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Fallout 3 Week: Skills and Perks

Post nuclear survival is a tough job, but it has its perks.

2008-09-23

Fallout 3's slick presentation might have a few people confused into thinking that Bethesda is reimagining the series into a straight-up action title. But at the heart of every good RPG are the mechanisms for crafting a powerful and distinctive character and this is where Fallout shines with a bright, nuclear glow. In this feature we'll reveal some of the unique perks that will make you want to spend the holidays in the war-torn ruins of Washington DC.



As Jeremy Dunham catalogued in his earlier preview (and I've copied below), the strengths of the main character in Fallout are governed by a list of skills. The game kicks off in childhood where a series of interactions and gameplay decisions will determine which of these attributes are affected. All of them governed by the over-arching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) system. We skipped this lengthy intro and jumped right out into the big, bad world with a set of base Skills predetermined by the developers.

  • Barter: Affects Buying and Selling

  • Big Guns: Determines combat effectiveness with oversized weapons

  • Energy Weapons: Determines combat effectiveness with plasma weapons

  • Explosiveness: Determines power of mines/ effectiveness of grenades/ ease of disarming hostile mines

  • Medicine: Determines how many HP you can heal with one stimpack

  • Repair: How well weapons and apparel are maintained and increases starting condition of custom-made weapons

  • Science: Affects computer hacking skills

  • Small Guns: Determines combat effectiveness for smaller weapons

  • Sneak: It's easier to remain undetected, steal or pick someone's pockets; increases critical chance when attacking undetected with this skill

  • Speech: Governs how you can influence someone during dialogue and gain access to info

  • Unarmed: Determines Melee Damage
Immediately upon leaving the vault I was granted a level-up where I dedicated a few more points to small guns, unarmed, and medicine. Like most deep adventures, there a few core skills that make life much easier in the beginning of the game. It wasn't until a few levels later that I started to truly appreciate the benefits of science, sneak, and explosives. The level of detail in Bethesda's wasteland means that each of these skills comes in handy in a variety of ways and will very noticeably influence your gameplay.



Take for example my early ignorance of explosives. When stepping into a minefield I was given a few short warning beeps and before I knew what to do my limbs where scattered over the horizon. Later, when exploring the backlot of a derelict supermarket I was confronted by a terrified women who claimed that raiders had strapped her with explosives. I wanted to help, I really did, but my low explosive skill meant that I failed at disarming the bomb and her terror was cut short as she erupted in a fountain of blood.



It was this moment that I decided to bump up my demolition skill, and hours later I reaped the benefit. Mines can be disarmed and reused, traps can be set, and chains of explosives can be left in strategic locations so when a patrol wanders through you can set the whole thing off with a single shot from a gun. In short, the more points I allocated to explosive, the more I used them in a unique fashion. This is what a deep RPG is all about.



But let's be straight – you've seen skill-sets in other games. You don't need to be told what affect "small guns" will have on your character, it's pretty straightforward. The twisted world of Fallout is better represented through the unique set of Perks that become available throughout the story. At the first level-up I was offered the same Perks that have been we've previously written about. But my decisions and style of play led to the unveiling of new and distinctive options. Here are a few of the new perks I saw, with more on the next page.

Mysterious Stranger
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 10, Luck 6


You've gained your own personal guardian angel... armed with a fully loaded .44 Magnum. With this perk, the Mysterious Stranger will appear occasionally in V.A.T.S. mode to lend a hand, with deadly efficiency.




Animal Friend
Ranks Available: 2, Requirements: Level 10, Charisma 6


At the first rank of this perk, animals simply won't attack. At the second rank, they will eventually come to your aid in combat, but never against another animal. This perk affects the Dog, Yao Guai, Mole Rat, and Brahmin.




Gunslinger
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 6


While using a pistol (or similar one-handed weapon), your accuracy in V.A.T.S. is significantly increased.




Comprehension
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 4, Intelligence 4


With the Comprehension perk, you gain one additional skill point whenever a skill book is read.


Take for example the Child at Heart Perk: it becomes available at level 4 with a Charisma of 4 and it opens new dialogue options when talking to children. Going down this path reveals new information and unveils quests that would have been missed had the player ignored their delicate sensibilities and focused on blowing **** up.



Not only are the perks revealed through advancing your Skills, but they are also given as rewards for being particularly good or evil or following through on a lengthy quest. In my short six hours with the game I followed through on a quest to rid the world of a breed of fire ants that was terrorizing a small community. I didn't have to save these citizens, and I certainly didn't have to exterminate the pests in the exact manner described to me by a certain underground mad scientist who was responsible for causing this blight. But my tenacity and kind words enabled me to convince the scientist to inject me with the same serum he used to mutate the bugs. I was given the Perk choice of fire resistance or ant strength, a welcome payoff.



It's evident that through the Perks the developers were able to insert their most creative and deviant ideas into the Fallout mythology. What other game would have a Lady Killer Perk that grants players +10 damage to women?



These aren't just skill boosts, they're bonuses with personality and they cater to a specific style of play. The curious survivalist will receive benefits that befit their snooping behavior. Say you're a particularly clever lad, when your intelligence and overall level hit 4 you'll gain access to the Comprehension Perk that give you additional skill points for reading informative books.



Keep playing in a similar fashion and you can even rank-up these unique abilities. Boosting charisma past level 6 opens up the Animal Friend Perk that protects players from the mutated beasts in the wild. The first rank just keeps animals from attacking, but the second will have Dog's, Yao Guai's and other creature's coming to your aid in combat. Nothing says you mean business like a feral Mole Rat at your side.



Where some role playing games allow nothing more than the ability to slide around a few skill sets, Fallout's Perk system allows players to work towards some exceptional talents. There are a lot more Perks than the ones we've scattered throughout this article – including a few killer Perks we know about, but just can't mention. Just know this, you haven't seen anything yet. Stick around all week for more info and media on Fallout 3.



Solar Powered
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 20, Endurance 7
With the Solar Powered perk, you gain an additional 2 points to Strength when in direct sunlight, and slowly regenerate lost Health.





Lawbringer
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 14
Once you have the Lawbringer perk, any evil character you kill will have a

finger on their corpse. This finger can then be sold to a certain person (whose identity is disclosed when you take the perk) for caps and positive Karma.




Concentrated Fire
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 18, Small Guns 60%, Energy Weapons 60%


With Concentrated Fire, your accuracy to hit any body part in V.A.T.S. increases slightly with each subsequent hit on that body part.




Child at Heart
Ranks Available: 1, Requirements: Level 4, Charisma 4


The Child at Heart perk greatly improves your interactions with children, usually in the form of unique dialogue choices.






©2008-09-23, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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