I understand what the game already tells you in the general sense... it changes enemy damage, resistances, and chance of legendary monsters appearing.

But, specifically, how does the difficulty level affect the game? Is going from Normal to Hard a 5% increase in damage? 50%? 200%? Are there any additional things changed that aren't mentioned. Does Survival mode add any extra mechanics, or is it just even bigger numbers than Very Hard?

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    I've read somewhere that it increase the chance of finding "Legendary Enemies" (which probably come with more loot). – Max Nov 10 '15 at 14:38
  • Legendary Enemies are the ones that drop legendary "named" weapons, so that's a plus, but other than that I don't know what else it specifically affects. – Robert Wertz Nov 10 '15 at 14:41

Gameplay changes that affect you as you change difficulty from Easy -> Very Hard -> Survival. I have tested most of this in game in a simple way. I've brought my melee character and have quicksaved before a scripted Swan fight. I found out a few things:

  • Damage you deal is affected as you progress (Damage dealt is lowered)
    • On Easy, Swans for me were taking 4 light hits to kill.
    • On Hard, Swans for me were taking 20+ light hits to kill.
  • Damage you take is affected as you progress
    • On Easy, Swans could hit me for as low as 12% of my total HP. HP values were the same in both tests
    • On Hard, Swans could insta-kill me at times, like the Giants in Skyrim.
  • Spawn rate of Legendary enemies (and thusly 'drop' rates of Legendary gear) is affected as you progress from Easy -> Hard
    • On Easy, Legendary spawns are very "hard" (haha) to come by. Legendary gear is infrequently found.
    • On Hard, Legendary spawns just seem a bit more plentiful. Legendary gear is found more often.
  • EXP stays the same. Changing the difficulty did not change the EXP rewards from a quest, or from killing an enemy, or from passing a speech check.
  • Explosives become a godsend in Survival mode. The damage is heavily amped up and makes dispatching of tougher enemies like AI turrets and Super Mutants a little bit easier

Survival mode is even worse. Consider Survival mode "Extreme" mode. It features extremely tough enemies, as every single enemy gets huge damage and HP buffs, turning them into deadly bullet sponges. Ammo conservation actually becomes a thing in my survival playthrough, and in terms of playstyle, I found hanging back, slowly going through areas, and backtracking if enemies came a lot more useful. Explosives became very important, as well as mines, which were excellent at covering your ass when a Super Mutant is chasing you down a hallway and your entire clip of Laser Rifle ammo does absolutely nothing.

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  • My game hasn't arrived yet. Is there a hardcore mode like in New Vegas, separate from Survival? Or does Survival incorporate those kinds of differences? – DCShannon Nov 10 '15 at 23:42
  • @DCShannon Survival is basically "Extreme" imo. There is no food/water survival mechanic at all. Survival is crazy tough, enemies basically become bullet sponges, even grunts, and it seems like it take forever to kill enemies. Explosives become actually useful. Playstyle will totally change too. I learned you can't just run in an VATS everyone to death like in 3/NV, as so many enemies spawn and gang up on you. You have to play it much much safer, like hanging back, planting mines, etc. – korrasaur Nov 11 '15 at 1:07
  • This is exactly the sort of info I was looking for, thanks. Any chance you can do one more run on that save against Normal difficulty to get one more data point for it? – Sterno Nov 11 '15 at 13:49
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    It's such a shame they used the bullet sponge mechanic, it's not fun shooting something in the head and it doing no damage. They should have taken a page out of the Metro series' book and increased both player and NPC damage. Luckily there's already mods to do this, but I can't understand how they're so bad at making their own game difficulties fun. – mattmanser Nov 15 '15 at 16:48
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    @mattmanser There was a fantastic mod for Fallout 3 that introduced a "hardcore" mechanic for damage that was much more realistic. It only took a few hits to kill or cripple you, but the same was true for enemies. It makes no sense for a normal human to take dozens of rounds anywhere on their body and just shrug it off. – Zac Crites Nov 23 '15 at 16:08


Difficulty | Dmg Done | Dmg Taken   | Legendary spawn rate
V.easy     | x 2      | x 0.5       | x 0.25
Easy       | x 1.5    | x 0.75      | x 0.5
Normal     | x 1      | x 1         | x 1
Hard       | x 0.75   | x 1.5       | x 1.5
V.Hard     | x 0.5    | x 2         | x 2
Survival   | x 0.75   | x 3         | x 3

Not sure about the # for NPC's HP increase.

It also affect some other things, like the Healing speed/rate, spawn rate of legendary enemies and other similar effects. I don't have hard numbers for those though. There are no new mechanics on higher difficulty.

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  • Last sentence is incorrect for a while. Survival have food/water/sleep mechanics, which ties into a disease mechanic, and also very different healing mechanic. – Nelson May 31 '18 at 0:45

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