If you're hungry for solid info on the guts of Fallout 4 [official site], ravenous to dig in then settle back patting your infobelly and daydreaming about what type of character you'll play, good news: Bethesda have cracked open a family-sized can of infoCram.
Here's the big news: as many suspected, Skills are indeed gone, with their effects rolled into a bounteous system of perks with levels of their own. I'll explain.
Right! So, traditionally Fallout characters have had two sets of stats. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system defines primary attributes like strength, agility, and charisma, while Skills governed proficiency in specific, er, skills like lockpicking, melee weapons, and repair. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points are set when you make a character, while Skills were boosted with points earned as you levelled up. On the side of these, it had a series of Perks, a choice very specific bonuses earned every two levels which either give boosts or unlock new abilities. Well, Skills are now gone, rolled into Perks.
Fallout 4's new order has no level cap, slightly faster levelling than Fallout 3, no Skills, and a Perk point every level. It has a big chart of 70 perks - each level of S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attribute unlocks another - each of which has five ranks. For example, Bethesda say, "Gunslinger has ranks that up the range of pistols, add a chance to disarm enemies, and even instant limb crippling shots." Why ditch skills? Bethesda explain:
"The previous Skill system had some confusing parts and ended up spreading your choices too thin. Some of you had questions like: "What's better, the Charisma SPECIAL, or the Speech Skill? Why are assault rifles in Small Guns?" Additionally many Perks simply raised associated Skills. The Gun Nut Perk in Fallout 3 increased two separate Skills. In Fallout 4, the ranks of Gun Nut act as gates for modifying and crafting weapons. Sneak was a skill in Fallout 3, and you simply increased its value. In Fallout 4 Sneak becomes a Perk that not only makes you harder to detect, but wraps in previous perks like Silent Running and Light Step into its ranks. By wrapping these systems together, it keeps the emphasis on your SPECIALs and the level-up choices more rewarding."
This sounds more interesting to me than Fallout 3's system. In Fallout 3, levelling up could mean simply getting an insignificant stat boost you'd never notice - especially if you were trying to raise a skill like Lockpicking, which would only meaningfully change with two levels' worth of points. I dig the sound of every level bringing an actual change. Skill points were a leftover from Black Isle Studios' original Fallouts, which Bethesda's game was quite different to, and felt out of place.
Anywho, here's a vid showing off the Perk progression and some nifty Vault Boy animations on your Pip Boy:
Fallout 4 is coming November 10th.