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Catch 111

Looks like I will be well and properly stuck in Fallout 4 for awhile.  Because, as far as really good single player virtual worlds go, it's clearly among the best...
...just as soon as I decide which character I am going to stick with.  After all, this is what I mentioned in the last entry: I believe that if only I can find a great character build I can bring some fun back into Fallout 4's combat system.

Having spent about a week on this, I now believe that it is impossible to have a character that can get all the perks I wanted by level 20.  My assessment of what each attribute unlocks came to the following conclusions about what I wanted:
  • Strength - The basic point investment of this factors into melee damage and carrying capacity.
    • Minimum investment: 3.  The "Armorer" (3) crafting perk allows you to glue pockets to the inside of your armor, boosting your carrying capacity.  Aside from that, having armor modded as far as possible is the quickest path to overall power in this game.
    • Ideal investment: 6.  I do not plan to melee, so most of the perks of this tree aren't that useful to me.  However, a couple points in the "Strong Back" perk (6) would do wonders for my Survival Mode carrying capacity.
  • Perception - The basic point investment enhances accuracy in V.A.T.S, but not as much as a weapon modded with better sights. 
    • Minimum investment: 3.  Getting into most locked containers requires the "Locksmith" (4 points) perk, which you'll want, but the Perception Bobblehead (+1 permanent Perception) is just a short jaunt down from where you start.  Many players notice that the "Rifleman" perk (2) multiplies the damage on weapons with the highest base damage in the game, and they're not wrong, but for V.A.T.S performance I prefer to go with a pistol due to the lower action point cost.
    • Ideal investment: 10.  More V.A.T.S. accuracy is beneficial in the long run.  It also unlocks "Penetrator" (9 points), and "Concentrated Fire" (10 points), two perks which make V.A.T.S. downright deadly.
  • Endurance - The basic point investment primarily determines your hitpoints, but it also reduces the impact sprinting has on your action point pool.
    • Minimum investment: 3.  This is enough to get the "Lifegiver" perk whose primary purpose is make up for only having 3 endurance, but the third rank of "Lifegiver" also provides me free regenerative healing.
    • Ideal investment: 3.  There's honestly not all that good of perks higher up in this tree.  Even in Survival Mode, perks like "Lead Belly" or "Cannibal" are not all that necessary because it's not that tough to get radiation-free food or water as long as you regularly visit settlements.  Nor do you really need any hit point regeneration perk beyond level 3 of "Lifegiver," and I never encountered more radiation than I had RadAway chems for.
  • Charisma - The basic point investment increases the Settler cap at your settlements (it's 10 + your charisma score) as well as gives you better prices on bartering. 
    • Minimum investment: 6.  It's all because of the "Local Leader" perk, which unlocks supply lines, making expanding settlements and dumping your loot much easier.  If you want to completely eschew settlements, you might be able to do without, but this is extra hard to do in Survival mode.
    • Ideal investment: 1.  I am being a little cheeky here because, funny enough, dialogue checks can be aced even by characters with 1 Charisma thanks to buffs you can get from chems and gear.  So basically the only reason we're forced to take 6 Charisma is for that "Local Leader" perk, without which we'd not need it at all.  Although maybe it would be fun to play with those upper point investment perks that let you essentially cast mob control spells by staring at lower level mobs and hitting the action button.
  • Intelligence - The basic point investment influences your experience gain rate to up to 130%.  Funny secret though: the "Idiot Savant" perk from Luck (5) gets you roughly 140% experience gain rate regardless of how much intelligence points you have (assuming a max 10 intelligence).
    • Minimum investment: 4.  3 points gets you "Gun Nut," which is the other half of how modding your own gear is the quickest path to power in this game.  With 4 points, you unlock the "hacking" perk, and who wants to leave behind a trail of unhacked terminals?   
    • Ideal investment: In survival mode, 7 points are useful to have for "Chemist" so you can make more antibiotics.  9 points will get you access to "Nuclear Physicist," primarily useful for power armor players, as it gives your fusion cells as much as double the mileage. The "Robotics Expert" perk (8) is also pretty fun, as it lets you hack into robots.
  • Agility - The basic point investment determines your maximum action points and also how quickly your action points regenerate. 
    • Minimum investment: 5.  I plan to run a V.A.T.S. build, which means I will need "Action Boy" (5) and "Gunslinger" (1) sooner rather than later. 
    • Ideal investment: 10.  The more points spent in Agility, the more time I get to spent in V.A.T.S.  That said, there are some fun perks to be had here, such as "Gun-Fu" (10) which encourages you to try to kill several targets in the same V.A.T.S round.  Stealth-based characters can have an ball by combining "Sneak" (3) with "Mister Sandman" (4), Ninja (7), and Blitz (9) for a massively overpowered surprise melee attacks.
  • Luck - The basic point investment impacts how many hits you need in V.A.T.S. to fill your critical meter.
    • Minimum investment: 5.  The "Idiot Savant" perk pays for itself in time, especially if you take it early, and it is a nice endorphin hit to see it go off and suddenly triple or quintuple your experience earned.
    • Ideal investment: 8.  I have a goal to make combat more fun.  "Mysterious Stranger" (4) and "Grim Reaper's Sprint" (8) make V.A.T.S combat a lot more interesting with variable reward endorphin hits of their own.  "Better Criticals" (6) and "Critical Banker" (7) enhance combat by putting the strategic use of critical hits on the center stage.
Of course, assigning all the attributes needed for my "ideal investment" setup is an impossibility at level 1, especially considering most those stats are maxed or close to it!  In actuality, you start at 1 point in each attribute, 21 points to invest where you want before leaving the vault, another point can be gained from a book next to the starting point, and just down the street is a bobblehead that will boost your Perception by 1 point.  For simplicity's sake, lets just call that 29 points.  With that much, I can manage the above "minimum investment" levels, just barely.

Investing that way, I can get a pretty decent setup by level 20 with this build.  It would allow me to pick all the locks, hack all the terminals, craft the gear I need most, build supply lines and stores in settlements, and still have some pretty fun combat.  However, there's a lot of stuff I really needed just out of reach, such as "Grim Reaper's Sprint," and "Strong Back."  Other perks are within reach, but I simply don't have the perk points to spare, such as the "Sneak," "Life Giver," and "Gunslinger" perks.

It is not until about level 80 that I could have a build with all the perks I want most (and that's factoring in collecting the rest of the bobbleheads).  However, this is pretty deep into the end game, and that's probably fair considering I basically got a complete character at that point.  Of course, given that there is no level cap, you can eventually level up to the point where you can completely max a character with all the parks.  That happens at level 278, at the earliest, but I think most of the remaining perks would be redundant long before that.

Still, I am left wishing they either gave out more perk points or kept the attribute point investment separate from the perk points like in previous games (forcing my character into more specialized roles). Complicating this, I have decided it is essential I play Fallout 4 in Survival Mode.

Pros of Survival Mode:
  • It removes the temptation of fast traveling, which makes the game a lot more immersive.
  • It removes the temptation to lean hard on quick saving, which makes the consequences of actions in the game have a lot more gravity.
  • It adds significance to food and water items that is simply not there outside of survival mode.
  • It forces me to put a lot more attention on what I am carrying around, rather than just carrying a ton of junk as I please.
  • It creates one difficulty level, which I am stuck at, so challenges feel more real because I can't just adjust the difficulty level whenever I feel like it.
  • My bullets remain at full effectiveness, contrary to how it works on "Very Hard" difficulty, resulting in less situations where enemies are just gigantic bullet sponges.
Cons of Survival Mode:
  • Instead of quicksaves, the player must find a bed and take a nap to save the game.  Beds are essentially save points, so when you die you end up going back in time to when you last slept, and all progress past that point is gone.
  • Enemies hit extremely hard, even more so than "Very Hard" mode, essentially four times the damage.  Combined with the slower healing rate of healing items, this lowers your margin of error to virtually nil.  It is not uncommon to be one-shot killed by trivial foes.  With death is closer at hand than ever, expect to be sent back to the save of the last time you slept quite often.
  • Your carrying capacity, and that of your companions, is significantly reduced.  Combined with a lack of fast travel, this makes Strength and the "Strong Back" perk much more powerful.  This also makes the Charisma "Local Leader" perk much more important because supply lines can move your dropping off point closer.
For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  Feeling the burn of the constant retread from dying, I tried playing outside of survival mode and I just can't.  Hopefully deaths will decrease as my character levels up and becomes more capable, or finishing anything in this game will take a long, long time.

As it stands, it looks like I am going to have to scrap my current level 15 character in Survival Mode.  He was created before all of the above theory crafting, and I ended up building him a lot like I did my non-Survival Mode character.  While he benefits from the "Local Leader" and "Chemist" perks, all that investment in Intelligence and Charisma left him rather weak in a fight.  Besides, with virtually no Luck points, he's frankly rather boring to fight with.  I also did not realize that "Idiot Savant" was useful for the experience gain rate for all characters, so he has been leveling with a 1.21 multiplier for his XP when it could have been a healthy 1.478.  We're left with a slower-leveling character with neither fun perks nor enough perks to help him win at combat (which is unavoidable and the primary cause for death in Fallout 4).

In the end, I am left with a bit of a catch 22^2:
  • Take the fun perks first, catch a lot of death retread for the survival perks I neglected.   Take those survival perks first, it's boring gameplay until I have time for the fun perks.  
  • Considering Survival Mode is forcing me to retread a lot, and I don't have the free time to spare, I probably shouldn't be playing it.  Considering Survival Mode is the only game mode worth playing, it's either that or stop playing entirely.
Time will tell if the enthusiasm from my Fallout 4 second wind can overcome to gravity of this cognitive dissonance.  A lot of that hinges on if I can stick to one character build and do well enough playing it that the death retread doesn't drive me away.
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