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Why survival in Fallout 4 is the best way to play

There seems to be a significant number of folks on the intertubes who appear to be quite concerned about the fact that Fallout 76 will be multiplayer and also appears to be a survival game of some kind. I've been playing Fallout 4 for quite some time at the Survival difficulty (the highest possible difficulty setting in the game) and based on what has been shared so far by the Bethesda team, I think it's safe to assume that Fallout 76 will still be lots of fun, regardless of the difficulty of playing that mode with the added rogue element of other players. But don't just take my word for it, check out this interview with Pete Hines:

To start with, I would argue that playing Fallout 4 in survival mode can be one of the most entertaining way to play the game. The reason why I can say this with absolute certainty is because I'm still playing the same character in Fallout 4 survival mode that I started months ago, and I at the time of this writing I have reached level 102. While the game can be punishing when playing in this mode, and it can be a detractor to not be able to fast travel, to need to manage hunger, thirst, fatigue and medical condition statuses, finding a bed to sleep in to save and to be more careful about engaging enemies than when playing in lower difficulty settings, I find that overall the experience is much more satisfying.

Part of the reason I feel this way is that in Normal difficulty, I would get bored by the time I reached level 50. In that mode, a level 50 character would typically be so overpowered that the only way he or she would be challenged would be when engaging overpowered enemies, such as Supermutant Warlords, Raider Survivalists or Gunner Corporals. These fights would tend to be long and drawn out, with both sides expending copious amounts of ammunition in a race to see who could damage the other enough to take them out first. Even then, the challenge was quite low, and at this point in the game I had the overall sensation that I was nearly invincible and had little to fear, even from Deathclaws, Supermutant Behemoths and Mirelurk Queens.

In survival mode, every engagement is potentially deadly for the lone survivor of Vault 111, regardless of their level. While at level 102 I would say that I have a much greater chance of surviving engagements than I did at level 50, I still sometimes have to think on my toes, consistently use sneaking when approaching enemies, make use of cover, move to new locations to avoid getting hit by a grenade, make use of VATS as much as possible to end or at least cripple the more dangerous opponents, and in some cases resort to using Power Armor in order to muscle my way through a significantly dangerous situation. This is also the first time that I felt that the Glowing Sea was a truly dangerous place, as is Far Harbor. The junk robots (and robots cobbled together by the Rust Devils) as introduced by the Automotron DLC are still a significant threat and can quite easily kill me if I'm not paying attention. I find myself frequently resorting to the use of my heavily modified Gauss rifle in order to survive many of these engagements, but with the very real downside of having to scramble in order to locate more of the hard to find and extremely expensive 2mm ammunition it requires.

The elimination of Fast Travel has resulted in my becoming very familiarized with the layout of the Commonwealth, and even the layout of Far Harbor (albeit to a lesser degree). At the time of this writing I do not yet own the Vault Tec and Nuka World DLC add-ons, but I may eventually pick them up during a sale. Even without those, I now can pretty easily make my way from settlement to settlement, sleeping in proper beds each time I arrive and finding places to store my junk, sell my excess equipment and ammo and heal my radiation and other medical issues before proceeding with the next quest.

The key to playing Fallout 4 survival mode is to establish multiple settlements in different places across the Commonwealth. This is not a fast process, but it is a necessary one because it reduces the amount of time spent travelling to Diamond City, Bunker Hill, your home settlement or exploring different areas looking around for a bed to sleep in. In addition, with multiple settlements comes farmed produce, along with shops, vendors, and more potential provisioners to help you establish another settlement. At this point in the game I have fully developed settlements located at Sanctuary, Taffington Boathouse, Nordhagen Beach, the Echo Lake Lumber mill in Far Harbor and the Coastal Cottage, complete with multiple vendors, doctors and enhanced defenses (heavy laser turrets, missile turrets and dogs). I have several more partially established settlements, most with farms and effective defenses but only a few vendors such as Abernathy Farm, Sunshine Tidings Coop and The Castle (to name a few). I don't intend to completely develop every settlement out there, just because of the sheer resources needed for such an endeavor. Next up on my list are Egret Tours Marina and Jamaica Plain to better establish my presence in the sourthern portions of the Commonwealth. My next settlement to acquire is on Spectacle Island.

When I first started playing Fallout 4 I had little to no interest in developing settlements, but they really are a crucial (and fun) portion of the Survival mode game. Of course, perk selection is also very critical.

I started the game with high intelligence, better than average charisma and strength, and the remaining SPECIAL skills were around average or less than average. This was to enable me to take advantage of all of the upgrade perks (Gun Nut, Scrapper, Science, Armourer, Blacksmith). I also wanted access to Local Leader to establish supply lines between settlements (this is really important thanks to the lack of Fast Travel and how Survival mode handles encumbrance), and Chemist so that I could craft my own Antibiotics (especially important in the early part of the game, although it becomes less important as time goes on). Eventually I put points into Gunslinger (with Deliverer as my primary weapon of choice) and Rifleman (to improve the damage output of my Gauss rifle).

There are some perks I wish I had taken early on:

Aquagirl - swimming is faster than running and this prevents you from taking radiation damage from water
Better Criticals - this could have saved my life so many times
Critical Banker - saving crits so you have more than one available is huge
Grim Reaper's Sprint - this becomes especially useful with the Gauss rifle against multiple targets
Four Leaf Clover - with Deliverer, every shot could grant me another crit - combined with Critical Banker this gets very deadly very quickly

The Critical related perks above are probably the most useful from the perspective of "the best defense is a good offense". I subscribe to this wholeheartedly in Survival mode, because if you can kill your enemies quickly they are no longer a threat. When building this character I did not expect Luck to be such a crucial SPECIAL to have, but in the current late-game mode I am playing it has come in handy more times than I can count.

Okay, enough about this - if you haven't tried Fallout 4 Survival mode yet, you really should. It's totally worth the initial aggravation - give it at least 10 levels and you'll start to see the payoff.


Why survival in Fallout 4 is the best way to play
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