Fallout 4 – Survival Mode Blues

Hey guys Kripparian Joe here.

So I’m writing this real quick because I want some feedback on Survival mode in Fallout 4 before I get to script writing for my followup video later in the month. I’ve already gone through Far Harbor and Nuka World. I restarted with a fresh character so I could do second runs of the DLC in survival mode, while making different choices and seeing how I feel about the base game a year later.

Survival mode has become a gigantic chore and, after only a few measly hours, I am ready to throw in the towel. I can’t do another shitty slog so soon after No Man’s Sky. Especially on a game I’ve already played and, surprisingly, am still a little sick of a year later. I don’t think it was a secret how much I was disappointed in Fallout 4.

Survival adds a lot of things from hardcore mode in New Vegas. Some of these are fine: hunger, thirst, exhaustion. There’s also illness and infections. A big one is saving can only be done if you sleep in a bed–even if it’s only for an hour. I think this was done because someone thought a checkpoint system would add tension–maybe even trying to replicate our heroes at FROMsoftware a little bit–without really understanding what it would mean.

On their own these changes could be good. It’s really weird that I can’t find any meters that display thirst, hunger, etc. You just have to guess until a message pops up saying you’re hungry? I don’t know maybe I missed a menu somewhere in the Pip-Boy.

And that’s sort of why I’m writing this because I want to make sure I’m not missing something simple with this mode. I don’t want to make the video and a bunch of people tell me “Hey you missed X, Y, and Z. No wonder you didn’t like it!” I want to give Survival mode a fair evaluation because I love the idea. And I think it’s cool that Bethesda gave enough of a shit to add something like this after the game was released.

The big issue, however, is that these aren’t the only changes. They messed around with damage modifiers too. You and enemies do a LOT more damage. There’s also a mechanic called “Adrenaline” which increases your damage the more enemies you kill, but sleeping makes it fade away. That’s cool! There’s a risk vs reward to how long you go without saving, and whether you want to create a checkpoint and lose your buff, or risk continuing on. Great idea!

However, there’s two things wrong with these changes:

  1. The game is still Fallout 4.
  2. The damage modifiers don’t fucking work.

So 1. there might seem like a joke but it isn’t. The game still has hitscan bullets. You can’t reliably avoid damage. And I mean that as exactly as it sounds, unless you’re fighting creatures that are slower than you–mirelurks for examples–you are going to take damage unless you can capitalize on sneak attacks.

But that brings us directly to point 2. in that enemy health–or player damage–isn’t set properly. So even though YOU die in 1 or 2 hits, enemies still take a crap ton of bullets. There was a bloatfly in the swamp starting zone, you know the one to the west of Sanctuary right at the start, that took me about 10 bullets to kill when every shot landed. A BLOATFLY. In the STARTING AREA.

Some raiders take fewer hits than that! But then you also take damage at the same time, which is wildly inconsistent. The three raiders farther south, under the electrical tower, needed to shoot me a few times before I died. Whereas the lone scavenger to the east of Sanctuary could One-Shot-One-Kill-Lol-I’m-Widowmaker me. Meanwhile it took upwards of five bullets for me to kill her, including a sneak attack at the start of the fight.

The event that’s made me want to say Fuck It is that I got to the hidden camp a little farther east of this where you get ambushed by a raider and a dog. At this point I had struggled through so many bullet sponge enemies that, at hour 2 or 3, I was out of ammo. So I was police batoning my way through mole rats. This dog ran at me. I hid behind cover to avoid the raider’s gunfire. I bludgeoned the dog to death without taking damage. The raider got one shot on me. So I raised my Pip-Boy to heal.

At this moment, in a freeze frame shot that would fit in with the Emperor’s New Groove, I saw the red incoming grenade warning blip in front of me before the Pip-Boy was fully raised. It was only up for a frame or three before the game paused. I used a stimpack. Drank some purified water. I lowered my Pip-Boy and was immediately–and I do mean IMMEDIATELY–hit by a molotov cocktail and was killed instantly.

Reload back in Sanctuary at the bed I made to save. Everything I had just killed back alive. All that progress lost.

So if anyone knows how to make this mode playable, or if I just need to Git Gud, or if these changes are like trying to hide the taste of dog shit by covering it with chocolate sprinkles, I would like to hear from you. Before I restart and play the game on Hard Mode instead for a relaxing playthrough.

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13 thoughts on “Fallout 4 – Survival Mode Blues

  1. Yeah, the game is broken like that. I’ve seen enough people play survival mode to tell you that the only way of fixing it is with mods.

    The biggest problem is that here, unlike in New Vegas, survival is a difficutly, instead of a independent mode.

    And that molotovs are broken beyond repair. So yeah, you don’t need to gid gud or anything, just get a better mod that does all of this and more.

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    1. I think that, more generally, explosive damage in Fallout 4 is broken in general, especially with the Survival Mode damage increase. I don’t know exactly how it works, but Bethesda don’t seem to have accounted for the fact that explosions hit multiple limbs at once. So let’s say you have a rifle and a grenade which are both supposed to deal 100 damage. If you get in the leg with the rifle, you take 100 damage to your overall health and 100 damage to your leg (with a chance of crippling it). If the grenade goes off directly at your feet, you’ll take 100 damage to the left leg, 100 damage to the right leg, and 50-odd damage to the torso depending on the grenade’s blast radius — so 250-odd damage to your overall health (and a chance of crippling up to three body parts).

      I could be wrong about the systems here, but it seems to be the consensus that explosive damage is simply busted. Molotovs could be particularly dangerous since they have a very wide blast radius, which means they’re likely to hit most of your limbs, and they explode on impact.

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      1. That method of calculating damage would be insanely broken… and also par for the course with Bethesda. I hope that isn’t the case but it would explain a lot.

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    2. Yeah it’s a really big oversight that the survival mechanics were tied to the damage bump. I think I’ll bring that up in the video.

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  2. I don’t think I’d say you’re doing anything wrong. My first and only playthrough of Fallout 4 has been in survival mode and for the most part I love it, but a lot of my reasons for liking the specific changes survival mode brings wouldn’t hold up on a second playthrough of the game. I’ve also modded the game to address a few of my problems with survival mode.

    The increased difficulty and lack of fast travel are my favorite changes. They successfully work together to encourage a very cautious, exploratory style of gameplay that I’ve never really done in a Bethesda game before. I typically am a slave to the quest log and just go to the places and do the things it tells me to. In survival mode, especially in the first 15 levels or so, almost anything could one hit kill me, so I had to play it safe. I just explored, gathered supplies, and only got into fights I knew I could win. Sneaking was a necessity. I don’t think I did a single quest until I was level 10. It made the post-apoclyptic wasteland truly feel like a dangerous and terrifying place. Even once I started doing quests, I had to make sure I memorized the safest routes between my settlements and my destinations. And yes, I avoided bloatflies and bloodbugs like the plague.

    That said, that kind of difficulty does not pair well with the constant loss of progress. I immediately had to get a Campsite mod that lets you craft a carryable sleeping bag so I could save when I needed to. Bethesda games are particularly infuriating to lose progress in. No one wants to loot the same building 5 times in a row because they keep getting killed by a mirelurk. I even recently installed a save that autosaves every 5 minutes because my game kept crashing, and I don’t miss the save restrictions one bit.

    The focus on exploration is also the reason I don’t think I would want to play survival if I had already played the game before. I hate most fast travel systems in games, so the lack of it was the biggest draw to survival mode for me. I loved becoming intimately familiar with certain areas of the world and learning how to navigate without the map, but that kind of thing wouldn’t be fun if I had already learned about the world before. Near the 100 hour mark of my playthrough (I’m ~150 hours into my playthrough now, still nowhere near being done!) I did start to get tired of all the walking, but coincidentally that was also the point at which I gained access to Vertibirds. I think they’re a really great way of getting places quickly that avoids the break in consciousness of the traditional fast travel system and keeps you immersed in the game world.

    So yeah, while I’m loving playing survival mode in Fallout 4, I don’t fault you at all for not wanting to continue it, especially if you had problems with the base game. If I ever play through the game again after finishing this playthrough (which is doubtful), it definitely will be on one of the regular difficulties.

    As for mods I installed to make the game playable, the most important for me were:

    1. Craftable Ammunition
    2. Minutemen Quest Relief
    3. Console Enabler
    4. Campsite Mod – for saving on the go
    5. Sleep or Save – so I can save at beds without wasting an hour sleeping
    6. Collection Beacons – These are Misc. items that you can store in any container. When you drop one in a container, you can select which settlement you want the items in the container to be transported to, and they will get there after 1 day in-game. With the reduced carry weight and lack of fast travel, this was super helpful so I could still collect crafting components and transport all my extra items between settlements easily. I really enjoy this and the campsite mod for allowing me to relax the rules of survival a bit, but keeping the implementation in-line with the rules of the game. It’s perfectly feasible to imagine activating a collection beacon alerts one of my settlers to go pick up supplies at that location and bring them back to base for me.

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    1. Hey thanks for the thorough response! I have to approve messages for them to show up so I guess that’s why there are duplicates. You added some more between comments so I left two of them up. The mods interest me but I don’t want to change any of the gameplay for the video unless I do a look at mods specifically. Which is a shame for me personally because I always played these games modded before.

      It’s weird to me that the damage bump flattens out back to normal difficulty after a few levels. That’s almost enough for me to continue with it but the bugs and crashed make me unable to risk it. It happened once already and I lost progress. I can’t do that again.

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  3. Low level survival mode pretty much necessitates stealth, and quite a bit of running away. Facing more than one enemy at once is very dangerous. Personally it took me about 10 tries to do the first mission for the Abernathies, and I waited for a long time before going back to Concord to help the minutemen.
    Having armor makes a pretty big difference, as does the HP gain from leveling up. By about level 10 combat is significantly easier, especially once you have access to not-terrible weapons. If you start a new game you can wait for a bit before enabling survival, which might make it more enjoyable?

    Other tips I can think of:
    Far Harbor added the ability to make caltrops at chemistry stations using only steel. They were super helpful for me at low levels to make sure I wasn’t rushed down by melee enemies.
    There are torso armor mods that reduce explosive damage by 50% and 75%. Incredibly useful for survival mode.
    Do Brotherhood missions as soon as possible. For the first two you can mostly just hide behind Danse and let him do the work, and the weapon you get as reward is really strong. Later, you get to use vertibirds for fast travel, which speeds the game up a ton.
    You can use a water pump to convert empty bottles into purified water, which will give you more than you ever need.
    If you don’t like inventory management, you should probably take the Strong Back and Lone Wanderer perks as soon as possible, since survival mode starts you with a massively reduced carrying capacity. Weapon and crafting perks should pretty much always be top priority, along with Sneak and Ninja. Luck/critical focused builds are also really strong on survival mode. The only guaranteed way to avoid damage is to kill everyone before they have a chance to react.

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    1. Where are you finding enemies to kill for xp before you head south? I did some of the starting places. The mirelurks were tough but I could get them down with kiting. But that used almost all of my ammo so I feel screwed no matter what.

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  4. The only thing I can think of is trying to incline your build heavily towards explosives, because maybe the increased damage to enemies will be enough to take a large chunk of their HP. Though then you’ll probably have to worry about the resources even more than ever. I forgot if they could be crafted in the unmodded game…

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    1. I’m not sure either. I barely did any crafting when I played which is why I liked the idea of survival! So I’d have a reason to mess around with all this stuff. But it’s done so poorly I can’t justify trying.

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  5. I don’t think I’d say you’re doing anything wrong. My first and only playthrough of Fallout 4 has been in survival mode and for the most part I love it (I’m about 150 hours in with no end in sight!), but a lot of my reasons for liking the specific changes survival mode brings wouldn’t hold up on a second playthrough of the game, namely that the difficulty and lack of fast travel really encourage you to become intimately familiar with the world and how to best navigate it safely. In other Bethesda games I’m just a slave to my quest log, but exploration and scavenging for supplies are what drive most of my adventures in Fallout 4.

    I’ve also modded the game to address a few of my personal problems with survival mode. The most important mods for me were:

    Campsites – This lets you craft a carryable sleeping bag for saving on the go. Bethesda games are some of the must frustrating games in the world to lose more than 5 minutes of progress in. No one wants to loot the same building 5 times because they keep getting one-hit-killed by a ghoul.

    Collection Beacons – These are Misc. items that you can store in any container. Storing one inside lets you pick a settlement you want the items in the container to be transported to, and they will get there after 1 day in-game. With the reduced max carry weight, extra weight of items, and lack of fast travel, this was super helpful so I could still collect crafting components and easily transport all my extra items between settlements.

    I really enjoy these two mods for allowing me to relax survival mode a bit, but keeping the implementation in-line with the “rules” of the game. It’s perfectly feasible to imagine activating a collection beacon alerts one of my settlers to go pick up supplies at that location and bring them back to base for me.

    I do echo some of your complaints with damage inconsistencies (and those damn bloatflies – insects in general are some of the toughest enemies in Fallout 4 for me). I haven’t noticed many bullet sponge enemies personally, but I’m about level 60 and the difficulty drops off significantly after about level 30.

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  6. That sounds incredibly frustrating. I recently played New Vegas on very hard but I enjoy it because I’m familiar with the game and stealth crits are very powerful when applied correctly.

    I haven’t played 4 in months but I’d recommend using the dog to tank hits while you ping the enemies. You could also look up good sources of weapons and ammo around the starting areas. Other than that look up ways to optimize a build for maximum efficiency and abuse stealth crit headshots on enemies.

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  7. I never tried survival because of the weight restrictions. I have a character leveled to have every possible carry perk & I still end up overburdened by the time I’m through with just about any single dungeon/contained space/destination, however you’d describe it.

    I think I switched to one of the Witcher expansions after I was done with Fallout & I was constantly aware of how NICE it was not to be constantly worried about my carry weight. I could play the game & get a nice flow going instead of looping back to a chest & offloading stuff.

    Looting a single well equipped gunner can add 50-100 pounds to your total. One enemy! The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the whole thing is badly balanced.

    I read an early review of the game that described fallout as an ‘inventory management game’ with a few shooter elements. I ended up liking Fallout quite a bit –I loved settlement building, I thought Nuka World was a pure delight–but really resented the constraints.

    Anyway. Not an answer to your question at all, except to say that I never bothered with survival and I never felt guilty about it.

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