Fallout 4 RadPacks: Horrors of the Commonwealth

Ever had the feeling that Fallout 4 is just a few rads shy of being a fantastic horror game? Filled to the brim with dangerous creatures, grotesque enemies, and a setting that's just waiting to rip the player to shreds, it's not a stretch to see the bright world of the Commonwealth twisted into a nightmarish experience sure to get your adrenaline pumping and your Geiger counter ticking into overdrive.

As it turns out, thanks to the wonderful modding community behind Fallout 4, that's actually pretty easy to do. With a well placed reshader, the ever popular Darker Nights mod, and a combination of a few survival rebalance mods to make the player flimsy and the enemies plentiful, Fallout 4 transforms into a terrifying experience where night is the player's only sanctuary and sneaking through the rolling hills of the Commonwealth is a practice best done with the lights on.

So let's talk about Horrors of the Commonwealth, our first official RadPack, a series of articles where we'll show off some of the best ways to reshape the Wasteland into an entirely new experience.

The Method to the Madness

To transform Fallout 4 into a true horror experience we utilized a variety of mods – some focusing on the game's cosmetics, others meant to rebalance the game as a whole, and still a few more that accomplished both.

We went ahead and structured this assuming you're not playing on the newly minted Survival difficulty, but be aware that we'll be using several mods to tweak enemy damage to keep things along that theme. Danger adds tension, and damage models similar to survival are all about ramping up that tension. You're welcome to play at whatever difficulty you feel is appropriate, and if it's possible to customize a difficulty setting with a specific mod we'll be sure to let you know.

It's also worthwhile to note that all of these mods are pulled directly from NexusMods.com and utilize the Nexus Mod Manager because even with Bethesda's built in mod mechanics it's still the easiest way to swap through a large number of mods and profiles with relative ease.

Atmosphere of Desperation

To set the proper mood, we added five mods to modify how you see the Commonwealth. These focused on changing both the general tone, and also moving the game towards more of a realistic lighting system while also creating a more striking color scheme when the action kicks up.

Darker Nights by unforbidable

Via NexusMods

Easily one of the most well known mods on the Nexus, Darker Nights brings the lights down low across the Commonwealth and can be configured to exactly fit our needs. Upon install you'll have several options to tweak exactly how dark the world gets, as well as how Fallout 4 will deal with the new pitch-black setting. We went with level 1 which is the second to darkest option, and also tweaked the setting for sneaking so that it uses the default vanilla light values. This'll make the darkness as much your friend as your enemy, you won't be able to see the various creatures and sundry across the wastes, but more importantly they won't be able to see you either.

Wasteland Horrors - Reshade Preset by AlphaGamingAU

Via NexusMods

Wasteland Horrors is a reshade mod that tweaks Fallout 4 to look like a much more bleak, harsh, gritty world ripped apart by atomic fire. The bright colors of the Fallout 4 you know are still there, but behind a muted darker undertone with just a hint of film grain, all in all it adds a harsh grim theme to the world as a whole and makes any splash of color really stand out.

Because this is a shader mod you can't simply install it using the Nexus Mod Manager, you'll first need to download a set of tools called the Reshade Framework from here. You'll then want to copy this into your primary Fallout 4 folder (the same folder that contains your Fallout4.exe) and then copy the contents of the Wasteland Horrors mod into the same folder. The mod will ask to overwrite a large number of files and you'll need to authorize it to do so, but once it's complete you'll be good to go. If you ever want to reset the shaders to Fallout 4's default, simply copy the files from the reshade framework into the same folder and have it replace the files once again.

True Storms – Wasteland Edition by fadingsignal

Via NexusMods

True Storms is the key to our variety hour, adding a number of extremely atmospheric weather conditions and also tweaking the vanilla time settings so that sunset occurs several hours earlier than the vanilla game. These weather conditions are as much about mixing things up as they are about adding a number of cool new weather effects. You'll experience thunderstorms that'll light up the night in brief flashes, dense fog that'll further obscure your vision, and a number of other interesting effects that break up the monotony of day-to-day play.

Also, you should be sure to download the Darker Nights patch for True Storms, you want to install it after you've installed both the default True Storms mod and Darker Nights. Really it's just a patch to make sure the two play nice and you don't necessarily need both versions of Darker Nights but if you're noticing issues with the mods not functioning properly it's heavily advised to install all three in the order mentioned above just to make sure all the files are in place.

Wasteland Creatures Redone – Retexture Compilation by DOOM

Via NexusMods

Wasteland Creatures Redone's sole focus is to add an alternative texture option to each of the creature's of the Commonwealth. By themselves they look fantastic, but combined with our Reshade pack and Darker Nights it creates a unique dynamic where  the creatures come through radioactively vibrant in the dead of night, yet perfectly blend into their surroundings during the day.

Fr4nsson's Light Tweaks by Fr4nsson

Via NexusMods

Fr4nsson's Light Tweaks is a very special lighting mod that removes various forms of ambient illumination Bethesda added to the game to increase visibility in areas around the Commonwealth. With these light sources absent, only actual lights, windows, and flames in the surrounding area will produce light. The result is a more realistic world that relies heavily on the use of your flashlight and lit objects such as lanterns and candles.

A Different Kind of Game

Our next set of mods are meant to dramatically change how you approach any situation in the Fallout universe. These are mods that modify damage scales, add a host of new spawns, and tweak the way that legendary enemies appear. The goal is to create a world where you not only have something to fear on a day-to-day basis, but one that forces you to play in the dark where you can hide, sneak, and generally move about unnoticed, but where the occasional misstep will bring a whole new brand of radioactive hell down on your shoulders.

Create Your Own Difficulty Rebalance by The Iron Rose

Via NexusMods

One of the most useful mods for tweaking your Fallout 4 experience, Create Your Own Difficulty Rebalance, allows you to manually tweak the damage settings for your difficulty setting. Because we're going for a horror theme we wanted the player to feel threatened constantly, so we used this mod to tweak enemy damage to 300 percent, similar to what you'll encounter in a fresh survival run. But to give players a fighting chance and to ramp up the jumpscare factor, we set the player damage to 120 percent, which is 20 percent more than the damage you deal on normal. This keeps legendary enemies relatively beefy but makes it more than possible to get the occasional one or two shot kill on minor enemies. You can tweak these settings to fit your personal preference for a more hardcore experience by reinstalling the mod at any time.

Customize Legendary Enemy Spawning by The Iron Rose

Via NexusMods

The next step to tweak our gameplay experience is to ramp up the number of legendary enemies that pop up and how often it occurs. This increases the “oh shit” factor when you encounter a large group of enemies and keeps things challenging much farther into the end game. Legendary enemies are usually packing high powered gear and a much larger health pool, so having more roaming the Commonwealth seriously ramps up the difficulty while also giving the player access to more legendary weapons and gear to work with. We set the legendary spawn rate to 20 times the normal rate and then set the likelihood that multiple legendary enemies will spawn in a group to 75 percent. These factors will play extremely well with the War of the Commonwealth mod we're about to go over.

War of the Commonwealth – Spawns by Engager and coreyhooe

Via NexusMods

The final linchpin to our difficulty rebalance, War of the Commonwealth allows us to customize the number of enemy groups that roam the Commonwealth to make the Commonwealth a much more dangerous and populated wasteland. Once installed, you can configure the settings by activating the, “WOTC Spawn Configuration,” item in the aid section of your inventory. Under the, “Spawn Presets” section you'll find the hard difficulty slider for the entire pack. Swapping between the four difficulty sections will dramatically change how you're forced to play Fallout 4, and on the highest difficulty it's virtually impossible until you acquire a good bit of late game gear. Our recommendation is that you start out on the Weekend Warrior setting and ramp it up from there. On this setting, the number of enemy spawns roaming the Commonwealth are numerous but with Power Armor you can still roam around during the day, and at night sneaking through the skeletons of Boston's finest is manageable without constantly dying.

Mods to further enhance the experience

This is just a short list of extra mods that should probably be included in every pack, but that’ll especially help to make this pack a lot more fun.

Pip-Boy Flashlight by akkalat85

An extensive aesthetic mod that allows you to remove the standard green glow of the default Pip-Boy's flashlight and replace it with a more atmospheric flashlight beam of your choosing. It also allows you to manually reduce or extend the distance your flashlight beam illuminates. We went with a much shorter dome of illumination as the mod recommends, along with the worn floodlight beam to feed into the horror theme of the pack.

Armorsmith Extended by Gambit77

Easily one of the most essential mods in the history of Fallout 4 modding, allowing you to finally combine your favorite outfit with your favorite combat gear to make your character look snazzy, cool, and, in this pack, give you a fighting chance of actually surviving to the end game content.

Weapons of Fate by Seb263

By default, Weapons of Fate swaps out Fallout 4's default hit-scan style of bullet trajectory for one that actually calculates for bullet velocity and range. A great tweak by itself, but because of the dark nature of this modpack one of the secondary options to swap all ammo to glowing tracer rounds makes for a unique experience where gunfire will cut through the darkness and illuminate targets bearing down on you in all their terrifying detail. 

Increased Build Limit Enhanced 4K by DDProductions83

Scrap Dead Things by PixelMurder

You might find yourself forced to heavily fortify your settlements in this pack in order to give yourself a few safe bastions to sleep out the day, or to make it possible to kite enemies back to a kill zone if you get over your head. As a result, an infinite build limit gives you plenty of room to plan and work, while Scrap Dead Things gives you the ability to keep your traps clean and rewards you with some extra scrap for your trouble. These particular mods are entirely optional and add little to the horror experience, but they represent a different strategy on how to survive the newly minted dangers of Horrors of the Commonwealth as a whole.

Settling into the Night

Aesthetically, our reshade pack left everything washed out and desperate, a mix between Book of Eli and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., where even the brightest of the Commonwealth's street signs and old world tech came through with a white hot radioactive sheen. The effect masks enemies at a distance by blending the striking color palette of the Wasteland Creatures Redone retexture with the environment until you're within a stone's throw of their radioactive features. A cool effect, but one that can be terrifying the first time you almost step on a hive of Bloodbugs clinging perfectly still to a group of trees.

As night falls, the Commonwealth descends into darkness, with only small patches of light in the form of burning tire pits and the occasional sporadically placed spotlight. Light quickly becomes a commodity. The illumination is something you crave to reveal the dangers of the area, but also something that can reveal your position in an instant and send untold enemies on a crash course for your position.

Combining War of the Commonwealth with our custom legendary enemy spawn rate means that not only are there large bands of Super Mutants, Gunners, and various creatures lurking around every ridge and dark alley, but they often spawn with at least one or two legendary enemies in tow. And they're often either packing some kind of lethal explosive weapon or enough health to tank your bullets while they rip you to pieces.

Moving around in the daylight is almost certainly a death sentence. The extra visibility means that you can weave through dangers if you're smart and quick, but one wrong step and you'll find yourself face to face with a whole herd of Deathclaws or a small army of Feral Ghouls, and in some terrifying cases you'll run screaming into both, as they duke it out over who gets to nibble on your gibblets. Add in the bullet drop and velocity of Weapons of Fate, and engaging enemies at extreme ranges takes practice, a heavily modded sniper rifle, and often a steep ammo cost as you learn to calculate bullet travel time and drop.

Night is your best friend. Moving around in the true dark of Darker Nights means that enemies are oblivious to your presence with careful movement and planning, and VATS becomes an essential tool to spot danger before it spots you. The tension gets ridiculously high, and sneaking around to avoid danger or to set a full on ambush for a group of enemies is extremely rewarding, but a single misstep will often end in something jumping out of the darkness to do its best impersonation of Freddy Fazbear climbing out of a fusion reactor. Invest in a sawed off shotgun early and you'll usually survive the jump scare, but odds are you'll need a change of pants and a cold shower before you can continue.

Storms in the Dark

My adventure kicked off with the usual freeze and chill the good ol' Vault-Tec engineers had in store for our Lone Survivor, but once I left the Vault behind it became readily apparent that our mods had transformed Fallout 4 into a world with dramatically different rules and boundaries.

One of my favorite moments adventuring with all of the Horrors of the Commonwealth mods active came relatively early on my first trek to Diamond City. I was fairly familiar with how the pack played at this point, and partly out of impatience I was planning a quick sprint down the main roads and into Boston proper during the day, with plans to use the lightweight sniper rifle I had pried from the hands of a long dead Gunner to spot and guide my way around the bulk of enemies.

Two steps out of Sanctuary a random spawn of Rust Devils and their horde of legendary robotic companions sent me scurrying back into my hole, where the few turrets I had scrapped together along with my settlers could join me to bring our combined meager might against their laser weapons and shock batons. It was a lesson well received, and after scrapping all of their gear to repair my defenses I caught a few hours of shuteye to try again in the night.

By nightfall a massive thunderstorm rolled in courtesy of True Storms, and the patch between Darker Nights and our blustery post-apocalyptic storm generator really showed its teeth. Every strike of lightning would perfectly illuminate the Commonwealth for one fraction of a second in white hot detail, the rumbling power of the thunder something that feels and sounds absolutely amazing through a quality surround sound headset, masking footsteps, voices, even gunshots in its throaty bellows. I've always loved thunderstorms, and True Storms brings them to life in a way that sends chills down your spine and tingles of phantom raindrops down your shoulders.

I had considerably less trouble leaving Sanctuary under the cover of night, dodging several groups of enemies I spotted thanks to the constant click of VATS. As I approached the river bordering Boston, I scouted a trio of NPCs arguing along a lonely dock, a small lantern the only form of illumination on this side of the river. Two of the three NPCs were accusing the hapless third of being a Synth and things were about to get violent. Normally, I would have kept my nose to the ground and kept moving, but I'm a sucker for Fallout 4's random events and this was one that had somehow gone under my radar up to this point.

I failed to defuse the situation with my poorly veiled threats and the two NPCs attacked, something that didn't end well for them thanks to the magic of the aforementioned sawed off shotgun.

Once I finished looting their pockets for a few .38 rounds, I dropped into a crouch to sneak my way from the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, even among the thunder and storms the short altercation was enough to send my sneak status into Caution and I realized that not only had I managed to corner myself on the lonely dock with barely any cover, but my gunshots had alerted two large packs of Super Mutants who were now making a beeline for my location from both sides of the riverbank.

In a few alternative takes on the situation, I tried to fight my way out, but the three legendary enemies stacked against me, along with the two rocket launchers and absolute torrent of gunfire, sent me back to a loading screen before I could do much more than say howdy-doody-doo.

So the Lone Survivor and I took a quick swim across the river. Normally a perfectly viable strategy, except that you can't sneak while you're swimming and the second I stumbled my way out of the rad soaked waters a swarm of Bloodbugs came ripping out of the darkness. I spent my last few shotgun shells frantically blasting away as I kited them around a small broken down railcar. I was alive, but dangerously low on ammo. Another click of VATS gave me a clear view of a horde of ghouls crawling out of the undergrowth at all the hubbub.

The storm was at a full blown climax at this point, streaks of lightning turning the night to day in a horrifying slide show straight out of a slasher flick. So I ducked into the railcar and used my one and only Stealth-Boy to disappear into the storm. I only needed a few seconds to get away, and Stealth-Boys are good for that even if they're far from as powerful as they were in other Fallout titles.

Things can go south with every misstep in this frightening new Commonwealth, and every second not spent under nail biting tension is spent frantically fighting for survival. Although it's not a traditional horror game, it's possibly the closest an open world RPG can hope to get, and it's so far from the original Fallout 4 that, aside from the story elements, it's like playing an entirely new game lightly set in Fallout 4's Commonwealth.

What kind of Mods would you add to make Fallout 4 even scarier? What do you want to see Fallout 4 transform into next? Let us know in the comments below!