Character Build: The Survivor (FO4)

As soon as I heard about the updates to the Survival difficulty, I knew that it would revitalise my interest in Fallout 4. I started playing as soon as the beta was available for PC, and boy, it does not disappoint. I’d like to present to you my Survival character who I had a fantastic time with. This is by no means a power-build or the ‘best’ build for the Survival difficulty - but it makes for a challenging playthrough that can push your skills to their limits!

3075039322?profile=RESIZE_710xThe Survivor

When my transport was downed behind enemy lines during the Anchorage campaign, my squadmates thought we were done for. It was meant to be a tactical strike - in and out before the enemy knew what happened. We were stranded in the Alaskan wilderness for weeks with no supplies and no means of contacting HQ. But when your life is on the line, a survivor doesn't just roll over and die - they pick themselves up and do whatever needs to be done. I never let go of the thought of seeing my wife and son again. Almost a month later, we stumbled back into camp alive, but changed forever.

200 years later, I've emerged from a frozen cell into this hellish wasteland. But the rules haven't changed. When your life is on the line, a survivor doesn't just roll over and die - they pick themselves up and do whatever needs to be done.

The Survivor is an experienced soldier and outdoorsman - a master of survival skills who does whatever is necessary to survive in the Wasteland, the ultimate survival challenge. This means utilising a wide variety of skills, from firearms and explosives to stealth and leadership. But survival is about more than just skills and abilities - the Survivor will need to carefully manage resources and relationships to emerge from the trials of the Wasteland alive.

Starting SPECIAL
3 Strength
5 Perception
3 Endurance
6 Charisma
4 Intelligence
4 Agility
3 Luck

The Survivor’s SPECIAL scores are nothing exceptional - his strengths lie elsewhere. His starting scores are high enough to unlock the essential perks as well as many other useful options.

Survival is a test even for a seasoned player - and every player has slightly different preferences. Instead of listing specific perks and ranks for a specific level range, I’m instead just going to highlight the most important perks for the Survivor. With a relatively narrow focus you shouldn’t have too much difficulty picking which perk you’d like to go after next.

Major Perks
These are the Survivor’s core perks - leveling these up should be a priority.

Rifleman is the #1 perk here, boosting the damage output of the Survivor’s two primary weapons - a carbine and sniper rifle. The Survivor also carries a sidearm as a backup weapon. The damage and additional effects granted by the Gunslinger perk are invaluable in close quarters situations.

The Demolitions Expert perk greatly improves the effectiveness of grenades and mines, perfect for clearing a room or laying traps for hostile creatures. It also affects the damage dealt by the Missile Launcher, a situational but nonetheless deadly weapon. Once maxed out, your explosives pack a serious punch, and can deal with most human opponents in a single blast!

Gun Nut is essential for getting the most out of the Survivor’s weapons of choice. The fourth rank is optional if you’re willing to find a Combat Rifle Suppressor and .308 Receiver rather than crafting it yourself.

Scrounger means the Survivor can always find ammo for his preferred weapons. Depending on how much ammunition you use, you might only need a rank or two here.

Lone Wanderer is a no-brainer for Survival - boosting carrying capacity, damage resistance, and damage done, even when travelling with Dogmeat. When your life (and last half hour of game time) is on the line, it’s best not to take chances with the human companions.

Finally, training Sneak up to rank 4 allows the Survivor to move quickly and quietly - a must in Survival - and more importantly, avoid all sorts of traps including mines. Nothing worse than accidentally stepping into a minefield when you haven’t slept for a while!


Minor Perks
These perks help support key parts of the Survivor’s playstyle, but usually shouldn’t be taken over an available Major perk.

Armourer allows the Survivor to improve his preferred apparel - a mix of Metal and Leather armour. Only two ranks are required here to create the recommended mods for these items.

Local Leader lets you set up Supply Lines between your settlements, allowing the Survivor to set up a network of supply stations and settlements throughout the wastes. The second rank (stores and crafting stations) is optional, but can be useful for building stores for doctors and ammunition dealers.

Medic increases the effectiveness of Stimpaks and Radaway. It’s important to get the most out of each use of healing chems in Survival, since each use makes you more thirsty, hungry, or tired.

Locksmith and Hacker can provide an unexpected advantage in battle - from a superior firing position to a Protectron ally - or simply open more areas for obtaining salvage and supplies. I ended up getting both of these to rank 3, but I found 2 Locksmith and 1 Hacker will get you through 80% of locked contains and computers.

Utility Perks
I’ve marked the remainder of the perks I took while playing the Survivor as ‘utility’ perks - useful but fairly optional. If you’ve got a way you prefer playing, feel free to swap these out for some of your favourites!

Bloody Mess (up to rank 3) serves to max out the Survivor’s damage output with 15% bonus damage from all sources. An easy pick to add some more oomph to attacks.

Mister Sandman improves Sneak Attack damage with silenced weapons, such as the Survivor’s sniper rifle, and allows for a rare but satisfying stealth kill on a sleeping target. Obviously Ninja is more effective, but it’s further down the Agility chain. I found Mister Sandman a little more balanced, allowing one shot kills on most enemies but making dangerous foes like Alpha Deathclaws and Brotherhood Paladins more of a challenge.

Attack Dog is handy when adventuring with Dogmeat, the first rank in particular - granting an accuracy bonus against held enemies.

Aquaboy negates radiation from swimming. Less radiation means more health and less RadAway, which has some negative side effects in Survival. Plus, swimming gives you another method to avoid or escape conflict - now a more attractive option without the radiation poisoning.

Cap Collector improves your prices at stores (particularly useful when trading ammunition) as well as allows you to build better stores at your settlements with Local Leader 2.

Finally, Chemist can be used to craft your own chems, such as Antibiotics (very important in Survival). It’s a bit of an investment in Intelligence but I think the payoff is worth it.

World Perks
Magazines and Bobbleheads grant a few extra useful perks worth mentioning here.

Unlike the other weapon skills bobbleheads, the Explosives bobblehead gives you a straight up 15% damage boost. It can be easily found in Saugus Ironworks as part of the associated settlement quest.

The Wasteland Survival Guide, as the name suggests, is pretty useful on Survival difficulty. Of particular interest to the Survivor is the issue at Sunshine Tidings Co-op, doubling the amount of meat you get from slain animals.


The Survivor’s kit is simple but practical - he lacks the skills to create and maintain advanced weapons and armour. Most of these items can be picked up very early and improved over the course of your playthrough. Starting out though, the Survivor will simply have to make do with whatever is on hand.

As you may recall from earlier, the Survivor uses 3 weapons - a sniper rifle, carbine, and handgun.

  • The Survivor’s preferred sniper weapon as a modified Overseer’s Guardian. Boasting the highest damage per shot of any Gun Nut-only rifle, it can take down almost any target quickly and quietly from a distance. I recommend holding off on this one until you get your hands on a Combat Rifle .308 receiver - a .308 or .50 Hunting Rifle is a great option until then.
  • A basic, stripped down Combat Rifle packs a punch in close to medium range engagements. It might not look much, but the short stock and barrel greatly reduce the VATS cost of this weapon.
  • The Deliverer is a lightweight and powerful sidearm for close range fighting. Its impressive semi-automatic fire rate, handling, and decent damage per shot make it the Survivor’s highest damage per second weapon - especially in VATS or under the influence of Jet. At higher levels, the disarm feature of the Gunslinger perk lets you disable dangerous human opponents as well.
  • Basic explosives like fragmentation grenades and mines are relatively common (especially at later levels). Perfect for dealing with tough or entrenched enemies or stopping a charging creature.
  • At high levels I also made use of a stripped down Laser Pistol (a very light weapon) with a recon scope exclusively for the purpose of marking targets. As you can see, it adds an extra layer of battlefield awareness to give you an edge.

Like the rest of his kit, the Survivor’s outfit is simple but practical (and stylish!). Metal chest and leg armour combined the Leather arms make for a balanced defense that isn’t too heavy. With Armourer 2, you can upgrade all of the basic pieces with Alloyed/Studded and Deep Pocketed, and simply transfer the upgrades up when you find Sturdy/Heavy versions. As for headgear, I wore a Gray Knit Cap when in towns/conversations, and a Gas Mask combined with Green Hood when out exploring.

Don’t forget that in Survival you’ll also need to worry about carrying ammo, food, water and chems. When setting out, I usually stuck to roughly 100 sniper rounds, 200 carbine/pistol rounds, 6 each of grenades and mines, 8 Purified Water, enough food to last me 2 days (depends on the type of food), and 3 each of Jet, Rad-X and Rad-Away. Of course you can take other items with you, just keep in mind how much loot you’re planning to bring back from the trip.

The Survivor is always looking for the way to get the most out of any given situation with the least amount of risk.

In combat, this means approaching encounters carefully by scoping out the battlefield and picking off unwary foes with your sniper rifle. If there’s a possibility you’ll be attacked from an unexpected angle or a dangerous charging enemy, don’t be afraid to lay down some mines to protect your flanks - you can always pick them up later. Once you’ve been spotted, stick to cover and peek out during breaks in enemy fire to take a few shots - rushing ahead is only going to get you killed. If you’re being suppressed by enemies with automatic/heavy weapons, remember that simply running away is an option - you can always come back and attack from a more advantageous angle, or even call in some Minutemen backup.

3075073148?profile=RESIZE_710xOutside of combat, this means avoiding danger through non-violent solutions, haggling for a better reward, and picking the side with the best long-term outcome for him and his assets. This doesn’t necessarily mean always going with the ‘greedy’ option though, as helping someone out might give you access to items and beds in their home, not to mention a safe haven from the dangers of the wasteland. The Survivor isn’t afraid to respond with violence if threatened - when a conversation goes south, drawing your handgun and emptying a magazine into your targets before they do can save your life.

These ideas are reflected in the Survivor’s key allies - the Minutemen, Institute and (temporarily) the Brotherhood of Steel.

I didn’t see the Minutemen quests as constantly helping out random settlers but more as building a relationship with allies throughout the wasteland, who will repay the favour when asked - usually in the form of a thunderous artillery barrage to almost any location in the Wasteland. Keeping a network of settlements allows the Survivor to drop in almost anywhere in the Wasteland to store loot, heal, and stock up on resources like food and water.

3075080996?profile=RESIZE_710xThe Brotherhood of Steel is a temporary ally - aiding them with a few missions grants access to their many assets, Vertibird transports in particular. The Survivor doesn’t really believe in their cause, but their aid is nonetheless valuable in searching for…

The Institute. Their advanced technology and willingness to work with the Survivor made joining them an easy decision. It becomes a lot easier to see their point of view after surviving above ground for several in-game months, and as the Survivor I saw working with them as a way to end the hardships I faced since leaving Vault 111. Once I was ready to retire, I went to the facial surgeon to clean up my dirt and scars and took my place as Director.

If you’re after some more general Survival tips check out my Survivor’s Log.


Well, you made it to the end! Thanks for reading! As I said earlier this is the character I’ve played through on Survival and I had an absolute blast with it. If you decide to play it yourself (or have some feedback to offer), I’d be stoked if you left a comment below.

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  • I was a huge fan of Survival when it came out and played my Sniper traveliing with Dogmeat to about level 43 until the save got messed up. I made a lot of the same decisions you made. It was a great playthrough. Kellogg was soooooo scary. 

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