Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fallout 4 Mod Guide: Recommendations and Mini-Reviews

I've been playing Fallout 4 lately, and as always seems to be the case with Bethesda games, it practically requires a bunch of user-created mods to spruce up and polish the overall experience. That statement, of course, is meant to be a somewhat disdainful commentary on the way Bethesda designs their games, but I don't want to get into a long rant about why that's the case. (Maybe that'll be part of another article, later.) Rather, I just want to take a moment to showcase some of the many mods I've been running in my lengthy playthrough, with descriptions and mini-reviews for why I'm using them and what I think of them, plus recommendations for how essential I think a mod is and when it should be installed.

According to the Nexus Mod Manager, I currently have over 150 mods installed, though that number is misleading because some of the mods use multiple optional, modular plugins which count as separate mods (the item sorting mod that I'm using, for instance, accounts for 12 different plugins) or require compatibility patches to work with other mods, which again count as separate mods. I played about 30 hours of unmodded "Vanilla" Fallout 4 before I started installing mods, and from there it was a cascading effect. It started with basic "quality of life" improvements in the gameplay to fix minor/major annoyances, and then shifted to atmospheric overhauls with the visuals and audio to make the game look and feel more pleasant to play, and then towards the end became a matter of adding in all new content to keep things fresh and interesting.

This article is meant to be a recommendation guide for which mods I think are worth installing if you're planning to play Fallout 4, but it's by no means a comprehensive, exhaustive guide of everything. There are a lot of highly-rated, super-popular mods that I chose to pass on for my own personal reasons, one of the main ones being that I wanted to stay pretty close to "Vanilla" for the bulk of my playthrough (ruling out massive overhauls like Horizon), or had to pass on because I lacked the required DLC (ruling out the unofficial patch and revamped user interfaces), while other mods affected things that I just didn't care about (like Sim Settlements or any of the other settlement mods). This article is simply a look at some of the mods I'm actually using; use it as a basis to start your own research, and then go from there.


PRELIMINARY STUFF

For the purpose of this article (and based on my own experience) everything here will be based on the Nexus Mods platform, running the game on a Windows PC through Steam. There are other places you can go to find mods for Fallout 4 (notably, Bethesda's own website for free downloads, or in-game via the Creation Club for officially supported paid mods), but I chose to stick with the Fallout 4 Nexus because a) that's what I'm familiar with, and b) I wanted to avoid as many official Bethesda channels as possible.

If this is your first time modding Fallout 4, note that you'll have to tweak some settings to enable unofficial mods (basically anything that you aren't paying for directly through Bethesda's in-game store). It's pretty simple, really, and only involves editing the game's ini file. From there, it's simply a matter of downloading and installing your desired mods -- you can do this manually, typically by extracting files and folders and placing them directly in your game's main install folder, but I'd recommend using the Nexus Mod Manager because it makes keeping track of your mods much more convenient. It also allows you to set your own mod load order (helpful for preventing mod conflicts), and enables virtual installs so that you're not directly replacing game files (less tampering with main game files means less chance of screwing something up and causing critical errors). Gopher's video guide for installing and using the Nexus Mod Manager is helpful for learning how to use it, and the mod manager is really sleek and intuitive once you're familiar with it.

When installing mods, it's probably smart to do them one at a time, testing each one individually to make sure everything works properly before moving on to install the next one. Sometimes mods may conflict with other mods, or may not work at all, or may cause other problems (like crashes), and if you install five mods at once then it's harder to find out which one is causing the problem. Always have a backup save handy to roll back to, from before you installed each mod, so that you don't risk having your save file stuck with scripts and assets from non-existent mods if you have to uninstall something. Usually it's perfectly fine to load a save that uses assets from a mod that's no longer installed, but it can cause issues in some cases, so better safe than sorry. While you're at it, you should follow this guide as a loose guideline for how to set your load order when you install your mods.

Next, there are few general mods you'll probably want to install right away, which are the Mod Configuration Menu and the Achievements mod. The MCM adds an in-game option in the settings menu which will let you configure many mods individually from within the game itself; not every mod has (or needs) MCM support, but it's great to have for the mods that do. When playing with mods, achievements are normally disabled (because it's effectively cheating, I guess), so the Achievements mod simply re-enables achievements. This, of course, is completely optional and unnecessary if you don't care about unlocking achievements. If you have all the DLC, then the Unofficial Patch should also be a mandatory install. Finally, some mods will require the Fallout 4 Script Extender, which is an alternate way of launching the game to enable more advanced scripting. Whether you need this or not depends on which mods you install, which should be clearly marked in the mod's requirements tab on the Nexus. If you're going down my list of mods and going with my recommendations, then it will definitely be required. 

Also note that with the Fallout 4 Script Extender, you should disable automatic updates for Fallout 4 through Steam or whatever platform you're using. The Script Extender has to be updated every time Bethesda updates Fallout 4, which means many of your mods (and effectively your ability to play Fallout 4) will break with each Bethesda update, until the Silverlock team release an update for F4SE. That update could be later that day, or a few days later -- you never know. So in the interest of keeping your game playable, you should set Fallout 4 to only update manually (ie, when you launch FO4 through Steam), and then make sure you always launch the game with F4SE. Steam will let you know when Fallout 4 has a new update available, but as long as you don't launch the game through Steam it won't update and won't break your mods; only update the main game once you know that F4SE has also been updated.

Finally, note that some of these mods I list have certain other requirements to install, like requiring one or two other mods (because they share assets with those other mods) to be installed first, which I'm not going to bother listing here, so make sure you check each mod's Nexus page for specific requirements and do your followup research before installing them. Some mods require that you have finished the tutorial (as in, left Vault 111), so in general I'd recommend playing through the intro, up until you leave the Vault for the first time, and only then start installing mods, once you're into the open world proper.


GUIDE OVERVIEW

From here on, everything's going to be grouped into loose categories (Visuals, Atmosphere/Immersion, Quality of Life, Companions, Weapons, Armor, Clothing, Power Armor, Quests/Adventures) with individual entries for individual mods. There's a brief summary at the end of the article with a truncated list of all the mods mentioned, in case you want to skip all the commentary. Each entry will feature a brief description of the mod itself plus a few of my thoughts on it, with a link to its entry on the Nexus. Each mod is, ultimately, up to you whether you think it's worth installing or not, but I'll note in parentheses whether I think a mod should be considered ESSENTIAL (for mods that should definitely be installed for a first playthrough, or every playthrough, without question), RECOMMENDED (for mods that I think you should strongly consider using, even if I don't necessarily consider them "essential"), or OPTIONAL (for mods that I could see other people maybe not wanting, or that have only a negligible/superficial impact).


VISUALS:
This section is for mods that simply enhance the game's visuals. They're entirely cosmetic, but can have some of the biggest impact on performance, so what you choose to install is mostly affected by how good your system is. All of these recommendations are based on having a computer that meets Fallout 4's recommended system requirements. My CPU's a little worse than recommended, and my GPU's a little better than recommended, and running all of these mods concurrently in 1080p with the graphics set to mostly ultra and high (a few things at medium) gave me 60 fps indoors, 45 fps outside, and 30 fps in the city. 

Subtle ENB (ESSENTIAL) : This is a post-processing setting that does a great deal with changing the overall look of the game, giving it a much more striking, cinematic feel. Some of what it does is change lighting to be more natural/dynamic, which in turn creates darker shadows and more lighting contrasts. Dynamic depth of field, dynamic shadows, subtle bloom effects, and ambient occlusion round out some more of its features. You can choose from a ton of different ENB mods; I went with this one because it seemed like a straight visual upgrade without trying to change the overall tone or atmosphere of the visual design. Of all the visual mods in this section, this one does the most and has the most profound effect; if you install only one visual mod, make it this one.
 Subtle ENB
Fallout 4 Enhanced Color Correction (RECOMMENDED): This mod enhances the game's color contrast, effectively removing some of the game's "washed out" look and making the colors pop just a little bit more. It's a subtle effect that pairs well with Subtle ENB, since it adds more visual life to the game's appearance without radically changing the art style or intended tone of the atmosphere.
Vivid Fallout - All in One (RECOMMENDED): This is an extensive texture replacer that replaces a lot of the vanilla environment textures with new ones that are more detailed, and in a higher resolution. As a bonus, it somehow also boosts performance by being less performance-heavy than the vanilla textures.
- Darker Nights (OPTIONAL): Nighttime isn't that dark in FO4, offering you nearly perfect visibility but with a different color palette. This mod makes the nights much darker, giving you options for how dark you want it to be. Subtle ENB already makes nights darker, but this will make them even darker. As a bonus, there's an option to reduce enemies' visibility at night so that they can't see you as easily.
 Wasteland Nights 
- Wasteland Nights - Moon and Stars (RECOMMENDED): The default night sky in FO4 is kind of plain and boring. This mod essentially makes stars brighter and more visible, and makes the moon higher resolution. I tried several night sky mods, but this one felt the most natural and subtle of the bunch.
- Radiant Clouds and Fogs (OPTIONAL): This mod replaces the vanilla cloud textures with higher resolution versions that not only look nicer, but also allow for more dynamic lighting with the clouds themselves casting shadows or reflecting light within themselves, which is especially beautiful during sunsets.
- Wetness Shader Fix (OPTIONAL): When characters or environments get wet (such as from rain) they get glazed in a shiny translucent layer that, to me, often looks like they've been liberally greased with petroleum jelly. The effect is excessive by default; this mod reduces the effect to something more realistic, and allows you to choose from several different settings.
- Enhanced Blood Textures (OPTIONAL): Because I'm a big fan of excessive gore, this mod boosts the overall resolution of blood effect textures, and also extends the variety with some new blood effects.
Cross Crit Gore-Overhaul
- CROSS Crit Gore-Overhaul (OPTIONAL): This mod makes it so that enemies suffer a much more graphic effect when killed by a critical hit from a fire, laser, or plasma weapon. If killed by a fire weapon, for instance, the corpse will remain on fire until the flesh dissolves, leaving nothing but a charred skeleton. For me, this is absolutely essential -- I loved the effect so much that it made me switch to energy weapons full-time. As an added bonus, you can set an option to trigger the effects from any killing blow by a fire, laser, or plasma weapon -- not just critical hits.


ATMOSPHERE/IMMERSION:
This section is for changes that boost the game's atmosphere and immersion beyond simple graphic tweaks. Some of them are visual changes, of course, but they're more substantial than replacing a texture with a better one.

True Storms (ESSENTIAL): True Storms enhances the base game's weather effects, both visually and audibly, such as by showing more raindrops on screen and making the rain louder, but it also adds some new weather patterns of its own. These storms, when they trigger, are super immersive and really add a lot to the game's atmosphere.
True Storms
Cinematic Sounds Complete (ESSENTIAL): The game uses a lot of immersion-breaking sound effects to cue you about things, like the annoying cash register "cha-ching" when you gain experience. This mod replaces most of those audio cues with more subtle (in some cases, more musical) effects that boost the atmosphere, rather than pulling you out of it. The cinematic explosions portion is optional, but the rest should be essential. 
Quieter Settlements (RECOMMENDED): New to FO4 is settlement building, a type of Minecraft-style crafting system where you can build villages and things from raw materials. Problem is, things like power generators and automated turrets (plus ambient NPC activities) can get to be unbearably loud -- this mod reduces the decibel level of all that stuff to something much more pleasant. 
Pip-Boy Flashlight (ESSENTIAL): By default, your pip-boy (when toggled) emits a glow in a radius around you, kind of like a lantern; it doesn't cast light very far, and it doesn't cast shadows. I hated it. This mod turns the pip-boy into a more traditional directional flashlight, casting a concentrated beam directly ahead of you, which feels more immersive than the "radioactive glow" of the default light. As a bonus, you can choose from a ton of options for how that flashlight beam looks, how far it shines, and also whether it casts shadows or not.
Pip-Boy Flashlight
Pip-Pad (RECOMMENDED): The bulk of the game's interface happens in the Pip-Boy menu, which is a bulky device normally attached around your left arm. It's always on your arm, and it sometimes conflicts with the aesthetic look of whatever clothes or armor you're using. This mod removes the Pip-Boy from your arm and turns it into a handheld tablet (era-appropriate) that you pull out of hammer space when you activate it. As a bonus, you can zoom in on it more than you can with the standard Pip-Boy, which almost makes it essential for me. It's compatible with the Pip-Boy Flashlight mod. 
- Automatically Lowered Weapons (ESSENTIAL): As long as you have a weapon equipped in first-person, your character will continue to point it straight forward, all time, which often results in having a gun barrel aimed at someone's chest when you're just having a friendly chat in town. This mod adds a first-person animation that lowers your weapons after a few seconds of delay so that they're still visible on screen but not in the fully aimed, "at the ready" position. Other mods do the same thing, but I like this one because of that delay.
- Stay Focused Son (OPTIONAL): Unlike in first-person, characters will lower their weapons into a more relaxed pose after a time in third-person, but with pistols, characters drop the weapon completely to their side as if holstering the gun on their hip, standing in a fully relaxed pose. This mod changes that default idle animation so that they keep both hands on the gun out in front of them, but lowered to a more cautious stance, rather than completely lowering their defenses.
Stay Focused Son
Better Female Walk + Female Sexy Sitting (OPTIONAL): By default, all female characters (playable and non-playable) share the same animation sets as male characters because Bethesda only created one set of animations, based on a male character. These two mods give women more feminine animations without making them look like ridiculous supermodels. (Tip: use the "Lite" version of the "Sexy Sitting" mod so that the women are less sexy, more vanilla.)
- Reverb and Ambiance Overhaul (OPTIONAL): The main thing this does is add more reverb to firearms, tweaking the amount based on your environment. This effect is applied to most sound effects in the game (including radios), which is a nice immersion boost since things will sound a little different when you're in a grotto versus on a rooftop.
- Realistic Death Physics (OPTIONAL): When enemies die, they ragdoll in some pretty egregious ways, sometimes sending an enemy flying across a room after being killed by a critical hit. This mod adds realistic weight to enemies so they don't fly or flail around like crazy when they die.
- Durable Vertibirds (OPTIONAL): Vertibirds are like a helicopter used by members of the Brotherhood of Steel, but in the base game they seem to be made of tissue paper because they're always getting shot out of the sky and crash-landing in a fiery explosion. I assume Bethesda did that for the sake of "cool visual effects" but it's completely unrealistic. This mod makes Vertibirds less likely to get shot out of the air, and also makes them always spawn at max level, instead of scaling down to lower levels, so that they feel like actual threats instead of minor nuisances. 
Durable Vertibirds
- Old World Radio - Boston (ESSENTIAL**): Fallout 4 has some decent music, but it can get repetitive after a while (especially considering many of the songs in Diamond City Radio are recycled from CONELRAD Radio, a popular radio mod for Fallout 3 and New Vegas). Old World Radio adds 30 new radio stations to the game, each with a unique theme and most of them with a fully-voiced disc jockey. Not all of the stations feel thematically appropriate or lore-friendly, but I really like most of them, and many are a great fit for the game. ** While I consider this mod essential, I don't recommend installing it right away because it clutters the radio list in your Pip-Boy to such a degree that vanilla radio stations (which often appear in proximity as you explore, and are often part of quests) might get buried in the list, and you'd have a harder time knowing what's vanilla and what's modded. So for my recommendation, I'd only install this mod once you start getting bored with the vanilla music.


QUALITY OF LIFE:
This section is for mods that affect gameplay (or just how you interact with the world) in some way. None of these are major changes to the vanilla version of the game; they mostly polish areas of gameplay to make it a smoother, more pleasant experience.

FO4 Hotkeys (ESSENTIAL): Computer gamers use a keyboard with dozens of keys on it, and yet FO4 limits your hotkeys to just the number row, and limits those to only inventory items. This mod opens up much more of the keyboard for hotkeys (individual letters, combinations like shift+1, etc) and lets you bind more than just inventory items to those hotkeys. This a major life changer.
Valdacil's Item Sorting 
- Valdacil's Item Sorting (ESSENTIAL): Fallout 4 has horrible item sorting, which becomes a major issue the longer you play and the more stuff you end up with in your inventory. This mod adds categorizing tags to items so that similar items can be sorted into groups, making it much easier to find what you're looking for. As an option, you can make all junk, aid, and miscellaneous items weightless, which I'd suggest enabling; with the fast-travel system and storage containers you have effectively infinite weight capacity, anyway, so making these item types weightless will just save you time fast-traveling back and forth from place to place to transport everything you want to pick up.
- Quest Tags - Factions and Radiants (RECOMMENDED):  Fallout 4 has a lot of quests in it, and there's no way to sort or organize them by type -- after you've played for a few dozen hours it can be difficult to remember which quests in your journal are considered main missions, or which ones belong to which faction. This mod adds tags, similar to the item sorting mod, so that you can more easily see which quests are what. As a bonus, it even tags radiant quests, so that you can know a quest is radiant before doing it. 
Read Notes from Containers and Corpses (ESSENTIAL): Normally when you loot a note from the inventory screen, you then have to dig through your own inventory and click on it to then read it; this mod simply lets you read notes straight from other inventory screens as soon as you pick it up.
Loot Detector (ESSENTIAL): This mod highlights a bunch of interactable objects in the environment (loot, doors, computers, corpses, etc) with a ton of customization options for what actually gets highlighted, in what color(s), and under what conditions. I consider this essential because there's so much stuff everywhere, all the time, that it's easy to miss important things like actual doors that you can actually use or magazines/bobbleheads. This mod just makes it quicker and easier to find stuff, saving you a bunch of time, and you can customize it so much that you can make it as helpful or unobtrusive as you want. It can be overwhelming to have everything turned on, all the time, so I'd set it to only highlight important stuff, or only when you want it to. 
Loot Detector 
Faster Terminal Displays (ESSENTIAL): Every time you bring up a new page in a computer, it spells every screen out one letter at a time, and it takes a couple seconds of just sitting there before the next line gets fully displayed -- sometimes you can actually read faster than the terminal displays text. This mod speeds that up by a configurable amount, making it nearly instantaneous at the fastest setting.
Better Mod Descriptions (ESSENTIAL): Any time you modify a weapon or armor at a crafting station, you're shown a description of what the change will do, but the descriptions are incredibly vague like "better damage." You never know exactly how much better (or worse) something is, and sometimes it doesn't even give you all the information. This mod shows you everything -- in raw numbers -- so you can know exactly what a new modification will actually do.
Full Dialogue Interface (ESSENTIAL): Fallout 4 uses a Mass Effect-style dialogue wheel that shows you four response options with truncated prompts (e.g. "Inquire, Yes, Decline, Sarcastic"), such that you never know exactly what your character is going to say before you pick something. To make matters worse, those vague prompts aren't always accurate. This mod simply shows the full dialogue of each line before you select it, which gives you slightly more control over your role-playing options in dialogue. 
Full Dialogue Interface 
Quick Trade (RECOMMENDED): Any time you trade with an NPC (a companion or a merchant) you have to initiate dialogue and click through dialogue options and through spoken lines just to get to the trade window, which adds up a lot over time, especially if you're constantly trading with companions to change their gear or simply to unload some of the weight you're carrying. This mod allows you to skip the dialogue and bring the trade window up with a single hotkey. 
Shoulder Switch Cam (RECOMMENDED): If you like to play in third-person, this mod will simply allow you to switch which shoulder the camera looks over. It works with Third Person Aim Down Sights, but not very smoothly. You should probably pick just one of these.
Third Person Aim Down Sights (RECOMMENDED): If you right-click with a weapon in third-person, the game normally zooms in over the shoulder; this mod makes the game switch to first-person when you right-click, and then instantly revert back to third-person when you release the mouse button. It works with Shoulder Switch Cam, but not very smoothly. You should probably pick just one of these.
Improved Map with Visible Roads 
- Improved Map with Visible Roads (RECOMMENDED): Simply put, this mod boosts the brightness and contrast of the Pip-Boy map so that you can see its details (like roads and boundaries and shorelines) more clearly.
Crafting Highlight Fix (OPTIONAL): Any time you're using a crafting station (to modify weapons and armor, for instance, or to make new items) the game shows a preview image of what you're doing, except the preview is shaded entirely in green like some type of low-quality computer rendering. This mod removes the green shading so that the preview more closely resembles what you're actually making. Mostly optional, but becomes more recommended if you start installing a lot of armor mods with modular components that you'll be crafting or modding in-game.
- Better Wait Menu (OPTIONAL): Normally you can only pass time by sleeping in beds or sitting in chairs, and as you pass time you stare at a blank screen and watch numbers tick. This mod allows you to wait anywhere you want (like older Bethesda games) and shows a visual time lapse instead of a blank screen.
- Easier Hacking + Easy Lockpick (OPTIONAL): This mod makes it so only the correct word in the hacking mini-game gets displayed, and turns the entire spectrum of the lockpicking mini-game into the "sweet spot," effectively removing the mini-games as much as you can without actually removing them. I like the mini-games themselves, but they're just a waste of time because as long as your character has the necessary skill, you're going to beat the mini-game eventually, it's just a matter of time. There's really no point to it, and I just don't have the patience or the desire to play those mini-games 600-800 times in a single playthrough.
- Underwater Hazmat Suit (OPTIONAL): This simply makes it so you can breathe underwater while using the basic hazmat suit. Makes sense, since it has what appear to be oxygen tanks on the back, and should, in theory, be sealed to prevent external contaminants from getting to you. This is completely minor, but since I was usually using a hazmat suit to explore heavily irradiated underwater areas, this just made life easier (sensibly, too) by not forcing me to come back up for air while wearing a hermetically-sealed suit.
CROSS Jetpack 
- CROSS Jetpack (RECOMMENDED): This mod takes the jetpack functionality from power armor upgrades and gives you a smaller one that you can use with any armor set, without the need for power armor or fuel, using action points instead. This is easily the most gameplay-altering option in this section, maybe even the whole list, so I was unsure whether to actually recommend it or not, but in the end this thing was simply too valuable for me to pass up, simply because I appreciate how much freedom of movement it brings to table. Instead of having to run around looking for a path up a pile of wreckage, you can just jetpack straight up it. Instead of having to look for a long detour around a huge chasm you can just jetpack straight across it. This has potential to ruin certain "dungeons" or other areas of the game where Bethesda clearly intended a certain approach or linear path through an area, which can lead to doing things out of order or allow you to skip entire sections of an area, so that's up to your discretion if you use the jetpack in those situations, or simply follow the obvious intended path. Seriously, after playing both Elex and Prey before this game, the jetpack feels practically essential to me.


COMPANIONS:
This section is for mods that affect companions. Some of them could be considered gameplay changes, others are purely cosmetic. I played most of the game with Piper, Curie, and Cait, so these selections are based around those three, mainly.

- Amazing Follower Tweaks (RECOMMENDED): This is basically your one-stop mod for companion tweaks because it does practically everything from boosting the number of companions you can have with you at once (normally you're limited to just one) to changing their combat AI, warping them to you if they get lost/stuck somewhere, changing their affinity likes and dislikes, giving them infinite ammo, and so on. I got it mainly to be able to bring multiple companions with me but ended up using it much more than I thought I would. This one is almost essential, and is if you want to use more than just one companion at a time.
Me and my customized squad. 
- Unique Followers (OPTIONAL): Normally all male and female characters across the game share the same body meshes and textures; with this mod you can make your companions have their own unique bodies. I got it initially so that I could give Cait a full set of body tattoos without making every other female NPC also have the same set of tattoos, and then while I was at it did the same thing with Piper and Curie, giving them their own unique body textures. There's also Unique Player to give yourself a unique body.
- Nuclear Nude [NSFW] (OPTIONAL): I don't normally care for these types of nude mods (I never had any intention of installing any) but I saw the body tattoos on the Phoenix skin and thought they were a good match for Cait's personality and background, which I applied to her using the Unique Followers mod. I then followed up and put two more of the skins from this set on Piper and Curie, and then went ahead and gave the regular NPCs new bodies as well. What I like about this mod is that you can use it on the vanilla body meshes, and it has "Wasteland appropriate" amounts of dirt, scars, and scratches that make the skin textures more "lived in" than the clean Barbie doll skins of other mods. As a bonus, it has an option for the women to still wear panties, so they're never completely nude.
Better Looking Piper (OPTIONAL): This mod makes subtle tweaks to Piper's face to make her a little more attractive. There are a ton of overhaul mods that completely change the look of companions, but I like that this one keeps Piper pretty much the same; the differences are so minor that I could barely tell the difference in game.
Just Another Piper Outfit (OPTIONAL): To complete the Piper makeover is a replacer for her red leather trenchcoat, giving her something a little more practical and stylish than the bulky jacket. This new version keeps the same general style of her old outfit, while still looking sensible and appropriate, which I like. This outfit is visible in my "squad photo" above.
Platinum Curie 
- Platinum Curie (OPTIONAL): Unlike the Better Looking Piper mod, this one completely changes Curie's appearance. I stumbled upon this mod before meeting her, and knew right away that I'd be installing it as soon as I found her. I honestly feel like this look is a better match for her voice and personality than what Bethesda came up with.
Wasteland Doctor Outfit (OPTIONAL): From Eli's Armor Compendium mod, this is an alternative outfit that I used (as recommended by the Platinum Curie mod) to give Curie a new default clothing option. This brings out the medical scientist nature of her background and personality, and is visible in my "squad photo" above.
- Ponytail Hairstyles by Azar (OPTIONAL): This mod is required for the Platinum Curie overhaul, but once I had it installed I used it with the Looks Customization Menu to give the other female companions more realistic (and more interesting) hair.
- Looks MenuCustomization Compendium (OPTIONAL): With this mod you can basically bring up the character creation window to change NPCs' appearances (or even yourself), which I used to give Piper a more advanced hair meshes and to do a complete overhaul of Cait, giving her a bunch of scars and face paint to better match her raider cage fighter background, as well as tweaking all three of their body types to make Cait more muscular, Curie much skinnier, and Piper a little heavier. You can see some of these changes in my "squad photo" above.
Just Another Cait Outfit 
Just Another Cait Outfit (OPTIONAL): From the same designer as Piper's outfit comes one for Cait, which gives her a more rugged, stylish look without radically changing the style of her default clothing. I like that this one has some slight Irish flare to it, and that it actually adds layers to her attire, making her look cooler and more attractive without showing any more skin. My customized version of Cait is wearing this outfit in my "squad photo" above.
- No Negative Affinity and No Affinity Cooldown (OPTIONAL): Companions like or dislike different actions that you perform, which can eventually lead to unlocking new dialogue, quests, and perks; this mod lets you adjust how those affinity points are distributed, such as by removing negative shifts or by turning negative shifts into positive shifts, and by reducing the cooldown period so the shifts happen more frequently. It's not normally a big deal, but it gets to be a pain in the ass micromanaging companions and meta-gaming the system if you want to use multiples (especially at once), so this just makes life a little easier. As a bonus, you can use a setting to make each shift instantly maximize their affinity, which was nice for skipping the tedious affinity grind of dragging characters around for hours and hours, whom I didn't really like, just to unlock their extra content. You can do similar things with Amazing Follower Tweaks, but the "instant adoration" and reduced cooldown effects are unique to this mod.
- Followers Aren't Loot Critics (OPTIONAL): You're going to be picking up a lot of stuff in this game, and a lot of it will be junk, just so you can break it down for crafting resources, which means you're going to hear your companions commenting and nitpicking you about the stuff you pick up all the time. It gets repetitive and obnoxious, so this mod simply removes those comments from the game. You're probably going to want this one eventually, but I'd wait until you start to actually get annoyed by stuff before you install it.


WEAPONS: ALL OPTIONAL
This section is for different weapon mods. I used more weapon mods than the ones listed here; these are the ones I used most often, and thought were good enough to mention. I recommend downloading weapon mods at some point (specific ones are optional) because after a while you're going to feel like you've seen all the weapons the game has to offer; at that point, start installing weapon mods to spice things up. For the most part, these mods also have the option to add the weapons to the environment and enemy spawns so that they appear in game naturally (some won't spawn until you reach a certain level, to keep high-powered weapons out of low-level players' hands), but even still I'd recommend only installing these around the mid-point of the game. These selections are based on me using the "Rifleman" perk, which means no automatic weapons.

- Wattz Laser Gun: This is a laser rifle inspired by the Wattz 2000 from Fallout 1+2. It can be set up to function like a shotgun, combat rifle, or sniper rifle with different crafting modifications. Overall, it feels pretty balanced with the vanilla weapons and offers a nice classic look.
 
Union Blaster
Union Blaster: This energy weapon looks completely dope. Though a bit cartoony, I think it fits the general look of base game weapons (like the laser musket, for instance). Really, I just like seeing the churning laser vortex down the barrel, and its shotgun mode shoots a cool spread of laser pellets. 
- CROSS Break Action Laser: This laser rifle looks pretty cool and its design fits well within the design of other laser weapons already in the game. As a break action rifle, reloading it is a pure joy, and I love seeing the energy beams split in the scattergun mode. It does high damage but is compensated by using a ton of ammo (multiple laser cell charges per shot).
- CROSS RugerMKV: I never used pistols in the game, but this one intrigued me by allowing you to attach a rifle stock (and thus treating it like a rifle for perk damage), and also because you can use science perks to modify elemental damage onto it. Uses standard ammo, but can also be converted to a special .22 if you desire more authenticity.
CROSS PlasRail: This is a plasma-type rifle that uses its own unique ammunition, made by using fusion cores to convert plasma into PlasCore rounds. It has a lot of cool firing modes including a flame-shooter (not really a propellant stream, it just shoots green fire), an AOE orb launcher, and homing discs, plus I like that it gives me another use for fusion cores. It's maybe a little over-powered.
M2045 Magnum Revolver Rifle 
- M2045 Magnum Revolver Rifle: This big-ass rifle (meant to be a type of ballistic power armor weapon) uses custom .300 round ammunition. It looks badass, considering the size and the break action reloading, but seemed underpowered to me -- I had to use FO4Edit to change its damage values to get it up to par with other weapons I was already using.
- MK14 EBR: The Mk14 is one of my favorite weapons from Killing Floor, so it was great to use it here, too. It uses .308 rounds and does pretty strong damage; it can be fitted with scopes to use as a sniper rifle, or you be a real man and use the ironsights at close-to-mid range.
- M82a3 AMR: A .50 caliber anti-material rifle. It's big, it does a ton of damage. What more needs to be said?
- DKS-501 Sniper Rifle: Another fan favorite from Fallout 1+2, this sniper rifle can use .38, .308, or .50 caliber armor penetrating rounds. It's fairly run of the mill in practice, but it also has some fun legendary varieties to find through exploration.
- The Widow Shotgun: This sawed-off double-barrel shotgun looks (and sounds) amazing, plus, you can make it use incendiary rounds for bonus damage and visual effects. Pairs nicely with the Black Widow armor set.
- Classic Super Sledge: This mod brings back the "classic" Super Sledge look from Fallout 3 and New Vegas, along with a bunch of fun modding options (like putting a heating coil or electrical conduit on it).
Classic Super Sledge. 
- Super Blade Modifications for Super Sledge: The default super sledge has a disappointing lack of modding options; this mod lets you put giant blades on the end for the true raider look.


ARMORALL OPTIONAL
This section is for armor sets. As with the weapons section, I recommend installing armor mods at some point, but individual ones are optional. Most of these need to be crafted, or can only be found in very specific locations. Also like the weapons, I'd wait until the mid-point of your playthrough when you feel like you've seen all the armor sets the base game has to offer, and then start installing armor mods to spice things up. 

- Armorsmith Extended (RECOMMENDED): This mod could probably be installed right away, since it's more than just a stand-alone armor set; it completely overhauls the armor modding system, giving you more options for ways to customize armor, and even adds a few new armors to be crafted. Plus, it makes more types of clothing and armor compatible to be worn together.
Black Widow 
- Black Widow + Black Widow Male: This armor set features a full length leather trench coat and the option for the helmet to grant you "underworld vision" which allows you to see the souls of enemies through walls and things. It has a fun little story for acquiring it, it looks cool, and it has some fun gameplay effects. By default it only works with female bodies, so you'll need to patch it with the male meshes if you play a male character.
- B35C Heavy Brotherhood of Steel: This mod sort of crosses combat armor and power armor, giving you a beefy set of heavy metal armor that kind of resembles a slimmer, more form-fitting version of power armor that functions like regular armor pieces. Quite simply, it looks cool, but I particularly like that it gives you that power armor aesthetic without having to actually use the loud cumbersome power armor. 
CROSS Courser Strigidae
- CROSS Courser Strigidae: This high-tech armor set has a ton of color combinations (you can make it look like brown leather or futuristic white and red, among countless other possibilities) and style options (long or short jacket, pants or leggings, sleeves or no sleeves, etc), plus a bunch of nifty gadgets in the visor that affect your vision.
- NCR Ranger Veteran Armor: The iconic NCR Ranger armor from New Vegas brought over to Fallout 4 in all its glory. This version offers a ton of customization mods ranging from a thermal vision visor to deathclaw-skin boots, plus a dozen or more others.


CLOTHING: ALL OPTIONAL
This section is for mods that simply add more clothing options to the game. There's not a lot of good clothing options in the game by default, so these mods simply give you more variety. A lot of them can be worn under armor pieces, and are added to the environment and enemy spawns to find later (though all can be crafted if you desire). Since most of these are cosmetic you'd be fine installing any of these from the start, though they're all technically optional (I'd recommend installing some, at some point). These are some of the better ones I used (there're a lot that I've omitted from this section); there's not much I can say about most of them, just look at pictures and just install whatever ones you think look best. All clothing sets here are lore-friendly and thematically-appropriate, and work with vanilla bodies.

Wasteland Fashion. Variety set. Male and female.
The Mercenary Pack. Variety set. Male and female.
Eli's Armor Compendium. Variety set. Male and female. Probably my favorite of the bunch because of its immersive vendor, where you go to buy these clothings and armors.
Eli's Armor Compendium
- Wasteland Mashups: Variety set. Female only.
- Badlands Mashups: Variety set. Female only.
- Commonwealth Mashups: Variety set. Female only.
- Wasteland Drifter: Variety set. Female only, male version here.
- Benny's Suit (New Vegas): A large part of FO4's persuasion system is pausing dialogue to switch to fancy clothes to boost your charisma to give you better odds of success. So, I was always lugging around a set of formal attire and got bored of the basic Tuxedo and Clean Black Suit options (or the more practical but less stylish Reginald's Suit). This mod adds Benny's black and white suit from New Vegas, which I used as my go-to persuasion attire. 
- Mad Hatter: This mod adds a bunch of new hats to the game so you can better match your headwear to your outfit. I got this mainly to use the "black and white dogtooth" trilby since the pattern matched with the black and white striped plaid of Benny's Suit. Bonus points for also granting extra Charisma like the Formal Hat.
Evil Detective
- Evil Detective: This brings a set of Sebastian's clothes from The Evil Within to FO4. It looks pretty good on both male and female characters, and as an added bonus you can opt to make it replace one (or both) of your arm textures with a robot arm. This was a fun armor set to put on Curie and other android companions.


POWER ARMOR:
This section is for mods that affect power armor. I didn't use power armor very much so the selection here is limited.

- Power Armor Animation Changes (ESSENTIAL): Power armor is painfully slow to get in and out, and if you use power armor a lot you'll have to get in and out of that suit a lot to do various things like resting or using crafting benches. This mod greatly boosts the speed at which you get in and out, making it take only half as much time.
Power Armor HoloHud 
- Power Armor HoloHud (RECOMMENDED): Originally, I liked the look of the vanilla power armor HUD because it made me feel more like I was in the cockpit of a mechanized power suit, but over time it started to bug me for taking up so much screen space. This mod removes the aesthetic framework so that it only shows the important meters and information you need, while also moving the poorly-placed armor condition monitor down with the other gauges.
- Power Armor Materials AND Paints (OPTIONAL): When modifying power armor you're normally forced to choose between using a different material, or giving it a paint job, both of which have different statistical effects. What do you do if you want the statistical boost of the stronger material, but also want the cool flame pattern on your suit? You install this mod. 
- Kryptek Typhon Camo X-01 (OPTIONAL): This mod replaces the hot pink paint job for the X-01 power armor with a black kryptek typhon camo pattern. Since I used the X-01 suit as my primary power armor, this was simply an option to make the armor look even cooler than the normal paint jobs.
Kryptek Typhon Camo X-01 
- Black Titanium Power Armor Frame (OPTIONAL): The power armor frame (or skeleton, if you will) is normally a light grey color, and some parts can remain exposed depending on what armor pieces you've attached to the frame. With the kryptek typhon camo -- a generally dark, black paint job -- it was a bit clashing to see the light gray hands from the default frame. This mod recolors the frame to look black so that it meshes better with dark power armors.
- Configurable Power Armor Fusion Core Drain (RECOMMENDED): Using power armor in FO4 consumes fuel from a supply known as fusion cores, which are incredibly sparse in the beginning of the game, and those fusion cores drain incredibly fast. It's kind of immersion-breaking to think that these fusion cores have been powering entire radio stations and subway stations for 200 years, but then you put it in a power armor frame and suddenly it runs out of juice after walking around for 20 minutes. This mod lets you change how quickly those cores drain. In reality, you're going to find so many fusion cores by the end of the game that this isn't even necessary, but I think it's worth using to give yourself a slight reduction early on, just so that you can feel more comfortable using the power armor from time to time instead of worrying about using all of its fuel, and thus never using it.


QUESTS/ADVENTURES:
This section is for quest and adventure mods. These mods all add new areas to explore, complete with (in most cases) several new quests. These range in scope from 30-minute one-off dungeons to elaborate 10-hour ordeals. With limited exceptions, these should only be installed towards the end of a playthrough, when you feel like you're running out of content and want more things to do. 

- Fusion City Rising (OPTIONAL): This is the biggest and most popular quest mod, but I wasn't a big fan of it. The size of the environments and the amount of content in it is truly impressive, plus there's some really good production value here with fully voiced NPCs, scripted questlines, lots of new functions and assets, but ultimately I wasn't sold on it for a few reasons: 1) There's an excessive amount of combat, to the point of having dozens of enemies spawn into an area, completely filling your compass up with a sea of red dots, 2) lots of re-used assets, including entire dungeons from the base game copy-pasted with new enemies and terminal entries, 3) It requires CBBE (a body mesh-altering nude mod) since most of its NPCs wear custom clothing, meaning without it you're stuck looking at tons of ugly broken textures, and with it you're stuck looking at women with hideously absurd proportions, 4) It's not very lore-friendly, despite attempting to be pretty serious. Still, there's a ton of content here, and it might be worth it just for the finale where you blow up an entire underground bunker filled with nukes and get to watch the massive explosion.
50 Ways to Die at Dr Nick's 
50 Ways to Die at Dr Nick's (RECOMMENDED): From the co-creator of Fusion City Rising, this mod introduces you to "Dr" Nick and sets off a decently long chain of quests to (eventually) help him assume the role of pretend super heroes to fight alongside Nightkin to rid the commonwealth of raider scum. The story is pretty fun, and I like the gameplay puzzle of trying to solve the puzzle in Nick's shop -- as the title suggests, basically everything in Nick's shop kills you in ridiculous ways, so you have to figure out the order in which you can safely interact with things without getting killed, using an assortment of clues that you progressively unlock. The whole mod is an all-around silly premise that certainly violates the base game's intended tone, but that makes for a nice change of pace, I feel, since this mod commits to going full-on bonkers to the point that you can't even pretend to take it seriously. It has some combat, but it's tastefully balanced with other gameplay elements, plus I like the music, and it's nice to have actual recurring locations and recurring characters to interact with. It's pretty long, too -- not as long as Fusion City Rising, but it packs in a lot of content nonetheless.
- Maxwell's World (OPTIONAL): This mod has a great concept and would absolutely be my favorite of these quest mods, if it actually worked. This mod sends you to a horror-themed haunted amusement park, initially on a quest to rescue someone's sister, and then you get trapped there and have to solve a series of quests to get out. It features some actual role-playing options with meaningful decisions that lead to different endings, with a ton of brand new assets and fun concepts (like fighting feral creepy clowns) in an environment that's absolutely dripping with theme. I had a ton of fun just getting to this new area, never mind the area itself, which is simply phenomenal. Unfortunately, I ran into a game-breaking bug pretty early that prevented me from advancing its main quest and so I had to uninstall it and revert to earlier saves. From reports, it seems like a lot of people run into major issues that prevent them from finishing it, so while the idea is promising, you should try this one at your own risk.
Vault 1080 
- Vault 1080 (RECOMMENDED): This mod adds a new vault to the map (housed underneath a church in a swamp, both new areas as well) with a small story about how the church congregation built the vault right before the war and what all transpired within the vault in the last few hundred years. It's a short adventure, only lasting about 30 minutes, and really feels like more of a tech demo (it was made by Nvidia, after all) to showcase graphics and lighting effects since seemingly every room you enter blinds you with bright lights and god rays, as if you're playing God Ray Simulator. There's not a lot going on in this mod, just a small vault with a few computer terminals to read and a few feral ghouls to shoot, but it's got a decent atmosphere and a decent little story, plus it's so short that it doesn't outstay its welcome. There's nothing really special here, but it's alright for what it is and so you may as well go ahead and play it. This one can be installed from the beginning since it's just a minor side adventure with no major implications on anything beyond its own little story.
- The Kelly Manor (RECOMMENDED): Like Vault 1080, this is another short adventure mod that adds a single quest and just a few environments to explore. This one is a short atmospheric horror adventure where you get warped into a ghostly manor and have to find a way to escape. Also, there's a little girl with mysterious powers and an inanimate teddy bear (vaguely reminiscent of Freddy Fazbear) who randomly appear to spook you. There's not a whole lot of story here, and there's not much going on besides exploring the environments trying to find a way to progress forward, but I'm ok with that since I appreciate horror atmospheres and it was nice to do something other than shoot stuff in the face for a while (although there's still some of that going on, here). That being said, the horror elements aren't very strong -- a few decent minor spooks -- so it's mostly just atmosphere. I liked it more than Vault 1080, and the fact that it's pretty short (less than an hour) with pretty good quality overall, makes it a recommendation.
Tales From the Commonwealth. 
- Tales From the Commonwealth (ESSENTIAL **): This mod should be required for every playthrough, and is the only one in this section that I feel should be installed at the very start of a new game. This mod adds about 30 new quests and encounters with top notch production value; everything is so well-produced and well-implemented that I might not have realized I was stumbling into mod content if I didn't already know it was part of a mod. And yet, somehow, the quests and interactions in this mod are actually better than almost anything you can do in the base game, with quests that involve actual puzzles and environmental manipulation, skill checks, branching paths in quests, choices that matter, with actual consequences, and so on. Plus, it does a lot to help flesh out some of the game's more lifeless and barren areas by giving you real human interactions where would normally there'd only be shooting raiders in the face, or simply nothing at all. Most of the quests feel like you're meant to stumble into them through regular exploration, and so it was kind of difficult to track some of them down using only the in-game clue system after I'd already explored pretty much everywhere. ** I'd suggest having this mod installed right from the get-go so that you can discover these things as you play. 


BRIEF SUMMARY

Remember that this is not a comprehensive, extensive guide to Fallout 4 mods in general, but is simply a look at the mods I ended up installing and thinking were good enough to recommend. There are a ton of good mods out there that I never tried, either because I worried they would take the game too far away from the Vanilla version that Bethesda intended, or because they affected things that never bothered me or never interested me. If I cared more about settlement building, for instance, then I'm sure I would've installed a dozen or more mods for that, too. In some cases, I had to skip mods that interested me just because I was lacking required DLC, or because they required too many other mods that I didn't want to bother with. The mods I've selected here mostly help to clean up some of the game's rougher, more annoying edges while making it look and feel much nicer to play, without really changing too much of Bethesda's intentions. All mods listed here were used concurrently in my playthrough, so they're confirmed to be compatible with one another, though they sometimes require compatibility patches.

Make sure to change your ini file to enable mods, and use the Nexus Mod Manager to download, install, and manage your mods. Install and test them one at a time, and always have a hard save backup in case something goes wrong, so you can revert to a previous save that hasn't been encoded with corrupted mod scripts. You'll need the Fallout 4 Script Extender for some of these mods so disable automatic updates for FO4 and only update the main game when you know that F4SE has also been updated, otherwise your mods will break when the game updates. Be sure to check each mod's Nexus page for any pre-requisite mods, since a lot of them require toolsets or assets from other mods to work. Finally, wait until you've finished the intro area and left Vault 111 before installing any mods.

For quick reference, here's a full list (without commentary), separated into ESSENTIAL, RECOMMENDED, and OPTIONAL groupings. To reiterate, "essential" mods are ones that I feel you should install right away, or that should absolutely become part of your playthrough at some point; "recommended" mods are ones that I think you should strongly consider, even if I don't necessarily think they're essential; "optional" mods are completely up to you whether they sound worth it or not, I obviously used all of them but you may not want or need them. 


ESSENTIAL:
Mod Configuration Menu
Achievements
Fallout 4 Script Extender
Subtle ENB
True Storms
Cinematic Sounds Complete
Pip-Boy Flashlight
Automatically Lowered Weapons
Old World Radio - Boston ** Install this mid-game
FO4 Hotkeys 
Valdacil's Item Sorting
Read Notes from Containers and Corpses
Loot Detector
Faster Terminal Displays
Better Mod Descriptions
Full Dialogue Interface
Power Armor Animation Changes
Tales From the Commonwealth

RECOMMENDED:
Fallout 4 Enhanced Color Correction
Vivid Fallout - All in One
Wasteland Nights - Moon and Stars
Quieter Settlements
Pip-Pad
Quick Trade
- Quest Tags - Factions and Radiants
Shoulder Switch Cam
Third Person Aim Down Sights
Improved Map with Visible Roads
CROSS Jetpack
Amazing Follower Tweaks
Armorsmith Extended
Power Armor HoloHud
Configurable Power Armor Fusion Core Drain
50 Ways to Die at Dr Nick's
Vault 1080
The Kelly Manor
- Weapon, Armor, and Clothing mods of your choice, to be installed mid-game


OPTIONAL:
Darker Nights
Radiant Clouds and Fogs
Wetness Shader Fix
Enhanced Blood Textures
CROSS Crit Gore-Overhaul
Stay Focused Son
Better Female Walk + Female Sexy Sitting
Reverb and Ambiance Overhaul
Realistic Death Physics
Durable Vertibirds
Crafting Highlight Fix
Better Wait Menu
Easier Hacking + Easy Lockpick
Underwater Hazmat Suit
Unique Followers
Nuclear Nude [NSFW]
Better Looking Piper
Just Another Piper Outfit
Platinum Curie
Wasteland Doctor Outfit
Ponytail Hairstyles by Azar
Looks Menu + Customization Compendium
Just Another Cait Outfit
No Negative Affinity and No Affinity Cooldown
Followers Aren't Loot Critics
Power Armor Materials AND Paints
Kryptek Typhon Camo X-01
Black Titanium Power Armor Frame
Fusion City Rising
Maxwell's World


2 comments:

  1. Hey, I'm the designer/main developer of Nexus Mods and I've been following (lurking) your blog for quite a while :)

    Very nice article and mod list, I'm sure people will find it very useful!

    (Re-sending the message because I'm not sure the previous one has been sent correctly)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great list! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete