Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
Holy co- err… brahmin, it’s finally here. Well, almost. Bethesda was kind enough to release a beta version of Fallout 4‘s Survival Mode overhaul about two weeks ago, though limiting access only to their favored children (that is, those on PC with Steam accounts). While Fallout 4 was a good game in its own right prior to the new Survival Mode, the post-endgame sandbox is rather boring. I mean, you’ve already asserted yourself as the master of the Commonwealth’s rolling wastes. One-hit KOing Deathclaws only provides so much satisfaction. But now, the most difficult setting reminds you that no man is immortal, and that stray bullet you failed to dodge could very well knock you off your high horse (as well as a few levels if you didn’t save wisely).
Taking its name rather seriously, Survival Mode has been something I craved ever since its introduction in Fallout: New Vegas years ago. To see it return with a handful of new features like diseases, sleeping-to-save, and disabling fast travel (to name a few) has gripped my attention the past few days. This is the Fallout I’ve been waiting for… and these are several reasons why:
#1: It’s “The Game that Should Have Been”
Even though it’s been almost twenty years since the franchise’s launch, I still identify with the old guard — players most familiar with Fallout‘s humble isometric RPG roots. To me, the game has always been about weighing your decisions and forming specialized characters to help make those decisions easier. At least, in the way you wish to go about handling them.
By the time Fallout 3 rolled around, the game was only recognizable by the universe it took place in and even then, you’d be on the other side of the country, away from Vault 13 and Arroyo, locales revered as almost holy to those who follow the franchise’s lore. That isn’t to say Bethesda slipped up in its handling of the franchise once it was acquired. Just, as time goes on, the series marches closer to the tune of other Bethesda-style RPGs, grounded in the first-person and making its players into demigods who somehow magically find themselves at the heads of numerous (opposing) factions.
When Bethesda teamed up with Obsidian Entertainment to make Fallout: New Vegas, some of the old charm that once won me over in the beginning started to re-emerge. Though the playable region featured Nevada and southern California, it was a lot closer to the series’ origin than the Capital Wasteland; the return of old characters like Marcus, mechanics like the faction reputation system, and tons of references to the events of the earlier games made me feel right at home. But what won me over to New Vegas instead of Fallout 3 was the game’s hardcore mode. In fact, it was the only way I’d play the game.
Fast forward to November 2015, and I was delighted to see that Fallout 4 had a survival mode listed in its difficulty settings, but how quickly my heart sank to find that it was just that: another difficulty setting. Instead of managing resources and dealing with enemies who could easily end your life just as quickly as you could theirs, it was just a bloated “harder” level that increased everyone else’s HP proportionate to yours. But even then, as the champion of wanton murder you are, none stand in your way.
While some of the new blood might not like having to try and get results against a challenging force (because critical thinking is hard), this new beta of Fallout 4‘s survival mode is what the game desperately needed, especially to balance out the fancy new gunplay that makes combat so much more fluid compared to its predecessors.
“For once in a Bethesda game, you’re truly mortal. Not the Dovahkiin, not some bulletproof savior in power armor. Just some schmuck who’s still blowing out icicles from their nose after a two-century-long nap.”
In addition to managing thirst, hunger, and sleep, you also have disease and fatigue to worry about. Bullets now do more damage to enemies, but you’re not different, having been made from the same squishy flesh as those hapless bandits you keep splattering around New England. In order to save, you must sleep; in order to travel, you have to actually walk. This is first time since New Vegas that Bethesda has acknowledged the wasteland for what it is: expansive, terrifying, and looking for any excuse to swallow you hole.
Now that is the kind of Fallout experience I signed up for. But we’re just getting started.