Every video game with a skill tree is a mirror of a player's personality. Some recreate themselves in a virtual world. Others use games as an outlet to become someone completely different than their real life persona.
The Perks progression system in Fallout 4 is complex, but it isn't complicated. It's thoughtfully designed in ways that provide flexibility to accommodate a wide array of play styles. After spending untold hours in Fallout 4's post-apocalyptic world, we've got handle on how certain perks will benefit specific gaming personality types.
The Vault-Tec SPECIAL chart includes summaries of each perk, so carving your own path isn't especially difficult. Our adventurer types below can nudge you in the right direction, depending on which side of your personality you'd like to unleash.
If you're the compulsive type who wants to be the master of one attribute as soon as possible, Fallout 4 offers that possibility, within reason.
Since you start the game with 21 points to spend (plus an additional point for the "You're SPECIAL!" book under Shaun's crib), you can raise any attribute to 10 and unlock the basic version of all 10 perks before the game begins in earnest.
Being an early master at Strength or Endurance will make you ready for the initial outdoor hazards and hostiles of The Commonwealth. If you want a greater challenge (aside from playing Fallout 4 at a harder difficulty setting), focus instead on Luck. Its benefits aren't as immediate as other attributes, but Luck-based perks like Idiot Savant and Better Criticals are just as useful in the long run.
Fallout 4 discourages you from focusing solely on one attribute at a time. The requirements for the advanced versions of any perk are gate-kept by level requirements. Technically, you can just stockpile perk points until your levels are high enough to unlock those advanced perks, but you'd be missing out on other growth opportunities in other attributes along the way.
The Well-rounded Traveller
For all of the dangers you'll face in The Commonwealth, spreading your perks evenly across all the attributes is a reliable way to sand off the merciless world's rough edges. In fact, many of the low-level perks are well placed because of their usefulness during the game's initial hours.
Spreading the statistical love has its practical benefits, but that doesn't mean you need to methodically go row by row. Don't be afraid to jump around the wall of perks from time to time. For example, you can access the weapon-modding perk known as Gun Nut before you're able to unlock Hacker — though the latter is a more useful perk to many players.
For some adventurers, opportunities to gain experience take priority. The beauty of Fallout 4 (and many Bethesda role-playing games for that matter) is that almost any activity will give you some XP, even if it's just a handful of points. If you're looking for a couple of XP boosts, there are a few methods:
Unlock Luck - Level 05: Idiot Savant. This perk's three ranks grants you a randomly triggered XP multiplier. The trade-off is that order to increase you chances of this boost, you need to keep your Intelligence low.
Get regular rest. Some specific acts of sleeping and reflection grant you temporary XP multipliers. If you manage to romance a companion, you'll be able to sleep with them, triggering the Lover's Embrace perk. Quiet Reflection is triggered if you spend time sitting in a pew in All Faiths Chapel in Diamond City. Lastly, you can enact Well Rested if you sleep in a bed in either the Dugout Inn at Diamond City or Hotel Rexford in Goodneighbor.
Stick with Piper. If you don't mind a long-term relationship with a companion (who you'll meet when you reach Diamond City), reaching maximum affinity with her will grant you double XP every time you complete speech challenges and discover new areas.
Whether your time is limited or you gravitate to the essential plot points of a game, there's nothing wrong with focusing on Fallout 4's main story. Are there any perks that are essential to completing any story quest? No, but there are a few areas where having expertise in specific fields would be a huge help.
High Charisma can help persuade NPCs to give up key items instead of bribing them. This attribute also helps to talk down hostiles during a violent situation.
There's also a quest that requires travelling to a large high-radiation area, so either have lots of anti-radiation items like Radaway, a power armor suit or Endurance perks spent on radiation resistance.
Finally, having Intelligence Level 06: Science will allow you to build large generators, which can help with a construction job during one of the last story quests.
Note that reaching the end of the Institutionalized quest isn't the game's true conclusion. Completing that quest will certainly provide some closure, but that doesn't mean your adventure is over. There are now more avenues open to you, though we encourage you to get to know the game's various factions by this point, which brings us to ...
The Team Player
To learn more about the various factions, visit our Companions Guide for details on which group works for you. You're also welcome you dabble in each faction for several quests. Eventually, pursuing specific quests for one faction will block you out of further progression with an opposing faction, but such is life. You can't please everyone all the time.
Like the main story, no specific perk is essential to completing faction quests, but it certainly helps to be proficient in combat, charisma and radiation protection. If you have a fondness for The Minutemen, you should focus on combat since you'll have some intense firefights where other factions and hostiles lay siege to one of your strongholds.
The Social Butterfly
Outside of Fallout 4, there are very few RPGs that let you hone a persuasive silver tongue with tangible and practical results. Relying on your personality means devoting a lot of your perk points toward Charisma.
Being high in sociability and likeability has benefits beyond one-on-one conversations, too. You can save ammo and health by talking your way out of a tense situation or a suspenseful stand-off.
There are even greater Charisma benefits relating to commerce. Improving the Cap Collector perk will give you better deals at vendors. Local Leader will allow you to establish trade routes between settlements and open stores.
Are you the type of player who never avoids a fight? Then focus on the combat-centric perks littered throughout all the attributes.
Fallout 4 gives you the flexibility to hone your skills in one weapon type like automatic rifles or pistol, but given that ammo for all types of firearms are littered throughout The Commonwealth, it certainly wouldn't hurt to be proficient in different kinds of guns.
You should also unlock defensive perks in parallel with offensive ones. Refractor and Toughness are two such perks and both can be upgraded four times each.
The Efficient Operative
This is the type of player who wants to spend as little time as possible indoors. You're the type who loots corpses of only essential items like caps and stimpaks and not much else. You're not interested in exploring every hallway and room in a hospital or factory. You just want to reach each objective waypoint and be done with it.
If that sounds like you, then it would behoove you to master both lockpicking and hacking. Even though many indoor areas have alternate routes that do not require lockpicking or hacking competence, having experience in either (preferably both) will significantly shorten your quest.
If you really want to feel like a time-efficient Fallout 4 secret agent, we recommend clearing the Tradecraft Railroad quest. Doing so will unlock one of the best semi-automatic pistols in the game, the Deliverer. It's highly moddable and is incredibly VATS-friendly. Hit percentage during VATS is higher than normal and AP cost for each shot is low.
The Quest Addict
You might be one of the many who want to prolong Commonwealth adventuring as long as possible without triggering main story quests, and Fallout 4 is happy to oblige. You can easily put in 50 hours of fulfilling exploration and questing without even reaching the Diamond City, one of the early main quest destinations.
Whether it's a conversation with a settler or a merchant, side quests can trigger when you least expect it. The only question is whether you have the skills that will make your quests easy or difficult. Discovering locations and quests means spending a lot of time outdoors, which is why we recommend being somewhat well-rounded while also emphasizing both Strength and Endurance. That way, you can hold your own during unexpected encounters while being prepared for non-aggressive surprises, like areas that happen to be high in radiation.
Most of Fallout 4's attributes have some perk related to the countless items you can amass during your time in The Commonwealth. If the accumulation of goods and wealth is a priority for you, we suggest working your way to these perks:
Luck - Level 02: Scrounger. This perk lets you find extra ammunition in containers. It can be upgraded three times.
Intelligence - Level 05: Scrapper. This perk lets you salvage components from weapons and armor. Upgrade it once for the ability to salvage rare components.
Charisma - Level 03: Lone Wanderer. This perk is beneficial only if you don't mind travelling alone. Its three levels offer various degrees of damage dealing and protection. For an item gatherer, its first two levels increase your carrying capacity. If you prefer to have a companion, you can ignore this perk and take advantage of your partner's ability to carry items.
No matter how much we've learned from our own playthroughs, we can't anticipate every player's possible path to fulfillment. If you're unsure about any of the aforementioned perk distribution methods, we have one last path you can try.
One way to be ready for any situation is to save perk points and only applying them as needed, based on your current predicament. You might not prefer hacking, but there might be one specific door during one specific quest that is locked with a Master level terminal, and you're too impatient or uninterested in looking for alternate routes. Or there could be a specific NPC you might want to win over. Then you can spend points on Charisma. You might also develop a fondness for specific activities that you don't normally enjoy in other games, like sniping or lockpicking. Hoarding perk points ensures you'll be more prepared for situations you may not have anticipated.