As you progress through the main quest of ME:A you unlock cryo pods, waking colonists from stasis. Different groups of colonists provide you with a variety of buffs (if you wake up a lot of scientists, you get science-related perks; if you wake up people with a military background instead, you’ll get different perks.) What perks you’ll have available is dependent on your progress in the game – you start with a limited number available, and more options appear later. By the end of the game you’ll be able to choose a maximum of 19 of the 28 possible perks.
Some perks just require you to have landed on a certain planet (I’ve marked the planet names with spoiler tags for the spoiler-averse) – you don’t actually have to do anything on the planet to unlock these, just land on it. Some perks require you to have purchased other perks first as pre-requisites, some of them require you to have reached a certain viability threshold on their associated planet to unlock, and some have both a pre-req and a viability requirement.
I’ve added some opinions and clarification for perks that have misleading or confusing in-game explanations.
The Starter Perks (these are the ones you’ll have available after the AVP system is introduced to you as part of a quest):
Lab Technicians. Gets you 100 Milky Way Research Data every 45 minutes (this is 45 minutes of played game time, not real time, and it doesn’t stack. Once the timer runs out it doesn’t start up again until you claim the reward from an AVP terminal on your ship or the Nexus, so you can’t just leave it running for 3 hours and come back and claim 400 research. All the “returns X on a timer” perks work this way.)
Comments: A very, very good perk – not only is Milky Way research one of the harder ones to get, this is also a pre-requisite for several other very strong perks.
Mining Operations. Returns a random grab-bag of minerals (mostly common and uncommon) every 45 minutes.
Comments: An okay perk – as I level up I find myself running low on the common/uncommon minerals more than the rares and ultra-rares, since you need a lot. On the other hand if you have a decent materials vendor available (or just do a lot of mining/ground node pickups) you can do fine without it.
Improved Development. Pre-requisite: Lab Technicians. Improves research return from scanning by 10% (this applies to both your personal scanner and your ship scanner).
Comments: Another very strong pick – not only does it increase your available research pool for all types, it’s a pre-requisite. If you really want to maximize your research gains, hold off on scanning anything you can return to until you have this perk and its upgrade.
Expanded Field Analysis. Pre-requisite: Mining Operations. Adds additional common mining nodes.
Comments: Lets SAM bug you even more often as you drive around. Yay.
Munitions. Provides a drop of random consumables (1-2 items) every 45 minutes.
Comments: Good perk if you use a lot of consumables, especially RPGs. Pass on this one if you don’t.
Hunting Parties. A grab-bag of random organic crafting material every 45 minutes.
Comments: I find I get more than enough just from killing things.
Special Forces. Provides a grab-bag of random tech materials every 45 minutes.
Comments: Again, you can get plenty from enemy drops and, especially, chests.
Reconnaissance. Reveals hidden caches (containing gear and salvage) near your forward stations.
Comments: A decent source of materials (from breaking down gear), credits, and weapon mods. The contents of the caches scale with your level, and they can be fun to figure out how to get to. Note: avoid if you have map OCD unless you’re prepared to track them all down, since they’ll all show up as waypoints on your map.
Advanced Training. Requires one of the four Military perks above. +10% encounter XP (doesn’t affect quest XP gain, just XP from killing mobs.)
Comments: If you want it, get Munitions or Reconnaissance to open it up. The bonus XP can add up if you do a lot of exploring and sidequests.
Always Prepared. Requires Munitions, 70% viability on Eos. Adds an extra consumable slot.
Versatility. Requires Always Prepared and Eos viability at 90%. Adds another extra consumable slot.
Comments: If you use consumables, you probably want these. If you don’t, you don’t.
APEX Tactics. Significantly boosts credit return from strike team lockboxes (I went from averaging 30 credits each to around 80 credits.) I suspect the lockboxes are bugged, silver/gold are supposed to return more credits than bronze but don’t, and taking this perk gives them the correct values. Regardless, the gain is a lot higher than the 15% it claims in the description.
- Financial Infrastructure. Returns 500 credits every 45 minutes.
- Financial Infrastructure II. Now returns 750 credits every 45 minutes.
- Grey Market Connections. Improvement to buy/sell prices (-/+ 10%, from memory.)
Comments: Mostly useful as a pre-requisite. Brings down prices for quest items you have to buy.
Market Dominance. Requires Grey Market Connections. Adds a few items to a few vendors.
Comments: If the items were unique, or if vendor-bought gear were good, this might be worth considering. As it is, it’s really only useful as a pre-req or to minimize the amount of save/reload you have to do if you’re buying gear for deconstruction into materials.
Trade Capacity. Increases inventory capacity to 150 items.
SPOILER Perks (both Military)
- APEX Tactics II. Requires APEX Tactics, 70% viability. Further increases credit gain from strike team credit lockboxes – I saw an average of 2-300 credits per.
- Ears to the Ground. Requires 90% viability. 20% chance to get a gear/weapon drop from strike team missions.
SPOILER Perks (all Science)
Accelerated Research. Requires Lab Technicians. Your lab techs now return in 30 minutes instead of 45.
Comments: Only useful if you return to the Tempest or Nexus more frequently than every 45 minutes or alt-tab out of the game, do something else, and collect your research every half hour.
- Improved Development II. Requires Improved Development and 90% viability. Increases your research from scanning by an additional 10% for a total of +20%, still applies to both your personal and ship scanner.
- Innovation. Requires Improved Development II and 90% viability (which seems like a redundantly unnecessary duplicate redundancy). Adds an extra augment slot to all crafted items.
Comments: I’m Pathfinder Ryder, and this is my favourite cryo pod on the Nexus.
SPOILER Perks (all Commerce)
Grey Market Connections II. Requires Grey Market Connections, 70% viability. Further improves buy/sell prices (to -/+ 20%, from memory – I forgot to write that one down. Might be 5 and 10%.)
Comments: Again, mostly useful as a pre-req.
Supply Lines. Requires Financial Infrastructure II or Grey Market Connections II, 90% viability. Doubles the number of crafting materials and consumables for sale on vendors.
Comments: can be handy when crafting higher-tier gear, which requires a lot of common materials or if you buy a lot of consumables. If you want this one, the two Grey Market Connections perks are the stronger prerequisite picks since they open up other potentially useful options.
- Trade Capacity II. Requires Trade Capacity, 70% viability. Increases your inventory to a total of 200 items.
- Fusion Mod Support. Requires Market Dominance, 90% viability. Halves the penalties of Fusion Mods.
Comments: the best reason to get Market Dominance.
SPOILER Perks (both Science)
Expanded Field Analysis II. Requires Expanded Field Analysis I, 90% viability. Adds even more rich mining zones to your map.
Comments: Pathfinder, this area can be mined for resources.
Accelerated Mining. Requires Mining Operations, 70% viability. Mining Operations now returns in 30 minutes instead of 45.
Original Link – Continuation of discussion