Picture the world of Fallout 4, only instead of centuries after the apocalypse it's the time period just after the bombs fell. The overworld is still heavily radioactive and will quickly kill any unprotected human, so the few survivors remaining cluster underground in subway tunnels along with freshly-created ghouls and mutated dogs. The NPCs and story you know from Fallout 4 aren't present, and there's only a single quest: don't die.
It's a mod called Frost Survival Simulator, and as you'll see below I repeatedly failed that one quest. The mod is pre-alpha, though very playable and extremely difficult. It's also pretty darn fun playing Fallout 4 with the story stripped away, some survival elements added, combat overhauled, and the challenge ramped through the roof.
Naturally, my first inclination was to see just how deadly Frost was above ground. Since the mod starts you in front of a few doors, one of which leads to the surface, I take a quick stroll outside. It is a bit Metro 2033 out there, and I immediately begin taking a large dose of rads. I don't die from the radiation, though, thanks to a bug that scuttles over and quickly (and explosively) chews one of my arms off.
Okay! I'll be sticking to the subway tunnels then, at least until I've got some rad-proof gear and maybe a small tank to deal with the wildlife. After some scrounging, I come away with a mildly protective outfit, a smiley-face mask, and some odds-and-ends for crafting. The mod makes resources scarce, so don't expect to quickly load your pockets with useful gear. I'm a fan of this: there's just so much junk in vanilla Fallout that few things feel really precious. In Frost, every empty bottle feels like a treasure.
I skulk over to a door, open it, and find myself staring at a pack of ghouls who are dining on the remains of some poor former survivor. I'm spotted and decide to crabwalk away as fast as I can, since I haven't found so much as a letter opener to defend myself with yet. I manage to elude the ghouls and finally find a weapon: a frag mine. Unfortunately, I find it by stepping on it. There goes my arm again.
I'm skulking far too quickly, I decide. I need to slow down even more if I'm going to have any chance of making it. Eventually, I locate a pipe wrench, and even enough cloth and antiseptic to craft some bandages at a chemistry bench. Then I continue skulking.
Apparently there are factions you can interact with in Frost, but my only interactions thus far have involved a free exchange of head wounds. Every NPC I've met has immediately brandished a weapon: while scurrying around, I come across a small collection of survivors who have made a home out of a subway station. One of them immediately detects me and charges, though I'm able to drop a frag mine I've scavenged and blow him up as I'm backpedaling away.
In a somewhat comical fashion, I'm introduced to the rest of the gang as they emerge one by one over the battlements, like prairie dogs.
Enemy AI has been tweaked in Frost. NPCs don't have unlimited ammo: they have a fixed amount and can only shoot as long as they have shells. Plus, low-level enemies will fire a bit more inaccurately than high-level ones. I'm grateful for this: one of the gang members takes a few shots at me, but misses.
I do what any sensible person would do with the odds stacked against them: I take a nap. Since the only way to save my progress is by sleeping in a bed, and the only bed I've found is in the mod's starting chamber, I run all the way back through the tunnels and sleep for an hour before returning to fight the crowd.
When I return, I figure I'll just chuck a Molotov into the room and set everyone on fire, but I wind up hitting the raised floor right in front of my face, which drops me instantly.
Reloading from nap-time, I manage to kill another two survivors with a better throw, but there are still a few left, including the one with the gun.
I'm a fan of mods that make combat damage more realistic. While it's not exactly fun to be dropped with one shot, it feels fair, especially when your enemies are subject to the same damage models. Bash someone's torso with a pipe wrench in Frost and they'll probably keep coming at you (especially if they're a ghoul). Bash their unprotected head, though, and they drop like a stone. With a little accuracy, you can mow through a crowd of goons in a matter of seconds. But then again, your own head is much softer too. You can barely see it below, but after clonking two goons into the sweet beyond, the remaining one gets off a lucky swipe with his stick. Again, my arm falls off. Why is my arm always falling off?
I give up on trying to take down the survivor colony, and head in a different direction. I manage to beat some mutated dogs to death, and even wipe out that first collection of ghouls I encountered with a well-thrown frag grenade. Unfortunately, another ghoul, who drops through a hole in the ceiling, pummels me to death (this time it's my head that gets detached). I'll spare you the gif: I'm pretty sure you get the point by now. This mod is tough.
Frost is the successor to Dust, a mod that gave Fallout: New Vegas a similar survival overhaul. It's got revised perks, rebalanced combat, and changes to the crafting and settlement systems, which I would write about at length if I could only survive long enough to check them out. While it's still in its early stages of development, I think the mod is both fun and challenging. If Fallout 4's vanilla survival mode doesn't feel tough enough for you, I'd recommend checking out Frost. You can find it right here at Nexus Mods.