Everything you need to know to wrap your head around Fallout 4’s armor mechanics.

The Basics

When you look at a piece of armor, you’ll see something like this:

While the UI for armor is typically awful, what you care about are the three numbers next to the word “DMG Resist.” In order: the shield means “Damage Resistance,” which is exactly what it sounds like. The more you have, the more damage you resist, be it ballistics or melee or what have you. If you want to read the nitty gritty numbers involved with that, you can go here. Next up is the lightning bolt icon, which denotes “Energy Resistance.” That’s your defense against energy weapons, plasma weapons, and flaming weapons, basically. Then you’ve got the hazard symbol, which denotes “Radiation Resistance.” Typically that means environmental hazards, such as the damage you suffer when you’re too close to an atomic waste barrel, but some enemies, such as Ghouls, can hit you with rads too. And finally, some gear will even have some kind of Poison Resistance, denoted by a little water droplet icon. This is rarer, as far as armor goes, and for the most part you’re going to be considering the stats involved with DR, ER, and RR.

Types of Armor

So, what to wear? Well, that depends on what you’re going for. As a quick guide:

  • Leather armor, while not very protective, looks nice and allows you to travel light. You can often find it on Raiders, and it’s not very difficult to complete a set.
  • Metal armor grants you good Damage Resistance, but it’s also kind of heavy.
  • Raider armor...isn’t very good. That’s why it looks like garbage. You shouldn’t wear it, unless you really want to I guess!
  • Synth armor is great for Energy Resistance, and offers decent Damage Resistance. Obviously, Synths drop this.
  • Combat armor is as good as it gets for non-specialized gear, and you can often find it on Gunners. Here’s a good place to find Gunners in Fallout 4:

Getting a full set of Combat Armor might take a while, so you’ll probably have to wear different pieces from different sets as you find them/play the game.

Speccing for Armor

Finding the right gear is only a part of the process. You need to build your character in the right way, too. For this, you’ll want to put at least 3 SPECIAL points into Strength. This will unlock the “Armorer” perk. The more points you put into this, the better. More Armorer means better options to modify your gear at an Armor Workbench, and so you can’t get good armor without this specification. Maxing this out will take a while, of course: Armorer rank 4 is unlocked at level 39.

How To Tell What’s Good

Looking at your armor menu can be intimidating, I know. I found two pieces of information helped me overcome the overwhelm of that menu. First, there’s a pretty easy way of telling if something you’ve picked up is better than what you’re packing. When you highlight a piece of armor, take a look at the symbols next to the Damage Resistance numbers:

See those three plusses next to the numbers 23 and 10? Plusses means it’s better than what you’re wearing. You want plusses. If a piece of armor doesn’t have a plus, then it’s likely not worth your time.

Then there’s this:

You don’t have to do the mental math to figure out what all your individual pieces of armor amount to. Instead of looking at pieces individually, take a look at the overall Damage Resistance number on the bottom right corner. The higher your numbers there, the better.

Legendary Gear

There’s an exception to that, of course. It’s worth picking up something that’s a little worse in the Damage Resistance department if it grants you, say, an extra SPECIAL point, or if it does something cool like slow down time.

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Sometimes, average attire will give you these kinds of additional bonuses. But what you really want is Legendary gear. That arm guard in the image above, for example? That’s Legendary. You can tell because, when you highlight it in your inventory, it has a little star next to its name.

You can get Legendary gear in a few ways. You can purchase it from vendors around the Commonwealth; nearly every vendor has at least one piece of Legendary armor. You can also put enough points into your Charisma tree, and unlock the “Local Leader” perk—this will allow you to open up a shop at your settlement. Shops can sell you some pretty amazing stuff, provided they’re a high enough level. From the official Prima guide (screenshot uploaded by SerialChillr):

Now that you’ve got the basics down, make sure to read our advanced guide on how to farm legendaries and get the best gear in Fallout 4.