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The leveling system has changed quite a bit in Fallout 4, and with so much information leaked it's time to plan ahead on your perfect character build!

Fallout 4 character builds and perks guide: how will you explore the Wasteland?

The leveling system has changed quite a bit in Fallout 4, and with so much information leaked it's time to plan ahead on your perfect character build!
This article is over 8 years old and may contain outdated information

Those of us who planned ahead knew to take vacation time, but everyone else will just have to mysteriously “get sick” the morning of Tuesday, November 10th when it finally happens: Fallout 4 arrives! For years it was nothing but a pipe dream, with every single post Bethesda made getting trolled by dozens of “This Is Not Fallout 4” memes as the developer remained tight-lipped about the project.

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Now it’s almost here, and you’ll be free to sink dozens – or more likely hundreds – of hours of your life into post-apocalyptic Boston (hopefully while guzzling a few bottles of Nuka Cola Quantum while playing, right?). Our sincerest condolences to Legacy Of The Void and Rise Of The Tomb Raider for making the mistake of coming out on the same day, and we hope you’ve beaten Black Ops 3 already the night before.

What Changes Can I Expect In Fallout 4’s Skills And Stats?

The jump from Fallout 2/Fallout Tactics to Fallout 3 was immense in many more ways than just graphics. And while it seems like the changes this time will be less pronounced, there are still plenty of differences, including a serious overhaul of the leveling system. The iconic S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat system still remains the heart of your character in Fallout 4, with 21 points to spend at character creation to raise each stat from 1 to a maximum of 10.

If you want to play around with different character builds ahead of time to have your perfect character in mind before release day, check out RPG-Gaming’s nifty Fallout 4 character build application here. I’ve been playing around with it non-stop for the last day, coming up several distinct character builds focused on different specialties, from crafting heavy duty armor mods and pummeling enemies into submission to a silver tongued trickster who doesn’t care to bother with any of that messy melee combat.

Spending an obnoxious amount of time building your perfect character when the game first starts is a major part of the RPG experience, and that’s especially true of the Fallout series, where you can have a very different experience depending on which option you chose (just try going through Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas with an intelligence score below 3).

Fallout 3 Low Intelligence ConversationLow Intelligence Conversations In Fallout 3

The importance of each stat has changed significantly, as there are new reasons to have points in certain skills that weren’t as useful before. Perception, for instance, affects weapon accuracy within VATS, while Strength is a prerequisite for armor and melee weapon mods in addition to having influence on firing from the hip without the VATS system.

Changes in combat make non-VATS combat more of a serious option this time around, and lead to interesting combinations while modifying your weapons that add in more FPS-style options. Luck also has a more tangible presence this time around, as you’ll get better loot drops and be able to land critical hits more often.

Fallout 4 Weapon ModsWeapon Modification In Fallout 4

What S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Stat Loadout Should I Choose In Fallout 4?

In the last two major Fallout iterations, pumping your points into Intelligence was easily the best option, as having more skill points was drastically more useful than anything else. It didn’t matter if your agility and perception were insanely low, as you could still dominate in VATS combat if you had 100 points in a skill like small guns. Intelligence takes a major hit in its status as the go-to stat since Fallout 4 replaces skills with perks, so a high Intelligence doesn’t offer the same boost.

You may be doing a double take reading that last sentence – yep, skills are gone, and now there’s only perks. The leveling scheme has been overhauled, with each point in a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat more important, as each rank from 1 – 10 of every single stat offers access to a unique perk, and each perk within those levels can be upgraded four separate times.

The end result is much more flexibility in how your character develops when you level up – letting you choose between having a wider range of perks or focus on upgrading specific perks to their maximums. With that change, a much higher emphasis is now placed on where you put those 21 stat points at character creation.

In an interesting change, those later stage perks are already available right off the bat if you pumped all your points into a specific stat – for instance, you can pick the rank 10 strength perk immediately if you put 10 points in strength at startup. You don’t have to work through a leveling tree; instead you can pick a rank 2 perk, followed by a rank 7 perk, followed by a rank 5 perk as you level up (assuming you have enough points in the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat to allow the choice).

When all is said and done, between the different perks and ability to upgrade perks multiple times, there’s 275 options available while leveling. That’s important, because unlike the previous games capping out at 20 and then eventually adding up to level 30 through DLC, Fallout 4 has no level cap at all. You can just keep leveling ad nauseum while exploring the Wasteland.

What Perks Are Available In Fallout 4?

Some perks in the huge list of options will be familiar (like Gun Nut), but many of those now do very different things. In the instance of Gun Nut, it now gives access to rank 1 gun mods, with more powerful modifications available as you pump more points into the perk.

On those perks that stay true to their original incarnations, there’s the Chem Resistant option on the endurance list that’s still gives you a reduced likelihood of becoming addicted while popping performance enhancing drugs. Besides revamped and original perks, a number of wholly original perks are also now available.

Fallout 4 PerksFallout 4 Perk Chart

The perks cover a wider range of interesting options this time around to make your character distinct. Don’t dig the companions in the Fallout series? The Lone Wanderer level 3 Charisma perk reduces your damage and increases your carrying capacity when you wander the wastes sans any party members.

As usual, pumping points into Charisma will be a solid option if you want to get all the dialog options and learn the most about the story and background of each character, but the perks available on the charisma tree also offer some intriguing possibilities. The 10th rank charisma perk for instance lets you “pacify” enemies of a lower level than you by aiming your gun at them, presumably taking them out of a fight without having to kill anyone.

In another change in focus, the rank 5 Endurance perk, Aquaboy, prevents you from taking radiation damage while swimming and lets you breathe underwater – opening up new possibilities in a larger gameworld that will have more aquatic locations.

For those who always put all their points into Luck just to see what happens, the rank 10 Luck perk is sure to cause some fun mayhem, giving a chance for any ranged attack that hits you to ricochet back and instantly kill the enemy instead! If you’ve always wished the power armor behaved a bit differently, the rank 10 strength perk turns you into a human battering ram, letting you deal damage and daze enemies just by running at them while wearing a suit of power armor.

While Intelligence isn’t the be-all, end-all it used to be, I’m thinking my first character will be Intelligence heavy anyway. That path increases the effectiveness of stimpacks, lets you modify guns, allows for hacking terminals, and increases the changes of salvage rare components for better upgrades. My secondary focus will be on Charisma, not just for the better monetary trade rates, but for the animal options that let your canine friend hold enemies still in combat, as well as the ability to make companions more effective.

What will your first build be? Super strength power armor soldier wielding giant guns? Luckiest wanderer in the Wasteland? Perception-focused sniper who can ignore cover? Most healthy person to crawl out of a vault with immunities to radiation and energy? Smooth-talking loner? Most agile gunslinger in Boston?

While coming up with your perfect character build, don’t forget to also check out the new launch trailer that just came online, showcasing quite a bit of new info on both the gameplay and story that’s about to overtake your life.

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Ty Arthur
Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.