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Fallout 4

Exploration Overview

Nathan Garvin

On this page you’ll find general information about exploration in Fallout 4, including navigating using the minimap and enemy and loot respawns.

While it’s possible to just bounce from quest to quest (main quest or side quest) as you progress through the game, doing so will neglect a significant amount of the game’s content. Also, since the exact areas you’ll need to explore to complete some quests can vary from game to game, the only way to adequately cover the majority of the content available in Fallout 4 is via a hybrid quest and location based guide, even at the risk of redundancy. That being the case, areas in specific regions of the map will periodically be covered, usually as an accessory to some quest or another.

Case in point, after the quests Out of Time, When Freedom Calls and Sanctuary, it makes sense to cover the areas around "Sanctuary" iconSanctuary… whether they actually have a quest associated with them or not. This will not only cover areas that would otherwise go unexplored, but it’ll help you deal with upcoming quests. Clearing areas around Sanctuary will organically bring you down near "Lexington" iconLexington and "Diamond City" iconDiamond City, for example, not to mention earning you XP, Caps, gear and resources as you loot, shoot and plunder your way across the wasteland. Perhaps most importantly, as you explore you’ll find new settlements, which, if invested in, can serve as ports in the storm - safe havens you can retreat to and restock at between bouts of exploration and questing.

With the case hopefully being made for the practical reasoning behind exploring, there are a number of quirks to discuss when it comes to exploring, and general information about areas worth knowing.

Finding Areas in Fallout 4

As you explore, you may notice various icons appearing above your compass at the bottom center of the screen. These indicate nearby areas, with the icon giving some crude information as to what type of area it is - farm, factory, camp, town, swamp/lake, military installation, hospital, metro, junkyard, excavation site… just to name a few. Of course, the icon doesn’t say much about what you’ll find at said location, so view this as more of a geographical indicator.

When you get close to an area, you’ll “discover” it, gaining XP and permanently marking it on your map, allowing you to fast travel to it on a whim. This being the case, it’s usually worth the effort to discover - if not explore - nearby areas just so you can return to them quickly.

Enemy Difficulty

Generally, enemies are weaker in the northwest, where you start the game, and more difficult as you venture south and east. It’s not a perfect generalization, as the difficulty of areas on the map are very much in service to the story; if there’s a high-level quest located in an otherwise mid-level region of the map, you can expect to see far nastier enemies than usual for that area. Also, enemies in some areas scale to player level - the Raiders at the USAF Satellite Station Olivia tend to remain low-level variants throughout the game, while others in Thicket Excavations can scale quite high. This is an especially stark example, as the two areas are fairly close on the map!

In addition to the above caveats, you should also keep in mind that the game also has random encounters. While these occur at numerous fixed locations across the map, they tend to be scalable… when they care about your level at all. Running into an early-game "Deathclaw" iconDeathclaw (not including the one you’re supposed to kill - a true, high-level, rip your face off Deathclaw) that you have no chance against is just part of wasteland life.

Enemy and Area Respawns

Kill enemies gets you loot and XP. Plundering areas gets you scrap. Of course, once you’ve cleared an area, those goodies are gone, which naturally raises a followup question: Do enemies respawn, and is loot repopulated? The quick answer to both is yes… mostly. Eventually.

Given enough time, most enemies and areas will repopulate, excluding some quest-specific areas, cleared settlements and unique enemies (named Raiders, "Super Mutant Behemoth" iconSuper Mutant Behemoths, etc.), as well as some high-end loot, like "Mini Nuke" iconMini Nukes and "Fusion Core" iconFusion Cores and unique items, like Bobbleheads and Skill Magazines. Many locked doors and containers, as well as hackable terminals will reset, as well.

It generally takes around three weeks for interior areas to respawn, and around a week for exterior areas to respawn. Therefore you’ll see the Raiders outside of the Corvega Assembly Plant reappearing far more often than the ones inside, not to mention enemies that dwell in exclusively exterior areas, like various Gunner, Raider and Super Mutant forts. It’s also important to note that enemies and loot are not always on the same respawn time tables, with loot (especially in interior areas) respawning more regularly than enemies (and loot in exterior areas).

There’s one important caveat when it comes to respawning enemies: in order for a location to repopulate, you cannot be near said location. Without going into too much detail regarding how map cells work, if you want a location to respawn, you’ll need to burn time somewhere else. Sleeping a few weeks in Sanctuary should suffice to force everything outside of Sanctuary to respawn. You can sometimes tell when an area has respawned by checking it on your map to make sure it no longer says [CLEARED] when you highlight it, or failing that, save your game, travel to the area in question, and check for yourself. Reload if it hasn’t respawned and rest a while longer.

Exploring Around Sanctuary

With all those details covered, it’s time to explore all the areas around Sanctuary, with the goal being to expand our influence towards Lexington, where future quests will shortly take us. This will include the following areas:

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Guide Information
  • Publisher
    Bethesda Softworks
  • Platforms,
    PC, PS4, XB One
  • Genre
  • Guide Release
    16 December 2015
  • Last Updated
    11 May 2024
    Version History
  • Guide Author
    Nathan Garvin, Greg Wright

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It’s just another day. Having just been accepted into Vault 111, you spend the morning with your family going about your daily routine. That is until alarms blare out, signalling a nuclear attack. You and your family sprint towards the Vault along with everyone else in the neighborhood just as a bomb explodes nearby. After surviving the blast, you are lowered into the Vault and enter cryosleep. Two hundred years pass and you awake to a world ravaged by nuclear war. You are the Sole Survivor and what awaits you is a mystery as you set out to conquer the Wasteland.

Our guide will be a complete companion while you journey through the wilds of Fallout 4. You can find a plethora of information including the following:

  • A start to finish walkthrough with every area in between covered.
  • Combat details, SPECIAL explanation and general gameplay information.
  • VATS And You!: Getting to know your PIPBOY.
  • All faction quests explained including the consequences of favoring one over the others.
  • Information on Settlements and items for construction.
  • Bobblehead locations, collectibles and full Trophy/Achievement guide.
  • Settlement Guide complete with how to set up and manage settlements, what perks are beneficial etc.
  • Companion chapter detailing each companion character, where to acquire them and the pros/cons of each.
  • A detailed Character Creation guide fully examining the best builds and what each perk does.
  • Automatron and Wasteland Workshop DLC information provided, including a full walkthrough for Automatron.
  • A complete walkthrough of the “Far Harbor” DLC complete with information on every side quest.

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