Fallout 76 was kicking my butt until I respecced into an indestructible tank

Fallout 76 power armour and cat helmet
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Like a lot of folks, I got a nasty case of Fallout Fever thanks to the Fallout TV show, and since I've already milked every mainline game dry, I decided to cautiously return to Fallout 76. I immediately regretted my decision. I was totally lost—even more so than Lucy—and pretty much everything that wasn't your bog standard ghoul or supermutant was kicking my arse. It was enough to make me consider going back into the Vault forever. But I'm glad I persevered. 

If you're a complete newcomer, you might be having an easier go of things. Fallout 76's early quests ease you in, and while level scaling has been in effect since 2020, at lower levels enemies are still more forgiving. You also won't be inappropriately geared, like I was, as a level 50+ character walking around with level 45 guns and armour. Even a small disparity like that can spell trouble. 

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Even after fixing my gear issues, though, Fallout 76 was still a bit of a slog. See, even if you're geared appropriately, if you've not fine-tuned your build, your guns can feel like pea-shooters. And taking a beating costs you a lot more than the time it takes to run back to the site of your death to pick up all of your dropped junk. Repairing armour can be a real time-sink, especially if you don't have any repair kits, which you have to spend Atoms—Fallout 76's premium currency—on. While you can gain Atoms from completing challenges, you'll probably want to save them for neat cosmetic items so you can show off your drip when you bump into other players. 

So I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time running around trying to find material to repair my gear, during which I was still getting my arse kicked, adding more crap to my to-do list. I considered packing it in. I have a massive backlog of excellent games to get through, and I don't really need another live service time-waster. But the desire to get my Fallout fix was just too strong for me to give up. So I decided to learn how to play the game again. And what a shock: actually engaging with the game's systems and not just winging it helped! Who could have known?

Power armour and a very big gun are the two things that have made my life so much easier, but they wouldn't have been as much help if I hadn't spent a while tinkering with my build. Thankfully there are a lot of build crafters out there, and plenty of resources for those looking to create a character who's a bit more stalwart. I found a bunch of ideas on the Fallout Builds site, but ended up settling on one largely inspired by MrWestTek's pleasantly simple Heavy Weapon guide, which breaks down what you need for both end game and levelling variants. 

(Image credit: Bethesda)

I just love using that gatling plasma gun. It's a flipping beast, spitting out mutant-halting death at an alarming rate. It's powered by plasma cores, which do have a bunch of crafting requirements, but most of them are easily obtainable by scrapping junk. What's great about the plasma cores is that just one gives you a whopping 500 shots. Now, the rate of fire means you'll be down to zero faster than you might expect, but even then it feels a lot more economical than most guns. The plasma spread means it's not amazing at long range, but protected within my power armour shell, I can soak up most damage while closing the gap.

It's a flipping beast, spitting out mutant-halting death at an alarming rate.

Really, though, what made my life easier was remembering that legendary perks are a thing, and switching out the one I'd picked years ago for one tailored for people who want to live inside a walking fortress. There are plenty of strong builds that don't require power armour, but there are unsurprisingly so many advantages to being encased in metal. The damage and radiation resistance is a huge boon, and if you're a pack rat like me the increased carry capacity is a godsend.

My initial build was also a power armour build, but I wasn't having much fun with it because I was so at the mercy of fusion cores. These relatively rare items power your suit, and they're drained by doing pretty much anything. There are some basic perks that help to negate this, but I still found myself constantly in need of new ones.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Most veteran players will have more cores than they need, so you can always buy some for caps; lots of players will even be happy to donate them to you. But I wanted to be self-sufficient. The most efficient way to get charged cores is by taking over workshops and powering them up. Wait for a bit and you'll have a bunch of fully-charged cores. But this can be quite a bit of work, and you might face competition from other players. I also didn't like the thought of needing to keep doing this over and over again. 

Thanks to the Electric Absorption legendary perk, this is no longer an issue. At its base level, the perk gives you a 10% chance to recharge your fusion core through enemy attacks. Spending perk coins by scrapping unwanted perks, or from the SCORE card, will let you eventually upgrade that to 20%. I'm currently up to 16%, and I've not needed to replace my core since I started using the card. Now I never leave my power armour. 

While you don't get your first legendary perk slot until level 50, that's not going to be a long wait. First of all, you can get a level boost straight away, and like Morgan says, you're not missing out by boosting straight to level 20. Getting 30 more levels is a doddle. There are a bunch of power levelling strategies, but you'll probably have the most fun just hopping into a casual group and getting stuck into lots of events. It's possible to hit 50 in a few hours, or even less, but I don't recommend rushing—even though the legendary perks are tantalising. Level 50+ enemies are a lot tankier, so you'll want to make sure you're fully prepared first.  

(Image credit: Bethesda)

You'll definitely want to spend a bit of time building a proper base first. And to plonk it down somewhere near resources you'll always need. For me, that's copper and lead, which are required for repairs and to create more ammunition. Even when death becomes a rare occurrence, you're still going to be taking damage, and if you're largely relying on a single gun like I am, you're going to need to make sure it's always in tip top condition. I've been living just southeast of Fort Defiance, where I've got an excavator set up to constantly rip lead out of the ground. If you move there, just remember to set up lots of turrets, or you might come home to find your house flattened. 

Now I feel like I'm living my best post-apocalyptic life. There are stronger builds and better legendary perks, but last night I had to leave the game running while I tried to stop a feral cockapoo from destroying a leather sofa, at which point an army of robots ambushed me, and when I finally returned to my PC I'd only lost a sliver of health. That's good enough for me. Eventually I'll have so many fusion cores that I'll be able to switch to another perk, but right now I feel unstoppable. 

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.