I have been asked by people who started Fallout 4 after I did if I thought settlements are worth the effort to build up. More or less, I think the answer is "No, not really." The game itself, doesn't really give a lot of clues to why anyone would want settlements. After 400 hours of playing this game, I don't think they really add much to the game. Each settlement does offer one or more quests, but those are almost always some variation of "Bad People® are attacking us from That Place™. Go there and kill them." You get plenty of those in your other pursuits. If I had, in fact, ignored settlements as much as possible, this would likely have been a 200 hour game. Maybe less.
As stated earlier, in order to use a settlement, you must become "aligned" with it. In some cases, you just need to reach and activate the settlement's workbench, which is a big red device that reminds me of a metal lathe. For most settlements, you need to complete one or more of the aforementioned "kill all" quests to satisfy the settlement's inhabitants. You start the game aligned with the town you started from, Sanctuary (Hills). It's empty after you emerge from the vault except for Codsworth, the robot butler you had before the war, but you can complete a quest very early in the game that brings a group to the settlement. I don't see any way around settling at least two of the other locations I know about as they are important to the unfolding story. I'll leave out the names here since that might be considered a spoiler. I believe that with just the "required" settlements, you could plant enough corn, tatos, mutifruit and get enough purified water to make all the vegetable starch needed for adhesive for upgrades, which really was what I found to be the biggest benefit to having them.
Once aligned with a settlement, you can go into "workbench" mode that lets you scrap things around the settlement you don't need and build things you do need from the scrap you find around the world. Unlike previous Fallout games where I left junk items where I found them, I often found myself preferring some types of "junk" over low-level weapons and armor. Although some weapons and armor make for good scrap, too. If you are a big fan of The Sims or Minecraft, you may really enjoy this. There are people who feel settlement building is the best part of the game. You can also plant crops and assign settlers to work them (though there is a limit to how much each setter can maintain). You can also build defense posts and assign one or more settler's to patrol those.
My problem with settlements is the whole upkeep aspect. You need to have certain levels of food, water and defense at each settlement. You need the number of beds, food and water at least as high as the number of settlers in your settlement. It's usually good to have some spare capacity. The defense level needs to be high enough to discourage raiders, synths and super mutants from attacking. From other web sites, I found the defense number needs to be at least the sum of the water plus food numbers. I liked having a safety cushion over that. If your defense is low, they settlement will get attacked and you will become pestered with "Help defend Someplace from attack!" random quests. You will still get the occasional raid on a settlement even when its defense is high, but it certainly seems to happen much less.
If you decide you do want to invest time in settlements, there are a slew of guides and tips available (which is why I'm not going into detail here). There are YouTube videos with tutorials on how to make fantastic buildings one wouldn't expect possible with the basic building blocks that this game has. I would recommend picking up the first level of the Local Leader perk. With that perk, you can designate one of your settlers to run a supply line between their home settlement and any other aligned settlement. (Their title changes from "settler" to "provisioner.") The game is extremely vague on why you want to do that, but essentially it shares workshop resources between settlements. I'm still not 100% clear on if I have a supply line between A and B and between B and C, do the raw material's in A's workbench appear in C's workbench? It seems like they do, but I really didn't pay enough attention to the numbers to say for sure. The map below shows the supply routes I had active at the end of the game. It could be considered a light spoiler since it shows the locations of Settlements.) (Light)
Not everything stored in the workshop is shared among settlements - only food and raw materials. I learned to scrap low-level weapons and armor into raw materials rather than storing them intact because the raw materials transferred. There are higher levels of the Local Leader perk that allow for the building of weapons, chemistry and armor benches (with a possible second level) and stores/trading posts. I took that, but really because fast travel can take one anywhere quickly, having workbenches for armor, weapons, etc. spread all over the place wasn't that beneficial. There are better perks.
Once you start getting an excess of weapons and armor, start armoring and arming your settlers. That way, when the settlement is attacked, they will either take care of most of the raiders before you get there, or at least, have a easier time of it after you arrive to help. Unlike companions, it seems like settlers don't deplete ammo; so long as they have some ammo of the right type for the gun you give them (let's say 10 rounds, although 1 is probably enough), they will be able to fire it forever. They also don't seem to switch weapons, so giving them more than one weapon is a waste. Just hit your action key/button (E on the PC by default) and trade them what you want to wear. Then just point to the item in their inventory and hit the equip button (T on the PC by default). Just trading the items to them is not enough. You have to have them equip the armor and weapons explicitly.
Especially give your provisioners decent armor and weapons. They will have to fight every enemy encountered along their route. Unnamed enemy's periodically respawn, and those enemies' level increases with your level. It seemed to me like the settlers and provisioners get some type of bonus to armor and weapons. It wasn't unusual for one provisioner to take out three or more super mutants by themselves. I would often come across a provisioner or two in a battle with the local baddies. Many times, I would lend them a hand, but they seemed to be doing fine on their own. In fact, it often seemed they only started doing badly if I helped, which I suspect is an attempt at making the player feel more needed in that situation.
That said, provisioners can and will be killed. I came across several corpses of my provisioners as I was traveling. I'm not 100% clear on what happens after a provisioner dies. The first time it happened to me early in the game, the supply line was cut off and I had select and equip another settler to take their place in order to get the other settlement's supplies to appear again. However a couple times later in the game, I ran across provisioner with nothing but a pipe pistol, nine .38 bullets and no armor. I never sent out a provisioner without equipping them first, so I think that a provisioner died and after some time of me not noticing, a random, unassigned settler was chosen to take their place. I also noticed that near the end of the game, some of the supply lines that I was sure I had established didn't exist on the map any more. I had enough overlapping supply lines that it didn't matter. I had on the order of 25 settlements active by the end of the game and so many supply lines, I seldom wasn't able to spot a provisioner from where I was standing anywhere in the world (unless I was along the map's edges).
When a settlement is attacked, some of the crops, generators, water pumps, etc. may become damaged and either work at a reduced output (defenses) or completely stop working (defenses and plants). Some of the settlers might be killed as well. How many items get damaged (or settlers killed) depends on if you respond to the plea for help and how long you take to do so (if you do help). That said, I did eventually come to witness the miracle of self-repairing defenses and self-repairing crops. The first time this happened, I thought I must have repaired that already. Eventually, I "caught" a turret becoming repaired without me doing it. I later noticed crops doing the same thing. I believe that if you harvest crops and put them in the workbench, crops will automatically get replanted from the supply (and drain the supply). Likewise, if you have enough raw materials in the workbench to repair turrets and generators, they eventually repair themselves and start working.
An extremely useful game mod for working with Settlements is called Spring Cleaning. Several of the settlements have a mostly destroyed and definitely unusable building or vehicle right in the middle where you would be most likely to build. For some reason, those items are often not able to be scrapped. With this add on, most of them are. A lot of the time, that extra scrap is wood and concrete, which is exactly what's needed to make elevated floors, walls and roofs (unless you prefer using metal buildings anyway). You can even use it to clean of radioactive barrels thereby rendering the immediate area harmless.
I did spend quite a while building up my own place in Sanctuary. I took one of the basic platforms leveled off by scrapping one of the completely collapsed buildings and built on top of that. What a waste of time. Really, just a complete fun waste of time.
In any game of this magnitude, it's hard to catch every glitch. In fact, I only managed to get myself helplessly stuck a few times in the outside world and only one or two times when inside. Getting stuck outside is easy to recover from by just fast traveling to the nearest location. Getting stuck when inside is more problematic. There, if I couldn't wiggle free, I had to reload from the last save point. All I have to say here is Quick Save is your friend. Get to know your friend well. It's hard for me to even count these as bugs.
The first actual bug I encountered early in the game's story continued to occur every once in a while throughout my play through. The bug was that my gun would occasionally just disappear. The aiming recticle was still there, and the gun still fired, reloaded, etc. I just couldn't see it, so it wasn't easy to see which gun I had selected. Sometimes that matters - missile launchers aren't a good idea in a tight hallway. Just switching weapons would sometimes fix the issue. Other times, I had to save, exit (to at least the menu screen) and re-enter the game. As bugs go, it wasn't that bad and was easy to recover from.
I took screen shots of a number of graphic clipping and NPC path bugs. Most of these are self explanatory.
It seemed apparent to me, that most of the alpha and beta play testing in Fallout 4 was in the first 80% of the game. Up to that point, there were some minor glitches, but no show-stopping bugs. During the last 20% or so of the game, however, I encountered multiple bugs. Some of these were absolute game killers in one form or another.
After I had made my faction choice (I picked the Railroad), I encountered quite a few bugs. I wonder if it was because few beta testers chose that path. Again, this was about the last 20-30% of the game. The bugs I encountered included: (not a spoiler to heavy spoilers - each bullet point rated separately)[spoiler]
- (not a spoiler) Occasional random lockups and crashes to desktop. I learned to Quick Save a lot.
- (not a spoiler) A vertibird (helicopter) that I had attacked and disabled flew underground rather than crashing. It got stuck. I couldn't attack it, and it didn't move or die. I fast traveled to Sanctuary and then back. The vertibird was back in the air. I disabled it again, and it happened again. It finally blew up the third time it crashed into the ground.
- (Medium spoiler) In one of the quests, I am in the Mass Fusion building and am taking a elevator. Suddenly, almost all the walls disappeared. (See the pictures below.) I was being accompanied by a scientist and I watched her appear from above trying to get in where the elevator should be and then zip by me falling to her death. She did it over and over again. It would have been funny except I had to reload from the last save point.
- (Heavy spoiler) While setting up the charges to destroy the Prydwen, Deacon went hostile ... and invincible. I don't know why he went hostile. I'm sure it was something I did, but I don't know what. He stayed hostile even after the mission ended. I had to reload from when we first landed on the Prydwen to fix it, which cost me about an hour's worth of progression. On my re-play through, I just ran through, set the charges and ran out ignoring some cool loot I found my first time through. I was too pissed off to do all that again.
- (Medium spoiler) While on the Prydwen (the first time), I ran across a named cat NPC (Mr. Eggbert (?)). The cat - because it could see me - kept me in combat. I couldn't kill it, nor could I get it to go away. The cat also caught me stealing. Why a cat would care, I don't know. This one did.
- (Heavy spoiler) I was starting the Nuclear Option quest (Railroad faction) and when I teleported in, the Institute was deserted. I thought it was part of the quest - the natives are alerted and hiding. It wasn't. I was supposed to speak to a synth named Z1-14 as part of the quest, but that part of the quest was marked complete when I entered the Institute, and the elevator I needed to use to get to him was locked. I assumed I just needed to complete something else, and after running around for an hour, I finally came to a place where I knew I had to go, but couldn't get there. I reloaded from the point where I first teleported into the Institute, but this time, there were people everywhere, I could use the elevator, and the place that I finally got stuck at was a place that I should have been using coming from the opposite direction. Wasted about an hour that time.
Since most of these required me to reload the game or at least my last save (thus losing any progression since the save), I was a bit miffed, to say the least. I was beaten into Quick Save often mode pretty quickly.
User-written modifications (or just "mods") for games are pretty common. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas supported hundreds of mods that added new characters with their own quest lines, new weapons, better graphics and tons of other new features. Many of those were equal to the quality of the original game. Fallout 4 is no exception, however, I haven't seen the same depth in the mods yet, which is most likely due to the fact that the official tool for creating mods (called the "Creation Kit") hasn't been released yet (As of February 2016), but is due out in May 2016. That doesn't mean there aren't some really useful/fun ones out there already though.
The best way to install or uninstall mods for Fallout 4 is by using the Nexus Mod Manager. The mods that I used were:
More Where That Came From - Diamond City Radio Edition - Adds over 100 songs to the Diamond City Radio play list. They don't have lead ins and talk over parts by Travis "Lonely" Miles, of course, but the picks seem a very good match to Fallout 4's other tunes.
Configurable Power Armor Fusion Core Drain - Decreases the rate at which fusion cores are drained by power armor. The last thing I needed was another thing to manage in Fallout 4. I wanted to be able to use my power armor any time I wanted to, so I used this mod and set it to drain at 5% of the normal rate. At the end of the game, I had hundreds of fusion cores, so maybe this wasn't all that necessary.
Armor and Weapon Keywords Community Resource (AWKCR) and Armorsmith Extended - Together these two added the capability to wear every item you would expect to be able to be work under armor to be worn under armor. It also adds new armor modding slots. I came up with some really wacky armor combos this way. I had hats with more armor than most combat armor. Finally, I could wear bandanas with helmets.
Spring Cleaning - This is a mod I discovered late in my play through, but I wish I had found it sooner. It allows many of the trash and brush items in settlements to be scrapped that otherwise couldn't be. If you bother with settlements, you find some that have a bombed out vehicle or building right were you want to build. In most cases, this mod will let you scrap that item. Finally, you can clean up the 200 years worth of crap that every settler before you seem to be fine with leaving laying around.
Configurable New Dialog - English Version - Changes the dialog UI from a few words to the full dialog string, so you don't get something you weren't expecting as a response.
Lowered Weapons - This simple mod just has the character in the game lower and fold the weapon across their chest unless they are actually firing it. This gets the thing out of your field of view in first person.
Value Per Weight Indicator - Divides the value of an object by its weight and displays that in the UI for the item. Gives you another statistic for deciding which items to keep an which to drop once you get loaded down.
Rock On - Adds prettier/more realistic rock textures to the game. This game has a whole lot of rocks.
Craftable Ammo - Brings back the ability to craft ammo from the raw materials you scavenge along the way. It lets you set the amount of ammo returned by each recipe, so you can make it ridiculous. Ammo becomes less of an issue the further in the game you progress, but this is very helpful earlier in the game. It also keeps you from wasting skill points in the finding extra ammo when looting skills.