In the Fallout franchise, perks are special traits and abilities that unlock over the course of gameplay, allowing players to customize how their character survives and thrives in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. These range from simple bonuses when using particular types of weapons to more radical abilities like healing through cannibalism, or a chance for shot enemies to explode in a bloody mess of gore and viscera. In Bethesda’s previous entry, Fallout 3, players chose one perk for each level from a growing selection that was gated by level and stat requirements.
Fallout 4 changes that model by doing away with level requirements, at least for the base level of every perk. Instead perks are laid out on a grid, with one corresponding to each SPECIAL stat value from 1 to 10. Players can select any perk for which their stats qualify them right from the start of the game. Each perk then has multiple levels that add new abilities, some of which still do have level requirements. For instance, anyone with a 10 in charisma can select Intimidation, which gives them a chance to pacify lower-level human enemies by pointing a gun at them. At level 23 this can be upgraded so that pacified enemies can be incited to violence, and at level 50 you can give them specific commands.
All in all, there are 70 base perks, with multiple ranks bringing it up to 275 different abilities available for character customization. Allowing for players to choose any of the initial 70 if they meet the stat requirements will open up a much wider range of character builds right out of the gate than was possible previously, when players only had a handful of options available at level 1. Bethesda has underlined player freedom as a central design principle of the upcoming game, and this is certainly a strong move in that direction for its core systems.