[Check out the guide to Armor Warmth ratings in Survival Mode HERE!] On Monday, October 2, Bethesda released Survival Mode – a challenging new play mode for Skyrim Special Edition – to launch their Creation Club mod platform. This has been met with a variety of reactions, from complete indifference to complete outrage, and everything in between. The indifference, or disinterest, seems to stem mostly from the notion that having an all-in-one mod which appears to combine several existing (FREE) mods makes Survival Mode completely redundant, at least for those with access to a PC capable of running a modded Skyrim. The outrage comes when people hear that what they thought was a free addon (if you downloaded it in the first week of release) was actually a trial offer, and continued use of the mod would require payment. For my part, I was definitely in the “cautiously excited” category of players. My PC doesn’t currently run Skyrim, so I can’t play modded. I’m one of the lowly console peasants using PS4, like a total pleb (I know, I know), and that means, though I have tasted the Golden Apple that is Hypothermia: Frostfall for myself, I don’t have access to it, or any other mod that uses “external assets” thanks to Sony’s restrictions. Survival Mode, at least on the surface, seemed like the best way to access the content I really wanted most. I have now played with Survival Mode on since Monday, and I definitely have feelings about it. First thing’s first: If you’re starting a new character, Survival Mode and its options will not be available until after you’ve left Helgen with your Civil War escort of choice (just as Alduin flies over head toward the mountains and you take off for Riverwood). If you’re loading up an existing character, a window will pop up after the world has fully loaded around you (the same as when you’ve made a new character) asking if you’d like to enable Survival Mode. If you’d like a list of the things it alters, click here. Bethesda provided a handy post with all its changes (identical to what you’ll find listed in the Survival Mode entry in the Skyrim Help UI). Almost immediately, the hunger and fatigue kick in, lowering your stamina and magicka, the regen rate of both, and the efficacy of potions – meaning your potions will be less effective on you. Throughout the short Skyrim day, your fatigue and hunger will climb, and your stats will shrink, more or less corresponding with the amount of time spent awake and a “three meals a day” kind of schedule. I JUST hit the “weary” zone of fatigue after fighting Mirmulnir at the Western Watchtower, and discovered that not only do you have HALF magicka at this point, but your vision also goes all fuzzy, sort of phasing in and out of “almost clear” and “pretty blurry”, until you sleep it off. “Well Fed” is your full state, and the only state in which you have full stamina. When your hunger drains, you become “Peckish”. A red area appears in the Stamina bar, starting on the left. “Peckish” is a pretty small section, but be warned; this “Peckish” state coincides with “Satisfied” in hunger terms (which you can check in the Magic menu under Powers, just like any effect currently affecting you), and “Satisfied” doesn’t last very long. So, if you want to keep your Stamina bar full, you’re going to be eating CONSTANTLY. If you want to let your stamina bar dip so you don't have to cram your face, the extreme end of hunger paints your whole screen red, which, as it turns out, makes it actually very difficult to play. Everything is given similar tones, so there's less for your brain to automatically sort out and register, and, at least for me, made it harder for my eyes to focus on any single element. It was awful. So I ate. Next, the world is broken up into temperature zones, and you can see the direct influence Frostfall has had on the zone selection, icon choices, and interaction with warm objects and places. Standing next to fires will warm you up, including camp fires (with or without a camping mod), hearths in taverns, braziers in tombs, and even a little torch can help keep the frostbite at bay (though I just found out they're consumables, and that's kind of a bitch). All clothing and armor has a warmth rating, now, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your favorite mage robe for some fur armor just because you’re heading to Windhelm. There are basic warmth ratings – a sort of a minimum for all clothing and armor types. Most torso pieces (i.e. all clothing and most chest pieces) have a warmth rating of twenty-seven (27). This is true of all fur armor, all clothing (except the Skaal), leather, iron, steel – basics. Stormcloak officer armor, Skaal coats, Stalhrim armor, and Nordic Carved armor all have a warmth of fifty-four (54). For the most part, this means there are two categories of armor warmth; warm (or basic), and really warm (or warmer). The main exceptions being Forsworn armor, which gives you seventeen (17) toward your total warmth/cold resistance, and The Pugilist's Gloves, which give you a mere seven (7) warmths. So, if you're trading that mage robe for anything, it's going to need a "warmer" rating than fur can give you. Basic Warmth Ratings: Body: 27 Head: 18 Hands: 13 Feet: 13 Warmer Ratings: Body: 54 Head: 29 Hands: 24 Feet: 24 In my experience, if you have the lower, or basic warmth rating on every item you wear up to Bleak Falls, you’re going to die of exposure before you kill everyone. Now, to be fair, this experience was with a Redguard character. She was actually wearing better gloves and boots with the “warmer” stats, but her torso and head were in “basic” stats, and she was crazy amounts of dying. It was affecting my archery accuracy, movement speed, and consuming all my health. When I went up with a Nord character in basic everything, except the helm, which was “warmer” (29 instead of 18 warmth), she did just fine. Barely broke a “Chill”. So, race is also going to have a huge impact on survivability. So far, I haven’t been playing with magic. Part of that is definitely due to how quickly magicka is eaten throughout the day (and only replenished with sleep). What this tells me, though (in conjunction with cold eating away at your health, and hunger eating your stamina) is you’re really going to have to pick a stat and invest in it to compensate. You know your stats will be eaten as you play; the more you invest, the greater the buffer you have to work with. It’s going to be much harder to achieve OP status, because even with the difficulty set low so everything dies quickly, spells still eat up the same amount of magicka, and that pool is going to disappear the longer you stay awake. It will also regenerate more slowly (stamina, too). Which reminds me; no regenerating health, at all. So, if you take a hit, you’re going to need to eat or snort a bunch of health potions to get back up. And, lemme tell you, this is an expensive habit. You really start to appreciate the conveniences provided by not being assaulted by everything, including the air, in non-Survival Skyrim. I haven’t picked up any diseases, yet, but I can tell they’re going to be as much fun as licking a giant’s toe. Which is probably also a major source of disease. Shudder. This just means I can’t really tell you, from experience, how great it is to have an untreated illness compounding your other awesomely debilitating statuses. Now, my personal conclusions. What I love about adding mods to the game is how they positively impact my immersion in the world and the character. Frostfall was definitely my favorite, and what I’d put at the top of my “Essential Mod” list for PC, especially because there were multiple warmth categories for clothes, and you could even alter your favorite set to max warmth if you didn’t want to change clothes everywhere (an important note, because it’s going to be difficult carrying multiple outfits with a hard 150 carry weight limit – the Steed Stone and pickpocket perk only add 50 additional points, each, keeping you below even the vanilla start carry weight -- and being over the weight limit drains your stamina to zero in a few seconds), but you could always change if you wanted to. Meanwhile, what Survival Mode saves in complexity, it sacrifices in immersion, especially in this regard. A set of fancy clothes with fur everywhere (or quilted, for your comfort) offers no more elemental protection than a blacksmith’s apron, or even ragged robes. When I play, I make my character eat and sleep at logical intervals, even forcing time to pass to represent how much time she would have spent eating and not traveling. If I read a book, I force time to pass then, as well. I like the idea of a system which encourages eating and sleeping, but I remember now why I didn’t keep those mods when I played on PC; the mechanical penalties, while not unreasonable, hurt my immersion, rather then enhancing it. And, without harping on every aspect of it, this brings me to my main conclusion: Survival Mode is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a new challenge mode. If Expert or Legendary difficulty is boring and not enough of a challenge to keep you on your toes, Survival Mode is what you’ve been waiting for. The penalties to your stats mean you have to change how you even think about approaching the game, and for a lot of people this is going to be the overhaul that reinvents the game just enough to keep it interesting. For anyone who was looking for “Frostfall et al, but on PS4”, or an immersion-enhancing all-in-one mod, you’re better off still pining for a PC capable of running modded Skyrim, because what this mod does better than anything else is break immersion. Survival Mode is still available for free in the Creation Club if you want to try it for yourself.