Archive for the ‘Fallout New Vegas’ Category

After all of that running around, downloading, testing and installing mods. it turns out that New Vegas still feels a bit old. Maybe not “old” per se, but “tired” in that even with the perks and mods, it still has that “been there, done that” kind of feel to it. I strongly suspect that close to 1000 hours of playing time goes a long way toward explaining that. After playing up 11 or 12 levels (haven’t really touched the main quest or the DLCs), I decided to fire up Mass Effect. This was largely because of the conversation between Gopher and StarduskLP over on YouTube.

Gopher and StarDuskLP (a couple of weeks ago)

Somewhere in their 90-minute conversation, both Gopher and Stardusk reminded the audience that Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were awesome games. Neither seemed particularly fond of Mass Effect 3, although for different reasons. Stardusk’s reasons were more or les in line with mine, while Gopher’s seemed a bit more forgiving, but still disappointed with the final release. In any event, it seemed worthwhile to go fire up Mass Effect, especially since I didn’t need to worry over-much about DLCs (there were only two). That turned out to be a misplaced assumption, but still…

My immediate problem was that after downloading and installing Mass Effect, it absolutely refused to launch. I tried two solutions, one of which worked, but I’m not sure which one because of other issues:

Solution #1: run the game as an administrator (even if your user account already has administrator privileges). Maneuver to the Mass Effect binaries folder in your Steam installation(Steam\steamapps\common\Mass Effect\Binaries) and right-click the MassEffect.exe. From the context menu either select “Run as administrator” or “Send to –> Desktop (create shortcut)” and run that shortcut as an administrator. You can do much the same with the MassEffectLauncher.exe in the Mass Effect folder, but the “Play” button was a dead end. The launcher would let me into the configuration utility to set graphics options, though.

Solution #2: in the same binaries folder, copy the PhysXCore.dll file to “C:\Program Files (x86)\NVIDIA Corporation\PhysX\Engine\v2.7.2\” (I needed to create the v2.7.2 folder, which required elevated privileges).

One of those worked, but again, I’m not sure which one since I was messing with DLC-related issues at the same time. My last saved game was made with both “Bring Down the Sky” and “Pinnacle Station” installed, but neither of those DLCs came with the newly downloaded game. For “Pinnacle Station,” I fired up my Origin client, downloaded it and ran the installer. The installer gets install path information from the registry, so you absolutely must make sure that the game is running properly before trying to install the DLC.

“Bring Down the Sky” was a freebie DLC for PC-version purchasers, but does not come with the Steam version of the game. Steam users will need to download it separately. The link provided by BioWare in their support forums is for all languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German) and it did not ask me for a product key, so I assume that this will be true for other users, too:

With that taken care of, I was able to get back into the game. I’m pretty much decided that it’s about time for a Renegade playthrough, but we’ll see how that goes.

My memory being what it is, this is mostly a “what the hell was I doing and why was I doing it?” kind of post so that I won’t have to reinvent the wheel the next time I need to do this.

Hjorn, my last character in Skyrim, has done all of the major stuff, is sitting at about Level 67, and feels the need to retire from active adventuring. Contemplating the lint in his navel is not his style, but decimating the ranks of the Thalmor and Dawnguard (he cured his vampirism, but the memo apparently has not made it down to the rank-and-file) is getting pretty old. So I’m firing up New Vegas again for a while. Somewhere in the intervening time, my game got borked pretty good and wouldn’t even launch.

While I could fire up FNVEdit and figure out which missing master was actually missing and run through the whole troubleshooting process, I decided to just do a completely fresh download and reinstall. But since I likely won’t remember precisely what I did, the order in which I did it or why I did it, I’m writing it down for future reference.

What follows is a step-by-step. By the end of it all, New Vegas was running like a champ, looked pretty damned good, and had a mess of new things that I hadn’t done before. Except for the first few things (I marked them with bold exclamation marks), which are pretty much required for a stable game, this isn’t even a “recommended” mod list. Most of it is just stuff that I hadn’t used before, but which looked interesting enough to give it a go.

1. !!!! Cleared out everything in the [\Fallout New Vegas] and in the [\My Games\FalloutNV] folders. Saved a backup copy of Fallout.ini and FalloutPrefs.ini for reference (just changed the file extension to .bkup or somesuch). Downloaded and installed the game and DLCs through Steam. Launched to the main menu to make sure everything was running OK, let it detect my hardware, and generate fresh .ini files. I think my graphics card is newer than my last saved game.

2. !!!! Downloaded and installed the latest beta release of NVSE ( and the 4GB patch (link is farther down the page at NVSE). Launched game to insure both were working. I’m normally a bit leery of alphas and betas of these kinds of things, but NVSE is pretty mature by this point in time.

3. !!!! Grabbed the latest version of FNVEdit ( and cleaned the DLCs.

4. !!!! Ran BOSS, only to find out that Gun Runner’s Arsenal also needed to be cleaned, too. Like I said, “memory being what it is…”

5. Downloaded DarNified UI NV ( and added file with NMM. Edited both Fallout.ini and FalloutPrefs.ini t0 include changes to the [Fonts] section (forum instructions were not real clear on which .ini). Launched the game to make sure it was working properly.

6. Downloaded and installed Mod Configuration Menu ( with NMM.

7. Downloaded and installed the Weapon Mod Menu ( with NMM.

8. Downloaded and installed NMC’s Texture Packs (Large) ( with NMM. Probably overkill since my monitor is only 1440×900 and differences between Large and Medium are likely unnoticeable, but my card can handle it, so why worry?

9. Downloaded and installed the Type 3 body and armor replacer ( The Beware of Girl mod ( also uses Type 3 and, I think, is a little nicer, but only install the armors from the first mod if using the second mod. Also Type 3 armor and clothing fixes for the various DLCs:

10. Downloaded and installed Cipscis’ Save Manager (CASM) and turned off all of the autosave functions in the gameplay options. CASM for New Vegas comes in two flavors: MCM and non-MCM. Went with MCM version ( The MCM implementation is by Gribbelshnibit8, but is otherwise Cipscis’ original.

11. Downloaded and installed Yukichigai’s Unofficial Patch ( Used Mission Mojave on previous play-throughs with little problem. Tried this one instead just for a different approach to the unofficial patch issue.

12. Tried downloading and installing New Vegas Anti-Crash ( It’s an exception-handler in .dll form that goes into the NVSE plugins folder, but the anti-virus had screaming hissy fits when I tried to launch the game and quarantined it. Rather than fight about it, I’ll live without.

13. Downloaded and installed New Vegas Enhanced Content (NVEC) ( Installer is a self-extracting executable, so should not be downloaded with NMM in spite of the button on the mod’s files page.

14. aMidianBorn’s Book of Flesh and Book of Steel (

15. Someguy series ( Required for a few other mods from the same author:

16. Tales from the Burning Sands (

17. New Vegas Interiors Project (

18. Pip-Boy Readius ( Thought about the Pip-Boy 2500 that Gopher is using in his current “Let’s Play,” but decided to give this one a whirl instead. Makes the Pimpboy 3000 fix for female characters a bit useless, but that fix is also part of YUP, so a second reason not to include it.

19. Missing Ammo Recpies ( and Ammo Ingredients as Loot (

20. Roleplayers Alternative Start ( with Tutorial Killer ( Arthmoor’s “Live Another Life” for Skyrim kind of spoiled me.

21. Novac Public Library (

22. Identity Crisis Part 1 ( and Part 2 (

23. Underwater Home ( and Extended Sorters for Underwater Home ( Jagarsfeld mod for Skyrim kind of spoiled me in this regard.

24. !!!! Ran BOSS to sort mods. Some needed to be manually placed as they are still not on the masterlist.txt from the BOSS team.

25. !!!! Generated a merged patch with FNVEdit and made it the last item in my load order with NMM. Only item of interest was that vanilla followers are apparently level-capped at 40. Either hadn’t noticed that before or forgot it (memory being what it is).

Ran through the Goodsprings part of the game. The Tutorial Killer mod couldn’t kill the pop-up for the Lockpicking tutorial at the schoolhouse, but everything else seems to be working well. One of the mods adds a grindstone near the workbench and reloading bench by Chet’s store, but it doesn’t recognize the pre-order Broad Machete as being a blade. Go figure. One of the other mods makes junk cars and trucks in to containers of minor junk items. Victor didn’t spawn in Goodsprings. I’m guessing that’s the Alternate Start mod and he’ll turn up in Novac when I get there.

I’m debating on adding an ENB into the mix, but am much more interested in something that will remove the hazy look of the Mojave. I live in a desert and that kind of haze is only present in the far distance (almost all of the time) or during the windy season. For the rest of the year it’s clear as a bell. Decided to run with Project Reality ( since I had already used Nevada Skies in several prior games. That seems to have taken care of the haze issue, but I added Dynavision 3 ( as I recall it having some rather granular color filters.

The game is solid as a rock after several continuous hours of play, so I’m pretty sure that I’m ready to go lay waste to the wasteland (which strikes me as being somewhat like polluting a sewer, but there you go).

Having taken care of hardware and OS upgrades for Skyrim, I thought I’d drop back to the Mojave to see how well New Vegas is handling the change. The short answer is “not well” as the game has a nasty habit of freezing and crashing every few minutes. I’m surviving because of the CASM mod, lots of quicksaves and sheer stubbornness. I’m not sure why this is presenting such a problem, but I’m guessing that it doesn’t thrive in my 64-bit environment, although I’m at a loss to explain why.

At any rate, in spite of the crashing and restarting, I’ve been reminded of a major complaint regarding the Legion faction. I’m not sure that there is any way to fix the problem, but it’s something that I’d love to see avoided in any future games (Elder Scrolls, Fallout or otherwise). If some kind modder can successfully resolve the issue, I’ll be your #1 fan.

Backstory: I typically don’t start out to ally with any particular faction. In fact, I’d like to remain friends with all of them for as long as possible because it lets me do my wasteland wandering with a minimum of fuss and bother. Somewhere up the road from Nipton and down the road from Novac is an overpass where three groups spawn. One group is Legion, one group is NCR and the third is a a couple of trading caravans headed for Novac. I like to catch the caravans early (mainly because I’m trying to build my Caravan deck and they usually have cards at the beginning of the game and I’ve also got junk from Nipton that I’d like to unload), but they inevitably get attacked by the Legion almost as soon as I get there. Since I like to do my trading in peace, the Legion ends up on the losing end of the fight and I get a bad rep with the Legion, basically because I defended myself.

Alternatively, while looking for lost supplies for Forlorn Hope, finding the supplies gets me attacked by a couple of Legionnaires. I defend myself, they die, I’m on Caesar’s shit list.

A little while later, I start getting attacked by Legion assassins, which always pushes my Legion rep down to “Vilified”. Game over as far as Caesar is concerned. So along comes his frumentarii when I grab the chip, inviting me to visit with Caesar at his camp at Fortification Hill. I obligingly do so since most of the quest lines pretty much require it. Whereupon Caesar comes up with the stupidest comment ever to come out of the mouth of a reputedly intelligent guy: you kill my Legionaires and ruin my plans. You got a lot of balls to show up here.

I want to be able to provide a truthful response: You declared war on me, fucktard. What else did you expect? That I should roll over and die for your pleasure? Not gonna happen. Your people picked the fight, so they also picked the consequences of losing. Get over it. If you had left me alone, I would have left you alone.

The developers didn’t provide anything even remotely resembling that response, but it seems to be mostly applicable to the Legion. NCR, the Khans, the Kings, and the rest don’t go hostile on you unless you go hostile on them first. Of course, they’re not prone to shooting at caravans, merchants and the like. Not so for the Legion. Also not true for Vipers, Fiends and the rest of the bad guys who are hostile to everyone on general principles. But Caesar’s folks just have an unerring tendency to piss me off at the first opportunity and then seem genuinely surprised that I don’t just fall down and die for them. This could easily explain why it took me five full months from the game’s release before I picked up the “Render Unto Caesar” achievement.

There is an apocryphal story told by the older brother of one of my high school buddies. The older brother served in Vietnam (Vietnam ended while I was in high school). Marines from the Republic of Korea served in Vietnam alongside American Marines and were reportedly majorly badass. Badass to the point of firefights stopping when they were in the area because neither side wanted to piss them off. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil because I’m the meanest sonofabitch in the valley.” My wasteland philosophy in a nutshell. Too bad the game doesn’t really support it and mods don’t really implement it other than to give me neat toys.

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.

It frankly doesn’t take much to send me back into the game archives. This summer has been a particularly dry one, both in terms of the weather and in terms of gaming. Nothing horribly exciting has been released. I was kind of looking forward to the release of Baldur’s Gate, which had a “Summer” release window, but September 18th only qualifies as summer in terms of solstices and equinoxes. Dawnguard for PC finally released, but vampires aren’t my thing (got my fill of them in Daggerfall), so that barely even blipped on the radar. That left only the archives.

I started a new run-through of Fallout: New Vegas after watching a very good series of YouTube vids by Gopher. Surprisingly enough, aside from a few dinky mods and the official DLCs, I never really added much to New Vegas. I had a few minor gripes about the vanilla game, but all in all, it kept me pretty well occupied for close to 700 hours (despite being completely unimpressed with “Lonesome Road”) without feeling the need to bring in much from the modding community.

I stumbled across Gopher’s series and realized that I had been missing out on a lot, so added a several new mods into my game. I already had NVSE, DarN’s UI, New Vegas Bounties, and a couple of minor character retex/reskin mods, but that was about the extent of it. Considering the number of mods I added to Fallout and Oblivion, the paucity of installed mods for New Vegas is a testament to how well the developers did with the vanilla game. The paucity of my Skyrim mods is more of a testament to the suckiness of my current hardware, though. Being six or seven series behind the current-gen nVidia graphics cards means I run Skyrim at reasonable framerates only by playing straight vanilla at moderate to low settings.

Anyway, Gopher convinced me that I was missing out on a lot, so off to the Nexus I went, spent a lot of time downloading, installing, reordering, tweaking and was finally off and running. I added several of the mods he showcased (I ran with Poco Bueno rather than Ojo Bueno for performance reasons) and started a new game with a new character and was completely blown away by how great the game looks/feels now.

I was completely unable to install any of Gopher’s Advanced Recon mods (link goes to the Stealth Armor mod, but the page has links to the rest) due to the NMM throwing out security exceptions left and right. I suspect that this is something related to my system rather than to the mods themselves. I might also caution that I got the same security exception when installing Project Nevada. It apparently needs to be activated BEFORE DarN’s UI is activated. Beyond that, most of the mods Gopher talks about installed quickly and painlessly. One fly in the ointment (more of an annoyance than a problem) was the Lucky 38 Suite Reloaded mod by Kospy. The mod is a bit overboard, but I couldn’t pass up the ability to have the suite sort my stuff. The issue is that Project Nevada’s sorting capabilities haven’t been picked up by many of the other mods, so quite a bit of manual sorting has to be done for a lot of add-ins (including GRA and the pre-order packs). Aside from that, the mods Gopher talks about install and run cleanly with only minor issues and none that affect the game itself.

If anyone doesn’t already have New Vegas, all of the major digital distributors (Steam, GameStop, and GameFly [Origin doesn’t distribute it]) are charging $30 for the vanilla game, the four DLCs and a couple of the equipment add-ons (Gun Runner’s Arsenal and Courier’s Stash). Considering that I forked out more than three times that for the same content, it’s not a bad deal for a two-year-old game. So enough of the whys and wherefors. The siren-song of the Mojave (especially with all of the new eye-candy) is well nigh irresistable. Perhaps a few posts on my progress will be warranted, but only time will tell.

  • 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”.