The Definitive Fully Modded Survival Experience!
Author’s Note: This article is essentially a Fallout 4 mod guide (or list) with installation instructions. It’s worth noting that a Nexusmods user named Haoswidasee created a master list of 100+ survival-ready mods. I designed my list to be sleek, lore-friendly, and fun to read. However, once you get the basics, I highly recommend you scroll through Haoswidasee’s list. Though we’ve never spoken, I know he would want me to plug his awesome music. Edit: We talked, he’s cool.
In case you’ve been asleep in a vault for the last 220 years, the recently released, Bethesda-created Survival Mode left quite a crater when it exploded onto PCs and consoles earlier this year.
Survival Mode addresses a complaint common among Bethesda RPG veterans: There comes a time at the midpoint of these games, whether it be Fallout or Elder Scrolls, where the challenge fades away. The Player Character is far too powerful and well-equipped, and Quick Travel abilities and Save-Scum tactics ease the player away from any sense of risk or exploration.
There’s a ton of crafting available; but with an overabundance of supplies and the ability to fast travel, there’s little choice about what to get. Why not zip back-and-forth collecting every piece of loot and crafting every top-level upgrade?
Personally, I put down Fallout 4 in the months after release. I was excited at launch, but I quickly grew bored. Fast traveling from quest marker to quest marker, I was blasting baddies and strip-mining the game world but I lost the magic of exploration and survival.
My years of RPG experience betrayed me. By playing the game in the “most efficient” way, I breezed by Bethesda’s greatest accomplishment in Fallout 4: A densely populated world littered with story (and I don’t mean the story presented in quest dialog, but a narrative nonetheless — hidden in the back corners in every dungeon, and in the splayed bodies and computer terminals that litter the landscape.)
Survival mode gives players the option to shatter that tired gameplay loop like the cracked egg of one of the Commonwealth’s many irradiated monsters.
First, survival mode abolishes Fast Travel — any marching with the Underground Railroad is to be done on foot. A severe reduction in carrying capacity limits hoarding, and a hunger and thirst system place a premium on food and water. Traditional healing items and performance enhancing drugs carry negative side-effects.
In-game beds are the only place to save progress, so each trek into the wasteland is a high-risk experience. In addition, Bethesda increased weapon lethality across the board — each firefight could be your last.
Survival Mode is available on any platform. All it takes is a slide of the difficulty slider all the way to the right, and you’re in business. Before you start, read carefully. It’s important to know that once you convert a save game to Survival Mode, there’s no turning back so I suggest starting a new game. I also suggest using modifications.
If you’ve got the will to live in the wasteland, you owe it to yourself to follow this guide and get the fully modded survival experience.
Author’s Note: I own a Windows laptop, so I wrote this guide for the PC player. With a little help, I could easily adapt it to be console-friendly too. If you’re following along on an Xbox 360 or a PS4 — do your best. There’s plenty of content in here available on Bethesda’s integrated mod manager. I will also do my best to update this guide as I receive feedback from console players.
Fallout 4 Mod Guide
Bethesda’s engine purrs gloriously as-is, but injecting the right user-created content supercharges the Fallout 4 world.
The gold standard for PC modding is the Nexus Mod Manager. The Nexus Mod Manager is free and easy to install. The mods themselves, however, are a bit more tricky.
With modding, there are a thousand ways to (temporarily) crash your game if you get ahead of yourself. Read this whole guide in full before you start hackin’ and whackin’ at your game files. If something goes wrong and the tinkering is only making it worse, uninstall your game and reinstall it.
I have structured this guide to be as user friendly as possible. The mods are curated with emphasis placed on ease of access. You can start tinkering once you’ve got the basics!
I’ve also paid careful attention to keep the content as lore-based and immersive as possible. I’ve looked at and tested a great many mods for this guide. If your favorite mod isn’t here, it’s probably for one of three reasons:
- I’ve avoided mods that allow the player to craft finished goods like armors and weapons from scratch. The weight limit on Survival strongly discourages hoarding, so these mods aren’t the best fit for Survival mode.
- I’ve also limited myself to one weapon mod. In order to have multiple mods that add new weapons, a process called “merge patching” is required. I’ve included a little bit about merge patching below, but the procedure might be a little confusing for the average newbie.
- I also didn’t include mods that require non-standard set-ups.
- Sometimes I forget or overlook things. This project was much bigger than I thought it would be.
A tool has been made to automatically optimize your load order. This tool and the Nexus Mod Manager should be your first downloads — besides, of course,the base game and any DLC you choose to buy.
On the matter of DLC: Far Harbor may be one of the best Fallout DLC’s ever, but it’s an area geared for high-level players. That doesn’t mean it’s worth skipping, however, and it does add some items available for the entirety of the game.
If you’re just picking up the game and want to do a Survival mode run, I’d recommend sticking with Automatron. Automatron’s robot companion building is awesome for mad scientist types, and it’s always fun to battle the robot-themed Raider faction bundled in the release. As far as Nuka World goes, I could not be more excited.
At this time I would not recommend any of the settlement building DLC.
Author’s Note: Console modding is a far cry from it’s PC counterpart — it’s a great thing, but we all need to work together to hammer out the kinks. Not all mods are available for consoles yet, and while it sucks, it’s worth remembering that mods are created by real-life community members with normal lives. Please do not spam the creator of your favorite mod and ask them when they are porting it to console! **Since I started this project, there’s been great community outcry about the theft of PC mods and their illegitimate console ports. I don’t have much good to say about it, but it seems Bethesda is taking some action by making theirguidelines for mod uploaders more stringent. Still, there’s a lot more than that going on — I’m not going into it here; but I will if there is demand.
After you’ve downloaded and installed Fallout 4, Nexus Mod Manager and the Load Order Optimizer Tool (LOOT), it’s time to link them all together. From the Nexus Mod Manager, use the “Supported Plugins” button at the top and navigate to the folder in which you’re keeping LOOT.
Next, use a text editor (like Notepad) to add a few lines of code to a file. It’s a simple process that’s easy to see in this video created by prolific community member Gopher.
The file you’re looking for is called “Fallout4Prefs.ini.” It is found in the My Games folder. Open up the file in a text editor and add following line
Next, in the file “Fallout4Custom.ini,” add the block below.
If you don’t have a file named “Fallout4Custom.ini,” you may have to make one. Again, locate this file by navigating to My Documents, then My Games, then locating the Fallout 4 folder. For a more visual instruction, don’t forget about the video.
Author’s Note: I recommend starting a new save game when enabling mods. While editing the “.ini” files, it’s smart to save a backup of your current save games — also located in the “My Games/Fallout” folder.
By default, modding the game disables achievements in Steam. If you’re an achievement hound on PC, look no further. To enable this mod, you’ll need the Fallout 4 Script Extender, a modding tool. Download this as well. Many mods use it, so you might as well have it.
The Best Fallout 4 Mods
There are a few mods so core to the experience that they might as well be bundled with the mod manager. First is the Armor and Weapons Keywords Community Resource. Without getting too technical, this file creates a standard framework for other mods to use. Install this first.
Next, get the Unofficial Fallout 4 Patch. The “patch” fixes a ton of minor bugs not addressed by the developers. This mod isn’t as flashy as some of the upcoming pieces, but it’s a must-have.
With over 10,000 mods available on Nexus Mods, it’d be easy to spend days installing mods to make every aspect of Fallout 4 prettier. I’ve stuck to popular, bug-free releases that add to the feel of the Wasteland and boost performance.
Again, the order these mods are listed in are more or less the order in which they should be installed — but don’t worry about it too much; we’ll optimize the load order later with LOOT. For now, just follow these links and use the “Download with Mod Manager” button. When installing, some mods will ask for your preference for a particular setting. Feel free to try whatever setting you prefer, but it’s wise to stick with the modder’s recommended setting at first.
- Faraway Area Reform — A must-have mod that affects how the game processes far away areas, and significantly boosts outdoor performance.
- W.E.T. — A beautiful mod that enhances the look and feel of water.
- True Storms — This mod significantly increases the severity of weather and comes with several different options.
- Darker Nights — A highly customizable mod that darkens nights and adjusts enemies’ vision to match.
- Reverb and Ambiance Mod — This mod seems simple, but it increases immersion tenfold. If your audio is crackling, lower the “Master” audio slider within the game options and increase the volume on your speaker system.
- Interiors Enhanced — Darker Ambient Light and Fog — This mod adjusts indoor lighting to make dark areas a little spookier (or require a stealth — compromising flashlight).
- Beantown Interiors — This is not an engine tweak, but rather a project to open up some of the boarded houses around Boston. It also adds some free-form crafting quests.
- More Where That Came From — Adds 111 lore-friendly songs to the Diamond City Radio rotation. Of course, this interrupts the DJ’s normal song introductions just a teensy bit, but it’s well worth checking out.
- Valacil’s Item Sorting — Sorts the player’s inventory so all items of the same type stick together. This mod makes it easy to find bottles, grenades, and the correct food in the inventory. When installing, this mod asks the player if they want to make ammo weightless — do not choose this option; it’s against the spirit of Survival mode.
- Boss Chests Contain Legendaries — This mod makes the “Steamer Trunk” at the end of every dungeon contain legendary items. It’s a nice bonus to the player, and one of the only mods on this list that makes the game easier.
- Improved Map with Visible Roads — You won’t believe you played without it. By the way, if you have the ability to use the Pip Boy phone app then you totally should!
Fledling modder Madmax713 says he loves Bethesda games, but notes that the difficulty of certain enemies tapers off as the player nears the end of their quest. He’s compiled two mods featuring other works by his friends in the modding community that serve to flesh out some of the common enemy factions. Together with these other great character mods, the people of the wasteland should be a lot more exciting — whether you’re talking to them or shooting at them.
- Super Mutant Overhaul— This mod adds a lot of strength and diversity to a very common enemy, the Super Mutant. Included are some improvements to late game mutants, a variety of stealth mutants named the Nightkin, and new mutant loot. A super mutant companion available in the base game has been redone to be a stronger and more likable chap. Be sure to get the latest version, version 1.3
- Raider Redux — Raiders are the most common enemy in Fallout 4, and Madmax’s other mod brings some much needed color to the raider faction. This mod adds several outfits and masks available to the Raiders, as well as upping the strength of the raider power armor. It also adds a special heavily armored raider called the Dreadnaught .
- We Are The Minutemen — In the base game, Preston Garvey’s Minutemen retain a generic appearance — even as the faction grows to immense strength. The “basic” version of We Are The Minutemen equips Minutemen across the commonwealth with more powerful weapons, specialty armor, and a variety of stylish headgear. It also increases the range and usefulness of the flare gun, and increases the chance of Minutemen patrols across the Commonwealth.
- Synth Overhaul — While this mod doesn’t add a variety of enemy types in the same way that Madmax’s overhauls do, the CAST Synth mod includes spiffy new Synth armors that really make the Commonwealth’s boogeyman a whole lot scarier. This is a cosmetic mod, and will take up a lot of console hard drive room!
- Better Settlers — Settlers in the base game are limited to a certain set of very boring equipment. This mod opens up options regarding settler equipment, and the end result is Settlers wandering into the player’s life in all sorts of zany gear.
- Everyone’s Best Friend — This well named mod allows Dogmeat and a companion at the same time with no console, and no hack.
- D.E.C.A.Y — Better Ghouls — Are ghouls notspooky enough? This mod adds scary new sounds and high quality textures for the Ghouls, both feral and civilized.
- Immersive Mouth and Teeth — Simply, this mod makes mouth and teeth look nicer. It really does add a lot, especially when so much of this game is watching people talk at you.
- Eyes of Beauty — This mod adds some additional luster and attractiveness to the eyes of Fallout. This mod also existed in Skyrim.
- More Durable Vertibirds — For some reason, these armored helicopters fall out of the sky incredibly easily in the base game. This mod corrects that.
- Outfit Switcher — Bethesda might have cut away many of the fun RPG-elements that make Fallout great, but there are definitely some aspects of the game, both good and bad, that tie Fallout 4 to it’s roleplaying lineage. One of the silliest features is the necessity of a charisma-boosting “trading outfit” in order to get the best prices at the shop. With this mod, it’ll be a lot easier to switch between different styles.
It’s clear the devs really put some time and effort into Fallout 4’s shooting mechanics. Gunplay feels solid and looks great. Still, if Fallout 4 has taught me anything, it’s that there’s always room for upgrades.
- Weapons of Fate — This mod adds dynamic bullet physics to all the weapons, making them feel a lot more responsive. If you’re a fan of the combat in S.T.A.L.K.E.R, check this out. If these words all read like gibberish and you need to see explosions to be convinced, watch this video.
- See-Through-Scopes — Red Orchestra 2 players remember the sick pulled-back look in that title’s scoped weapons. This mod brings that enhanced feeling of battlefield awareness to Fallout 4. There’s a ton of immersion potential available with See-Through-Scopes, but it comes at the cost of the “hold breathe” feature. Available in the setup of this mod is the option to leave the default scopes in the game — I’d recommend it.
- Towbie’s Realistic Weapon Sounds — Here’s a video comparing the vanilla Fallout sounds and Towbie’s updates. The video isn’t quite up to date, but it gives a general idea of the sound swaps.
- ScratchMade Textures — This mod upgrades the textures on the Combat Rifle and Shotgun. They look beautiful. Here’s a reskin he did of the hunting rifle as well.
- P.A.M.S — Power Armor Movement Sounds adds weight to the incidental noise.
- Alien Assault Rifle — Tucked away in the Wasteland is an opportunity to encounter a foreign creature with an amazing gun. In the base game, unfortunately, that gun only made sense for pistoleers. Not any more.
- Tactical Weapon Mods — Adds a plethora of bayonets, laser sights, and tactical flashlights. The laser sights and flashlights are modding marvels in their own rights, as that technology is completely outside what is available in the game. The bayonet upgrades are pretty fantastic too, as the vanilla bayonet options are relegated entirely to low-level upgrades.
- Rechambering Plus — Warning! This mod is a huge but awesome change: It allows any weapon to be re-chambered to new ammo types. In vanilla Fallout 4, the ultimate hunting rifle upgrade is a .50 receiver. Now the player can chamber the weapon with a separate upgrade and take advantage of something like a hair-trigger receiver.
- Better Mod Descriptions — This mod takes a lot of the guesswork out of weapon and armor upgrading. Now; you can see exactly what you’re getting before you spent your hard-earned scrap.
- Spetsnaz Rifle — There are a host of features that made this unique weapon a great addition to the Survival game . It’s silenced, deals moderate damage, and converts easily from SMG all the way up to precision rifle. It also fires the otherwise-unused 5mm minigun ammo.
A note on weapon modding and merge patches:
Naturally, there are a ton of original weapons added to the game by users. Crossbows, modern weapons, ports of older Fallout weapons — anything you can think of has been added to the game.
Careful consideration led to the choice of the Spetsnaz Rifle for my curated list. I picked it because of the role it filled within the already present weapon selection. In addition, it’s low-damage enough that enemies with the weapon did not dominate the player. These are important things to remember before you go crazy adding weapons.
However, there’s a more complicated reason why I didn’t include multiple mods featuring enemy-carried weapons. In most weapon mods, the file includes a section that tells Fallout which enemies to supply with the added-in weapon. With several mods affecting the same enemy population, Fallout only features the weapon most recently added to the game. The process to overcome this inconvenience is called merge patching. I won’t go into it here, except to tell you it’s not that hard but you’ll need FO4Edit.
Don’t let me scare you away from installing F04Edit and creating a merge patch! I interviewed modder udyne777, creator of the featured Sptetsnaz Rifle, and he said merge patching was his introduction to modding just a few years ago. He works a day job in marketing, and now he’s creating badass weapons worth writing about. That could be you, a mod-making superhero.
There are some mods I just have to mention, even if I didn’t include them in the list for whatever reason.
- Companion Command — If I would have used companions, I definitely would have put the effort forth to use this mod. Not only does it allow the player to strategically control their companions during battle, but it also allows the player to open the companion’s inventory from a distance with a hotkey. It requires a little effort to set up, and use of the F04 Hotkeys mod.
- V.T.D.S — Bullet Time VATS Replacer— I don’t care for V.A.T.S. In Survival, I used the 90% damage reduction (VATS defense) as a crutch. This mod adds lore friendly bullet time in replace of VATS, which will consume AP and still work with many of the perks.
- Caliente’s Beautiful Bodies Enhancer — **NSFW** This mod is a must-get starter kit if you’re into modded female armor and looks. I don’t have it, or know much about it. I’ve heard it adds a lot of curves.
- Armorsmith Extended — This mod does a bunch of things, including adding the ability to wear armor over clothes. However, it also has a ton of finished-goods armor crafting. It’s hugely popular, but not, in my opinion, for a serious Survival player. Still, the beauty of this is that the choice is up to you, huh?
- Full Dialog Interface — People love this mod because it shows them, in full, the potential dialogue options. I don’t care because I press sarcastic every time (and it was acting up on me during the Survival Mode beta.)
- Smart Dogmeat — In survival, it’s often smart to avoid tangling with some of the wasteland’s most dangerous baddies. This mod ensures Dogmeat doesn’t start any fights the player can’t finish by revamping his behavior. In the newest version, everyone considers Dogmeat a friend — be warned! **I have not tested to see if it works with Everyone’s Best Friend.
- Gunner Overhaul — I didn’t use it myself, but this mod turns the Gunners from generic baddies to a more fleshed out minor faction. Interestingly, Gunners will be neutral towards the player if this mod is installed. If you’re looking for a Gunner graphical mods, check out Wasteland Grunts.
- All kinds of settlement mods — There’s a ton, folks, but all you need is a bed and a magic water spigot.
- Saving Solutions — I really enjoy the inability to save on command. I think it adds a lot of tension to the game. Still, I understand how a new player could might not need more tension. Two of the best mods for introducing saving in a lore-friendly and balanced way are Campsite, and Combat-Disabled Quicksave and Usable Cigarettes.
Survival Mode is supposed to be hard, and the risk of losing everything is part of the fun: but if you lose too much progress the game isn’t fun anymore, so let’s not do that. Let’s have a good time instead.
I’ve got some ideas about things you can do at the start of the game to make your time easier. I’ve also got some notes about things you can do late game get around the map more smoothly.
A great part of the fun in any game is discovery. I don’t want to take that from you. Still, the systems in Fallout 4 are complicated, and they don’t always make sense. My goal with this guide is to keep you from making all the dumb mistakes that I did as I was figuring out this game.
There’s so much discussion about Fallout 4 builds that I feel disingenuous preaching a single best build, but I’ve got a few general tips. First, stick to one weapon type. If this is the first time you’ve heard this information, do yourself a favor and just pick rifles. Secondly, everyone needs enough agility to sneak. Sneaking is mandatory. Lastly, I wouldn’t worry about crafting too much; It’s true, gun nut is fantastic, but read the “modding for dummies” tip below a few times before you settle on a crafting-heavy character.
Don’t drink the river water! With a gear and a steel — the equivalent of a hammer and a brick, you can build a water pump in any patch of dirt. Plop one down in Sanctuary, and you’ll have a clean source of water to refill any bottle you come across. Vladil’s item sorting will make it easy to find and locate bottles in the wild. Purified water is an essential survival item and serves as a reliable source of healing as well.
Sleep-to-save is a huge part of what makes Survival mode so engaging. Craft a bed as soon as you emerge from the Vault, and every time you encounter a new Settlement. If you’re not keen on losing progress, I’d suggest sleeping in every spare bed and filthy bedroll you run across. Also, there’s a temptation in Survival Mode to make each respawn a trial-and-error run at the same frustrating objective. If you keep dying in the same place, perhaps it’s time to go somewhere else (or come back in a suit of Power Armor).
Obviously, Survival Mode isn’t the place to build showy settlements, but there are a few strategies which complement settlement building nicely. Settlements require beds, food, defense and water to function properly. The most cost efficient bed is the sleeping bag. Placing sleeping bags inside (under a roof) grants a happiness bonus. There are no happiness penalties for densely packing the sleeping bags. Settlers love the cuddle nest! The best defensive structure are turrets, as the fortifications require settlers to man them. There’s no “best” food in terms of settlement stock, but melons are beloved community fruit as they quench thirst (in the player) as well as hunger. At the end of the day, my survival settlements are more like squats outside important quest locations like Hangman’s Alley and Boston Airport.
(Weapon) Modding for Dummies
Trust me, this is way easier than modding the game! You don’t have to be scientifically inclined to scrape up elite weapon and armor mods. With good luck and a careful eye you can loot upgraded weapons from your foes. Take the upgraded weapon and remove the mod by equipped the basic component (i.e. upgrade to “standard reciever”) at a weapons bench. You will then have the elite mod to apply to your favorite piece.
Brotherhood of Steel Paladin Danse judges character quickly, and he seems to like you. Whether you agree with his factions techno-facism or not, a few quests for the Brotherhood and a quick trip to the Prydwyn will net you Vertibird Signal Grenades. These bad boys will serve as immersive fast travel once the reality of the maps huge depth starts to set in. Buy them from Proctor Teagan every time you’re there. (By the way, if you don’t know what the Prydwyn is — just keep following the main story!)
This strategy is so good that some people consider it immersion breaking. Building a collection of purifiers at any settlement with water deposits a collection of purified water in the Workbench. This water can be accessed from any settlement with the Local Leader perk. This style of play, affectionately known as the “water baron,” and is considered fairly overpowered because of the trading potential of the water. However, if you’re struggling to survive in the wasteland — you gotta do what ya gotta do.
Every character benefits from occasional power armor use, regardless of levels of intelligence and armorer. When power armor and vertibird signal grenades are available, it’s wise to follow the Brotherhood of Steel’s lead and perform an infiltration and reconnaissance mission before bringing power armor to bear. There will be a time in every waster’s career when clearing buildings is too dangerous for even the most sneaky, most sharp-eyed survivor. When missiles and Molotovs start flying, it’s time to return to home base and crack open your power armor. Nothing beats tracking a tough baddie to their hidey hole and coming back with your walking fusion powered tank.
To me, the early game magic of emerging from the Vault was enchanting. So much so, in fact, that I restarted the game three separate times before completing the story. Wandering around like a scared duck is fun at first, but I strongly advise finding a nice place to restock and refit, and making liberal use of the Vertibird grenades in the late game. Remember: though the game eventually makes you pick a faction, you are able to do favors for all of the major players until a very obvious point of no return. Take advantage of this! (but still, I might advise living in a squat on the edge of the Boston Airport)
Early Game Loot
At the risk of spoilers, here are the items in the first two hours you simply cannot miss:
1. Root cellar in the starting town.
2. “You’re Special!”, a book which raises any stat.
3. The Perception Bobblehead by the Minutemen.
4. The “double meat” book in Sunshine Tidings.
Congratulations! You’re ready to start your fully-modded Survival playthrough… or are you? There’s a ton of content I haven’t touched on in this Fallout 4 mod guide, and don’t forget that you may want to wait for Nuka World, coming August 30th.
Author’s Note: As a working journalist, I tried my hardest to sell this article to the many fine videogame publications and websites from which I read my news. Unfortunately, none of them bit immediately — and somewhere along the way, while I was talking to the wonderful modders who inspired this project — I realized the value of creating content for the pleasure of my community and for the sheer love of creation. Enjoy. (Besides, I don’t need food — endurance means nothing to the stealth archer)
Special thanks to MadMAX713, udyne777, my handsome editor Jason Ludwig, my patient publisher Phil Williams, my loving partner, my MSI Apache GE70, and Bethesda.
Version 1.6|8/14/2016 | |coryetc (at) gmail.com | coryathompson.com