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Fallout 4: Survival Difficulty

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Chuckles    920

Survival Mode is something many of us realized we wanted to experiment with once we had spent quality time playtesting Fallout 4 toward the end of its development. At launch, we discovered many of you wanted the same thing. So how did these changes come about?

Two of our designers, Josh Hamrick and Jon Paul Duvall, used our internal Game Jam to visualize what an overhauled Survival Mode might look like in Fallout 4. Thanks to their Game Jam success, we then added several programmers, and they built out many of the ideas we’d all been setting aside while playtesting.

Today, we would like to show you our changes to Survival Mode – how they work and why we added them. We’ll be somewhat vague about the specifics of certain things because we’re looking forward to you discovering them on your own and with each other.

If you’re playing Fallout 4, you can now play Survival Mode on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Watch your step…


“My favorite moments in games are when my decisions are validated, even when that means a poor choice leads to things going sideways or completely south. The stories that those moments deliver are always the best. I think that's the common thread running through all of the changes we've made."
– Josh Hamrick; BGS Designer, Survivor

Tough Choices

At a high level, we wanted to force you to make interesting choices. We did that by bringing more contrasting motivations to Fallout 4 using the type of circular systems you might find in a game like Dark Souls. (By which we mean, two or more systems that push against each other.) This resulted in four major pillars for Survival Mode.

  1. Strategy: Intensify decisions involving when to get into combat versus when to avoid it, and also make you think more about what gear to take into combat. Then back up those decisions with faster, more brutal fights.
  2. Exploration: Slow down the pace of the game and encourage players to explore the nooks and crannies of the world.
  3. Resource Management: Balance out items in the world that may be too easy to acquire or horde, giving players more to consider when planning their current loadout.
  4. Role Playing: Increase the realism of the world and the issues one might face there.


Here’s how these goals are realized with some of the big changes in Survival Mode.

Saving with Sleep: Manual, quicksaving and almost all autosaves are disabled. To save your game, you'll need to find a bed and sleep for at least an hour. This means your fallback options are reduced, forcing you to be more concerned about what you are walking into and whether you’re prepared to handle it. Some fights you may deem above your level and decide to avoid. Other fights you may decide to go all in. Scouting and gathering information to make this decision can be fun in its own right. Also, when beds are your only means of saving, they become the Holy Grail. With that level of importance tied to them, you will scour the Earth to find the closest bed to your next chosen encounter – and in doing so you will likely discover things that you might have otherwise missed.

No More Fast Travel: Fast Travel is disabled. If you wish to be somewhere, you'll have to get there the old-fashioned way. In other words, exploration is now mandatory, exposing more of the Commonwealth’s secret gems. This will also take you out of your comfort zone, but encourage you to take advantage of the well-placed workshops throughout the Wasteland. And, while Charisma may seem less important to your immediate survival, there are certain Charisma-based perks that make managing your bases less painful.

Increased Lethality: You now deal, but also take, more damage. You can increase the damage you deal even further with "Adrenaline" – more on that in a moment. This makes combat more dangerous, which in turn slows you down and gets you to think about what you’re walking into. Combine this with it being much harder to save your game and suddenly each encounter becomes much more tense and dire.

Combat itself is also more strategic, because both you and enemies are more powerful; this means fights are about trying to use positioning and timing to get in your shots without taking enemy hits. This has an even bigger effect on melee players, who will now need to use their block/parry to keep themselves from taking damage during fights. While this change raises the skill necessary to play, those who opt into Survival know what they’re getting into.


“This makes everything feel more intense and causes you to approach combat differently.”
– Dane Olds; BGS Artist, Survivor

Facing the Unknown: Threats, unless added by a Recon scope, no longer display on the compass, and the distance at which locations of interest will appear has been significantly shortened. You can no longer rush through the world, knowing what’s around the next corner. At the same time, you’ll likely explore even more, in order to ferret out any and all locations.

Adrenaline: Adrenaline, a new Perk that comes standard with Survival Mode, provides a bonus to your damage output and is increased by getting kills. Every five kills increases your Adrenaline rank, adding 5% bonus damage for up to an extra 50% damage at the max rank of 10. That extra damage is alluring. Adrenaline motivates the types of stupid decisions that always lead to the best water cooler stories. (Sleeping removes anywhere from 2 to all 10 ranks of Adrenaline, depending on the time you’ve slept.)

Wellness – Exhaustion, Hunger, Thirst: You'll find it difficult to survive without taking proper care of yourself. You must stay hydrated, fed and rested to remain combat-ready. Going for extended periods of time without food, water or a good night's sleep will begin to adversely affect your health, hurting your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats, adding to your Fatigue, lowering your immunity, and eventually even causing physical damage to you. This will affect every decision you make, because you have to consider your overall and ever-changing health. The drive to simply stay alive might push you into new and unexpected adventures. At the very least, you’ll likely find yourself hunting for valuable meats, triggering encounters with dangerous wildlife. But not everything you can consume is good for you: Certain items in the game now have negative consequences to balance out their positive effects. These counter-effects may make you thirsty, hungry or tired and possibly even hurt your immunity, leaving you vulnerable to Illness.


“I ended up looking in every structure for food/water which is something I didn’t care about in the base game. Changes gameplay and pacing quite a bit.”
– Michael Dulany; BGS Programmer, Survivor

Fatigue: Fatigue mostly comes from being tired, but both hunger and thirst also affect it. Fatigue works like radiation, but affects your Action Points (AP) rather than your Hit Points (HP). The more Fatigue you've built up, the less AP you'll have for actions like sprinting and V.A.T.S. The amount of Fatigue you've accumulated is displayed in red on your AP bar.

Everything Matters

It’s not just the big changes that alter the way you play in Survival Mode. We also made adjustments to all kinds of items and conditions.

Bed Types: The type of bed you're sleeping in limits the length of time you are able to sleep, thereby limiting how much you can recover. Real beds – which are hard to come by in the world – offer the highest bonuses for sleeping; this rewards you for working out of a home base or even spending the caps for a good night’s sleep.

Also, finding a sleeping bag in the middle of a dungeon will feel great… finding a dirty mattress will feel even better… finding a real bed will be like winning the lottery. You know all those spots where you can use Workshop mode in the game? It’s time to start building beds.

Illness & Antibiotics: There are several different Illnesses that can affect you. Your base chance of getting sick increases as your average Wellness decreases. Antibiotics can be crafted, bought or found, and alongside doctors, can heal your current Illnesses. Certain things in the world, such as taking hits by certain creatures or using Chems, may immediately give you an Illness. Also, Stimpaks are no longer the fix-all miracle drug, so make sure you’re prepared!

Immunodeficiency: Items that cleanse your body of Rads come with the cost of making you tired and temporarily damaging your immunity, leaving you more vulnerable to Illness than usual. By adding a negative effect to RadAway, we are pushing you to only use it when you really need it.

Slower Healing: In Survival, restorative items, like Stimpaks and food, recover your health at a significantly reduced rate. You'll need to time your healing precisely if you hope it will last.

Crippled Limbs: Crippled limbs will no longer auto-heal after combat. They will remain crippled until healed by a Stimpak or slept off. This not only makes combat tougher (and more strategic) but also puts a further tax on Stimpaks.

Carry Weight: Your total carry weight has been reduced and items like ammo and Stimpaks now have weight. Bullets and shells have a small amount of weight, which varies by caliber, while missiles and mini nukes are quite heavy. Everything you carry now must be carefully chosen, and you’ll have to weigh power over volume when it comes to things like ammo.


“My routine is completely different this time around. Sanctuary is my sanctuary. Each day I venture out in search of supplies, and I return home with stuff. I take it one day at time. I need to live.”
– Rick Vicens; BGS Animator, Survivor

Painful Encumbrance: Exceeding your carry weight reduces your overall Wellness, quickly building Fatigue, and will eventually cripple your legs. You can’t hoard a whole bunch of items, then make the long, slow trip back home – which, to be fair, isn’t that fun. Just set the loot aside and be free.

Companion Costs: Carry weight for companions has been decreased and they will no longer automatically get back up if downed during combat. Instead, they will return home, if abandoned without being healed. So don’t hog your Stimpaks, and don’t turn your friends into mules!

Likewise, if you’ve already downloaded Automatron, your new Robot companions will need to be closely monitored. If you forget to use your Robot Repair Kits, they will return home.

Enemy and Loot Repopulation: Locations you've cleared will now repopulate with new enemies and loot at a significantly slower rate. So head out into the world and find new locations!


“Taken together, it creates a Fallout experience unlike before. You feel the wasteland.”
– Todd Howard; BGS Game Director, Survivor

There's even more depth and little things in the new Survival Mode for you to discover.



Edited by Chuckles

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Duke大王    884

This adds a lot more value to everything in the game but I'd need to start a completely new character to take advantage of this, as mine is built around being a super nerd with no points placed into any combat or survival-related skills and, at level 64, would likely be incredibly painful trying to make my way through the game (I never leave my power armor, drugs, or super weapons at home).

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Chuckles    920

I restarted last night, on Survival, and went to bed after escorting the group back to Sanctuary.

What I noticed...

The base damage has definitely been increased across the board. This gives combat much more impact and, combined with the lack of autosaves and fast travel, much more decisive.

Your thinking and play style will definitely change.

You get thirsty and hungry very quickly!!! Immediately create a water source (well water pump).

Empty jars and bottles are worth more than gold! They can now be filled with water. However, for some reason, they cannot be reused to hold more water once drunk. They just disappear.

Haven't been able to fill them at rivers, ponds or other sitting water. Only well pumps and drinking fountains so far.

It looks like (maybe) your companion's carry weight levels with you.

Dogmeat could barely hold 25lbs at first but upon rescuing the Minutemen group I leveled and he can hold a little more.

If you are overburdened you can walk but you now take periodical damage.

It's kinda refreshing to start over. All the settlement building is easier from a blank slate. Particularly with the new items to be used.

I'll likely place points into the Dogmeat skills now, since combat is so much more dangerous and he's able to just outright murder fools, drag 'em to the ground, etc.

I'm not sure how power armor will play out since walking everywhere is going to take tons of energy and weighing yourself down with enough cores (they're 4lbs each) to keep yourself from getting stranded during wandering may not be worth it.

Plus, it'll be very, very expensive.

Survival Mode is awesome!

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Playing Muted    108

My biggest tips for survival are stocking up on water, antibiotics and meat.

I found stimpaks to be less useful because I was always having to eat, drink or sleep so my health stayed high.

When you get sick you can start losing health faster than water will replenish it so finding a doctor and/or antibiotics is key, even very early on. I found myself doing local leader 2 way before I intended just so I could have easy access to a clinic to heal radiation and cure infections. Using any chems will chew through your water and make you more susceptible to infection, so finding a doctor is really valuable.

Cooked food also replenishes health. The food buffs only work when you are not hungry.

Oh, and Grilled Ragstag will be a blessing with the nerfed carry weight. No addiction and it lasts way longer than buffout.

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