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Survival Mode is an addon for Skyrim Special Edition first introduced all the way back in 2017 as a Creation Club downloadable mod. Now that it's been included with Skyrim Anniversary Edition (and is free for Special Edition players without the upgrade), players are flocking back to experience a wholly new way of experiencing the game.

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Skyrim's Survival Mode changes a lot about the game. Players will find themselves constantly challenged by the environment and their own bodily needs through new weather effects and the maintenance of fatigue, hunger, and other status effects – stealing a Sweetroll doesn't seem like such a bad idea if it means having something to eat.

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How To Turn On Survival Mode

Skyrim Anniversary Edition How To Turn On Survival Mode Camping

When it comes to how to enable Survival Mode there are two main methods. When starting out the game normally (in the traditional Helgen Dragon attack intro) players leave the caverns beneath Helgen after escaping their own execution. When the player leaves Helgen Keep and sees the vast expanse of Skyrim, a dialogue box pops up asking the player whether they want Survival Mode enabled. The dialogue box that pops up describes Survival Mode briefly and directs players to the "Help" tab in the menu for a more thorough explanation of the new systems.

Typically, Survival Mode is disabled until the player finishes this introductory Unbound quest. However, there is an option in the "Gameplay" tab of the system menu that enables and disables Survival Mode on a whim, which can be useful if it proves to be too much of a challenge or if the player has an Alternate Start mod installed.

Survival Mode - Racial Passives and Gameplay Changes

Skyrim Anniversary Edition Survival Mode Camping Racial Bonuses

Survival Mode features a litany of changes to the game that fundamentally alter how a player experiences the world of Skyrim. There are new racial passives to consider, fast travel is disabled, and players have new status effects to maintain or suffer the consequences.

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It's regarded by many players as being much, much harder than the regular game. There are lots of things to know about before diving into this new mode – unprepared players will find themselves starving and freezing in minutes if they don't know what they're in for.

Racial Passives

Survival Mode changes many aspects of Skyrim, even from the very outset of the game. Several of the playable races have new racial passives related to Survival Mode, for example, that can greatly influence how easily a player can make it in the frozen North of Tamriel.

  • Argonians: Cannot be poisoned by bad food, but especially weak to Cold environments
  • Dark Elves: Resist Fatigue depletion
  • High Elves: Resist Fatigue depletion
  • Khajiit: Cannot be poisoned by bad food, Resist Cold environments
  • Nords: Resist Cold environments
  • Orcs: Resist Hunger and Fatigue depletion, Resist Cold environments
  • Wood Elves: Resist Fatigue depletion

Fundamental Gameplay Changes

Playing through Survival Mode in Skyrim is a wildly different experience than the vanilla game. Some of these gameplay changes make Skyrim feel more like Morrowind or Oblivion, like having to sleep to level up, and some serve to simply make the game feel more immersive, like the inability to recover health passively.

  • No Fast Travel: All journeys must be made on foot or by hired carriage/boat
  • No Health Regeneration: Players have to heal themselves with spells, consume potions, or eat food to gain HP back
  • Sleep to Level Up: Skill points and attributes cannot be allocated anywhere, players must sleep in a bed (not wait) to level up
  • Reduced Carry Weight: Overall carry weight is reduced significantly, and almost everything has weight now (including arrows and lockpicks)
  • Standing Stone Nerfs: Almost all powers and passives granted by Standing Stones are significantly reduced
  • Disease and Afflictions: Animals and creatures may have Diseases that can be transferred. Not maintaining status effects can now lead to long-term Afflictions.
  • Shrines: An offering must be made at public Shrines to receive their blessing (and cure Diseases)
  • Vampires and Werewolves: Can restore Hunger by feeding, transforming makes the player immune to Cold (though it also removes Warm gear)

Survival Mode - The Environment and Staying Healthy

Skyrim Anniversary Edition Survival Mode Camping Food Environment Temperature

In addition to the many changes to the way Skyrim is experienced, Survival Mode adds several new factors to keep an eye on when journeying in the Nord homeland and beyond. Staying too long on top of an icy mountain can now make players freeze to death, and not eating or sleeping now has dire consequences.

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These new factors change the ways players observe and interact with their environments. The path to Bleak Falls Barrow, for example, is now much more deadly than in the vanilla game thanks to the lack of food, threats to health totals, and of course the blisteringly cold mountaintop itself.

Environmental Factors

There are two main Environmental Effects introduced with Skyrim's Survival Mode, being Cold and Warmth. Players can see what kind of environment they are currently in by looking to the right of the Compass - a Sun marks the local temperature as Warm, while a Snowflake marks the local temperature as Cold. There are six levels of Cold, each with different effects.

  • Warm: 10% resistant to Frost, Pickpocketing and Lockpicking is 10% easier
  • Comfortable: No effects
  • Chilly: Health is reduced a little bit, movement speed is lowered by 10%, Pickpocketing and Lockpicking is 30% harder
  • Very Cold: Health is reduced noticeably, movement speed is lowered by 20%, Pickpocketing and Lockpicking is 50% harder
  • Freezing: Health is reduced significantly, movement speed is lowered by 30%, Pickpocketing and Lockpicking is 70% harder
  • Numb: Health is almost entirely reduced, movement speed is lowered by 40%, Pickpocketing and Lockpicking is 90% harder

Players who get into the lower levels of being Cold can restore their internal temperature by standing next to something Warm like a fire, eating something hot, or holding a Torch (not simply having one in the inventory). Conversely, players rapidly become Colder in Freezing Water, instantly losing health. If a player's level of Cold reaches the maximum, they will die from being frozen.

Hunger, Fatigue, and Other Health Effects

There are two new personal Status Effects to maintain in Survival Mode, being Hunger and Fatigue. Hunger generally affects Stamina, while Fatigue generally affects Magicka. Each can be maintained in the ways one would naturally assume - eating healthily and sleeping comfortably.

  • Hunger
    • Hunger naturally depletes over time and can be alleviated by eating food.
    • Eating enough food makes players Well Fed, and it's better to eat cooked food than other food as it restores more Hunger.
    • Not maintaining Hunger lowers total Stamina, makes swinging weapons harder, and can lead to death from Starvation
  • Fatigue
    • Fatigue naturally depletes over the course of a day, and can be alleviated by sleeping (not simply waiting)
    • Sleeping in a bed indoors, like at an Inn, makes players Well Rested. However, sleeping in a bed outdoors or in an uncomfortable place does not.
    • Not maintaining Fatigue lowers Stamina and Magicka recovery, lowers total Magicka, reduces Potion effectiveness, and can lead to death from exhaustion.

Many players have found that the rate that these two status effects decline is much faster than expected. Keep a constant watch on your current levels of Hunger and Fatigue, and don't be afraid to steal food to eat if it's necessary. Sleeping and eating at an Inn regularly is highly recommended.

Camping In Skyrim

Skyrim Anniversary Edition Survival Mode Camping Guide

Camping is not part of the Survival Mode addon for Skyrim Anniversary Edition, but the two work in tandem better than most mods. Camping allows players to craft and place a campsite anywhere in the world. Players can Fast Travel to their Campsite whenever they like, but of course, this feature is disabled in Survival Mode.

There are numerous benefits to taking the time to gather materials and set up a Campsite on an adventure, especially in Survival mode. It gives players a covered place to sleep, provides a place of Warmth, and is in all ways (except aesthetically) a respite from the harsh environments in the Province of Skyrim.

How To Set Up A Campsite

Setting up a Campsite is pretty simple, requiring only a few basic materials and a Forge as well as an open place in the world to place it. Gather three pieces of Firewood and one piece of Leather, then head to the Forge and look under the "Misc" section to find craftable Camping Supplies. At the start of the game, Firewood can be gathered easily in Riverwood, while Leather can be harvested from local Deer and other animals.

When you have Camping Supplies crafted and in your inventory, it's ready to be placed out in the world. When you're ready to go to sleep for the night in the wilderness, find a relatively flat portion of land, go into your Inventory and select Camping Supplies. A dialogue box pops up confirming the placement of the campsite. Finally, after a fade to black, a tent, campfire, and place to sit appear.

How Does Camping Benefit The Player?

Camping in the vanilla game is meant as a means of increasing player immersion, providing a resting spot in one's travels, but not any other major benefits. For Survival Mode players, though, it's a near-vital resource that players should plan to carry a few of at all times, as the Tent and Campfire provide huge benefits.

  • The Tent: Sleeping in a Tent won't provide the Well Rested bonus like sleeping in a bed in an Inn, but it doesn't make the player wake up Drained like a normal wilderness bedroll.
  • The Campfire: Provides Warmth that can alleviate the negative effects of Cold. Also serves as a spot to cook limited Food (notably, Hot Soup can be made in a Camp).
  • Non-Survival Mode: Campsite can be Fast Travelled to at any point, as long as the camp hasn't been taken down of course.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition is available for PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X|S

MORE: The Complete Guide to Skyrim - Items, Quests, Mods, Builds, and Tips

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