Fallout 3: the 64 best tips!

The 64 biggest secrets and strategies in Fallout 3, from dominating combat to becoming a bottlecap millionaire. Read this guide before you play!
Fallout 3.

Fallout 3.

Fallout 3 is a truly enormous game. This action RPG plants you in the post-apocalyptic world of Washington, D.C., where vile Super Mutants and Ghouls prowl the rad-blasted wastelands. In order to survive, you'll need a quick trigger finger...and a quick brain.

Here are 64 of the most useful gameplay hints for surviving Fallout 3.

Combat Basics

Always use VATS to attack. Fallout 3 is not a run-and-gun shooter, so don't play it like one! In combat, tap the right trigger (PS3 and Xbox 360 versions) to enable the VATS targeting system. VATS will allow you to inflict the maximum amount of damage — far more than simply firing from the hip — and take down enemies quickly and easily. If you're not using VATS regularly, you are asking for trouble.

Concentrate your fire on one body part. Use the VATS targeting system to concentrate all of your attacks on one body part (such as the head or torso). Once that body part becomes crippled, it's easy to blow it off with one or two more shots. Easy peasy!

Conserve ammo. This one's a no-brainer, but still bears mentioning. In the grey, dismal world of Fallout 3, resources are in scarce supply and it's wise not to waste what little ammo you'll find.

Small Guns are big on power. There's no dishonor in investing in Small Guns. Contrary to its diminutive name, the Small Guns class encapsulates high-end killing machines such as the Sniper Rifle, Scoped .44 Magnum, and the Assault Rifle. And because bullets are more common than laser batteries and explosives, you'll generally have more ammo.

Repair is important. Consider boosting your Repair skill to 40 or 50 if you're a combat-centric character, as making repairs in town can be a pricey process.

Always carry a spare for your favorite weapon. To fix one weapon, you'll need another of the same variety. If your combat shotgun breaks in the middle of a fight, you'll want access to a spare so you can perform a quick field strip and get right back in the fight.

Strength and Agility are critical for fighters. These two S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats are most important for fighters, and will let you carry more gear and inflict more damage in combat. A high Agility will give you more accuracy in VATS aiming as well.

Scavenging for Loot

Be sure to carry bobby pins. Many players forget to bring bobby pins to the battlefield, which will prevent you from accessing the best loot. These little miracles are the chief way to open locked containers. Without bobby pins, you'll only be able to force locks using your screwdriver.

Bump up your Barter skill. The Barter stat directly impacts how much — or how little — items cost in the shops. If you want to amass a mountain of bottlecaps, bump Barter up to 50 or 75. Having high Charisma will also help here.

Crafting items fetch a hefty price. Even if you don't want to construct your own weapons, crafting items are often worth collecting for their high resale value. The heavier components — vacuums, leaf blowers, motorcycle gas tanks — aren't usually worth the wasted inventory space. But smaller items such as conductors and sensors are worth a pretty penny, so grab 'em and sell 'em.

Save your Scrap Metal. In Fallout 3, scrap metal is a valuable resource. So much so that two characters — one in Megaton, the other in Underworld — will happily buy your scrap metal at high rates.

Ammo is gold. In Fallout 3, ammunition fetches a tidy resale sum. That means you should grab every single round you find, from the lowly BB all the way up to the mini-nuke, even if you never intend to fire them. You're never broke if you have access to thousands of rounds of seldom-used ammo.

Save those mini-nukes! You'll earn a free Fatboy launcher and almost 10 of the mini-nukes when you first fight the Behemoth outside of the Galaxy News Radio Station. Because the mini-nuke ammunition is worth a small fortune in resale value — 300+ caps per round — it's better to blow away the Behemoth with a standard missile launcher and save the pricey ammo.

Practice picking locks. Picking locks requires a little persistence Think of it as a cold-warm-hot test: the idea is to spend your first try testing to see where the lock's "cold spots" are, then spending your second attempt on locating the hot spot and opening the lock. Once you've narrowed down the "cold" parts of the lock, you'll have a much better idea where to stick the next bobby pin. Common "hot spots" on locks are the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions.

Put at least 25 points into Explosives. If you invest 25 skill points in Explosives, you'll be able to disarm frag mines and collect them for resale. Once you hit 25 in Explosives, head over to Minetown to scoop up over a dozen of the little buggers and cash them in for some serious dough.

Wearing certain outfits will boost your skills. Some special outfits in the game will boost your abilities by 5 points in a particular discipline. The most useful are the ones that boost your Repair skill — swapping to this outfit when repairing items is an easy way to get more

Keep your armor in tip-top shape. The lower your armor's condition, the more damage you'll take in battle. Keep it patched up or you'll be at a big disadvantage against tougher opponents. The same goes for weapons: the lower the condition, the lower the damage.

Levelling Up

Reading is comprehending! While picking through the rubble, you'll occasionally find books with snappy titles (Puglism Quarterly, Grognak the Barbarian). If you pick up and use the book, you'll gain one skill point. Also consider investing the Comprehension perk early the game — you'll gain an extra skill point for every book you read.

Choose the right perks. There are plenty of fun perks in Fallout 3 (Bloody Mess, anyone?). But you're better off choosing perks that give you more tangible, lasting benefits. Useful early perks include Gun Nut (boosts both Small Guns and Repair skills by 5), Strong Back (grants 50 extra pounds of inventory space), and Lead Belly (a 50% reduction to any radiation you gain by drinking water).

Don't spread out your skill points. It's a mistake to try and be a "jack of all trades" in Fallout 3 by diversifying your skill points. You'll have far better luck by choosing two or three areas of mastery.

There are several "must-have" skills. Some skills are too useful to completely ignore. Medicine, Repair, and Barter are all extremely helpful and worth sinking at least 25 (preferably 40-50) skill points into.

Endurance and Strength are the most useful stats. Endurance enables you to take more damage in combat, and Strength gives you more carrying capacity. Both are well worth investing in.

Choose the Fast Learner perk to earn more experience. Every time you sink a point into the Fast Learner perk, you'll earn 10% larger experience rewards. If you want to reach level 20, invest in this perk as early as possible.

High Intelligence grants you more skill points. Boosting your Intelligence rank will grant you extra skill points every time you level up, enabling you to master more disciplines. As with the Fast Learner perk, you'll want to make this decision early in the game in order to get the maximum benefit.

Level 20 is the highest level. You can't proceed past level 20. In order to reach that, you'll have to embark on most of the game's numerous side quests. You'll also want to kill as many enemies and disarm as many traps as possible to get maximum experience points.

Collect the Bobbleheads. If you search hard, you'll find Bobblehead collectible items that you can stash on the trophy case in your house in Megaton. Each Bobblehead you find will slightly boost your stats, so it's worth tracking down as many as you can. You can find one in Sherriff Lucas's house in Megaton.

Find the secret perks. In Fallout 3, you can earn undocumented "secret" perks as quest rewards. The first one, Rad Regeneration, is earned if you complete Moira's Survival Guide chapter on radiation poisoning. To earn Rad Regeneration, which heals your limbs when exposed to radiation, you want to accumulate at least 600 rad points before visiting Moira for the cure. Complete other quests in the game to earn other secret perks.

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Sid Shuman

GamePro (online)
Topics: fallout 3
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