The Issue With DLCs: A Fallout Perspective
Some time ago I bought the Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate edition (or whatever edition it was). I already owned Fallout: New Vegas, but I wanted to try out all the DLCs, and since it was a Steam special officer it was well worth the price, in my option at least. I already wrote one article describing my thoughts on DLCs. For a long while those feeling have somewhat died down until I saw a video by EatMyDiction where DLCs hold the center stage. That is more or less the same time I bought Fallout: New Vegas with all its DLCs and when I entered the game for the first time (again) I was flooded with a similar number of messages, informing me of all the DLCs that I have bought, and bestowing upon me an incredible bounty of items. After a short while I got my bearings again and I decided to go through Fallout: New Vegas, again, with all the DLCs, and what I went through then agreed with that old article of mine. There are the good and the bad DLCs.
The DLCs of Fallout: New Vegas
The Ultimate edition included all the DLCs for Fallout: New Vegas. Among them were content packs, as well as four separate mini-campaigns, which formed a story line of their own, intertwined with the events on the Mojave.
Before I could start any of the mini-campaigns I had to reach their respective entry points. Then when I reached each of the entry points I discovered I need a minimal safe level to engage in them. Thus my first experience was with the content packs. These included the Gun Runner’s Arsenal and Courier’s Stash. The Gun Runner’s Arsenal introduces all manner of new or improved weapons, as well as new ammo types for already existing weapons. We could call it a small expansion of choice, which I did not consider game breaking, because all those super good weapons cost an arm, a leg, and both of your kidneys. Meanwhile the cheaper GRA weapons were alternatives to already existing weapons. I found the Battle Rifle, as one example, to be a surprisingly good weapon, that suited my overall play style (semi-automatic, accurate and deadly, rifle).
My small bone to pick was with the Courier’s Stash. See, the GRA DLC adds a bunch of weapons that you MIGHT buy. It’s more choice, often a better choice, but not a cheap one in-game. In turn the Courier’s Stash gives you an awful lot of quality weapons and armor, at a low level, and you will not be bothered with buying any new equipment for a mildly long while. I recall how in the standard version you would have to be careful with your early encounters, simply because you lacked the firepower and protection. Here you start off with very good equipment. Eventually you will have to buy/find better stuff, but until that happens, and especially if you specialize in the chosen weapons, you will have nothing to be worried about. What you cannot use you can always sell, and most of the stuff you get will be worthy a good amount of caps. In the long-run their influence will be minimal, but at the very start of the game you will not feel threatened, at all, by anything.
One such example is when I visited Primm, and wanted to empty out the Vikky and Vance Casino. Previously I would have to sneak, take out single opponents with single shots or stabs. With the Courier’s Stash DLC I ran in, fired my shotgun left and right (DLC shotgun, that is) and even stood in front of an incinerator, taking minimal damage. On one hand it does let you get past some of the harder stages of the game, on the other it does kill the challenge. You could just throw away all that equipment, or sell it, but it does not change the fact that the DLC was designed to make life easier, rather than introduce new content in the game. Compare Courier’s Stash to the GRA DLC and on one hand you have something akin to a “Cheat” and on the other you get some worthwhile new content.
The first mini-campaign I tried was Honest Hearts. Without spoiling it too much I can honestly say that I was, largely, unimpressed. The story was feasible, the new weapons, the conflict, all was fine. But something about your options, and the endings, just did not strike a tune with me. I think the idea behind the DLC was meant to be, “Sometimes, no matter what you choose, there is no good answer”. I would have nothing against such a story, but in the case of Honest Hearts it felt fake. What I will say is that finding all the hidden notes of “The Father” was the strongest part of the DLC. You essentially learned about the people living in the canyon, their history. It was a touching story, and in comparison to what you had to play out it felt huge. The one thing that struck me was that at the end of the mini-campaign, once I left the area, stood a crate filled with the clothing all the key NPCs wore. On one hand it felt out of place. On the other I suppose it was a nice gift. If the game developers make some unique clothing, why not offer it to the player as a parting gift? I think another problem with Honest Hearts is that you do not connect with the people in it. You meet different NPCs but they never persuaded me to go in any direction. It’s not like the conflict in the Mojave between the NCR and Caesar’s Legion. Here while it is claimed to be big it feels much more shallow.
The second campaign was Old World Blues. Hands down it was the funniest, most insane, and in general I loved every single bit of it. I think that in the gritty war-torn landscape of the Mojave ending up in a lab complex where you have to find your brain, fire a minigun with a dog brain named F.I.D.O., obtain a talking stealth suit or fight robotic scorpions (to count just a few things) is a much needed reprise. I imagine that the people working on this DLC had as much fun making it as I had playing it. It’s funny, witty, just an A+ for effort, execution and presentation. Compared to Honest Hearts it had far stronger dialogues, and many more plot hints on future events. You found journals, recordings, you spoke with the NPCs to learn more. The endings, and your options to achieve them, were far more numerous. Overall, everything about this DLC was good. The only thing I would say was daunting was the difficulty. With Nighstalkers, Robo-Scorpions and brainless-axe-wielding maniacs around every corner I barely had a moment to rest. I enjoyed the challenge but I imagine for somebody at lower levels it might simply be too much.
Then I destroyed the timeline because instead of playing Dead Money I jumped to Lonesome Road. I did that because the Old World Blues campaign gave me enough experience and equipment to attempt it, and I felt confident. I was very, very, very wrong. If you thought Old World Blues was tough then Lonesome World is brutal. You face much tougher enemies, have much, much less resources, and sometimes you will have to resort to trickery, and careful observation, to achieve victory. I liked all the new mechanics and ideas. Blowing up nukes to open way to new areas. Using the flare gun to scare away abominations. It was all incredibly well thought out and it played together perfectly. To an experienced survivor like me it was a very welcome challenge. For a looter it might had been less so. There is so much loot to be picked up any hoarder will cry his heart out when he will have to leave behind all that armor and big guns he found. You leave Lonesome Road with a great experience, decent loot and an epic conclusion of a four-part campaign. Technically there is no-order in which these campaigns should be finished, but the suggested one is: Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, Dead Money and Lonesome Road. If you complete Lonesome Road you will find clues to things that have already happened. It might still be interesting, but not as much as slowly unwrapping everything one campaign at a time.