'll save you a ton of time lugging supplies once you have multiple settlements up and running.
If you're having trouble finding a specific component, you can 'tag' them with the tap of a button. This will add a small magnifying glass icon to any piece of junk that contains said item: instead of heading into a separate menu to figure out what you'll get if you grab that teddy bear, you can see if it's worth picking up right away.
As you wander the Commonwealth, you're bound to come across a few items that you don't necessarily need, but want to keep anyway. As such, it's always a good idea to build multiple containers: not only are they cheap to build, but they're a godsend when it comes to organization. Who wants to go rummaging through a container of old mods when you could be out fighting Super Mutants?
Finally, setting a fast-travel mat will reset the arrival point for your settlement: if, for instance, you want to spawn next to your bed instead of in the workshop, building one of these will cut down on obnoxious backtracking.
At first, it seemed as if building settlements and maintaining survivors would go against the natural flow of Fallout. In actuality, the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. It's easy to spend a few hours on a single structure and, as the game goes on, building gets better and better. Hopefully, this guide helped take some of the confusion out of the whole process.
If you're looking for more on Fallout 4, we've got a guide on how to find a Legendary laser rifle, an examination on how big the game's map really is and our hands-on impressions!