Warning – Possible Spoilers for Fallout 4
For those of you who’ve played the two games prior to Fallout 4, you will have encountered Deathclaws. These beasts tower above you, are fairly well armored, extremely fast, and have a variety of attacks – both ranged and melee. And by melee, I mean high-speed razor-sharp claws of doom. They’re scary, and you see one fairly early on in the game of Fallout 4. I was shocked that they had scripted such a formidable opponent so soon after your escape from the vault, even considering some of the ways they made it somewhat easier to deal with.
If this was your first time playing any Fallout game, a Deathclaw might seem like a boss-level character, especially given your likely low-level when hitting this one. I’m fairly thorough when playing open-world games, and even grabbing every XP possible, I was still only level 3 at my second passthrough. That’s a fairly weak character, especially when compared to a Deathclaw.
The good news is, this heavily-scripted encounter is designed as a part of the main quest, and is a tutorial of sorts. A scary, heavy-handed tutorial, but a tutorial nonetheless. You thought the raiders were challenging? Well, jump into your vintage set of power armor, rip that mini-gun off the useless Vertibird and let’s go fight one of the more challenging enemies in the game! But wait…. Here are some things to think about before you go:
Your first experience with an enemy NPC that is significantly stronger than you. Because of this, the game developers set things up in such a way that makes this fight completely unlike a random encounter in the woods. Use this “setup” to your advantage.
You don’t have to go outside and fight with the damaged armor, unless you want to! You can usually fast travel directly from the roof, back to Sanctuary, and repair your armor in the safety of your home-base. Go ahead, take your time, fix it up to 100%, and if you have enough resources and skill, you can even upgrade the armor pieces. After the armor is just the way you like it, hop back in, and fast travel back to Concord. It will put you a safe distance away from all the enemies so you can plan your strategy.
Make sure you have the companion, Dogmeat, before you go to Concord. For sure, you could take Codsworth with you, and I’m sure he’d work just fine, but please don’t go at this fight alone, unless you like it that way. I prefer to in with Dogmeat because he doesn’t talk, he’s a dog (dog’s are awesome), he’s invincible and he attacks everything with you. Plus, when he kills something for you, you get the experience points too. Nice, eh?
Save your game. Now! Quicksave, manual save, it doesn’t really matter. But seriously, save your game. You might survive, or you might die. Do you know when your last save was? You could have to replay a lot of the game, and you don’t want to be frustrated. When you see a Deathclaw, just save the game.
So…now you’re all geared up! Perhaps inside your 100% repaired power armor, brandishing your weapon of choice – which may or may not be the mini-gun – with your friendly companion by your side. It’s a glorious day, and you feel like you’re ready to enter the fray. But not so fast. You came here for tips and tricks, so let’s talk about a few before you run off and get yourself killed.
- Deathclaws are huge, doorways are small. What does this mean? Well, it means if you run inside, there’s a very good chance you could pick off the Deathclaw with a BB gun and the patience of a saint. Running inside a normal-sized entryway to keep the large critters at bay also works well with Super Mutant Behemoths, Mirelurk Queens and and anything else that can’t fit through the door.
- Deathclaws may be big, fast and deadly, but they still have fairly stupid AI. If you’re fast enough, sometimes you can run up to the top of a hill, jump on top of a car, or anywhere higher than the reach of the enemy, and take pot-shots from a much safer vantage point. This works with almost anything ground-based. Just be careful for things shooting at you from above. If the Deathclaw figures out where you are, and tries to, say, climb the stairs to get you, just take as many shots as you can, then jump down. Rinse and repeat.
- Be sneaky, and let everyone else – including enemies – do the work for you. If you do enough damage to a larger critter, you’ll still get full XP, even if other enemies and your companion are doing a lot of damage too. When you enter an area with a large, scripted bad guy, there’s typically other bad guys around that are willing to ignore you for a bit, and fight the huge Deathclaw. Enter these areas in sneak mode, and stay as hidden as you can. If you don’t care about XP at all, let the bad guys fight until only one group remains standing, then fight the winner. I guarantee the winner won’t be at 100% health, and the loser won’t be around to fight.
- Get a feel for how the aggro (aggression) system works and let it work in your favor. If you hear shooting a few blocks over, go into stealth mode, and slowly creep toward the area. You’ll probably see muzzle flashes, explosions, and lots of movement. You know someone is fighting someone else. If one of the sides is friendly to you (general rule of thumb, in VATS: green = friendly, red = enemy), go fight for them. If both sides is an enemy to you, let them fight it out. If they can’t detect you, they will fight each other until one side is dead (i.e. not a threat to you any more) and the other side is weakened. Staying hidden ensures you won’t take any aggression until you’re ready. This also gives you time to scope things out – both literally and figuratively. Do you have a sniper rifle? Take out the strongest first from far away, plus if you’re hidden, you get a sneak attack bonus!
- Don’t be afraid to run away – but hiding rarely works. Once a bad guy sees you, there’s a good chance they will home in on you – even when it’s a really good hiding place – so don’t try to hide, unless you’re ready to do some up-close and personal fighting. Having said that, if you run fast, and keep running, a lot of times, enemies will not continue to chase you. This works great for most creatures, but not for Deathclaws. They’re much faster than you.
- Lay down mines and ready grenades. You probably won’t have many mines and grenades in the beginning of the game, but these can be very useful in taking down a Deathclaw, if you are able to toss them in a path stealthily, then take a good shot at them, forcing them to run straight for you, hitting all the mines you left behind. Also, feel free to toss a few grenades. Deathclaws are scary early in the game!
- They have a weak spot – the belly – but it can be hard to hit. If you can sneak-hit a Deathclaw in the belly from a good distance away, that’s great! It will probably be the most damage per shot you will do until it’s dead. That’s because once the Deathclaw sees you, it will generally charge at you, which hides its belly. There are times when the Deathclaw will rear-up on hind legs, but I’d say take a shot or two, then run. The reason you want to be ready to run is because this moment of vulnerability is usually followed by a powerful area attack that has a good chance of doing damage and knocking you off your feet!
- Use VATS to your advantage. VATS slows down time, improves accuracy, and with certain perks can even show you the best places to hit a critter. You won’t need to have this latter perk to figure out where the Deathclaw’s belly is. Use VATS when you can, shoot, then run away, hide up high where it can’t reach you, or run inside a human-sized doorway to recharge your AP (Action Points) to shoot and run again!
As you can see, there are many effective strategies you can employ against a Deathclaw. They aren’t invincible, they’re just tough. The first scripted Deathclaw you experience in Concord is probably a default level 22 creature. That’s not really a fair fight, even armed with a full suit of completely-repaired power armor, and a mini-gun.
Make sure you tilt the odds in your favor by using the tips and tricks above. And don’t forget Dogmeat! Bark!