With the arrival of patch 1.6 earlier this month, Fallout 4 can now be played in the new Survivor mode, embracing increased difficulty and punishing play as a form of fun. The new difficulty level does what it’s designed to do, reframing the game such that every decision must be made carefully. No longer is the Commonwealth a mere backdrop for supply runs and flash in the pan combat encounters. The player has a multitude of new things to take into consideration, from fatigue and disease to disabled fast travel and autosave.
While this new option has evolved from the Hardcore Mode of Fallout: New Vegas fame, it takes on an even more brutal form in Fallout 4. To such an extent that there are times, while playing, that I wish I’d die in real life. Here are five occasions where Fallout 4 Survival Mode made me actually want to die.
Among Fallout fans, “hardcore” challenges have always existed. Those of us who poured hundreds of hours into Fallout 3 and New Vegas needed a new thrill and found ways to make the game more difficult on purpose, primarily by turning off fast travel. As a self-motivated option this is fun, precisely because it isn’t mandatory: if you decided to use fast travel “just this once”, no one was the wiser. If you cheated, you were only cheating yourself.
But as a non-negotiable, the “no fast travel” rule goes from fun to fundamental torture. Instead of zipping around post-apocalyptic Boston, you’re forced to perform the next crucial step of your missions and side quests whenever you happen to be rolling through town. And let’s face it, if I wanted to walk, I wouldn’t be playing videogames. One dangerous encounter in the Commonwealth can make the difference between hours of wasted time. They knew this, and they did it to fuck us.
The nice thing about previous Fallout games is that if you didn’t feel like consuming dusty 200 year old spam and flat Nuka Cola, you didn’t have to: pop a Stimpak, get instantly healed, and be on your way.
Now you have to do stupid shit like “drink water” and “consume calories”, both of which will restore your health but only slowly, over time. Did you think scavenging every single last piece of scrap on the face of the planet for the sake of your settlements was a bit much? Well have fun sucker, because it’s about to get worse. You can get dehydrated, starved or sleep deprived. So now you’re gonna need to operate like a normal person, and food and water (unlike Stimpaks) take up weight in your inventory. You’re also going to need to sleep, because guess what assholes, there’s no more quick or autosave. And you better be careful choosing what animal to eat or what pond to drink from, because sickness and disease are now a factor. Which sucks because if you can’t survive Fallout by drinking from a toilet then frankly its social message is greatly diminished.
Fatigue is also a new factor to consider—accumulating any of it will take a dent out of your stamina bar. Don’t get me wrong, the fatigue damage to the stamina bar is brilliant. Fallout 4 was the first game in the series to make radiation damage reduce the size of the health bar, and its sister application to stamina is smart. I fucking hate it like poison, but it’s smart. Tainting that appreciation, though, is an existential dread that drags along the ocean floor of my emotional goodwill like a giant lead anchor. This game is finally hard, folks.
Great, just fucking great, that thing was hard to kill even with Power Armor. Yes, I totally want to kill it while I have weakened defenses, diminished resources, increased damage, and the inability to autosave. It sounds about as fun as a case of sepsis. Sign me the fuck up.
This one I should have seen coming because it was included in the Hardcore Mode from Fallout: New Vegas but Jesus pork-fried Christ. You mean I have to, like, actually whittle down my on-person arsenal to a few, practical weapons, strategizing what to use based on how heavy the ammunition is and how effective its damage per second? You’re killing me, Bethesda.
Sons of bitches.
Holly Green is a reporter, editor, and semiprofessional photographer living in Seattle, WA. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gameranx, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.