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At the time of writing this there are currently 3 different game modes within Fallout 76.
Adventure is the default game mode, this is how I prefer to play the game. It is essentially just a Fallout game with other people. You have the choice to Team up, or go Solo for the entire campaign and all that follows. There is no necessity to engage in PVP, so much so that you can turn on Pacifist mode to you are completely unable to do damage to anyone else. Unless, however you take control of a Workshop, this will opt you into PVP if another player wants to take the workshop from you.
When your character dies you will drop a 'Death Bag' of all the junk you were carrying and lose some Caps. You can respawn wherever you want for a nominal fee (Respawns at yours/ a friends CAMP or Vault 76 is free)
All progress made within Adventure carries over to Survival and back again.
Survival features the same gameplay as Adventure but with an added flavour, a hint of spice, a bit more tension.
When you start survival, unlike Adventure mode where you can opt in/out of PVP, you are automatically opted into PVP. This adds a little bit of fear to your gameplay as you roam Appalachia, never knowing who, or what is lurking in the shadows waiting for you to turn your back.
In this game mode instead of just losing your junk and some caps when you die you will also now drop some of your aid items, and the number of caps you lost is directly proportional to player level. Additionally you can only respawn at Vault 76, your CAMP or a train station, so always ensure you are near enough to something that you don't need to walk miles to collect your 'Death Bag'.
The increased level of difficulty whilst playing this mode is duly recompensed by giving the play an extra 20% XP and access to Survival only quests which will provide the player with unique items.
All progress made within Survival carries over into Adventure and back again.
Due to the recent detonation of several nukes within the Appalachia Region a nuclear storm is brewing, and you, along with 51 other players, are stuck in the middle of the ever shrinking eye. In teams of up to 4 players you must prepare for the ultimate game of Battle Royale as you fight to the death to become the Overseer of Vault 51.
Progress made in Survival/Adventure will not carry into this game mode. This is to ensure that all players start on equal footings.