Which perks and SPECIAL attributes have become more important in the new Survival Mode (which is a Steam beta as of this writing)? Some that were merely "nice" in non-Survival playthroughs have become much more valuable with the harsher rules.

Some of this depends on gameplay style of course (e.g., melee vs. ranged), but I'm most interested in universals. Just by the nature of the rule changes, some attributes are more valuable. For example:

  • Fast travel is gone—so "Local Leader" is much more valuable because it lets you instantly share resources between all of your workshops.
  • Ammunition has weight, and you can't fast travel to unload inventory at vendors and workshops—so Strength and Strong Back are much more valuable.

What are other examples?

  • I've updated my answer to detail some devilishly evil downsides to cannibalism... Wanted to give you a heads-up as to not waste a perk point if you don't want to deal with the adverse effects.
    – king14nyr
    Mar 31, 2016 at 0:16

8 Answers 8


Many other perks have become much more useful with the changes in the new survival mode, especially in the endurance tree. As the mode name implies, survivability is much more difficult, and can lead to loss of progress due to not being able to save at will. On top of the ones you've listed (Strong Back and Local Leader):

  1. Toughness, Refractor, and Lifegiver: On top of Endurance giving you more overall health, many of its perks increase your survivability in the Commonwealth. Since saving is pretty much strictly tied to using a bed, loss of progress is a real threat, especially due to the big increase in damage taken. These might give you that little extra needed to survive. Toughness and Refractor increase damage resistances, Lifegiver for +60 health and slow health regeneration (at rank 3).
  2. Adamantium Skeleton: Limb damage seems to be more of an issue. Limbs now require a Stimpak to be healed, even outside of battle. Being over-encumbered can also cripple your legs.
  3. Lead Belly: Since you need to keep hydrated, it might not be a bad idea to pick up Lead Belly. Keeping rads as low as possible is more urgent now, as RadAways now add fatigue and an increased risk of illness by using them, so they need to be used more calculatedly. Which leads us to...
  4. Rad Resistant: The less rads you take, the better, due to the negative effects of RadAways. Depending on which DLCs you have installed, you may have a better way to manage radiation long-term (such as the Decontamination Arch offered in the Wasteland Workshop DLC), but resisting extra radiation in the field can still be useful, especially if you're spending some time in the Glowing Sea or fighting Children of Atom with Gamma Guns.
  5. Solar Powered: Even though this is at 10 endurance, it can be simply great for maintaining health. The second point reduces rads in the sunlight, the third recovers health. It can save you from using some Stimpaks, and prevent you from needing RadAways in many cases. You don't have to worry about the ill effects of RadAways if you don't have to use them. This can also assist in healing quicker to counteract the slowed recovery from food/Stimpaks.
  6. Cannibal: You can eat humans, ghouls, or super mutants for an immediate, decent health boost. Save Stimpaks/food, no need to wait for the slow recovery. Cannibalizing a fallen enemy will also recover some of your hunger. However, this seems to come at a steep cost, according to this answer. Cannibalizing an enemy will give you the Dark Craving debuff, which allows you to only eat human flesh (no standard food) to recover health and hunger. Moreover, it seems the rate at which your hunger rises is greatly increased, forcing you to seek out more cannibal victims until the debuff is removed (by sleeping a long time, 24 hours seems to do the trick). Depending on how you play, this might not be worth it.
  7. Party Boy/Party Girl, Chemist, Chem Resistant: If you aren't adverse to using alcohol/chems, these would be useful. They increase the duration of alcohol/chems, give you immunity to addictions, and can raise your luck (Party Boy/Girl). The immunities are especially noteworthy. Illnesses are more likely to happen to those in poor health. If those ill effects are stacked with withdrawal effects, you might be severely hampered.
  8. Medic: Making your Stimpaks/RadAways heal more is never a bad thing. The last point also makes them work faster, which will counteract at least a bit of the "slower healing" from them. Healing more can also help conserve Stimpaks, which are needed more overall. As previously mentioned, they (or sleeping) are needed to heal limbs. Followers that are downed also need Stimpaks to recover, else they will go back home.
  9. Lone Wanderer/Inspirational/Attack Dog: Depending on how you want to play. Lone Wanderer decreases your damage taken, and increases your damage dealt and carry capacity, when without a companion. Inspirational does all the same for your companion, increasing their survivability. Attack Dog can have Dogmeat hold down enemies, preventing them from attacking you.
  10. Animal Friend/Intimidation: Again, if you wanted to use this playstyle. Why fight enemies when you can avoid confrontation/make them fight for you?
  11. Nerd Rage!: Damage resistance bonus and extra damage inflicted at low health. The damage resistance may save you in a pinch.
  12. Action Boy/Action Girl, Grim Reaper's Sprint: Especially if you need to sprint often or are using VATS more often. Fatigue affects your AP bar the same way radiation does to your health bar. These help ensure you have some AP to use when you really need it.

Many other non-S.P.E.C.I.A.L. perks can also be handy. Astoundingly Awesome Tales, Wasteland Survival Guides, and Unstoppables all have great perks that reduce (or ignore) incoming damage, bonus healing from foods, regenerating health, etc. Live & Love increases the usefulness and survivability of your companions, should you choose to use one.

There are probably several more past these that can help you in a run through the new survival mode, depending on how you play. The ones above can really help you survive and prevent the dreaded loss of progress from death.


Fallout 4 Perk List

Bethesda: Fallout 4, changes to Survival Mode

  • 1
    I think Toughness and Refractor are a bad call, but some other good points here. Past the first couple hours of play, 10 DR is pretty pathetic. It's better than nothing, but not better than the bonus from any number of other perks available you could take instead.
    – DCShannon
    Jun 22, 2016 at 1:37
  • 3
    Building the Decontamination Arch in my main settlement has taken care of radiation problems for me. No need to waste any perks on it. Can easily add that to other settlements once you get supply lines set up, as well.
    – DCShannon
    Jun 22, 2016 at 1:41
  • @DCShannon Yeah, for Toughness/Refractor, I wanted to give a couple of low SPECIAL stat-requirement options (hence Toughness), and putting it alone without mentioning its counterpart, Refractor, seemed sort of wrong. They are probably not the most helpful on the list, especially as you level into the teens and start getting better equipment, but it's a quick pickup that might help you early-game, so I included it.
    – king14nyr
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:23
  • @DCShannon As for the Decontamination Arch, I didn't mention it because I didn't want to assume the asker had the Wasteland Workshop DLC. He didn't mention it in his question. I also wanted to point out the negative effects of radiation and using rad-away in New Survival Mode, and give the best ways to manage it out in the field, in the case you don't have the opportunity to run back to a settlement (such as times in the Glowing Sea). I'll edit to include that this may be a non-perk way to alleviate some of the radiation stress, but I think the perks can still be handy.
    – king14nyr
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:26

Around level 19 now. Here are a few I've found helpful:

Lone Wanderer - invaluable, especially with the carry capacity boost.

Ninja - I'm sticking with a sniper/stealth build, so it's helpful to cause max damage from as far away as possible.

Gunslinger - due to many factors, it's harder to gather junk, and since pistols are easier to upgrade at lower ranks for Gun Nut, I started with Gunslinger instead of Rifleman. Will add that later.

Local Leader - you'll want to get this going as soon as you can. Once you are out in the wild, it's very helpful to have access to all of your workstations, especially with no fast travel and limited carry capacity.

Demolition - explosives have been very important for me thus far, and making them more powerful and having the ability to craft them, is even better.

Oddly enough, I don't think I've taken any of the first 8 perks listed above. Started with STR 1 and END 2. Just a different playing style.

  • I'm almost up to lvl 30, and I also have very low Str and End: 2 of each. I've been considering adding to strength just for Strong Back, but I've had more useful stuff to get every level. I don't think pistols are actually easier to upgrade, but it doesn't really matter. I don't have any crafting perks on this character. It's easy enough to find/buy mods to put on your guns that there's no need to craft them. Better off putting those perks in other places that actively help you fight and survive. +1 just for Local Leader.
    – DCShannon
    Jun 22, 2016 at 1:40
  • I did a low INT run, and finally picked up Gun Nut level 4 at level 92, because I found an Explosive Combat Rifle and needed to chamber it for .38. Without Gun Nut, you can't find a .38 Combat Rifle receiver, period, so for sure you don't need Gun Nut at all. I didn't have it for 92 levels.
    – Nelson
    Sep 24, 2016 at 13:28

I have a lot of playtime on Fallout 4. This includes beating the original survival difficulty in less than 6 hours of game time, below level 20.

I'm now nearly level 30 in the new survival mode, taking my time. I'm on my way to the Glowing Sea.

So far, I haven't had to change my play style barely at all. The combat is essentially the same. The best way to survive is still to kill everything in VATS before it gets to attack you. The extra damage actually makes this easier. But, it also makes the whole killing them before they attack that much more important. So, continue to focus on doing spike damage with crits, and using Awareness to ensure that the damage from each shot matches the target.

This means that the most important SPECIAL stats continue to be Perception (accuracy), Agility (AP), and Luck (crits). My character has 2 Strength and Endurance, and no perks from either of those columns.

The only real differences I've found that affect my perks are the need to carry around additional supplies in the form of food and water, and the inability to fast travel back to my main settlement. This means that you need more carry weight, and more access to crafting supplies and stations. Therefore, Local Leader is the perk that has had its importance increase the most.

You need supply lines to your forward settlements so you can

Also, Local Leader is required to build stores in your settlements. This means you won't have to run for ten minutes just to sell your loot.

Due to the carry weight issues, you might consider Strong Back or Lone Wanderer, but there are other ways to address this issue beside wasting perks on it. You can use pocketed or lightweight gear, be more judicious about what you pick up, and take advantage of a companion. See this other answer for more info on increasing carry weight.


For survival, because of weight limitation, I decided to go with gunslinger and all the critical hits perks (ninja, better criticals, critical banker...)

The goal is to kill before being killed.

Most of my early build is based on "Many a True Nerd" (https://www.youtube.com/user/ManyATrueNerd) Survival Build; I am not certain to follow his build later on in the game, but it is a good start.


One of the keys is adaptability. Change your thinking a bit and focus on survival. Commando perk is OP IMO, works on anything you can make automatic fire - laser guns, rifles, pistols. You get three shots for every pull in VATS and dealing damage is what you want. Pick a favorite weapon and shoot. Laser guns are great (not what I am using) because you just use fusion cells and can sell every other bit of ammo. Scrounger perk for finding the ammo and Strong Back and Lone Wanderer for carrying everything.

Here is my current build, at level 21 now, totally OP with the Overseer's Guardian (purchased from Vault 81) in Survival Mode:
P-5 (bobblehead from Concord/Minuteman quest)

Level ups:

6-Lone Wanderer
7-Scrounger rank-2
8-Bloody Mess
9-Bloody Mess rank-2
10-Life Giver
11-Commando rank-2
13-GunNut rank-2
14-Armorer rank-2
15-Life Giver rank-2
16-Strong Back
17-Lone Wanderer rank-2
18-Strong Back rank-2
19-Locksmith rank-2
20-Life Giver rank-3
21-Commando rank-3

Total carry-weight is ~270 lbs which is really nice. The only downside so far is you have to find/buy Antibiotics (which seem to be more rare than the other medical items (stimpaks, radaway, etc.) but so far so good.

  • 2
    There's good info here, but there's a lot of unneeded stuff too. You should considering editing your answer to only specifically answer the question.
    – two bugs
    Jun 3, 2016 at 18:07
  • Commando is terrible because you're forced to use automatic weapons, which do low damage and waste ammo. The way that damage reduction works, one shot doing 100 damage will do much more effective damage on the target than 10 shots that do 10 damage. Get Rifleman instead. It lets you ignore armor and do spike damage. Gunslinger is also nice, but falls off at later levels (50+) due to rising damage resistance.
    – DCShannon
    Jun 22, 2016 at 1:43

I'm going to go ahead and assume you know how to play the game. Finding the balance between combat perks and others that suits you. Being willing to reload and grind a bit etc.

So: infection. There's lots of hassles in survival mode but they are just hassles. Infection takes a chunk out of your heath pretty regularly. You need antibiotics or a doctor. Doctors are rare. So get the Chemistry perk and make some. You still have to find the components but it's not that hard, just go on scaver runs and look out for glowing fungus.

As a bonus: psychojet: you can win most fights with the judicious use of this and a decent rate of fire. Also Refreshing Beverage cures addictions.

That's my advice. Also remember: huge endurance does not guard against infection. Also check the bathroom mirror cabinets in Sanctuary for antibiotics, and don't waste it on illnesses that really don't matter.


Ignore all resistance perks. Even wearing full power armor, you still go down after 2 hits from the emperor radscorpion. This meager resistance really isn't going to make a difference.

Invest in damage from non-automatic rifles, damage from sneak, sniper perk, later on, in party girl (you use chems a LOT, but it's fun to actually have to deal with the addiction for once in Bethesda Fallouts, instead of just teleporting to a doctor)

Improved carry capacity as well.

Sneak of course.

With this build, you can oneshot Alpha Deathclaws. The biggest threats are molerats, ghouls and in general, any swarming enemy.

With few exceptions, 2 sneak shots and several more while the enemy is charging at you, should be enough to kill them, if you use psychobuff + jet.


As you mentioned, playstyle does have a lot to do with it. I did see a lot of potential in the endurance perks, but I passed since I wanted an int based character to explore all the modifications to weapons and armor. I stayed at one endurance until level 40.

Sprinting- So yeah, you can't fast travel in survival. I eventually realized that I should find a way to minimize my manual travel time and I did it with the following.

Base SPECIAL: Endurance for longer sprint times, Agility for more AP.

Moving Target, (rank 3): Reduces AP spending on sprint.

Action Boy/Girl: Faster AP regen.

Science!, (rank 3): Built the power armor leg mod for higher AP spent on sprinting but you go faster (overdrive servos).

Chemist: Jet fuel. If you get your charisma up (or have good charisma gear) and make grape mentats when you can, buying out vendors of flamer fuel and fertilizer to make Jet Fuel not only helps you get to places quickly, but it sells for quite a bit. Being in need of caps is kind of an abstract concept when you're a drug dealer.

Nuclear physicist; Scrounger (if you're sporting power armor): You'll get more out of your cores and you'll find more of them with scrounger. If you go without power armor, I'd suggest two leg pieces with 10% faster run speed.

Other mentions- Scrapper: Some of the advanced guns and armor give you a slew of raw materials. When in an area with a weapon or armor station, you can loot everything you can and break it down to carry back.

Strong back: Wasn't happy with rank three. The first two are good.

Note on Endurance: At 96 I still only have three endurance (and three life giver). This appears to be plenty for reducing sprint AP considering the other perks I've invested in. More couldn't hurt, though, and the perks are good.

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