Fallout 4 Survival Mode impressions

by: Randy -
More On: Fallout 4

I'm a sucker for survival modes. I'll admit, however, that Fallout 4's Survival Mode doesn't sound like a great idea at first. Just seems like too many systems working against one another. Just seems like an overemphasis on things that don't make Fallout 4 fun for me personally. Just seems like I'd rather skip it.

I was wrong. I'm still a sucker for survival modes, and Fallout 4's puts a lot of strictures in place that I like. You can scope the full 1.5 patch notes, but here's how my first hour or so went in the new Survival difficulty mode.

After a minute, minute-and-a-half of my arm getting tired at the water pump, I realize that water is no longer a healing elixir. My hit points aren't going up. Instead, the controller keeps buzzing, saying I'm over encumbered and can't run.

Sure, that’s nothing new in Fallout, right? But looking at my current health effects, it shows that being over encumbered isn't just slowing me down to a stroll, it's also giving me a -2 to agility and -2 to endurance, and inflicts “periodic damage.” It's a physical pain to pack all this stuff around—all this stuff that never used to be an encumbrance problem. My controller buzzes again and, oof, there goes another 10 hit points.

I limp my way to a workbench to offload the extra weight. I’ve gone from under 200 lbs. of  encumbrance to suddenly carrying 1,400 lbs. of stuff. Seriously, I now have three-quarters of a ton of garbage jammed into my pockets.

Specializing in melee and hand-to-hand combat is going to pay off. I start taking ammo out of my inventory and shoving it into the workbench: 225 rounds of .308 ammo at 0.041 lbs. each, that equals nine lbs. of weight loss alone. After shedding all my .38, .44, .45, .50 caliber, 10mm, 2mm electromagnetic cartridges, 5mm, flamer fuel, flares (not like I got any use out of those anyway), gamma rounds, mini nukes, missiles, plasma cartridges, railways spikes, and shotgun shells—I’ve quickly lost 1,039 lbs. Wow.

Only 85 lbs. to go to get me back down to fighting weight.

I drop another 41 lbs. in mods; stuff like 10mm standard grips and assaultron front actuated frames, Mr. Handy front warmonger spiked plates and oak baseball bat mods.

The toughest part is dropping off all the health aid stuff. I love me some bloodbug steak chased with a bottle of Bobrov’s Best Moonshine. I’m especially fond of grilled radstag and wine, or yao guai ribs and a shot of vodka. But I’ve gotta lose more weight, so 100+ stimpaks will have to do the heavy lifting (heh) when it comes to healing. But the drugs are coming with me. I’ve been doing this hand-to-hand fighting thing for a while, and being addicted to psycho’s slo-mo effects is the price I’ll pay for survival in combat. With weight being such a major issue, I also abandon my culinary pursuits, living off purified water and stimpak syringes instead of actual food.

But, having done that, I’m now down to 136 lbs. out of 225 lbs. of encumbrance. Looks like I'm good to go. The first big step to acclimating to Survival Mode is shedding the weight, and I'm done with that.

After all the weight loss, I try to quicksave but realize that particular feature is gone in Survival Mode. I need to find a bed in order to save my game. Good thing I'm already in one of my settlements. Finding a bed out in the wild will be far more difficult. Stumbling across one in the wastelands might force me to take a nap right then and there, even if I’m not tired or waiting for more favorable daylight/nighttime conditions.

Sleeping in a settlement bed works fine. I sleep for 24 hours (the max). But I wake up parched and peckish. That second word, “peckish,” is a Britishism meaning “slightly hungry.” I watch English movies. It’s where I learn this kind of stuff. Thankfully my hitpoints came back overnight. Water doesn’t heal anymore, but at least does. A fork and knife icon, along with a water drop icon, appear next to my action points (AP) bar in the lower right, now.

I run for the water pump and, huh, it appears that I now refuse to drink out of the water pump, because it’s not quenching my thirst. What, am I going to have to find a mud puddle to drink out of? Apparently so. I hit up a pond just north of my settlement and kneel down to drink. I take two gulps of the +10 rad water and my thirst goes away—but I’m immediately hit with illness. Great. I’ve got “weakness” now that means I take +20% damage in combat (or in anything dangerous I do, really). And now there’s a red medical bag indicator next to my AP bar. My problem icons are starting to light up like a car dashboard.

Since I’m dumb, I leave all my food behind and try procuring food out in the field, hunting my way across the wasteland. Suddenly, there’s no game in sight; no radstags, no yao guai, not even a bloatfly. With no fast travel, I plant a marker on my map to the next settlement and hope to catch a hot meal there.

I arrive at another settlement and head for the garden, but the rows of corn and squash and what have you must’ve been recently harvested. So I open up the workbench and grab a dozen carrots stashed in there. I eat a couple and I feel properly fed. I head for the next settlement. I don't have an objective in mind, other than to put Survival Mode through the paces. Making a tour of my settlements seems like a nice babystep toward getting acclimated.

So far so good. I’m still afflicted with weakness from my first sip of irradiated water, but that can only be healed by a doctor, I suppose. I don't remember where I can find one. I'm assuming I saw one in Diamond City somewhere, so I can eventually make my way that direction, I suppose.

On the way to the next settlement, I finally run across a solitary bloodbug chilling on a tree. I uppercut the mosquito-like monster, grab the bloodbug meat out of its carcass and eat it. I feel fine. Eating uncooked food runs the risk of further illness, or perhaps just illness in the first place, which I already have from drinking irradiated water.

I run up on a scavenger sitting at a bus stop. I put my fist through their face. I get a notification that my adrenaline levels are pumping up, improving my damage output, at least until I get some sleep which resets my adrenaline levels to zero. This first blush of adrenaline gives me +5% damage. Not a bad start, but that alone isn't going to decisively win any fights. This will be difficult to balance. Do I compile more and more adrenaline without sleeping, or risk losing a lot of gameplay because sleeping is the only way to save my game?

A couple scavengers singe me with laser weapons as I approach the outskirts of Boston proper. Going off muscle memory, I munch on some food to heal. That was stupid. I ate half my stock of carrots, but healing is incredibly slow now. Nothing, especially food, is like a miracle drug anymore.

Scrapping with some midtown mutants, I jam a stimpak into myself. Even stimpak healing is painfully slow compared to vanilla Fallout 4. It’d be a good idea for me to find a place to hide out for a minute. Maybe even find a chair so I can wait out the healing process. But, oh goody, now I’m parched after this fight with -1 to my intelligence. I cop a seat at a nearby bus stop and wait an hour. After the hour’s done, the healing from the stimpak has run its course—good—but now I’m even more thirsty and hungry just from sitting here—not so good.

I reach the outskirts of Goodneighbor. I’m not sure how long I’ve been awake, but the game decides I’m exhausted. I take a -5% hit to my AP refresh rate, at least at first. It obviously gets worse the longer I’m awake. So that’s another trade off: Kill stuff and build adrenaline without sleeping versus getting dinged on my action points for being exhausted. And let’s not forget that I haven’t been able to save my game without sleeping either.

So far, I'm enjoying Survival Mode. I'll probably think otherwise once I'm crippled in a fight and can't auto-heal the crippled limb from a stimpak, but we'll burn that bridge when we come to it. For now, it gives me a good excuse to travel lighter, hunt down a hot meal, pop a Rad-X and sip from a stream, and really pay more attention in combat, since the stakes are higher when it comes to healing and considering how much gameplay I'll lose if I don't survive this fight. I've played some 60 hours of Fallout 4; I'll go ahead and leave Survival Mode on for the next 60. Guess I really am just a sucker for a survival mode.