Bethesda launches revamped Fallout 4 Survival Mode with big (and controversial) changes

Bethesda is hell bent on delivering quality post-launch content to fans of Fallout 4 long into the foreseeable future, and this week they rolled out their massive free overhaul of Survival Mode to the Steam Beta program. The update adds everything from primary needs, such as sleep, hunger, and thirst, to more brutal save systems, and punishing damage models.

Unfortunately, fan reactions to the new update have been a mixed blend of worried to outright angry over one change in particular – the fact that loading up a character in Survival Mode locks the user out of the developer console. The console is an essential debugging tool for modders and players alike, and has long been one of the most redeeming factors to Bethesda's notoriously buggy open world games. Removing it has players more than worried about the quality of their gameplay experience.

Survival of the Fittest

The brass tacks of the Survival Mode update revolve around creating an in-depth, contrasting difficulty experience. The new update is meant to force even experienced Fallout fans into an unfamiliar and challenging landscape where they must explore and branch out to survive.

To accomplish this, Bethesda focused on four primary design goals.

Strategy: Intensify decisions about when to get into combat versus when to avoid it, and also make you focus more on what gear to take into combat. Then back up those decisions with faster, more brutal fights.

Exploration: Slow down the pace of the game and encourage players to explore the nooks and crannies of the Commonwealth.

Resource Management: Balance out items in the world that may be too easy to acquire or horde, giving players more to consider when planning their current loadout.

Role Playing: Increase the realism of the world and the dangers one might face there.

You can find the full list of changes from Bethesda themselves, or from your friendly neighborhood dataminers over on Reddit. The highlights, of course, focus on primary needs such as sleeping, eating, and drinking, player wellness and disease, no fast travel option, modified damage scales, and a selective save setting that only allows you to save upon sleeping. Additionally, you'll see a return of weighted ammo, reduced carry weight capacity, and the potential to snap your bony little legs if you carry too much over your encumbrance limit for an extended period of time. 

Survival of the Buggiest

Now onto the bit of bad Radroach – a locked developer console. In the short term, this decision seems like it's meant to discourage cheating of any kind in Bethesda's shiny new hardcore difficulty setting, and it may in fact limit that to some degree. Yet the bigger issue at hand is that Bethesda locking the console means that they have overlooked one of the most glaring issues of any Bethesda title. Bugs. Glitches. Things that should have been fixed several patches ago.

An unlocked console isn't some kind of rampant hole in the system that allows players to cheat constantly and utterly ruins the challenge of the game. The console is meant to help players get around the numerous issues that pop up in an open world as detailed and complex as Bethesda creates. It's always been assumed that the open console was Bethesda acknowledging the barriers to their open world platform and giving players the tools to fix the issue.

Take for example Preston Garvey, the tried and true symbol of the Minutemen. A character that can be annoying at times, but ultimately serves as an interesting NPC capable of both accompanying the player in their travels, and doling out one of the more interesting endings for the Commonwealth, where the locals take matters in their own hands and kick all the other factions to the curb.

In my most recent playthrough of the game, after I gave a lickin’ to the enemies occupying the Castle, Preston was caught up in a strange faction bug where I could neither speak to him, accept quests from him, nor have him accompany me in my travels. Despite hundreds of in-game fixes and attempts to force him to even look at me, I was still unable to garner his distinguished do-gooder attention. The bug caused him to be much more interested in his mutfruit plants than in saving the Commonwealth. Originally, I decided to ignore the issue and went about my business as usual. But after betraying the Brotherhood of Steel, and finding myself kicked to the curb by the Institute over an issue with a Railway Rifle, Father, and a group of rebelling Synths, I was directed to the Minutemen to complete the main story. Which I would have happily obliged, if I could get Preston to speak to me.

Instead I was stuck, dealing with a literal game-breaking bug and unable to progress because of one man and his mutfruit obsession. Luckily, the Steam Forums and the console had a solution. By typing a simple command into the console, I was able to remove Preston from the unknown faction he was added to during the Castle quest, and proceed on my way to a truly free Commonwealth. Otherwise, I would have been up a creek. Forced to either restart from a save over sixty hours previous and hope that it didn't repeat itself, or ally myself with a faction I didn't believe in. All over a bug. Is this something that was fixed in a recent patch? Nope, I dealt with this issue less than two weeks ago. With the console, it was a simple fix; without it, well I probably wouldn't still be interested in playing Fallout 4 for the next several years.

Bethesda removing the console from Survival Mode seems like an assertion that their game is no longer buggy. That players will never again need to toggle collision to escape being caught between two railings and thereby falling infinitely. That players will never need to fix a quest. That players will never need to fix an issue with a terminal that you can't access because there's a flippin’ chair in the way. Mix in the fact that some of the only other ways you can fix these issues is by fast traveling or reloading a save (features limited and/or blocked altogether in Survival mode) and Bethesda's new mode starts to sound a lot less like a fun new challenge, and more like a nightmare rage machine.

So what if a few individuals choose to ruin their experience by cheating? It's a single player game and their cheating affects no other player's experience.

Of course, we might see this change before the full release of the new mode, after all Survival Mode is still only in Beta on Steam, but Bethesda's current response to the matter is not very promising.