Carl's Fallout 4 Guide
for PC, Xbox One, and PS4

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Fallout 4 Difficulty: Easy to Survival

What Changes: Legendary Rate, Damage Dealt and Damage Taken

Fallout 4's Difficulty changes the rate of healing, damage dealt, damage taken, and legendary enemy spawns. Difficulty can be changed at any time and affects Damage dealt/taken, Legendary enemy spawn rates and, specifically on Survival, the rate healing items restore your health.

Some people will play Fallout 4 on Survival Difficulty right away in order to enjoy a challenging experience, and many will turn it down just to get past the first Raider. I chose to play on Hard and Very Hard for much of my gameplay, because I didn't want my experience to be too easy. The difficulty setting effects a number of factors in Fallout 4, and they are very noticeable, particularly with the jumps from normal to very hard and Survival Mode. Here's a rundown of what you can expect from each difficulty setting in the game as far as Legendary enemies and the damage you'll deal and take. I also try to provide some tips for playing on higher difficulties and what you'll expect to need to do to survive battles.

You can change Difficulty
Head to the gameplay menu and change the difficulty at any time. If you feel particularly powerful on normal, you should probably play on hard and will enjoy the game much more, while getting better loot. Players going through a second time will likely want to try the game on Very Hard or Survival. They know what Perks to pick to make a truly character. I do not recommend Very Easy and Easy unless you want to blow through the game - as in for people who just don't have much time to play and want to enjoy the story.

Things Not Affected By Difficulty
The experience you get for a kill will not be affected by difficulty. This means Very Easy will level you much faster than any other difficulty, so if you were going into a 2nd playthrough on console where you cannot cheat and wanted to try a new build this would be the way to go - burn through buildings and steamroll quests, get the XP and hike the difficulty later. Additionally, enemies won't drop more or less loot, you won't find more or less ammo in containers, speech checks are the same, chance to hit in VATS, and so on. The three changes between difficulty settings are Legendary Enemy Spawn Rates, Damage you deal, and how much Damage you take. Survival throws in healing rate reduction and even more Legendary opponents, whose loot you'll need desperately.

Table to Compare Difficulty

Here's a simple table, which takes the below text and condenses it so that people who are looking for fast info have a reference:

Fallout 4 Difficulty Comparison
ModifierVery EasyEasyNormalHardVery HardSurvival*
Player Damage Dealt2x1.5x1x0.75x0.5x0.75x
Enemy Damage Dealt0.25x0.5x1x1.5x2x3x
Legendary Spawn0.25x0.5x1x1.5x2x3x

*As of patch 1.5, survival increases player damage when compared to Very Hard but also enemy damage. Survival reduces your carry capacity while simultaneously adding weight to ammo. Player damage is increased to compensate for this additional difficulty but food, drink, rest, and medicine are also required to survive while many other things are more deadly. You can only save at a bed and fast-travel is disabled. Survival additionally makes the healing rate about 10% of normal, meaning it takes far longer to heal up.

Very Easy and Easy Difficulties

On these difficulties, you will not see Legendary Enemies appear much at all. 1/4 the rate of Normal mode for Very Easy, 1/2 for Easy. This means far less opportunity to build a set of gear with Legendary Abilities, which is one of the most sought things in the game, in order to customize your character. You'll deal double damage on very easy and take only 1/4 of the normal damage. It's really to fly through and simplifies the experience way too much for my taste - but it's a single player game so enjoy it however you like!

Normal Difficulty

There's not much to be said about normal. You will gain no bonuses to damage nor will enemies deal less - this is the base setting, and thus what we compare other difficulties to. Legendary enemies spawn at a 'normal' rate. You'll see one in every 3-4 skirmishes with groups of Raiders, and are not very likely to run into single powerful opponents like Yao Guai and Deathclaws that are Legendary.

Even on Normal FO4, limb crippling is hardly a thing. Enemies' life depletes fast even when shooting them in the arm, to the point that you rarely benefit from targeting it in VATS. Might as well go for the torso shot with higher chance to hit. Grenades are just extra money, and you should have an abundance of Stimpaks if you build your character well.

Hard Difficulty

Hard is a nice balance between challenge and fun, and I highly recommend it - especially once you've got good weapons modifications and have taken Perks to boost specific weapon types' damage. You'll deal 75% of your normal damage, and enemies deal 50% more than normal. Legendary Enemies spawn about 50% more often. I see them in every 2-3 rooms of enemies when questing in a building, just to give you an idea what that means. It's random, but you're going to see them a lot more than if you were playing on even Normal. Hard will make you think a bit more strategically, though limb damage doesn't come into play nearly enough compared to past Fallout games. OK, I played FO2 heavily and miss crippling limbs. Only really strong opponents even give you the chance if you have a strong weapon, but it's still useful.

Crippling limbs is much more useful on Survival Difficulty in Fallout 4 Crippling Limbs becomes both more likely and more useful when playing on Very Hard or Survival. Weakening foes in this way is not often easy to do on lower difficulties, as with a good build enemies will die too fast to make use of it.

The Very Hard and Survival Difficulties of Fallout 4

Here's where the difference between you and your enemies increases immensely and the greatest change in difficulty takes effect:

Damage Dealt and Taken
Very Hard and Survival are similar in a couple of ways. You deal half of the stated damage of your weapon, while taking 2x the normal damage. Yep, damage enemies deal to you is doubled on either of these difficulties. This means two things occur, which impact you in a very negative way. First, you're dealing less damage so every round of ammo counts. You're going to have much less to spare and enemies will take a lot of shots to kill. Ammo is certainly not scarce on other difficulties, but here it becomes important not to overkill - use weaker ammo on lower leveled enemies and save the good stuff for the really powerful enemies. Secondly, you're taking more damage, and as a result you're going to possibly face scarcity in terms of Stimpaks. A good tip is to work with the Minutemen to get Settlements up and running and producing lots of purified water for you.

Legendary Spawns on V. Hard and Survival
Legendary Spawn rate is reported to be 2x on Very hard and 3x on Survival. I cannot confirm this, but it sure feels like it. Multiple enemies in a group may be Legendary on Survival. It's important to focus on one so that you do not get both to half, where they heal, then their legendary powers are activated ("Legendary enemy has mutated!"). This can be very dangerous when facing even a simple high-leveled Raider, because he'll be more likely to hit you or gain some other bonus. Devastating when facing other types. Bring down the weaker foes first then the Legendary.

Survival's Uniques
There have been many changes to survival: you can read about them on the Fallout 4 website.

Without mods, entering survival mode is a one-time chance for an existing character. All your saves will disappear except the one. though you can backup the saves first! You cannot go back to survival mode with that character if you choose to leave it. Existing characters can choose survival, but it's a one-time chance to try it. Survival as of 1.5 has other features to make it more challenging, and more of a true survival simulator. I'll create an article about these changes very soon, for now you can read the Bethesda blog post linked above.

Some Tips for Very Hard/Survival
Survival Difficulty is hell on Melee, without a really great player behind the controller. I'm sure some people will laugh at me for this statement, but for the majority of players it's true. VATS usage, and optimizing AP expenditure of weapons is very wise when playing on either Survival or Very Hard. You need the slowed time to give you a chance to cripple limbs (this comes into play a lot more) and target weaker enemies to reduce in damage coming at you.

Grenades of all kinds become more useful on Fallout 4's Survival, as does oddball weapons like the Syringer. You'll want to put Perk Points into weapon specializations, Gun Nut, and Armorer sooner than normal. It's more important than being able to hack. Also, you might not want to just use Dogmeat - use a Companion that can Hack or Lockpick to shore up one of your character's weaknesses, while also giving them ammo types you don't want and modifying their weapons.

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