Fallout 4 Survival Mode Beta Review | The Thirst is Real

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Bethesda recently announced the release of their revamped Fallout 4 Survival Mode, an existing difficulty setting that has now been made much, much tougher. Here are some of my thoughts on what is good about the Fallout 4 Survival Mode beta, and what could be improved, as well as a guide on how to install it (spoiler alert: it’s super easy!)

What are the big changes in Survival Mode?

One of the most brutal and punishing changes — which, by the way, doesn’t have to be a bad thing — is the complete removal of the save feature. Players cannot Quicksave or do a full save through the menu, and Autosaves are a thing of the past. The Sole Survivor can only save by sleeping in a bed of some sort.

Up next is the need for food and drink to sustain you. This feature, called “Wellness”, means you will need to eat food, drink some form of liquid, and even sleep in order to prevent yourself from becoming hungry, thirsty or tired. You will notice that your stats start to reduce if you ignore your Wellness, including some debuffs such as Fatigue. Fatigue is almost like a mirror of Radiation, but instead of reducing your max HP it reduces your max AP instead, making combat a little tougher. This can easily stack up if you go without rest or sustenance for an extended period of time!

There’s also no fast travel, enemies no longer appear on your compass unless you’re using a Recon Scope, and my personal favourite and simultaneously least favourite change: when overencumbered, you have a chance to break your legs!

It’s also worth mentioning that the console is disabled while in Survival difficulty, and mods are disabled entirely in the beta it seems. So no making it easier for yourself through other means! You can read the full list of changes here.

What does the new Survival Mode do well?

I’ll be honest, I usually played Fallout 4 on Normal difficulty. I didn’t even venture into the harder difficulties, though I wish I had. I certainly didn’t try Survival mode before the changes. However, I always felt like it needed a bit more of a challenge, and that the apocalypse really didn’t feel all that threatening. I also felt that, much like in Skyrim, food and eating weren’t really all that important, and that made me sad. I had so many Stimpacks that I just used them rather than eating or drinking, so it felt a bit wasted.

Now, eating and drinking is a necessity, and Stimpacks are pretty limited. They also have downsides, such as making me thirstier when I use them. This is exactly what I’ve wanted from survival games, and what I feel many games have done poorly in the past.

It’s breathed new life into the game, and made me want to challenge it on a bigger scale by playing (mostly) melee throughout. This confuses many people who stop by my stream while I’m playing, because they think that I must’ve lost my ranged weapons, or that I’m being silly. But it’s been a lot of fun, if sometimes a little frustrating.

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What does the new Survival Mode not do as well?

I wanted a bit of a challenge, but this does feel somewhat heavy-handed. At time of typing this post, my character is currently burdened by a -65% AP regeneration rate due to Lethargy (an illness that requires antibiotics) and a few other debuffs due to being Overtired and Thirsty. This is just some of the status changes you can expect.

I also would like to say I drink a lot of water in real life. My sole survivor is constantly thirsty. While I like that there’s a Wellness mechanic in place, my good friend Heather over at Hey, Heather Bee! stated it perfectly:

I do not think there is enough water in the entire Commonwealth that could quench the Sole Survivor’s constant dehydration!

I felt like I was constantly hungry, thirsty, tired, or any combination of the three. I would sleep, instantly thirsty. I drink, now I’m hungry. In the few minutes it took me to run to get the water from my water pump, I was tired again. This started reminding me of what I didn’t enjoy about DayZ Standalone and its survival mechanics — the hunger and thirst in that game were too punishing. In Fallout 4, at least the needs are easier to satisfy and it’s not possible to, oh, I don’t know, overcook your damn meat so it has a chance to give you food poisoning (really, Bohemia Interactive? Did ya really think that was a fun gameplay mechanic?)

The added challenge of not being able to save without sleeping has been interesting, and I do appreciate it, however because of the other harsh aspects of Survival it can become really annoying having to repeat long sections of the game because you died to something almost entirely unavoidable. For example, I’ve run around a corner into a shotgun blast that no amount of reaction speeds could prevent, or I’ve had a grenade lobbed at me and got stuck on my companion when trying to run away from it and instantly died. The insta-deaths are one thing, but if you combine that with having to go back a long way because it was the last bed you found, that can become really frustrating. What might be a good solution to that is the ability to craft a sleeping bag you can carry with you and lay down — maybe indoors only? — in order to rest and save when there are no enemies nearby. But I’m not sure how that would balance with everything else in play.

Should you try it?

If you are getting a bit bored of the status quo in your Fallout 4 playthrough, I definitely think the new Survival Mode has a lot of fun elements. Even better if you were already playing on Very Hard or Survival to begin with. I personally would recommend a new playthrough to really get a good feel for how the difficulty mode changed, especially as the early levels were especially unforgiving and I spent most of my time running around looking for a bed to save my game!

It does however need some adjustments to make it more fun as opposed to just being really hardcore. It’s not that it’s especially difficult, but you have to be quite creative in combat and sometimes it’s tempting to just hide away in places where your enemy can’t hit you and try tossing grenades or shooting from a very long way away.

How to enable Survival Mode beta

  • Open up your Steam library
  • Right-click on Fallout 4 and click “Properties”
  • Click on the “Betas” tab
  • In the dropdown box, select “beta – Survival Beta Update”

Your game will then need to update, but it’s pretty small and shouldn’t take too long. Then you’re all set, just hop into the game and either load up your old save or start a new one, but make sure you go to Options > Gameplay and switch your difficulty to Survival to try out the new features!