Thursday, May 24

In Defence of Fallout: New Vega's DLC; Dead Money

A while ago, when Fallout: New Vegas was still a new game, I heard about the upcoming DLC; Dead Money. Not being one to buy DLC on release I waited to see what peoples impressions where. Those impression weren't good. But a year or so later, I bought the DLC in a Steam sale and finally got round to playing. Dead Money isn't terrible, in fact its quite good.

However it has a big problem,  it isn't anything like the rest of Fallout 3 or NV. In 3 and NV, you may come across areas that you don't like but you always have choice. You can can bring alone your favourite companion. You can bring a variety of weapons, armour and stims. You can go back to town any time you want, and fully heal up and restock on ammo. If you don't like the area, you can simply come back later, when you are more powerful or have better equipment. Typically such areas are short.

Dead Money deliberately creates a oppressive atmosphere and then severely limits all those choices you had above. You are dropped in to the Sierre Madre with no companions. All your weapons, armour and everything else, are stripped. You don't know where you are, or why.
You are provided the bare basics of equipment and then are given instructions to follow, by a not so friendly face. The area is in ruins, ugly, the sun blotted out. You can't leave this area, you are trapped with the threat of death.

As you explore you can find a few other weapons and armour, but not necessarily your favourite load outs. Ammo and stims can be salvaged, but are limited in supply, thus are extremely valuable. You discover powerful enemies that not only take up your precious ammo and stims, but don't want to stay dead. Additionally there are enemies that can't be killed at all! Pockets of toxic gas are everywhere, a few seconds in them will kill you. When you dare to cross these pockets, you never know how long they will stretch and when you will reach safety. There are 3 companions to find, all with their own stories, none of them as black and white as the companions in FO3.

Dean Domino: Best character in the game?
But all this works to the DLCs advantage. The Sierre Madre is meant to be a horrible place. You aren't meant to be having "fun". You aren't meant to be a god, breezing your way through dozens of enemies, here. And because of some of the design choices, Obsidians aim to create a horrible, dark place, works perfectly. For instance if you had all your weapons would you fear the ghosts? People complained about the restrictive controls and view point in Resident Evil 4 (and prior games) but they also worked towards a specific atmosphere.

As usual Obsidians writing is great. The story of the Sierre Madre is a good one. Companions like God/Dog are so rewarding to talk to. But its there for you to discover, it isn't inserted hamfistedly and if you don't care then you never need to hear what happened at the Sierre Madre, or why Dean Domino is there. There is Thus Dead Money is an enjoyable experience, but its vastly different from anything else in FO3/NV.