Fallout 4 is only fun when played in Survival Mode

The new mode addresses concerning issues I had with Fallout 4, making the game playable again.

There's no arguing when I say Fallout 4 was missing something.

Although Bethesda drastically improved upon its graphics and gameplay, the final product was plain and repetitive — a game void of the content that was so unique to the Fallout series. I applaud them for making firefights more memorable, but in doing so, they created a game more akin to Borderlands than its predecessors. 

Things lightened up with the release of Automatron, the DLC that added in some much-needed Fallout goofiness, but there were still two prevalent concerns I had with the game: 

  • the difficulty
  • and the desire for exploration (or lack thereof)

Thankfully, Survival mode addresses both of these issues.

The Difficulty

A problem I had with Fallout 4 was the difficulty. Starting out was tough. However, like most games, you level up and become overpowered rather quickly. 

Even on the hardest difficulty, I was able to breeze through most enemies. Difficulty did not change an enemy's fighting pattern. You wouldn't suddenly see them engage in unorthodox fighting tactics, they simply gained more health — basically becoming better bullet sponges.

This is where one of the game's most imposing faults lie.

Bethesda spent more time making the action engaging than filling the world with meaningful content, something they did with the previous installments. It's a recipe for disaster simply because it doesn't last. 

Towards the end, the game becomes a pseudo post-apocalyptic tank simulator.

As you become more powerful, combat becomes less engaging. Once you reach end-game, you realize what you're left with is a empty, boring world with combat that's too easy and no longer fun.

In order to address this problem, Bethesda needed a different approach. Modifying the AI may be the most effective, but it'd be a considerably large project. Making the enemies have more health would be stupid — plain and simple. To fix the difficulty, what they needed was to introduce a new element of danger, one that takes advantage of objects and mechanics already in game and somehow fits in the all encompassing theme of the world...

Enter, Survival mode.

While I won't go through the list of features the mode brings to the table, I'm going to note two things: the mode makes it so that your character must stay hydrated, fed, and well-rested and you can only save in beds.

You could imagine my state of despair when I found myself half-way between two settlements thirsty, hungry, and companion-less. The sheer thrill you experience when you're desperate to find a bed to save in is an experience you'll never forget. Here are three reasons why Survival mode makes the game more difficult and more enjoyable.

  1. Remember those plants you were able to pick and plant in your settlements? Well now they serve an important purpose.

    When I'm low on food, I'll go ahead and cook whatever I can find. Radroaches, Yao Guai's, if it's kicking then it's on the menu. I once found myself stranded, hungry, and with no enemy in sight. But, I found these tarberries, saving me from my impending demise.

  2. Settlements are more than just a fun little time-waster.

    You can only save in beds, and you can only take so much with you on your journey. Settlements are now a necessity. Imagine how difficult it would be if your only safe haven was in Sanctuary — all the way across the map. Each settlement becomes their own thriving community, and it makes managing each one special.

  3. You have to pick your fights.

    Before, I would shoot just about everything. Now, I have to pick my fights. A broken leg could mean the end for me, unless of course, I'm really desperate for food.

Survival mode adds a new level of difficulty to Fallout 4. With this new mode, I feel like I am an actual survivor in this post-apocalyptic world. Everything is a threat, and one mistake can mean losing an hour worth of game time. I love it. 

It baffles me how Bethesda didn't include this game mode originally.


The Commonwealth is something else. Truth be told, I could care less if I skipped a few houses on the block. Perhaps you could attribute that to becoming used to everything you encounter always being hostile, or the overabundance of ghouls, raiders, and Super Mutants — the three enemies you'll most likely encounter over, and over, again...

Or perhaps you could attribute that to a lack of reason to explore.

More often than not, you'll encounter landmarks occupied by nothing more than hostiles. I felt that it was an absolute waste of time to clear it, especially knowing that they'll respawn once you leave. 

Because of this, I found myself skipping past potential points of interest, and actively using my Pip-boy to fast travel to locations near my intended destination. But Survival mode changes that.

Survival mode removes fast travel.

I am now forced to rely on my two feet rather than my beloved Pip-boy. What I thought was going to be a huge slap in the face from Bethesda, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Bethesda created a beautiful, well-designed, and unique world. Contrary to what I believed earlier, they did fill it up with meaningful content. The problem was they included no incentive to explore, so I never got the chance to discover them. I was already conditioned to hate exploring abandoned buildings and shacks.

Studies show that hours of killing raiders will stunt your desire for exploration.

Survival mode opened my eyes to the world Bethesda created for us. I knew it was aesthetically pleasing, what I didn't know was the amount of content and hidden gems they included. Through walking, I found a little boy in a fridge. I found cars lined up like Stonehenge. Heck, I even found little notes documenting the journey of a particular caravan.

These are the little things that I missed about the previous games. These little stories that you could come across as you explore the environment. I thought Fallout 4 abandoned them completely, but Survival mode helped me realize that it was still there.

If you were like me, tired and done playing Fallout 4. Give it another go. It's not the same game as it was before.

Survival mode changes it completely.

Published Apr. 14th 2016
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