Archive for the ‘DLC’ Category


BioWare has finally ended the Mass Effect 3 fiasco with the last little piece of single-player Mass Effect 3, “Citadel,” being released last week. Thanks in large measure to the poor way in which BioWare (mis)handled the ending of ME3, the game has been almost completely off my radar since the end of summer. In checking my game’s stats, it hasn’t been launched since early October and the time before that was in mid-September. In the interim, BioWare released two major DLCs, Omega and Citadel that never even blipped.

I was alerted to the end of the nightmare not by BioWare or anything related to it, but by a YouTube video by CleverNoobs taking exception to Tweets by BioWare folks regarding the current state of the fanbase over the whole ME3 mess. Just goes to show how far off the radar ME3 has been, I guess. After bringing myself up to speed on both DLCs, (and not dislocating my arm while giving myself a pat on the back for calling the “Omega” DLC back in June), I am thrilled beyond measure to know that ME3 is over and done.

The game will likely get some play time during the summer because, frankly, there doesn’t appear to be anything coming this summer to get excited about. So it’s going to be hitting the game library for the most part.

As for the Mass Effect series, I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for ME4. While I hope that BioWare learned some valuable lessons from the past year, I can promise that I will not be pre-ordering  and will not be buying anything until I see what the fanbase has to say about it.

If anyone is interested in seeing what the “Citadel” DLC looks like, I’d highly recommend the video walkthrough by CaptainShepardN7. If it weren’t for a story ending that made the whole thing pointless, I’d certainly be buying and playing. It looks like a load of fun.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an all-encompassing look at what’s headed our way for 2013. There are lots of (hopefully) really good games coming this year that have lots of excitement in their fan bases (a new Tomb Raider, a new Metal Gear Solid, a new StarCraft and the like), but which don’t hold much appeal for me. These are just the ones that are on my own radar. Some are a lot higher on that radar than others; I have much higher expectations for some than I do for others; some are going to be definite purchases at or near release time, while others will end up on my “I’ll get to it eventually” list and a few are on my “I intend to avoid it like the plague” list. All in all, 2013 looks to be shaping up into a decent year for gaming.

The release dates are what I could find at the time. I suspect that many will turn out to be wrong and a few will hit their release dates when they should really have been pushed back for quality purposes. That’s the gaming biz. Gotta love it since there aren’t enough places to hide the bodies.

Game

Developer/Publisher

Release Date

Thoughts

Elder Scrolls Online Zenimax Online/Bethesda Softworks TBA Previews have been generally positive, but since I am not into MMOs, it has little appeal for me.
       
Grand Theft Auto V Rockstar North/Rockstar Games Spring 2013 Lots of buzz and excitement in the fanbase. I absolutely adored GTA San Andreas (still play it occasionally), but was not horribly thrilled with GTA4 or its expansions. It’s on my “get it” list, although I have not pre-ordered.
       
Crysis 3 Crytek/Electronic Arts February 19 I was not horribly thrilled with the original and do not own Crysis 2, so this one barely blips on my radar. That might change, but don’t bet the farm on it.
       
SimCity Maxis through Electronic Arts March 5 My college roommate and I played the hell out of the original and I also enjoyed SimCity 3000, but became more enthralled with Sierra’s city-building games like Caesar III and IV and Pharaoh. This will definitely be on my “get it” list for this year. The co-op aspects of the game look interesting.
       
Dead Space 3 Viceral Games through Electronic Arts February 5 I pretty much enjoyed the original, but it mostly came across as another horror/shooter game. If I’m lacking anything better to do and I can find it on sale, I’ll likely pick it up.
       
BioShock Infinite Irrational Games/2K Games March 26 I really enjoyed the story and gameplay of BioShock and BioShock 2. This one is definitely on my “get it” list.
       
Splinter Cell: Blacklist Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft Q2 2013 The jury is still out on this one. I can’t say enough good things about “Splinter Cell”, “Pandora Tomorrow” or “Chaos Theory”. “Double Agent” left me a bit underwhelmed and “Conviction” is still on the store shelf. The franchise is moving much more into the shooter genre and there are much better shooters (and sneakers) out there.
       
Dragon Age III: Inquisition Bioware/Electronic Arts TBA I’m going to be really leery of this one. DA and DA2 were wonderful games, although DA2 didn’t quite rise to DA’s bar IMO. But having heard the “endings that matter” spiel from BioWare and been massively burned in the past on that, I think this is one that I’m going to wait to see the fan reaction before shelling out anything. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but BioWare has its “Mass Effect 3” legacy putting a massive damper on my enthusiasm.
       
Arma III Bohemia Interactive TBA I’ve never played any of the other Arma games, but will probably buy this on just to piss off the Greeks. Once I’ve bought it, I’ll feel obliged to play it, but aside from my overwhelming desire to give the finger to Greece’s idiotic security service, I have no expectations for the game. We shall see how it turns out.
       

Since most of what I’ve been covering in my game guides and blog posts has to do with Bethesda games, I’d be remiss if I didn’t dust off the ol’ crystal ball and take a shot at some prognosticating in Bethesda’s direction.

There is starting to be some movement in the Fallout franchise. Bethesda confirmed that they had a couple of projects in the works after the release of Fallout: New Vegas. One turned out to be Skyrim (no big surprise there), leaving Fallout 4 as the logical choice for the second one. Most recently, there was some excitement over Erik Todd Dellums tweeting about being contacted about reprising his Three Dog role (and having Bethesda’s blessing to do so). While this might have something to do with a Fallout movie of some sort, my money is on a game gig. That might just be wishful thinking on my part, but it seems the most likely explanation. Bethesda managed to milk four good games from the Gamebryo engine (Morrowind, Oblivion and both Fallouts). The “new” Creation Engine for Skyrim is rumored to be slotted for at least one more game and, again, Fallout 4 seems the most likely scenario. I’m sure we’ll hear more tidbits and buzz over the next few weeks, but I would not expecting a major announcement before spring at the earliest.

The “Dragonborn” DLC is still due for PC sometime in the next month or so and, God bless ‘em for their patience and fortitude, the PS3 community is still waiting for a fully functional Skyrim AND a port of the existing DLCs. I have high hopes that Bethesda will be doing something for them in the very near future.

There might be one more DLC out there for Skyrim. Bethesda has registered “Redguard” as a trademark for digitally-delivered game content and they have left the entire Aldmeri Dominion issue unresolved up to this point. Assuming this to be something addressed by any such DLC would be wildly speculative, but there’s no love lost between Hammerfell and Summerset Isle if we look at the lore thus far. Also, we got a good look at Cyrodiil in “Oblivion”, High Rock in “Daggerfall”, and Morrowind in “Morrowind” and the “Dragonborn” DLC, so doing something in Hammerfell wouldn’t be too far outside the bounds of reason.

Of course, dealing with the Thalmor problem would also make excellent fodder for an Elder Scrolls VI and wouldn’t’ necessarily depend upon a single outcome for the Nord civil war. So my suspicion is that we’ll probably see one more DLC for Skyrim which may or may not work as a lead-in to the next TES game. Around the time of that DLC’s release we’ll probably get something official on Fallout 4. Todd looks like he’ll be a fairly busy guy for some time to come.

A bit less than a year ago, I commented that I was not going to review the Lonesome Road DLC for Fallout: New Vegas under the idea that if I can’t say anything nice, then I wouldn’t say anything at all. I think I will stick to that idea, especially since it has been almost a year since its release. But (there’s always a “but…” isn’t there?) it’s kind of hard to talk about a new play-through without talking about the DLC that you’re playing through. So, for whatever it’s worth, here is my report on my Lonesome Road play-through. And, because it has been almost a year since the release of the last DLC, I’m not going to worry about whether anything that I have to say will spoil it for anyone.

I started my play-through several days ago with the boatload of mods I talked about in an earlier post. Except for “New Vegas Bounties”, I did not add any quest mods to the game. For the most part, everything was cosmetic, although the addition of several perks by Project Nevada, additional weapon mods and things like that might qualify as a bit more than cosmetic.

I followed the main quest from Goodsprings, through Primm and Nipton (bypassing Novac aside from a bit of trading and couple of hands of Caravan), to the Khans in Boulder City and then to the Strip so I could check out the Lucky 38 mod. I picked up ED-E and Veronica along the way, did a few quests for the NCR for caps and experience, and launched into the DLCs as soon as I felt I was ready.

If memory serves, Dead Money was recommended for Level 20 and above. I started it at Level 14 or 15. I’m still less than thrilled with the almost complete reliance on saved games to get through the Vault area of the Sierra Madre. You know: save, go left, blow up, reload, go right, blow up, reload, go straight and maybe make it to another safe point, or maybe blow up since you were supposed to go straight and then left – detonating collars was an interesting idea, but suffered from sucky implementation in this area. Worked pretty well in the rest of it, though. Barter was a bit tedious, but since these guys haven’t got the news about caps, it’s understandable.  A bit frustrating at times, but understandable. I left everyone alive at the end (Christine, Dean, God [failed the Speech check] and Elijah), absconded with all 37 gold bars and had quite the merry time of it. It’s still the second-best DLC of the bunch.

After finishing Dead Money, I ran through Honest Hearts. Zion is still as gorgeous as it was the first time through. Keith Szarabajka continues to amaze me with how well he voiced Joshua Graham (and, yes, I kept expecting to hear “Assuming control” in the middle of a few shoot-outs). Of all of the DLCs, I think Honest Hearts had the best writing. The writers taking some of the basic Latter-Day Saint beliefs, boiling them down to something understandable, extrapolating them into a post-apocalyptic world and then putting those beliefs into believable opposition with themselves was marvelously well done. Send those folks a six-pack or three. They earned it.

Once back in the Mojave, I immediately launched into Lonesome Road. To be up-front about a few things, the DLC does not play exceptionally well with the Nevada Skies mod. It doesn’t play badly, but the lighting is off. Nighttime brightness isn’t much dimmer than daytime (unlike the Mojave and Zion, which are close to pitch dark). Interiors are both brighter and darker than I would expect. Along about 7pm or 8pm, game time, it’s like someone shuts off the lights. No gradual darkening; just “click” and the lighting suddenly changes. Nevada Skies is a marvelously well done mod, but it just doesn’t work as I would have liked in the Divide.

There are two things about the DLC that I find particularly off-putting. The first is all of the philosophical mumbo-jumbo that Ulysses spouts at various points. I understand the point that he’s trying to make, but his way of reaching it is so far out there that he might as well be pulling it out of his ass. If Honest Hearts had the best writing of the DLCs, Lonesome Road has some of the worst. I’m not going to fault Roger Cross for it. I’m sure that he delivered exactly what was scripted and delivered it according to the sound director’s wants. But he doesn’t quite manage to make a Thanksgiving dinner out of the turkey that was handed to him. His delivery is credible, but credibility only goes so far.

The other off-putting thing is probably my own damned fault. Rather than focus on Ulysses and ED-E’s upgrades, I made it a point to search for journal entries, holotapes, RALPHIE posters and the rest of that nonsense. What should have been a couple of hours of straightforward run-and-gun turned into a couple of days of searching, backtracking, and searching some more. I guess this was the developers’ way of keeping you in the Divide longer than the story required. Serves me right, but shame on them for doing it in the first place. Bad devs. No Cheetos for you.

That leaves me with Old World Blues. I’m currently Level 33, which might be a bit high for the DLC (recommended level is 15-20), but I’ll handicap myself somehow. Or maybe not. OWB is frankly just plain fun in a cheesy sort of way. The writing is hokey (intentionally so), the voicing is so over-the-top melodramatic as to be comical (also intended, unless I miss my guess), but it’s the best of the four, so I saved it for last. Off to the Big Empty I go.

After thinking long and hard about my earlier comments regarding the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut, I’m going to retract and revise somewhat. I still believe that the whole RGB/Star Child debacle should have been scrapped, incinerated, its ashes mixed with a load of nuclear waste and then fired into the sun. Of course, due to solar winds and whatnot, we’d be sharing it with the rest of the universe, which might have its own set of consequences, but my opinion on those items has not changed since my initial review several months ago. And because BioWare decided to keep those elements, my view of the EC is significantly less than rosy.

But, in all fairness to the development team, let’s consider a couple of items where they deserve a massive high-five from the players.

First, they recognized that many/most fans considered the original ending to be a complete pile of shit. They listened, weighed those reactions against their vision of the story they wanted told (I’m pretty sure this is the “artistic integrity” that they stood behind) and then tried to bring the two closer together while keeping their story. I’ve said several times that it’s their story and I meant it. I’m under no obligation to like the way that it played out, but the time and effort that went into producing and releasing the Extended Cut is prima facie evidence that they sincerely care about the way the players perceive the game. Not many game companies would consider that, much less do it. To that extent, my opinion of BioWare is significantly higher because of the Extended Cut.

Second, the Extended Cut does deliver on the promised clarity and closure. Whether Shepard physically lives, virtually lives, dies or whatever is irrelevant. I was not expecting Shepard to be around in any potential ME4, anyway. And while I still have issues with the Star Child’s logic, the expanded dialogue does succeed in clarifying many issues leading up to the final choice. I still do not agree with the effects of those choices (and I now believe Synthesis to be the suckiest of the three – maybe it’s the glowing green eyes), but the canon reasons why those choices are what they are makes more sense than it did in the original.

Third, the extended cut scenes (OK, slideshows) with their voice-overs let you see how your earlier decisions play out in the larger universe. I am still less than thrilled that the Destroy ending also takes out the Geth and EDI, so I’m pretty much left with “the Illusive Man was right, after all,” which galls me no end. But seeing the mass relays being rebuilt, the Krogan family, the memorial service as Shepard’s name is added to the wall, and all the rest, does a very good job of dispelling the doom and gloom of the original ending.

Because of these, my initial conclusion of the EC being “only a bit” better than the original is doing a disservice to the team that went out of its way to make it in the first place. Let’s chalk that up to persisting dissatisfaction with the Star Child/RGB ending while giving appropriate kudos for the effort of trying to make it more palatable.

The Extended Cut of Mass Effect 3 was released on June 26. As expected, it provides some clarification and a bit more closure than the original ending, but it’s still pretty much “pick your favorite color”. I still see several gaping plot holes that it failed to address and the ending cinematics are more reminiscent of the “Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas” slide shows than what I would have expected from Mass Effect. So, taken as a whole, all I can say with any degree of honesty it that the ending is somewhat improved.

As an example in the area of plot holes, BioWare tried to fix one by showing that your miraculously teleporting squadmates were actually picked up by the Normandy in response to Shepard’s call to evacuate a wounded member. But in filling that hole, they had to teleport the Normandy itself. Well, maybe not teleport, but if you consider the amount of time it took for Harbinger to break off from the fight and arrive at the transport beam and then compare that to the amount of time it takes the Normandy to break off from the fight and get to the beam, it might as well be a teleport. They also fail to explain how Harbinger can be aware of these teeny-tiny little people on the ground (because it’s shooting at them), yet overlook a frigate making a pickup right in front of it. Perhaps there is such a thing as “space magic” after all. At least Joker isn’t looking back over his shoulder during the escape sequence.

Voice-overs from Hacket (Destruction), Shepard (Control), and EDI (Synthesis) serve to explain the post-ending Mass Effect universe through a series of slides (which mostly get reused in each ending). I suspect that this was done to alleviate concerns that the destruction of the Mass Relay system effectively ended galactic civilization. However, the rosy future painted by each of the endings stands in stark contrast to my expectation of a return to factious infighting once the threat of the common enemy was removed (OK, rosy future mostly works in the Synthesis ending), but it’s their story, so I’ll just let it go at saying that it stretches my suspension of disbelief. The word “blivet” comes to mind, but that’s a bit harsh. Maybe “mini-blivet”?

On the whole, the ending is a bit (only a bit) more palatable than the original. We players are now faced with a different issue. Since this is the only fix we can reasonably expect, do we play the game or not? Taken in this light, I’m back to the conclusion of my original review: the game itself is very good. My heartburn was and is with the ending. To that extent, do you play a good game whose ending is less than stellar or do you let the ending color the whole experience of the game? I tend to go with the former in the hope that BioWare will learn from this fiasco and not repeat it in the future.

It’s impossible to tell a story in which you expect the player to invest themselves in a character and then also expect that everyone will be thrilled and overjoyed with the ending of that story. It’s not going to happen. But it is possible to tell a story where the vast majority can accept the ending with little fuss. This is what I expect BioWare to take away from the ME3 experience. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. In the interim, I suspect we can look forward to at least a couple of paid DLCs. My money is on Aria retaking Omega now that the Illusive Man is out of the picture. It might be worth it in light of the more palatable ending, but we shall see the future when it gets here. In the meantime, don’t let the ending get in the way of enjoying the ride. It’s still a very good game.

In a press release Thursday, BioWare announced a free (until April 12, 2014) DLC for Mass Effect 3, entitled “Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut”, due sometime this summer. Casey Hudson, ME3’s Executive Producer, promised “to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player.” All of this will be provided through additional cinematics and epilogue scenes. The BioWare panel at PAX East fielded a few questions in this area without straying too far from the official line. One fan was kind enough to upload their camcorder video of the panel discussion to YouTube, although in five pieces and not including the Q&A session at the end. Remember, these folks are not addressing the DLC beyond what was in the press release, so the lack of the final 10 minutes or so isn’t crucial. Most of the relevant stuff about the DLC happens in the first 10 minutes or so.

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5

Another fan was kind enough to upload the full hour, again at YouTube, but the audio is pretty poor. It’s audible, but you’ll need to really crank up the sound and/or use headphones to hear it clearly and even that is iffy.

After all of the finger-pointing, name-calling, hand-wringing and assorted post-release hoopla over ME3’s ending, I’m not sure whether I’m in the “Oh, noes!” or “whatever” camp, but I’m certainly not ecstatic over the announcement. Add to this a series of threads on BioWare’s forums to the effect of “Do you feel sorry for (insert group or name here)?” and it gets even murkier.

Perhaps a bit of recap might help. I stand by my original assertion that ME3 is an outstanding game, provided one ignores the last few minutes. There are a few things that I found to be a bit less than satisfying, but it works well on many levels from the start until about 5 or 10 minutes from the end. To that extent, and with the understanding that I’m excluding the last few minutes from that assessment, I have almost no heartburn with what BioWare released. It’s only those last few minutes where I’m taking exception.

I’m not even up in arms over the Day-One DLC nonsense. For those who might not know what that’s all about, the “From Ashes” DLC was released concurrently with the game (for about $10). It introduced a Prothean squad member, Javik, and a mission to recruit him. All of Javik’s in-game assets were apparently on the original game disc, so players essentially paid $10 for a mediocre mission pack that simply unlocked what they already had. Bad marketing and suggestive of a very poor view of the customers, but not the most egregious of things that a gaming company could do. Just very indicative of a “let’s see how many different ways we can get players to part with their money” mentality. Considering that the entire economy is aimed at separating customers from their money, it’s not even unusual. It’s just tacky.

As far as the game itself and from a story-telling standpoint, there were only a handful of possible conclusions to the Reaper story arc. Shepard was either going to be successful in destroying the Reapers or not. “Not” might include some other means of removing the threat, but my initial guess would have been that “not” would be synonymous with “failure”, so I would have predicted that the successful ending would have been the destruction of the Reapers. All three of the endings effectively remove the Reaper threat. Whether that removal is permanent or temporary (according to story canon) depends on your final choice in the game.

Since this was to be the final game of a trilogy chronicling Shepard’s adventures, then Shepard was either going to survive or not (survival of squad members was probably going to depend on how you played the game). While a happy ending might have been nice, Shepard needed to be definitively and finally removed from the ME universe. Some heroic final sacrifice was not only within the realm of possibility, but almost certainly required. In fact, had the game gone to credits right after that final scene with Anderson and we simply assumed that the Crucible worked its magic and Shepard peacefully bled out, I probably would have been somewhat happy with it. I don’t like my characters dying, but sometimes that’s what needs to happen in order to make the story work.

As an alternative ending, I would have found some dark humor in Shepard being appointed humanity’s council member to replace Udina and could almost hear Claudia Christian’s voice in the background: "I feel like an old war horse, trotted out after a parade so all the kids can point at it" (my first Shepard to complete all three games was female). Or perhaps something along the lines of “Ulysses” would have done the job (Ashley’s not the only one who reads Tennyson). Any of those would have worked with Buzz Aldrin’s post-credits scene and we would have had a satisfactory ending, or at least mostly so.

But where were the wildly different endings? On both play-throughs, I ended up with three “pick your favorite color” endings. Since I did my best to acquire every war asset that I could during both play-throughs, I’m assuming that all other possible endings are “worse” than the three that I got. I’ve seen video of one ending where the Destruction option was the only one available. In that video, London (and presumably the rest of Earth) is incinerated and Shepard is blown to bits, so I’m pretty sure that I saw the “best” endings. OK, “ending” since the cinematics are almost identical.

BioWare is adamant that this Extended Cut DLC will not add any new endings to the game, so it would seem that we’re pretty much stuck with RGB as canon. The question is whether that can be improved or clarified through the addition of cinematics and epilogue scenes. My initial inclination is to think “not”. As one poster on the BioWare forums so colorfully noted, a turd is still a turd, no matter how much sugar you put on it.

So, if we’re stuck with RGB, then what can be done to provide clarity and insight? How about dropping that whole Star Child thing? Aside from a bit of exposition and presenting the color choices, it served no useful purpose and was probably the biggest “WTF?” moment in the game. A BioWare forum poster managed to dig up an obscure Codex entry from ME1 which might overcome the charge of deus ex machina commonly leveled at it. But it’s an awfully flimsy thread for tying up this monster.

How about we do something about that final Normandy scene with Joker trying to outrun the shockwave (or whatever that glowy thing behind him is) and then crash-landing on some jungle planet where the squad members who were with Shepard just a few minutes early somehow manage to safely disembark. That bit never made a lick of sense on multiple levels. First, if the Normandy has FTL capability, how is it unable to outrun an explosion which, in normal space, cannot go faster than light? Second, how did the crew members who were with Shepard just a few minutes earlier in London manage to get on board? Third, why was Joker running away at all? I don’t remember anyone sending him a “Get the ship out of there” order. All in all, it was pretty cheesy.

Since we have been told “no new endings”, I suppose that those two ideas are out of the picture.

Some of the more vocal fans on the forums are still ranging between dismay and outrage over the whole mess. I’m taking the more philosophical approach to it. BioWare says that they have listened to the fans. Since they would have had to be hiding under a rock or something to not know what the fans were upset about and why, I’ll take them at their word on that. BioWare has decided that they will not change the existing endings. I’m not thrilled, but that’s the decision, I don’t see them changing it and what will be, will be. So with those two points settled, what else is left but to wait and see what comes out in the DLC.

I’m trying to be optimistic about it. These are the folks that cranked out 2.99 really solid games (yeah, I’m still not giving them an ounce of goodwill for the ending). Not just solid games, but games that have developed an enviable fan base. The players love the characters, love the universe and (again, excluding the last few minutes of ME3) love the games. They have proven themselves willing to buy sequels, DLCs, souvenirs and trinkets, you name it. I don’t believe that their feelings about the ending will cause that to change. After all, you don’t passionately fight for something that you don’t care about. In the end, I think the vast majority will simply come to accept the ending. After all, it is what it is and either we learn to like it or go find another game.

  • 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 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.

  • 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”.