Perks and Skill Trees in any RPG can be a head-scratching labyrinth to navigate. More often than not you’re left umming and ahhing over what to choose, fearful of the fact that should you pick something utterly useless (whether objectively or in terms of your character’s build) you’ve got a whole new level of XP to get through before you can redeem yourself.
The Fallout games are no different in this regard. Some perks are so good to the point of verging on “overpowered”, some are never worth having at any time, and others simply don’t do what they say they’ll do, with erroneous or misleading descriptions.
Here are five of the best, and five of the “do-not-take-evers”.
As much as it receives its fair share of criticism, you can actually spec to some pretty specific character builds in Fallout 4, and few are as effective as creating a character that flourishes with melee weapons.
Dumping SPECIAL points into Strength & Agility and the other Strength perk “Big Leagues” will leave you being able to deal some serious damage with melee weapons, and special variants like Atom’s Judgement will give enemies a real headache.
Ranking up “Big Leagues” means you’ll do an incrementally higher percentage of damage in melee combat (eventually reaching +100%), and “Blitz” lets you teleport to enemies in V.A.T.S, give them a hefty smack, and vanish back to safety. If you pair this with the “Ninja” perk for bonus sneak damage, you’ll be doing some insane damage numbers to enemies that won’t even know you’re there.
Rank 2 of “Blitz” gives better damage the further your distance from the target, and is unlocked at the fairly low level of 29. So essentially it’s pretty broken.
Now I may be biased, but I am very rarely in favour of perks that reward negative states like low health, low ammo, etc. unless there’s some insane trade off or huge gain that works with certainty and doesn’t have an element of chance involved. That’s why “Ghoulish” for me is one of the worst perks in Fallout 4.
With the very first Rank requiring the high asking price of 9 Endurance, there’s already a steep entrance fee. The effect of the perk is to make radiation heal you, as it does for the Ghouls, hence the name.
The perk originally only had three Ranks with the fatal flaw being that it didn’t prevent rad resistance, which if unchecked would ultimately kill you off anyway. In the Fallout 4 Nuka-World DLC, this was remedied by a fourth Rank which healed radiation damage as well, so it at least became functional at some point.
The fact that this perk will only work in very specific circumstances and wants 9 Endurance and Level 50 from you to get the proper use from it is just too much to ask for.
As mentioned in the point about “Blitz”, sneak attacking is a very potent method of approach in Fallout 4, and both the “Ninja” and “Mr Sandman” perks play into this style extremely well.
“Ninja” at Rank 3 gives you 3.5x damage on all sneak attacks, and strikes from the shadows with melee weapons do a whopping x10 damage. “Mister Sandman” fully levelled adds +50% with silenced weapons, compounding the effects of “Ninja” into the damage calculation. Taking “Sneak” and putting points into that also helps you remain undetected as much as possible.
If you can match these skills up with “Blitz” and acquire the companion Deacon into your party, he’ll give you the passive bonus of an extra +20% damage on top of your existing numbers.
Setting up a character in this format will almost make the game too easy.
There’s many things you can spend your perk points on in Fallout 4. One thing you shouldn’t waste this valuable currency on is the “V.A.N.S” perk, which is essentially a glorified SatNav, and has no real business masquerading as anything worth a lucrative currency like a perk point.
The perk menu describes “V.A.N.S” as showing you “the path to your closest quest target” which is shown when entering V.A.T.S as a coloured trail (matching that of your Pip Boy). There are several problems with this function.
Fallout 4 is an open world that both invites and rewards exploration. The majority of the time, the standard Fallout Pip Boy waypoint indicator does a fine job directing you to your target and only gets a bit confusing when in a building with multiple levels. Also, we live in the age where information on video games is almost infinite on the internet, and YouTube guides and gamefaqs forums can clear up any trouble you might be having in a particular quest or area.
It’s nice Bethesda Softwoks were trying to help their players out, but the real world we live in renders this perk moot.
Toned down a considerable amount when it reappeared in Fallout: New Vegas but made more viable again in Fallout 4, the original version of “Grim Reaper’s Sprint” could turn you into a crowd controlling machine if you managed your targets properly.
V.A.T.S is an incredibly useful tool in Fallout 3 and FNV (less so in Fallout 4). While it adds some pseudo-turn based elements to the combat, it also lets you stop and assess each situation by effectively stopping time. By taking “Grim Reaper’s Sprint”, you can chain kill after kill using this form of engagement to the point where it almost feels unfair.
Killing an enemy in V.A.T.S with this perk active will instantly refill your action points, so you can move onto the next enemy, gun them down, and repeat ad nauseum until you’ve dropped everyone and everything in the room. With decent weapons that cost little AP to use, this can decimate multiple enemies even when the odds are firmly stacked against you.
The only small caveats are that it only applies once per V.A.T.S use (so don’t kill multiple enemies in one use) and won’t take effect if your target is killed by a companion or the Mysterious Stranger.
While it probably wasn’t as blatant when Fallout 3 was first released, it's now crystal clear in hindsight that no one ever needs to take these perks at any time, for any reason.
Let’s start with “Infiltrator”. This allows you to retry a lock after using the “force lock” mechanic and failing, thus making the door permanently sealed. “Computer Whizz” effectively fills the same role just working with terminals, allowing you to have another go after being locked out.
Now I may be in the minority, but I have never used “force lock” in my entire Fallout play time. The entire lockpick mechanic is simple but effective, and if you really wanted you could finish the whole game with just one bobby pin by saving before trying every door and reloading if it breaks.
The same goes for cracking terminal passwords. The meta has become to save before terminals (just in case) and using three attempts to guess the password, leave the terminal (resetting it), and trying again.
Once you become aware of these two simple tricks, you just don’t ever need these perks.
While straightforward and no-nonsense in its function, “Almost Perfect” is a last chance saloon for the player to give any ailing SPECIAL stats that they’ve spent the whole game neglecting one final chance at redemption.
Added in the Fallout 3 Broken Steel DLC, “Almost Perfect” is quite literal in its name; it will raise all SPECIAL stats to 9. It won’t lower any SPECIALS you happen to have at 10, so don’t worry about being taken down a notch.
It’s arguably much better to do this before venturing out into the Fallout Capital Wasteland to hunt down the game’s charming collectibles, those of course being the Vault-Tec Bobbleheads, as you can use these to give your stats that final push over the line to reach double digits. Collecting them beforehand however does not push your stats to 10, so be warned.
The fact that it's contained within a literal game changing Fallout DLC and requires you to reach the newly raised Level cap of 30 to unlock, it's more of a final farewell or parting gift from the developers. A thank you for playing their game to completion.
Well, this is an interesting one. Falling into the same type of bracket that “V.A.N.S” from Fallout 4 did, “Friend of the Night” in Obsidian’s rendition of the RPG is a confusing inclusion to say the least.
I appreciate the idea of Obsidian trying to add in perks that were more thoughtful rather than just straight up boosting numbers to various stats or attributes, but this one just leaves you scratching your head in puzzlement.
Formerly known as “Night Vision” in older Fallouts, “Friend of the Night” permanently changes how you view the world at night time, giving a better element of brightness between certain hours. You’ll need 30 Sneak and 6 Perception to take the perk, and be at least Level 2.
Now while the Level requirement is basically non-existent, surely if you want to see better at night, you can adjust your TV or monitor if you really want to have an advantage to vision? Also, the in-game drug Cateye gives a much better boost to night vision, the perk doesn’t even work in two of the game’s FNV DLC areas, and the function can be achieved by acquiring the Hazmat Darklight Cowl in the Fallout New Vegas Old World Blues DLC.
Avoid at all costs.
It’s always better to be lucky than clever.
A Luck based build can be a really fun one to experiment with, and can cause some true moments of genuine hilarity. While putting points into Intelligence is the safer, reliable, and more conservative option, Luck will reward you for shunning booksmarts, especially if you take the “Idiot Savant” perk.
This perk will randomly grant you 3x as much XP on any action that rewards you XP at Rank 1, and 5x at Rank 2. The perk only costs 5 Luck and each Rank is unlocked at Level 1 and Level 11 respectively, so the unlock criteria is incredibly low. Also, the lower your Intelligence, the more likely the XP bonus will occur.
This perk is just a fun one to take that has the potential to randomly let you jump up a whole level, especially if the bonus happens on the completion of a quest.
The mechanic of morality plays a big part in the Fallout games, often letting you choose how you want to frame your playthrough and tying you to certain endings/end-game consequences based on the choices you’ve made in your journey. While I applaud this aspect being reflected in some of the perks, these just really aren't worth it.
“Lawbringer” lets you join up with The Regulators, a group of vigilantes that are looking to rid all the “evil” doers from the Fallout Capital Wasteland. Once active, players can loot “bad” enemies and find a finger in their inventory.
This finger can then be brought to the Regulators and traded in for five Fallout bottlecaps and an increase in positive Karma. Contract Killer works in the same fashion just in the inverse, where “good” characters can have ears looted and sold to Daniel Littlehorn.
There’s absolutely no problem with the function of this perk in isolation, it's simply that there are much better and easier ways to boost your Karma rankings and earn money in Fallout 3.
I would guess it acts more of a failsafe as a way to always be able to adjust your Karma so you’re not locked out of any quests, but there’s much better things to spend your points on.