Since the release of Broken Steel I have been feeling more and more like starting Fallout 3 all over again and playing through as a new character. While this idea was going through my head I started to wonder what the core perks were that most players always (or always should) take.
After that little brainstorming session I came up with my top five list of perks that all players should take when playing the game. They are listed in the order in which they can be taken and do not include perks gained through questing.
Comprehension – This perk doubles the effectiveness of skill books by allowing you to gain two points on a skill rather than only one point when the book is read. With 324 skill books in the game (roughly 25 per skill) this skill turns what could be a 25 point bonus for each skill into a 50 point bonus. Couple this with the skill bobble heads and you have a whopping 60 point bonus for each skill.
Since each skill starts with a minimum of 7 (based on Intelligence) taking the Comprehension perk means that you will only need to add 33 points (or less) to each skill over the course of your 30 levels to max them all out. If your Intelligence is a 5 each skill starts at 15!
With that said it is important to understand that you want your skills to max out as soon as possible so even with an Intelligence of 5 you will be gaining 14 skill points per level for a total of 390 skill points (or 30 per skill with 30 points left over). When you add in your three tag skills (+45 skill points) you find yourself with a grand total of 1,083 skill points to distribute across 13 skills. That means you will be able to put approximately 83 points into each skill over the course of your character's 30 levels. 83 + 15 = 98.
So, assuming you started with an Intelligence of five (and never found the Intelligence bobble head) each of your skills will be at 98 when you hit level 30. OR you could have 12 skills at 100 and one skill at 74. Without this perk all of your skills would be 25 points lower after reading all of the skill books.
Scrounger – This perk increases the amount of ammunition you find in containers around the DC Wasteland. Closely related to the earlier perk Fortune Finder this one is clearly better.
What makes it better you ask? It's better because when you find caps you have to convert them into something else (by bartering) before they become useful. Ammo, on the other hand, is useful as soon as you put it on your weapon!
Ammo can also be sold for caps and is never worth less than one cap. Caps, however are not exchangeable one-for-one when purchasing ammo except when buying the lower end ammo.
Strong Back – After you get a few guns you almost never wade into hand-to-hand with the denizens of the Capital Wasteland so why bother raising your Strength? What is there was a way to get the carry bonus benefit for having a high strength without having to raise your strength? There is and this is the perk.
Every point you raise your strength raises your carry weight by 10 pounds. The Strong Back perk raises your carry weight by 50 pounds! That is a 25% bonus for a character with the minimum strength of 5 (200 lbs base carry weight) for the cost of one perk.
Once you start looting heavy weapons and armor off of the enemies you defeat having a high carry weight becomes extremely important. This is especially true when you raid the armory in an Enclave outpost and find yourself unable to carry all of the cool stuff you find! Nothing hurts more than having to decide which named weapon to leave behind because you can't carry everything!
Animal Friend – Fighting off Mole Rats and Wild Dogs is not much of a challenge after you get a few levels under your belt but there is one beast of the Wasteland that is strong enough to take out Radscorpions and even wounded Deathclaws. I'm talking about the Yao Guai. These mutated bears are tough, fast and like to hide behind things before they attack you.
Having this perk turns those animal enemies into neutral friends. Taking this perk a second time turns those same animals into friends who will help you in a fight! I have not seen a reason to take this perk twice because if a friendly animal is close by I can usually just run towards them and they will cheerfully attack whatever is chasing after me!
Grim Reaper's Sprint – Nothing says “this game loves me” like seeing your action points refill after killing an enemy. If you use VATS this is the perk you have to have. It is hands-down the best of the level 20 perks in the game.
What's that? A room with six Enclave Troopers in it? If you don't have this perk you better have some good FPS skills because after the first one goes down you will be out of action points. However, with this perk as soon as the first trooper goes down your action points will be full again and you can quickly target the next one! Wash, rinse and repeat!
The above list of perks are good no matter what type of character you are playing as. I try to avoid the perks that give you skill points to one or two skills because I find them to be a waste when you have the Comprehension perk. Those perks do speed up your ability to increase a skill but with the level cap increased to 30 those perks have lost much of their luster.
The Entomologist perk has gained some new usefulness with the introduction of the Albino Radscorpions. Those things have no real weakness so if you find yourself encountering them a lot you might want to consider grabbing that perk.
In the end the choice of perks is always up to you and the type of character you are trying to create. After playing the game you will find a certain archetype appeals best to you and breaking free from that mold can be hard (right Grimjesta the sneak-sniper?) but also rewarding.