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I am getting back into New Vegas after a significant absence. I am trying to decide between a Gun build and an Energy Weapons build.

Which is better?

I am looking for:

  • Perk selections
  • specific weapons (uniques/weapon mods), and how to get them
  • what you tried that worked
  • what you tried that didn't work
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I generally prefer gun builds when I go ranged for New Vegas, mostly because of this beast of a gun:

Its high damage/attack means I can pretty much 1 shot anything in the game, including all the difficult DLC zones like lonesome road. For the more difficult enemies, I will use the hand loaded ammo to go with the shot.

The only drawback is that if you are playing on hardcore, the ammo is extremely heavy and scarce.

Since most of my fights tend to happen at extreme range where VATS isn't as useful, I tend to focus more on crit and damage with my perks:

  • Black Widow/Lady Killer for 10% damage to opposing sex
  • Cherchez La Femme/Confirmed Bachelor for 10% damage to same sex
  • Bloody Mess (5% damage), note some people doesn't like this for the gibbing effect
  • Hand Loader for the awesome hand loaded ammo that does tons of damage
  • Finesse for more crit chance (this is only useful if you are spotted)
  • Better Criticals for even more damage when hitting for criticals
  • Living Anatomy for bonus damage and to see if a target is armored or not (so you can swap from incendiary ammo to AP ammo)
  • Robotics Expert to kill them faster. Sentry robots are annoying.

And some more generally useful skills:

  • Silent Running to help boost your sneak, which is extremely important.
  • Jury Rigging so you can repair your guns more easily
  • Weapon Handling to help you lower the str requirement for the rifle.
  • Strong Back to carry that extra ammo/gun around
  • Pack Rat to drastically reduce ammo weight
  • Sniper, for those situations where you are too close and have to hit the head to kill someone, then you can still have VATS to fall back on.

Also, remember you need high luck to boost your critical chance, but there are items in the game that permenantly improve luck. Lucky shades, naughty nightware (though I don't recommend you wear this in combat :P), and the +1 luck implant can be found in the base game and there are DLC items that boost luck as well.

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Thanks for the tip on Hand Loader. It was a perk that I ignored before as useless, but it makes a huge difference. – ChargingPun Sep 12 '12 at 18:21

I typically mix and match. I start with guns in the early game, and then as the game progresses I move into energy weapons.

From the start, I like to follow this progression:

  • A generic pistol or rifle (ie, the one you get from the tutorial, Courier's Stash, or a 9/10mm from early gang fights)
  • That Gun - you can buy it early on in Novac. It's a 5.56 revolver (so it counts for many GRA challenges), it packs a major punch, and it's easy to get early on.
  • Ratslayer - from the Broc Flower cave, it can be tricky to kill the rats in there, but it is a mainstay weapon of my arsenal for most of the game - silent, long distance, night vision scope, light weight, etc

If you've got the GRA expansion, Sleepytyme is worth buying from the Gun Runner's Kiosk - it's a silenced 10mm SMG that packs a huge punch in close range or against multiple targets. If you have Lonesome Road, you can find Riot Shotguns pretty easily on Marked Men (although they exist outside of the expansion as well) which are similarly powerful up close when the fecal matter is impacting the rotating blades.

Once I make it to level 20 or so, I typically have high enough guns stat that I can drop points in energy weapons, so I'll grab:

  • Q-35 Matter Modulator - low requirements (25 energy weapons) and it packs a pretty decent punch.
  • YCS/186 - hard hitting, but requires a very high energy weapons skill, unfortunately.

But honestly, I tend to prefer the Holorifle - it packs a major punch, does damage over time, and is one of the more powerful weapons in the game. The only downside is that you can only repair it with Weapon Repair Kits, so make sure that you max out your chips in Dead Money and find the Weapon Repair Kit code for the vending machine. That way, you can return to the abandoned BoS bunker for more kits if you need them. (protip: get the stimpak code too!)

By the higher levels, the Holorifle was my go-to gun for direct engagements, with the Ratslayer backing me up against soft targets or in stealth. Sleepytyme or the Riot Shotgun was a close third, being useful in close quarters when the long reload and bad hipfire accuracy of the rifles was of concern.

Some weapons I can say aren't worth the trouble:

  • LAER - does heavy damage against robots, but durability wise it's terrible!
  • Sonic Emitter - just kind of a meh weapon overall.
  • Pew Pew - you get this for finishing the Sunset Sarsaparilla side quest, and it's powerful, but a little ammo-hog and a pain to aim
  • .45 Auto - Honest Hearts is littered with these, but I didn't find them to be terribly useful.
  • Gobi Campaign Scout Rifle - I used to swear by this weapon, but I just don't like it much anymore. I frequently will take Ratslayer instead, if I've got a good energy rifle that can fill this "heavy damage/hard target" slot. The other downside is that you have to pick a "very hard" lock to get it.
  • Heavy weapons of pretty much any type - for the weight, you can carry stuff that's quite a bit more powerful, in my opinion.

I went out of my way to collect a few of these, and I was sorely disappointed.

Perk wise, I can say these were more or less essential:

  • Jury Rigging - get this ASAP, it's no good for the Holorifle, but being able to repair your gear with anything you come across is super helpful.
  • Weapon Handling - for low-STR builds, this is a must.
  • Rapid Reload - the Holorifle in particular takes a while to reload
  • Hand Loader - I kind of can go either way on this perk, but it is quite a bit better with the ED-E reloading bench "upgrade" that you get from having Lonesome Road installed.

Beyond that, it kind of depends on what you're packing. Rifles and 2-handed guns tend to be far more powerful and useful in the late game, so I'd focus on perks that boost those, like Commando and Sniper, over perks like Gunslinger or Run 'n Gun, for instance.

Also, if you've got all 4 expansions, you've got major amounts of skill and perk choices, so don't fret - chances are you'll have more than a few levels where you just don't have anything interesting to pick. You'll probably end up with quite a few "junk" skill picks as a result.

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