By Kenyon Stronski
I’ve been a fan of the Fallout series and New Vegas for as long as I can remember, driving through a snowstorm into Lethbridge on the release date of Fallout 4 just so I wouldn’t have to wait to play it. Unfortunately, at least to me, however, New Vegas remains in my mind as ‘the last good Fallout game’ — and I still play through it almost religiously year after year.
New Vegas has a reputation for being a buggy, unfinished mess. It still crashes a lot, and still has some silly bugs that like to rear their heads here and there, but nowadays it all just feels like a part of the experience.
The game was rushed into release after the pinnacle success of Fallout 3, and there are still many to this day that wonder what New Vegas could have been if it wasn’t a rushed product. In my opinion, the quality is shown in the game’s four DLC that would all be released in the year after the game first hit the shelves.
The first DLC to talk about, and in my opinion, arguably the worst is Honest Hearts. Honest Hearts was the second pack released to New Vegas and follows the story of the main character taking part in a trading expedition to Utah’s Zion National Park – until it’s destroyed by tribals. Your character becomes stranded in Zion and is pulled into a conflict between the local tribes.
Through playing the base game, it’s possible to learn of a character known only as the ‘Burned Man’ who was once one of the top dogs in Caesar’s Legion known as a Legate. After a humiliating defeat at the first battle of Hoover Dam (the base game revolves around the second battle), the Burned Man was covered in pitch, set on fire and tossed into the Grand Canyon. However, he survived and you meet him in Honest Hearts under his true name of Joshua Graham. This is quite a nice touch, as there were always some small, subtle hints in the game pointing towards Graham still being alive, and even being known as the Burned Man – you can tell he used to command respect and fear among his subordinates.
In the past, and even in my most recent playthrough I’ve always found myself zoning out during this pack after the initial wow factor of meeting Graham dissipated, and I began to start poking holes in the story and the dialogue. There are some nice touches and things to find, like unravelling the story around Randall Clark, who after a long life he would end up caring for a group of 24 children from the shadows – being known as their ‘Father’. However, even with amazing stories hidden all around, I always end up trying to get through this DLC as quickly as possible.
The first DLC released to New Vegas, and the second on this list is Dead Money – another pack that sometimes I thoroughly enjoy, and sometimes want to get through as quickly as possible.
Dead Money takes place at the Sierra Madre, heralded as what would have been the greatest casino in the west if it had ever opened its doors, however, the bombs fell before the ‘gala event’ was able to take place, and everything ground to a halt. It is said that over the years, the climate control systems in the facility began to spit a red cloud over the area, leading to many adventurers dying on their journey with only a group known as ‘ghost people’ surviving within its walls. Over time it became New Vegas’ ‘city of gold’, where many treasures were held.
The story begins with the former elder of the Mojave Brotherhood of Steel, Elijah, knocking the player out and forcing you into the Sierra Madre with a bomb collar strapped to your neck. He orders you to find your new ‘allies’ and band together to take down the Sierra Madre and uncover its secrets.
Now, there are times when I like this DLC, and there are times when I just want it to be over. It can be extremely frustrating but also incredibly rewarding, and sometimes it seems to all be based on random chance. The ‘ghost people’ are some of the most annoying enemies in the game, and you have absolutely none of the equipment you entered the Sierra Madre with – it’s a completely closed circuit – and I don’t know if that’s what I like about it, or what I hate about it.
The highlight of the DLC for me is the characters, of which there are three — four if you include Elijah. There’s Dog/God, a genetically modified Super Mutant Nightkin who has an extremely bad case of an identity crisis. Dog is triggered by hearing Elijah’s voice, and God is triggered by hearing his own voice either through a holotape or a radio.
Next comes Dean Domino, a lounge singer from before the bombs fell who’s turned into a ghoul. Domino, for lack of a better word, set most of the dominos up to fall for the takedown of the Sierra Madre, as it was the place he had planned to rob in his previous life.
Last comes Christine Royce, a mute who lost her voice to an autodoc that Domino threw her into before being trapped in the Sierra Madre; she was tracking down Elijah in an attempt to assassinate him.
Each of these characters brings a different flavour to the story, and there’s a way to save each and every one from death if the player tries hard enough, and honestly I quite like that about Dead Money. There are times when I can save them all, times when I can’t, and times when I can only save one or two. The reason I don’t really like the DLC is it takes away basically all exploration and all ability for me to play in my own way. Some radios will instantly kill the player if you miss them, and the ending is absolutely awful. The only reason Dead Money isn’t last is because I can respect the developers’ wish to make an open-world game into a survival-horror, and the unforgiving nature of it. I’ve always liked things that require some trial and error to get right.
Next up, the last DLC to be released and third on the list is Lonesome Road. Lonesome Road sees the player’s story to an end and would be my favourite DLC if I didn’t feel like I was rail-roaded down a set path when I played.
To save space, I won’t go too in-depth on the story surrounding Lonesome Road as it would require too much exposition, but in the DLC you’re taken down ‘The Divide’ with your only companion being a strange robot known as ED-E. Throughout the pack, you’re frequently contacted by a man known as Ulysses through the robot, and he provides exposition to your travel as you walk along The Divide, culminating in a showdown with Ulysses in which you can either talk him down or fight him.
Now I really like this DLC, and as stated before it would be my favourite if I wasn’t rail-roaded while playing it. There isn’t much room for exploration, but if you do explore you’ll be rewarded with some of the most powerful pieces of gear in the game. The story is also amazing, and I think it ties a wonderful bow on New Vegas.
Now to my bar-none favourite pack in New Vegas; Old World Blues.
Old World Blues finds the player teleported to a place called the ‘Big Empty’ or Big M.T., and that play on words is exactly what you’ll find in this DLC. There’s plenty of humour, story and exploration to go along with it. This is the one DLC that I always love to play through to completion, and I usually love almost every minute of it.
The player will find themselves on the balcony of a research centre with some of their most lovable body parts removed like their brain and spine — except their brain was stolen by a traitorous and extremely crazy Doctor Mobius. You’re tasked by the rest of the Think Tank to find and kill Mobius, and in return, you can get your brain back. This culminates in a very amusing conversation with your brain, which doesn’t want to go back into your head.
Within your quarters in the Think Tank, you also have a plethora of modules you can find for various machinations, and it makes every one of them talk. There’s a toaster who has dreams for world domination, a small robot named Muggy who wants coffee mugs, and a pair of light switches who both hate one another.
In terms of story, you can optionally learn more about Elijah and Ulysses, but the main draw for me is always the exploration, items and chuckles I get from it. For many people, I believe Lonesome Road and Old World Blues are interchangeable, but for me, I think Old World Blues will always remain in the top spot.