It only took me about 10 hours into Fallout 4 to discover it wasn’t the RPG I was hoping for. After feeling very let down in almost exactly the same way with Fallout 3, I did what I saw many other fellow gamers doing -- load a fresh Fallout New Vegas run in Hardcore mode.
Then, Bethesda announced the reworking of F4’s Survival mode into a properly challenging and more appropriate RPG design, very much like FNV’s Hardcore mode, and my hope was rekindled. After playing many hours in the Survival mode beta test, I want to share a few tips on what can be done to help enrich the roleplaying quality for any fellow roleplayers looking for a greater challenge in Fallout 4's Survival mode.
In case you aren't super familiar with this mode, you can also check out these articles: Fallout 4's Super-Survival mode will feature dehydration, starvation, and defecation, and Fallout 4 is only fun when played in Survival Mode.
Because Survival mode is still in beta, you can’t use any mods here, including HUD-altering or eliminating mods. Removing the HUD must be done via the Settings. Here’s how I have mine set:
Much of what the game shows you through the HUD is fluff and redundant, as the Pip-Boy also shows you the same elements. Plus, the HUD simply breaks immersion -- and for me, only makes sense while wearing power armor. In Survival mode, be aware that there is a lot more info pushed to the HUD and Pip-Boy, including the important physical positive and negative effects your character has. Hiding the HUD brings forth a more intuitive and realistic element, and helps keep you immersed into the game world as you make use of your Pip-Boy.
Sustenance is at the top of the must-have list in Survival mode -- as it should be. Your character will need to eat food and drink water regularly to stay nourished and healthy. And since you want to keep any and all radiation at bay as much as possible, you will need to focus on finding and making your food and water radiation-free. Cooking your food before eating it is paramount to keeping healthy, as is purifying water before drinking it.
Empty beer and milk bottles are of greater use in Survival mode, as they can filled up with water and stored in your inventory, so you have an ample supply on you at all times. I recommend making bottle finding a priority, and filling them up with the purified water provided by vaults.
Dogmeat will often sniff out and alert you to items in your vicinity, making her the ideal companion to take along on scavenging missions. And don’t forget Dogmeat and the other companions may be commanded to fetch items at a distance for you, which is handy when you don’t want to risk breaking cover or stealth.
As mentioned above, you want to take every measure possible to limit and eliminate your exposure to radiation, especially in Survival mode. So when a radstorm blows in from the Glowing Sea, immediately find an indoor location to hunker down in, and by indoor, I mean a location that you have to go through a loading screen to enter.
Simply popping a Rad-X (or any other chemicals) to help control your radiation exposure won’t fully cut it in Survival mode. Taking chemicals now has a chance of making you more susceptible to contracting diseases, or actually giving you one. Once that happens, you can easily burn through an entire stash of supplies while fighting off the disease. And since the Pip-Boy doesn’t have a weather forecasting app installed, it’s better to stick close to an indoor location where you can ride out radstorms.
Survival mode brings with it the added benefit of doing more damage in combat than in the other difficulty levels. However, enemies now also do more damage to you. So, since combat is inevitable at various points in the game, you should make sure to garner and use every advantage you can before sending rounds downrange.
Here, I want to mention three combat advantage elements specifically: surprise, high ground, and cover. Surprise is a prime factor, of course, and when used correctly, can allow you to engage in combat, down an enemy, and disengage combat quickly, giving you an increased chance at surviving.
Cover is also highly important, no matter what armor you’re wearing. Much like radiation exposure, you definitely want to not get hit by enemy fire, not even a single shot, if at all possible. One shot hitting you can make you dig into your precious and meager stash and use a host of items just to stay alive, not to mention taking your attention immediately away from the combat situation.
I watch more than a few hours of F4 Youtube videos and Twitch streams weekly, and players using high ground to their advantage is something I rarely see. High ground doesn’t have to be a tall building, and you also don’t have to have a sniper rifle to make use of it. As in the screenshot below, simply climbing on a gas tank is very often enough to keep you out of harm’s way.
Imagine if you were in a living in real life in the aftermath of a nuclear armageddon. Is there any time when you would NOT take a moment to think about what you need to do to survive? I highly doubt it. So it is here in Survival mode. With the dawning of each new day, you should start by thinking about a plan of action, including the who, what, where, when, and why of it all.
There is a lot to do in F4, and if you don’t have a plan, things can quickly get turned around and confusing, leading to multiple horrible deaths. So how to handle it? One way I do is by using the handy Trello app outside of game to plan and track locations I’ve been to, who and what was there, locks I can’t yet pick, and terminals I can’t yet hack.
Tracking beds becomes supremely important in Survival mode, since they are the only places where you can save your game. Notes on indoor locations, items you stashed away to get on your next visit to a location, and places that don’t show up on your Pip-Boy are just a few other things that a plan will help make successfully happen.
One of the greatest things about roleplaying is that everyone can do it according to their own style. So, of course, I’m not saying this is how you should roleplay here. I am simply sharing a few immersion tips you may also want to use to help you tackle surviving in the harsh Commonwealth that I am also surviving in. If anything here helps you, I would love to hear about it. If you have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments below.
Until next time, role on!