Skyrim Survival Mode

Skyrim Survival Mode
Skyrim Survival Mode

Due to a miscalculation in sales numbers, the popular fantasy roleplaying game Skyrim may have made $1 billion at launch. This is approximately $350 million more than the original sales metrics.

Skyrim is renowned for its flexibility and immersion, creating hundreds of different ways to play the game.

One of the most popular ways to enhance your experience is Skyrim Survival Mode, which places a unique twist on the original game mechanics. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to play Skyrim in survival mode the right way.

What Is Survival Mode?

This involves settings that introduce mechanics like warmth, rest, and hunger. Together, these create a much more difficult and complex experience compared to the vanilla game. They require you to manage them while simultaneously dealing with the other perils the game throws at you.

For example, you’ll now have to worry about fatigue and hunger accumulating after a skirmish with bandits. Let’s explore the mechanics more thoroughly.


In the base game, sleeping is a great way to pass the time or to restore health.

However, it’s now become a necessity due to the addition of exhaustion. As you travel, fight, or otherwise explore, fatigue will begin to build up.

When it gets to a certain point, you will need to rest to restore your character to its full functionality.


Most of Skyrim’s climate is cold and unforgiving.

Gone are the days when you could spend hours trekking through tundras and emerge on the other side unscathed. Now, cold weather and environments will begin to sap your strength unless you’d make an effort to warm up. This could involve standing near a fire or entering a shelter.

skyrim survival mode


As you might expect, hunger is also a mechanic introduced in Survival Mode. Similar to how fatigue accumulates, your character will grow hungrier as they engage in physical activity.

To survive, you’ll need to ensure that you keep food on hand at all times. Be sure to take enough with you on long journeys.

Reduced Carry Weight

Players will find that they can carry much less weight than they could in the past when playing this game mode.

So, proper inventory management is now essential. It’s also worth noting that certain items that used to be weightless now have weight values. These include arrows and lockpicks, so you won’t be able to endlessly stack these like you could in the past.

No Fast Travel

Survival Mode wouldn’t be very difficult if you could instantly teleport to your desired location.

Instead, you will need to travel to your destinations the conventional way. Players will need to plan routes and ensure they have enough supplies to complete the journey.

The last thing you want is to find yourself caught in the wilderness without enough food to make it to the next town.


There are plenty of diseases in vanilla Skyrim. However, many are more of an inconvenience than a legitimate threat.

This all changes in this game mode. Diseases now have stronger detrimental effects, and they can eventually progress into afflictions that cause even more complications. Contracting a disease in the middle of a dungeon will be an emergency under most circumstances that requires you to find a cure immediately.

Leveling Up

Leveling up comes with the ability to improve your character’s skills and statistics. It also allows you to refill your health, magicka, and stamina bars.

However, players also used to be able to access the Level Up menu regardless of their location. In Survival Mode, you can only do so while sleeping in bed.

Since you can’t sleep while enemies are nearby or during combat, you won’t be able to level up and restore your health in the middle of a fight.

Miscellaneous Changes

The blessings that your character receives are now weaker.

Those that cost resources will cost more than they used to. Passive ones that provide stat boosts aren’t as strong as they once were. This could affect how you build your character, how much damage they do, etc.

Racial Passive Abilities

Each race will have to tackle survival differently in this mode. For example, Argonians are more susceptible to the cold but can’t be poisoned by spoiled food.

Dark elves, Wood Elves, and High Elves have a bonus that causes their fatigue to deplete slower than normal.

Similar to Argonians, Khajiit can’t be poisoned by bad food. However, they resist cold more than normal.

Orcs are also resistant to cold. They have a passive bonus that gives them more time before they starve or are fatigued.

skyrim survival mode

Who Should Play Survival Mode?

Anyone looking for a better challenge is a perfect candidate.

With all of the new mechanics, this mode is much more difficult than the base game. It’s also great for those who enjoy roleplaying during their gaming sessions.

Although it’s entirely possible to integrate these mechanics on your own outside of Survival Mode, there’s no accountability for not doing so. Having the game enforce things like hunger and exhaustion makes for a fresh, thrilling experience.

Getting Started

After starting a new file, progress through the game normally until the player escapes from Helgen Keep.

This is a process that often takes less than 10 minutes for experienced players. Afterward, you can navigate to the system menu and select the “Gameplay” tab. You’ll have the option to toggle Survival Mode whenever you’d like.

This means that you can also turn it off if you find it too challenging.

Survival Tips

If you want to make the most of this game mode, there are certain tips you need to keep in mind. This will help keep your experience manageable and entertaining.

Let’s take a closer look.

Collect Useful Materials

In the past, there wasn’t much reason to collect raw materials. However, they are now essential to keep an eye out for.

Firewood can be used for creating campfires, and leather can be used to craft a backpack. If you’re having trouble finding leather on your own, you can use hides and animal skins to create.

These materials are abundant throughout the wilderness, and it shouldn’t take you long to accumulate a nice stockpile when exploring.

Find a Backpack ASAP

This will be one of the most useful items you can take advantage of. Backpacks substantially increase the player’s carrying capacity when you equip them.

It’s possible to find ones that have powerful enchantments. However, even a standard backpack is one of the best items in the game due to the fact that characters have much lower carry weights.

You can find them at most vendors, but you can also craft them if you don’t have the money.

Gather Cooking Ingredients

The food you cook will serve as your primary way of staying satiated and warm.

Improving your recipes can also provide added bonuses. Salt piles, for example, can allow you to get more out of a traditional dish through stat boosts.

Cooking ingredients also allow you to create Cure Disease and Cure Poison potions. Having access to these can mean the difference between life and death.

Don’t Neglect Restoration

The Restoration skill is something you simply cannot overlook in Survival Mode. This is due to one primary factor: passive healing is disabled.

It’s worth noting that you can restore health by consuming food.

However, this isn’t the ideal way to do so.

Even if you have a backpack, carrying a lot of potions or meals can quickly add up. On the other hand, Restoration cells can go a long way when it comes to keeping your health topped off.

As you progress through the game, you gain access to stronger spells that will make it easier for your character to stay healthy. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that all players start the game by focusing on the Restoration skill tree.

Once you feel like you have enough utility in this area, you can begin developing a proper build.

This does a slightly reduced build potential since you will always need a focus on Restoration. However, this is a small sacrifice to make when it comes to ensuring your character’s survival.

Many builds tend to incorporate this skill tree, anyway. Keep this in mind when formulating your character’s skill set.

Try Out Skyrim Survival Mode

Skyrim Survival Mode is a great way to make the game feel fresh again. It’s also ideal for those who are looking for greater immersion or an extra challenge.

Consider the above guidelines before getting started so that you can hit the ground running and enjoy Survival Mode to the fullest.

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Avatar for Calvin Swanton

An avid gamer since the early '90s with a love of strategy & RPG games..... Big fan of all things Bethesda, Total War & FromSoftware.

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