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Fallout 76's Legendary Perks Are Anything But

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Legendary Perks, a new account wide perk system, is currently in testing on Fallout 76’s public test server and things are not looking good. While my adventures in Fallout 76 began recently, longtime fans have been looking forward to Legendary Perks for almost a year now and the response from the community has been less than enthusiastic to say the least.

Like many fans in the community, I too am disappointed in the way the system and its associated perks are looking on the PTS. Typically, I would hold writing about these reservations until the update is live. But with the way the system works, there’s a slim chance that Bethesda would have the flexibility to change things after launch without refunding players for wasted time, which isn’t a given.

What excited me about the idea of Legendary Perks was their potential to create or support build defining loadouts on existing characters and also offer utility for high level players or make the early experience smoother for alts.

The slate of options available on PTS are mostly uninspired and underwhelming with a lot of needless duplication.  Perks such as Thin Skinned, Suited Up, and Heavy Duty, which reduce ranged damage by a % for each rank based on the type of armor you’re wearing, could be a single perk instead. It’s also just an odd way to break these perks out since players don’t typically equip armor by armor class (there isn’t much reason to).

These perks would help make an alt’s life easier in the early levels, sure, but they also do something to make the current state of balance worse. “Bloodied,” a build where players are capable of dealing exceptional damage while at low health and is already well overtuned, only gets stronger with perks like these. In a game where Power Armor has already fallen well behind regular armor, these perks also make the notion of using Power Armor even less enticing for players.  To make matters worse, the only Power Armor associated perks available in this system are next to useless.

Power Armor Reboot offers a small chance at self reviving if you die in Power Armor and Electric Absorption gives you a chance to recharge your fusion core when hit with energy attacks. Ideally, you don’t want to be dying enough to warrant equipping something like Power Armor Reboot. And Electric Absorption is of limited use due to the fact players don’t encounter energy damage as often and the abundance of fusion cores available in the game makes recharging them less of a priority.

These perks do nothing to shore up the weaknesses of Power Armor, nor do they do much at all to help an alt you want to get started early on with PA. If Electric Absorption were, say, Kinetic Absorption instead, I could see how this would at least be useful for lower level PA play due to the fact that perks associated with fusion core management aren’t typically available until the later levels.

There are some teaming related perks in the system, as well. Public teams are a key feature of the upcoming update, so it stands to reason that Legendary Perks would support team play in some way. Perks like Botany Buddy, which heals and buffs the defense of your team when you harvest flora, seem highly situational and thus not very useful. However, Taking One For The Team, which grants up to a 40% damage bonus against targets that attack you while you’re on a team, could be of good use for those who play on teams regularly.

A suite of explosive perks for different weapon types, which could also be condensed into a single perk, offer players a chance for enemies to explode after dying, dealing damage to enemies around them. I can see these perks being more annoying than anything else, potentially flinging bodies or parts off into the distance, making one of the game’s existing issues of looting bodies after combat even worse. That’s not even taking into the performance impact in what is already a questionably optimized game.

Why not give each weapon type something interesting instead? How about armor penetration for pistols? Or some love for energy weapons? What about a “Cowboy” perk that grants you bonus ranks in some Rifle, Pistol and explosive specific skills? This would allow players to embrace a particular fantasy without feeling bad about trying to fit in multiple types of weapons in a single build. Due to the SPECIAL limits on perk points, it’s best to focus on a single weapon most of the time when it comes to standard perks. A Legendary Perk like Cowboy could carve out some flexibility in a system that doesn’t always allow for it.   

This is damning praise to be sure, but not all of the perks are underwhelming. There are a couple of perks that stood out to me. For melee players, Retribution, which offers up to an 80% chance to heal and deal exceptional damage back to an attacker after blocking, could make blocking actually useful.  For everyone else, What Rads? will likely be a staple as it offers up to 300 rad resistance and can restore up to 6 rads/second. Anyone running a non-bloodied build or leveling alts will be sure to run this perk.

How about Legendary Perks that allow players the ability to pick locks or hack terminals without having to slot the cards into their main builds? There’s also plenty of opportunity to dig into other Fallout games for perk ideas. Here are just a couple from other games in the series:

  • Swift Learner (+%XP gained solo/team agnostic) would be great for both leveling alts and for higher level characters.
  • Vigilant Recycler could help boost energy weapons by allowing players to recover some ammo. The same goes for Plasma Spaz (-AP cost for Plasma weapons), Laser Commander (+dmg/crit for lasers) and Meltdown (foes killed by energy weapons damage nearby enemies). Heck, you could probably combine a couple of these into something like the “Cowboy” suggestion above.
  • Quick Draw for quicker weapon switching.
  • Long Haul to allow players to fast travel while encumbered.
  • Pyromaniac to buff fire damage for players who want to go all in with the Shishkebab, Flamer and Molotovs.
  • Explorer to reveal all map locations.
  • Search and Mark to visually highlight useful items.
  • Melee perks that unlock additional melee techniques, such as the ability to knock enemies down or counter-attack.
  • Atomic! for various boosts while in nuke zones, such as increased movement/attack speed, damage resistance and AP regeneration.
  • Tunnel Runner inspired perk to give extra sneak speed for players who are naked to support the underused, but interesting Berserker builds.

Not all of these are what I would consider to be “Legendary” but many would be universally useful quality-of-life upgrades for characters that I feel fits at least part of the aim of the system.

Unfortunately, the system of acquiring Legendary Perks is also a problem. Legendary Perk slots are unlocked at certain level milestones, beginning at level 50. There’s some debate over the particulars here, but personally this isn’t much of an issue to me. I don’t mind having a long term goal to chase on an account wide system like this, but I also wouldn’t complain if it were easier to access. However, ranking up Legendary Perks is a grind on a whole other level right now. Legendary Perks are ranked up via Perk Coins earned through a new ability to (finally!) scrap unneeded perk cards. This isn’t a bad method on its face, but the values are overtuned on the PTS at this moment. If the current rate is what Bethesda ends up launching with, players are going to be faced with a hellish grind. Keep in mind that the Perk Coin grind is also per character.

Perk progression and acquisition are numbers on a spreadsheet that can be easily tweaked over the course of testing on PTS, but the perks themselves need an almost complete overhaul. There’s simply nothing legendary about most of them. Thankfully, the community has offered plenty of ideas for interesting and impactful Legendary Perks. Let’s hope Bethesda is listening.


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB