Hello everyone, I am posting to try and give some of my thoughts and tips from my first full day of playing the new Survival mode…all in the low to mid 20s. As a caveat, I have 4 characters above level 50 with the highest being 84, but I spent the day on my low level toon firstly to see how the game feels as a lower level in a world full of people who can and will decimate you, and secondly to get a feel for the farming/leveling potential with the 20% boost. Note: I played with my primary focus being PVE and leveling.
My first impressions are fairly positive. I felt much more engaged and aware of my surroundings than I do when I'm, say, mindlessly sprinting around and leaping like a maniac with my level 60 Marsupial, Speed Demon shotgunner. I spent a LOT of time crouched, peeking around corners, and listening for footsteps & gunshots. Also, being forced to walk to most objectives with fast travel limited is a very positive change to the game, in my opinion. This is one of my favorite parts of survival difficulty on Fallout 4, but I understand it may not be everyone's thing.
I don't know for sure if the 20% XP boost is enough to offset the time spent walking everywhere while casually questing, but if you were going to server hop farm a single location, the XP boost is certainly worth it. Overall, the PVE is a more immersive and rewarding experience from the few changes that do directly impact PVE, in my opinion. PVP is where the mode really gets Wild (Appalachia), though.
First and foremost, you need to completely wipe your mindset from Adventure the second you hit "Play". This sounds silly, but it is the best piece of advice I can give you. Survival can be rewarding if you play it right, but you must understand that you WILL die. How you prepare for the inevitable, and how you handle it afterwards will completely make or break your experience. There are people in the world with two-shot explosive shotguns and full legendary armor sets, and they want to show you them. This is a fact of the game at the moment, like it or not. You can't come into the mode already having negative feelings about the playing field being unbalanced, or raging about another player's build and gear.
In fact, it is entirely possible to spend a large majority of your time NOT dealing with or interacting with these players at all. It takes a little bit of map awareness, on top of a little bit of luck. When you log in, open the map and note who the "Top 3" are and where they are hanging out. There's a good chance people will be headhunting them, so the train stations closest to those players are likely not safe to spawn or travel to. Next, when you see notifications of players being killed in the top left, check the map for small red skull icons. These show where the deceased dropped their loot, thus indicating unsafe locations. This will prove significantly more difficult if you are a fresh level 2 coming out of the Vault. I would highly recommend getting past the Morgantown part of the MSQ, having a camp placed in a fairly remote area, and discovering a few train stations like Sutton, Charleston, and Grafton in Adventure mode before making the switch to Survival.
None of this will keep you safe and hidden forever, though. Either through forced game mechanics, or bad luck, you WILL run into other players eventually. Limiting your losses when this happens is key.
"Top 3" or "Bethesda put a giant fucking target on my back" After you've been alive long enough you will be in the top 3 on the leaderboard, and subsequently marked on the maps of all other players. I've found this to usually be around the 1 hour mark, though it happened as soon as 20 minutes to me. Both of my PVP deaths happened as a result of me being hunted down while marked on the map. Constantly be aware of the top 3, and how close you are getting to it. When you notice you are close, start thinking about finding a stash and dumping your junk, and a good chunk of your AID items. Alternatively, if you are close to a respawn location, you can kill yourself and quickly grab your dropped aid/junk to reset your timer to 0. Personally, I spent my time in the top 3 farming interior locations like Big Bend Tunnel, to force people to really have to work to get to me, and to give me a better chance to defend myself in close quarters, if need be.
Even when you aren't marked on the map, you might still run into people when fast travelling, or just wandering about Appalachia. The best I can say for these situations is to always try to see them before they see you. Easier said than done, obviously, but being astutely aware of your surroundings is the name of the game in Survival.
Fighting Back I've come to realize it's best to just assume that everyone else on the server can one-shot you, and will do so if given the opportunity. So what can I do as a level 20-something that can hardly keep enough ammo for my pipe bolt-action rifle and with no legendaries to my name? One-shot them right back, of course! Probably the most criminally under-used and underappreciated item in the game is the MIRV Frag Grenade. If you are unaware, the MIRV is a grenade that when thrown shoots out even more grenades. With rank 5 of Demolition Expert, which is acquirable by level 14, a well-placed MIRV Frag will one-shot almost everyone. The hardest part is finding the plans (I got mine as a reward for the daily quest to sink barrels by the Grafton Dam), but they are relatively easy to craft. I emphasize "well-placed" because it's only going to one-shot if most of the explosions hit your target. Landing it right under their feet is ideal. This is why I say to farm interior locations when you are top 3. Even if someone does find you, if you can drop a MIRV and take them down with you, odds are they are higher level than you and you will come away with a net-gain of caps should you both die in the explosion. Other grenades may be enough if you don't have/can't find MIRV plans. Other viable ways to fight back include, but aren't limited to, stealth sniper, stealth melee, or, my second favorite, shotgun VATS criticals with concentrated fire headshots. Being able to kill someone higher level, even if they get you first and you kamikaze them with a MIRV, can often be a deterrent to them continuing to come for you. Which brings me to my final point.
F*cking Griefers Sadly, this mode is attractive to the lowest common denominator of Vault Dwellers, and the mechanics are such that spawn camping and C.A.M.P. destroying are almost encouraged. From my experience today, I was fortunate in not being subject to any griefing, but a few minutes on this subreddit will show it is an issue. The first and most obvious tip for dealing with spawn camping is to "Ignore" and server hop. It's not fun, but that is the simplest solution to an individual griefer. Another less-than-savory solution to griefing is to keep your C.A.M.P. as barebones and inconspicuous as possible as long as you plan to play survival. Maybe store/blueprint the bigger stuff. As previously mentioned, having multiple train stations unlocked and a C.A.M.P. placed before starting survival will go a long way to prevent being spawn-camped at Vault 76 for instance. Finally, and probably the most difficult part, is to keep a cool head and not rage when you are killed. It sucks. Seriously, it fucking sucks. But in the end, it's a game, and it is exactly what you signed up for when you entered Survival mode. Go quest in a different area for a while, server hop if need be, but just move on and get back to the fun part of the game ASAP.
Lastly, I want to talk about a few of my encounters today. In 4 hours of gameplay, I had 3 PVP experiences. Keep in mind I was actively avoiding PVP when possible. Two of them were when I was "Top 3" and resulted in my death. The first time, I didn't realize I had been marked on the map and was doing the physical exam in Charleston for the Fire Breathers. A level 200+ rolled up and blasted my head off before I knew what hit me. Fair. I wasn't paying attention or being careful.
The second I was doing the Belching Betty Tunnel for the Fire Breathers and I knew I was marked. I carefully progressed to the end until I heard the loud, familiar sound of Power Armor footsteps coming around the corner. This time I was ready–MIRV grenade equipped. He finally found me, and killed me, but not before I dropped the grenade and took him with me. I gained 200+ caps and he never came back for me a second time.
Finally, my third encounter was me managing to get the drop on a level 140+ at a train station by being on high alert as soon as I fast traveled there. I uncharacteristically engaged by lobbing a MIRV right at their feet. 290 Caps and 40 stimpaks richer, I ended my day of survival much better off than when I started.
I hope I was able to give some useful insight and maybe change a bit of the negative tone some people have regarding the mode right now. It's far from perfect, and even further from fair & balanced, but since when was a post-apocalyptic wasteland supposed to be?
Thanks for reading!
Xbox- "OEL x 23"
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© Post "Fighting Back: A Guide to Survival-ing at lower levels." for game Fallout.
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