Archive for July, 2011

  • Graphics: pretty well done; existing meshes and textures; nothing to brag about in terms of novelty
  • Gameplay: very good with one semi-avoidable game-crasher; outstanding voicing
  • New Content: a few new creatures; some new gear and weapons, a few new “meh!” perks that won’t help you much in this DLC, but the “Wild Wasteland” perk really shines
  • Story: campy to the point of cheesy, but really good in a B-movie kind of way
  • Replayability: lots and better than the other DLCs
  • Overall: 8 (out of 10), docking a point for the game-crasher that should have been caught in testing; would have been 9 otherwise

“Old World Blues” was released on July 19th for all three platforms. It’s the best of the “Fallout: New Vegas” DLCs thus far, leaving one announced DLC (“Lonesome Road”) still to come. The DLC takes you to “The Big Empty”, a place where the Old World technology is still around.

The DLC begins with a radio broadcast (a standard ploy for DLCs in “Fallout 3” and “Fallout New Vegas”) that leads you to the Mojave Drive-In, which is just south of Nipton on your overland map. The message is a notice about a midnight feature, which is supposed to clue you in to needing to wait until about midnight before you can start. On a side note, the midnight feature film as we know it today began as a television thing in the 1950s; it didn’t really become a movie theater thing until about the 1970s or so.

Unlike “Dead Money” (which stripped you of all of your stuff) or “Honest Hearts” (which imposed a weight limit), you may bring any gear you want to bring, but no companions. Bringing a ton of gear is probably not necessary, especially in light of what becomes available as the DLC progresses, but it’s there for what it’s worth.

After activating the beacon, you’re transported to the Big Empty (or Big Mountain [Big MT] research center as the locals call it) and find yourself missing your heart, brain and spine (with some decent perks to go with that) and embroiled in a conflict between the floating brains of the Think Tank and the evil Dr. Mobius. You’ll need to sit through a VERY long conversation at the beginning. I’d normally dock the overall score for so much exposition at once sitting, but the voice acting is so over-the-top cheesy that I didn’t notice the time until after I had finished it. Keep it in mind in terms of replay rather than gameplay.

The DLC is a whole series of “go fetch” missions through exterior and interior locations that aren’t terribly different from locations in the Mojave (or Capital Wasteland, for that matter). The designers made use of warehouse-type locations to create some very open interiors, including a small neighborhood (a la Vault 112’s “Tranquility Lane” from Fallout 3). In one of the last “go fetch” missions, you’ll need to retrieve your brain so that you can return to the Mojave.

In getting your brain back, you can hit a never-ending dialog loop with the only way out being to load a saved game and then avoiding that thread on the replay. This is something that should have been caught and fixed in testing. The fact that it wasn’t results in a full-point dock from the overall score. At the moment, the only advice I can give is to save the game before trying to talk to your brain. You’ll probably need that save.

I encountered one other bug that may not be native to the DLC. I think I remember hearing others mention it shortly after the game’s release last year, but I had never encountered it before (that I noticed). The SINK vendor would happily take my caps when I bought or repaired anything, but didn’t give me caps when I sold something. Since I came in with a high-level character at the outset, this wasn’t a major issue except with Medium Armor repair. I had the Jury-Rigging perk, so I could take care of weapons and light items on my own, but there is a distinct lack of Medium armors in the Big Empty, so I had to rely on the vendor to do it for me and it charges an arm and a leg for armor repairs (good thing because I was missing other body parts and didn’t have much left to work with).

Upon completion of the DLC, like “Honest Hearts”, you will have the option of being able to return to the Big Empty. Considering that by the end of the DLC you’ll have access to several sources of crafting materials, a general merchant, a 100% repairer and all three crafting points in the same location, it will probably be worth returning to the Big Empty several times.

On the whole, I very much enjoyed “Old World Blues”. It brings back a lot of the humor that has been missing from both “Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas” and was just plain fun. In spite of the game-killer dialog loop, this is easily the best of the three DLCs. Here’s hoping that “Lonesome Road” exceeds this.

To end on a tangental note, the game introduces a few new Traits to the game. The Auto-Doc in the SINK will offer you the opportunity to change your existing Traits, but it’s a one-shot deal. Perhaps making this a bit of a better deal, those new traits are now available when you start a new game and go through Doc Mitchell’s ink-blot test again.

One of those Traits (Skilled) will boost all of your skills by 5 in exchange for you only getting 90% of the experience points you earn. This can be partially offset by taking the Swift Learner perk at Level 2, but since the added 10% works with a 90% base, you’ll only end up with 99% of the experience points. This could end up being a bit of a problem, though. Since the theoretical level cap is 45 , any character with a high Intelligence and the Educated perk will most likely hit 100 in all skills before reaching Level 45, so you’re now capped at whatever level you have when you raise that last skill to 100.

Graphics: very good, but still tied to the somewhat dated Gamebryo engine
Gameplay: decent, but frustrating
New Content: Meh
Story: very good
Replayability: OK, but hampered by restrictions

Overall: 6.5 (out of 10)

For some odd reason, I never said anything about the first DLC release for “Fallout: New Vegas”, so this should rectify that oversight.

“Dead Money” was Obsidian’s first DLC offering. I purchased it immediately upon its release for PC (which was a couple of months after its release for the XBox) and took a fairly high-level character through it. With one very notable aggravation and contrary to many others’ opinions of the release, it’s pretty decent. I’m not thrilled with its replay value and was far less than thrilled with the delay in its availability for PC (it was a business decision; I understand it, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it), but it’s a good addition to the game.

After installing “Dead Money”, the Abandoned Brotherhood of Steel Bunker outside of Camp Forlorn Hope becomes available from the start of the game. You may not take anything with you into the DLC. Your entire inventory (not counting a few quest items) is removed and all current companions are dismissed. You’ll get everything back when you’re done, but forewarned is forearmed, as they say. I would not recommend anyone start the DLC who doesn’t have most of their skills into at least the 50s or 60s. There are a few “Hard” locks (requiring at least 75 in Lockpick), a few recipes needing 50-60 in Survival, and the inevitable equipment repairs, so a low-level character is going to have an exceptionally hard time of it. Think of it as starting a new game, except with your existing SPECIAL and skills.

There are a bare handful of new creatures. One (the Radroach) is an import from Fallout 3, so I don’t know whether that counts as “new” or not. The Ghost People are interesting encounters, although the need to dismember them to kill them kind of evokes a “Dead Space” approach. There isn’t much to shout about in the area of new equipment, but I thought the Assassin Suit was a nice addition (Light Armor, +10 to Sneak with a DT of 14). “Dead Money” adds a hotplate to take the place of a campfire, so crafting doesn’t suffer significantly.

Healing, ammo and other supplies are going to be a lot more scarce than in the Mojave. This is one area where many players will need to adjust their play style. Many of the Ghost People carry Throwing Spears, which can make a decent alternative to bullets and energy weapons if your ability with thrown weapons is up to the challenge (yet another reason for 50s and 60s in your skills).

The most frustrating parts of the DLC involve two problems. One was intentional and I’m not sure about the other. Fast-Travel is not available, so you’re going to be doing a lot of hoofing and dealing with respawning encounters. The area isn’t that big so it’s not a major problem, but it’s definitely a point of frustration at times.

My biggest gripe revolves around the slave collar you acquire at the start of the DLC. Radios and speakers can interfere with it, causing it to go BOOM and taking your head off. The problem is that you often can’t see the source that’s causing your collar to start beeping, so you’ll spend a lot of time saving and dying as you seek out the source of the signals so you can reload to either deal with them or figure a way around. This is not my idea of a good time and is the major reason for the low scoring of the DLC.

Other than those points, I found it to be very enjoyable. My only regret is that once you’re done, you can’t come back. Pity. There’s all of that gold you could be toting out. If I were to place the DLC, I’d do it after “Old World Blues” since there is a bit of a tie-in between the two. But it’s quite enjoyable on its own, so don’t sweat it if you play it first.

After doing some cleanup on most of my sites/guides, I discovered that I had completely neglected my original “Adventurer’s Journal” on my Morrowind page. After doing a little mental butt-kicking and considering the variety of games that I have been playing recently, I decided that a more centralized version would be more appropriate. Perhaps I will get back to my adventures in Vvardenfell in time, but I have other irons in the fire at the moment. It also seems that I should probably move my gaming-related stuff from my other blog ( to here, so that is also on the agenda.

In the meantime, I’ve upgraded my Word Press installation, added a few anti-spam widgets and plug-ins, and generally tried to make life miserable for spammers. User registration is turned on and required for posting. I’ve set a Captcha for registration, posting and commenting. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a hassle. I’ve also installed Twitter, Facebook and Google buttons (edit: the Google button doesn’t seem to show – will work on that) if anyone wants to make use of those services.

We’ll see how it goes from here. Peace out.

EDIT: I copied my most recent gaming-related posts from my original blog to this one, keeping the original posting dates. That’s why this post is in a weird position in the posting order.

After playing through the new “Old World Blues” DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, I decided to go back and start a new character and run through the game again with all of the existing DLCs in place. I’ll post a review of OWB in a bit, but I need to take back a couple of comments about “Honest Hearts”. On this playthrough I noticed a couple of issues that I didn’t mention in my original review, so I want to add those. Overall, I’m downgrading the DLC to a 7 (out of 10) because of them. Again, I’m tacking on half a point because they rendered Zion so nicely. I’m relatively sure that this is not something that’s unique to my installation, hence the downgrade.

Problem 1: companion pathfinding. You have three companions that you can pick up in your travels through Zion National Park. All of them exhibit the same behavior. Because of the layout, their pathfinding algorithm falls way short of where it needs to be. Because their pathfinding is so sucky, you end up at the top of the canyon, while they’re running around looking for a path to your location. It gets so bad at times that they will completely disappear from your radar. If you’re a Lone Wanderer, this isn’t such a big deal. But when you’re needing someone to watch your back and they’re nowhere to be found, you can get really hozed really fast.

Problem 2: companion aggression. This might be something that manifests in the basic game, but I hadn’t noticed it being as bad as it is here. With the great differences in vertical distance between points in the same map area, this could be due to the layout of the place, but your companions will run off after enemies at the drop of a hat. This is not such a problem in casual mode because they won’t die on you. In Hardcore mode, though, you’re going to be lucky to keep these folks alive through more than one or two encounters.

Problem 3: critter spawning. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it happen right in front of me. My character had a 10 in Perception: 8 in SPECIAL, +1 for an implant and +1 for the hat. That means I will almost always be aware of the bad guys before they’re aware of me. But I had wondered why it seemed like I was getting ambushed so frequently. I would fast travel to a location, immediately scope out the area, see no signs of hostile activity, start to go about my business and BAM! Attacked. I finally saw the problem in action at the General Store and Park Ranger HQ. I had just finished cleaning out the store and was walking to the HQ building when a Radscorpion materialized right in front of me. It didn’t come up over a rise in the ground or anything like that. It just appeared. What’s the use of pumping all of those points into an attribute that won’t help you avoid this kind of thing? I don’t think this is a game engine problem because it never happens in the Mojave. It must be something unique to this DLC and it aggravates me no end.

Problem 4: appearing/disappearing map points. On my first playthrough I had missed Clark’s final resting place at Red Gate, so I had only collected five of the six caches. I made it a point on this playthrough to try to collect all of those and still only came up with five of six. Somewhere near the northern center of the map I noticed a map point that I hadn’t discovered and headed off in that direction only to have the empty triangle marker disappear from my HUD. I circled around the area and the silly thing would appear and then disappear again. I’m pretty sure this is a cave containing the last of the caches and it frustrates me no end that I cannot find it. This might be something on my system (FONV does tend to crash and burn on occasion), but either something is on the HUD or it isn’t – there shouldn’t be any smoke and mirrors.

Because of all of these problems (most importantly the pathfinding and ambush issues), I’m going back and docking a point from my initial rating. I’ll still give it a half-point for being so pretty, but that only leaves it with a 7 instead of an 8.

I guess this could be taken as a sort of open letter to the Ubisoft Montreal developers. Doubt they’ll read it, but I can at least vent my spleen on “Assassin’s Creed 2” and “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood”. On the bright side, they might do something to fix the problem before “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” hits in November.

I’m not generally a big fan of third-person games, but a few things combined to get me playing in this franchise. First the opportunity to go roaming around in the medieval period, even if only as it exists in the minds of game developers, was a major attraction. Second, and probably most importantly, Steam had a sale on “Assassin’s Creed” and “Assassin’s Creed 2”. The big draw was “Assassin’s Creed 2”. Roaming around in Renaissance Italy was much more attractive than Crusades-era Jerusalem. On the whole, I found AC2 to be much more polished than the original, which is to be expected if a developer is doing their job well. Then, lo and behold, Steam had a sale on “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood”, so I picked that up after completing about half or two-thirds of AC2 and found it to be even more polished than AC2.

Overall, I would not put these among the “must play games” (hate that term – I’ll do penance for using it later), but if you like third-person stealth shooters, a lot of running, jumping, special moves, cool gear, and a good mission-oriented story, then you’ll definitely enjoy these. The games are available for Windows, xBox360 and PS3 (Brotherhood is also available for Mac). Unless you’re a real franchise “gotta have it now” fanboy, catch them on sale somewhere. Careful, though. They’re pretty good games and might well turn you into a franchise fanboy.

All games have their quirks and oddities. They’re what makes an Ubisoft game different from, say, an Eidos game. But when those quirks and oddities get in the way of gameplay, then something needs to change. My biggest gripe about AC2 and AC Brotherhood revolves around camera control. In normal gameplay, this isn’t a problem. In certain parts of the game, however, the camera controls lock, essentially changing the third-person game into a platformer.

These changes happen without warning and at points where falling necessitates either a checkpoint reload (because you died and neither game does saved games) or a long climb back to try again (assuming you survived the fall). When this happens, the normal movement controls also change. Forward, back and strafing are not what they normally appear to be because you’re not in a third-person environment. This probably accounts for the falling, dying, reloading and general frustration: the controls don’t work the way you expected because the game changed.

Short version, Ubisoft? Don’t change genres. If you’re going to be a third-person game, stay third-person. If you can’t do that, then either give warning or give some on-screen help showing the new control orientation.