Fallout 76's survival mode is great if you enjoy dying from literally everything

Fallout 76's new survival mode, the PvP playground with no restrictions on instigating combat, is pretty goddamn stupid at the moment. It's just a bloodbath, all the time, always. It's perfectly understandable—the mode just came along yesterday in beta, and it makes sense that the only thing anyone is doing in it is hunting down other players for PvP, rather than playing Fallout 76 and engaging in PvP when it comes up organically. 

That's definitely what I was doing in there last night. I just wanted to find players and shoot them. That's all I did and that's all that was done to me. But if you're looking for a more all-encompassing experience—the game of Fallout 76 plus unrestricted PvP—you're just not going to find it at the moment. And if you're thinking about starting a new character specifically to use in survival mode, rather than just bringing over a leveled character from adventure mode, I probably wouldn't bother. You're gonna get smeared.

At first it seemed like it'd be hard to even find other players—unlike adventure mode, where there are pips on the map showing you where everyone is, survival mode just shows you the top three players on the PvP leaderboard and any players who have a bounty. Fast-travel is only available to Vault 76, your base, and the train stations, so there's not an easy way to catch up with someone even if you do know where they are.

But that's kinda the thing. Since there are so few spots to respawn, and players are constantly killing each other and respawning, those spawn points are choked with players and corpses. The first thing I did was travel to Vault 76, and I was promptly assassinated. I mean, like, the exact moment I got there, I was shot dead. I'm level 40, and I was killed twice (after respawning there) by the same level 77 player. I shudder to think what will happen to any fresh, level 1 Vault Dwellers as they step outside for the first time.

In fact, I don't even have to imagine: I killed one of them myself. After my third respawn, I spotted a player running up toward Vault 76 from the east. I shot him with my black powder rifle and he dropped. Only when I walked up to his kneeling body did I see he was level 2. I'd have used a stimpak on him, but I was fresh out—probably because all of mine dropped as loot the last two times I was killed. So I just executed this poor, low level player, feeling pretty bad about it, and decided to avoid Vault 76 altogether from then on.

The is the thorny issue with survival mode, at least for now: you can bring your existing characters over from adventure mode, so players at level 100, 200, 400, and beyond are hopping into survival mode where they'll meet lower level characters just starting out. It's not like a high level means you're safe from low level characters—it doesn't at all. I killed a player about 30 levels higher and one about 40 higher. It can be done.

But the issue is at a high levels you'll have deadlier weapons and better gear and you'll enjoy a supreme advantage. Just having more caps to fast-travel with and more aid items to heal yourself will give you a massive edge. I was killed by a level 216 player, and I really didn't feel like I had much of a chance against him. Of course, I shot first, so that's probably on me. But there's still going to be issues when living gods can mingle with fragile newborns.

I'm not sure how to solve that, really. Bethesda could restrict survival mode, and make it so you have to start a completely new character to play there, but in a couple of weeks you'll just have the same problem: high level players with god-like gear mixing with freshies just getting out of the can. I guess you could set each instance of survival mode to a certain spread of levels—servers for players level 1-10, 11-20, etc, but then it feels like you're fracturing the population too much.

But hey, it's the first day of a new mode in beta. It'll settle down, probably, and players will actually use it for more than just mindlessly hunting each other down. Bethesda will keep working on it and hopefully find a way to address its issues. In the meantime, don't expect to get a lot of quest progress done in survival mode just yet, and avoid Vault 76 and the train stations unless you're looking for a fight. And if you're starting a new character, for now, best to stick to adventure mode. 

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.