One of my favorite announcements to come during E3 didn't come from the show floor, but from Bethesda's forums. During a fan interview , Fallout: New Vegas lead designer Josh Sawyer confirmed that traits would once again be part of character creation. I'm ashamed of myself for not asking the same question earlier, but I'd assumed the return of traits would be too good to be true - outside of isometric perspective and turn-based combat, traits are the classic Fallout feature I missed most in Fallout 3. After the jump I'll tell you why, and reveal an exclusive new trait you'll get to try out in New Vegas.
What's so great about traits?
In Fallout 1 and 2, traits were game-changers that made every play-through different from the last. Choosing a pair of character-altering modifiers at the outset of your quest defined both your strengths and your weaknesses, and thus your play style. You could choose a trait like Bruiser, which increases your strength stat but reduced your action points and combine that with Gifted, which increases all seven of your SPECIAL stats but reduces your skillpoints, creating a slow but powerful melee character with a lot of potential at higher levels—though you'd be reliant on finding skill-boosting books to realize it. Or you might choose Fast Shot, which reduces the number of action points required to attack but disables your ability to target specific body parts, with One Hander, which sharpens your accuracy with one-handed weapons but reduces your aim with two-handed equipment to create an expert gunslinger who'll fill enemies with lead before they know what hit'em. A pacifist player could choose Good Natured, which boosts your starting First Aid, Doctor, Speech and Barter skills but reduces your weapon skills and Skilled, which gives you extra skill points every level but reduces your perk frequency to one every four levels to build a character who can talk or buy his way out of most situations.
Where'd they go?
While I disagree with Bethesda's decision to remove traits from Fallout 3, I understand why they did it. A new player coming to Fallout 3 could easily choose major game-changing traits without knowing what he was signing up for, creating a character that wasn't suited to the way he liked to play and basically breaking the game for him. And, since you choose traits before you start actually playing, a first-time player wouldn't appreciate the effects of a trait like Bloody Mess because he wouldn't have seen what the game was like when people didn't transform into explosions of gore from the slightest touch. It's a fair point.
Thankfully, Obsidian has capitalized on the fact that gamers have now been re-introduced to Fallout, and so New Vegas is the perfect opportunity to bring back traits. The number of players who will buy New Vegas without having played Fallout 3 is probably going to be relatively small, so it's safe to take off the training wheels and let us make some game-changing decisions. Along with the Hardcore mode they're introducing, which requires us to stay hydrated, limits our ammo-carrying capacity and makes stim packs heal over time rather than instantly, it looks like New Vegas is shaping up to be a much more flexible Fallout than its predecessor when it comes to different ways to play.
The new trait
So far Obsidian has confirmed two traits: an updated version of the old Small Frame trait, which gives an agility bonus but makes you more prone to broken limbs; and a new one called Four Eyes, which gives your character a bonus to perception while wearing glasses and a penalty when not wearing them. Because I asked real nice, they've now revealed a third: Kamikaze. It's a trait familiar to those of us who played the first games, and like the Kamikaze trait in Fallout 1 and 2, it suits players with an aggressive fighting style—you get 10 extra action points, but your Damage Threshold is reduced by two.
(Damage Threshold is another Fallout 1 and 2 feature I'm glad that Obsidian is bringing back. In New Vegas, armor has a Damage Threshold value. If your armor's DT is 12 and an enemy hits you for 15 damage, you take three points of damage. If an attack does less damage than your DT number, you take zero damage.)
It'll be a little different, having this trait in real-time/VATS combat. I can imagine that Kamikaze will reward a hit-and-run approach to combat. Jump out from cover, activate VATS and cue up as many attacks as you can, then (if anything survives) duck back behind cover before they can hit you back and punch through your weakened armor. Stealth players will get a big benefit out of this, too, since you'll probably already be wearing light armor and it's important to have a vicious first-strike capability when you do come out of hiding.
It's variations in player characters like this that helped make the first two Fallouts so much fun to replay, and I'm thrilled to see it transfer over to the reinvented series.