- Graphics – outstanding (although the engine is looking a bit dated by this point)
- Gameplay – very good
- New content – “Meh with a bullet”; some new weapons, no truly new creatures
- Story – good
- Replayability – another resounding “Meh”; you will need to play it through a couple of times in order to collect all of the achievements. The best reason to replay is the graphics and the walk through Zion National Park.
- Overall: 8 out of 10 points (I’d give it a 7.5, but it’s just too pretty)
I was among the fanboys eagerly awaiting the release of the next DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. My anxiety was relieved on the 17th when it became available on Steam ($9.99). The download went much faster than I anticipated, even at Steam’s paltry 300kbs transfer rate with the whole package weighing in at about 500MB. In anticipation of playing it, I had created a new character, playing it up to Level 15 and trying to be fairly even-handed in my skill-point distributions, except for pumping points into Repair to be able to get the “Jury Rigging” perk as soon as it became available. After activating the DLC and launching the game (and observing that my level cap had been raised by 5 more points), I was ready to leave the Mojave for the wilds of Zion.
Like the “Dead Money”, “Honest Hearts” will not allow you to take any companions with you. Unlike “Dead Money”, it does not automatically remove them from your party, leaving that little chore to you (ED-E is reportedly a little glitched in this regard – exercise caution and keep a save just in case). Figuring this to be the case, I had left all companions cooling their heels at the Lucky 38 and thought I was ready to go. Such was not to be. There is a 100-pound weight limit. Even with 10 Strength and the Strong Back perk, 100 pounds of gear is the limit. You may either put your extra gear in a handy crate (retrieving it when you come back after completing the DLC), or bribe/intimidate one of your fellow caravan guards into carrying a little extra for you. But at least it didn’t strip all of my gear away. I was not playing Hardcore mode, and so pared myself down to what I figured would be the bare minimum needed for an extended absence: three or four weapons, one light armor, a couple of specialized outfits, and the usual assortment of healing and chems.
After managing to survive the ambush that leaves you on your own it was pure eye-candy. The developers rendered the landscape and scenery in such a breath-takingly beautiful way that my initial impulse was to simply wander the area and take it all in. The abundance of overland encounters kind of put the kibosh on that for a while, but it really is a beautiful addition.
In the Mojave, the shortest distance is pretty much a straight line. In Zion, there are no straight lines. Compass markers are abundant, but the overriding idea is “you can’t get there from here”. This DLC is not for the navigationally challenged and there are areas on the overland map where fast travel is simply not permitted. You only option is to hoof it. Fortunately (or perhaps not, depending on your wants), the area isn’t terribly large, so getting from place to place isn’t a major hurdle. It’s just very easy to get turned around in some of those canyons. But it’s an absolutely gorgeous experience and put Zion National Park on my list of places to visit in the near future. If nothing else, Obsidian should get some sort of kickback from the National Park Service for this.
There are a few new weapons available, including the game’s only moddable melee weapon, the War Club. The most common new firearm will probably be either the 1911 .45 automatic or the Thomson sub-machinegun, both having a couple of mods available and both are generally picked up off of the corpses of those foolish enough to take you on. You will pick up a few Tomahawks, which make nice thrown weapons. Additionally, there are a handful of unique weapons for the collectors out there. For my money, the most welcome addition was the Yau Guai Gauntlet, which fulfills the same function, but does slightly better than the Deathclaw Gauntlet that never made it into the final game. You may complete a fairly simple quest to get yours.
There are no truly new creatures added to the mix. The Yau Guai is an import from Fallout 3. Geckos, Mantises, Spore Plants and Spore Carriers are revisions of existing creatures. White Legs are just re-skinned raiders. I found this to be a little disappointing.
There are some new characters and a couple of new companions, none of whom will remain after you complete the DLC. Your companions’ side comments while travelling are cute and humorous, but might get on your nerves after a while due to the rate of repetition. Voice-acting and accents were very well done and match well with the storyline.
The story itself is decent, although nothing out of the ordinary. It meshes well with the rest of the game and is dished up in bits and pieces throughout the DLC. There is also a hidden storyline that you can follow, but you’ll need to find the bits and pieces of it scattered across Zion in order for it to make sense.
On the whole, the DLC is probably worth your ten bucks. It fills in a few holes in the New Vegas backstory, adds a bit of new material and is a fun add-on. It will not keep me occupied until “Old World Blues” hits in June, but was a very nice diversion. This is pure speculation on my part, but I’d expect something like a GOTY edition in the fall where you can pick up all four DLCs for one low price.
On a cautionary note, I have noticed that my game is more unstable after adding the DLC than before. I had four or five CTDs (crash-to-desktop) while playing it. I DO NOT attribute this to the DLC itself. My best guess is either the last patch, one of the Patch Tuesday items or the fact that I had to install DirectX9 for another game. Because of that uncertainty, I am not holding any instability against “Honest Hearts”.