A couple of weeks ago the enhanced (or ‘proper’...) survival mode left PC beta and was made available on all platforms (mine being PS4).
So, is it any good?
Here’s what the new difficulty includes:
Wellness – regular food, drink and sleep required. Failure to get enough leads to increasingly significant penalties (reduced, sometimes drastically reduced, stats).
Saving – can only be done in a bed/sleeping bag.
Damage – far more both taken and received. Explosives almost always lead to instant player death.
Compass – enemies do not appear (excepting when you use a recon scope) and places only appear when you’re very, very close.
No fast travel.
Vastly reduced carry weight – my low strength (3) character could only lug about something like 120 (applies to companions as well). This is not helped by ammunition having weight (big guns are not practical 99% of the time because they and their ammunition just weigh so much).
Healing takes longer – not only that, fallen companions must be healed with stimpaks or they’ll just wander off and refuse to follow you for a while [not had this happen yet].
The substantial increase to damage dealt and received means that certain play styles would seem to be difficult or even impossible (good luck going for a bareknuckle brawler), while others (the sniper style) gain an advantage. It also means some perks are more or less advantageous than in the usual mode.
If you want to get crafting then supply lines are a lot more useful, because your spare capacity after food, drink, armour, ammunition may be around 20-40 and you just can’t stuff your pockets with everything you find. Similarly, the increased damage dealt and weight limit means using pistols can be pretty effective.
There’s a lot more stress and tension because death can come very quickly. Step on a mine, and it’s over. Get hit by a Molotov Cocktail, and you’re dead (my first death was when Dogmeat wandered in front of me just as I was throwing one. One was not amused). A swarm of bloatflies can be deadly.
The explosives point is double-edged, though. I was struggling with a Glowing One, but cunning use of grenades caused it massive damage and obliterated its legs, enabling me to introduce its face to the business end of a shotgun.
Naturally, this is exacerbated by the lengthy distances between save points. However, the increased difficulty does make the game more exciting (on Normal difficulty I never felt particularly challenged).
There are downsides, though. I had the game crash, just the once. Luckily for me, this was right after I’d saved, but it could easily have been 40 minutes of hard slogging lost. I also think the days are too short. I’ve never run out of food or water, but it feels like the need to eat/drink/sleep is a bit too frequent.
Exceeding the weight limit leads to periodic health damage, which is fine. Except if you’re in conversation with a bone idle slacker who claims to be restoring the Minutemen and who gives you a flare gun which just nudges you over the limit. On a similar note, I quite like settlement building, even though it’s significantly harder in this mode, but it’s irritating having thirst/hunger crop up as problems when building.
Perhaps the most substantial problem is that the uncertainty of saving means you need a fairly hefty chunk of time to play. If you’re time-poor, this mode will likely not be for you. Not only can it be lengthy periods between saves, but if you make one wrong move that can be the end and you lose all progress.
I think it’s a bit of a Marmite mode. At the moment, the positives of increased difficulty, and corresponding feeling of accomplishment, means I’m enjoying playing through with a mixture of pistols and rifles. If you do like it, the Survival Mode can inject new life into the game, with an added air of desperation and difficulty.