With the release of Far Harbor, I’ve started up a new game of Fallout 4 on the newish Survivor difficulty. I haven’t made it beyond the first starter quest for Far Harbor, but I have seen enough of Survivor mode to talk a bit about it.
The setting is the highest difficulty setting for the game, and introduces new rules like requiring the player to eat, drink, and sleep. If you don’t, you get stat penalties. You also can’t save unless you sleep, you can’t fast travel, ammo has weight, and healing items don’t work instantly. In short, the game is much harder, both in a ‘that’s actually hard and requires adjusting strategy’ way, and also in a ‘well that’s annoying’ way.
One of the first things I had to do was download a mode that allowed you to quick save, because the ‘no save unless you sleep’ thing was just too much, mostly in that it didn’t allow me to step away from the game when needed, but also because replaying two hours of progress because something one-shot you just is not my idea of fun in a game like Fallout.
The need to eat, drink, and rest is both interesting and also annoying. It’s annoying because food and drink aren’t all that scarce, so the ‘challenge’ is more about lugging the stuff around rather than a desperate struggle to find it. That said, while I have almost always ignored food and drink in the past, at least now I am using those items, appreciate finding them when needed, and have actually used the cooking craft station. Needing to eat and drink also ties into radiation, because most food gives you a little bit of that, so that part of the game is also more of a focus, which is fitting for a Fallout game.
No instant travel is a huge time-sink, but also means you see more of the actual world, and the often-times random interactions that happen. Setting off to a distant location now requires at least a moment of planning, which is good IMO. The downside is that exploring and looting random locations for items is pretty strongly discouraged, since you will quickly become weighed down, and without fast travel, trekking back and forth between locations and your settlements loses its luster very quickly. As exploring and actually looting is a huge part of Fallout, this IMO really hurts the experience.
Overall I understand why Survival mode was added, and in some ways it does force you to experience the game in a different way. Sometimes that different way is better, but for me most of the time it is not. I don’t think I’ll keep the mode on for Far Harbor, mostly because I want to enjoy the new content without feeling like I’m fighting the game itself more than half the time.
It also very much feels like Survivor mode could be more enjoyable if Fallout was designed with it in mind right from the start. If food/water was more scares, if there was a way to quickly ferry items back, if more of the world was random as you went back and forth, etc, there could certainly be a very enjoyable game to be found here. As is, it’s a decent attempt, and I’m sure appeals to some people, but for me it feels forced too often to really click.