Monday, September 21, 2015

"Fallout: Lonesome Road" Review

I finished playing "Fallout: New Vegas" the other week. It is the 2nd time I have played thru it and I played all of the DLC. I decided to play "Skyrim" a bit and it is good, but I miss playing Fallout. It is just a more interesting universe.  Fallout, for those who do not know is a dark comedy action RPG, it is set in a post-atomic war wasteland, but contains technology that is akin to a 1950’s vision of the future, personal computers that have black and green displays, robot security guards that look like Robbie the Robot of “Forbidden Planet”, an emphasis on the “Golly Gee” era of television, and Norman Rockwell like fashion.
Fallout has laser weapons straight out of sci-fi b movies of the 1950’s, and it makes lots of commentary on social engineering, forms of government, and perceptions of who people are, what they believe, and why they believe it.  While the 1950’s is key to its foundations the post-apocalypse angle is also at the forefront as ruins dot the wasteland of the old world, most of civilization is based around scraping together resources from the past, and making due with what they have (for instance, the currency of the wasteland is Bottle Caps, because they last for a long time, and are difficult to replicate).
            Until the upcoming “Fallout 4” due later this year, I guess I will just talk about the four DLC adventure packs for the last game with each of their positives and negatives, because none of them are flawless… And some of them are more slag than ore.
Let’s have some categories for evaluation: Story (which considering how this is an RPG and writing is probably the biggest draw, it is pretty important), Environment & Characters (because Fallout has always been about exploration), Enemies and Loot (who do you kill and what do you get from their corpse), and lastly any Gameplay issues (cause it is a game and that is a big deal).
"Lonesome Road": from a writing standpoint THE WORST ONE!

            A man you have never met, blaming you for something you never did, lures you to a place you’ve never been, to destroy a place you have never seen.  And the thesis statement of the antagonist is, “you are an asshole for having played thru this.”

Environment & Characters:
            I hope you liked the drowning-in-brown-fog of “Dead Money” cause this thing has so much fog and dust in the air at the start you will have a hard time seeing buildings let alone the skinless goons you are trying to fight.  Admittedly that only occupies the 2nd chapter encounters.
And chapters is the best way to describe this, as the whole DLC is a linear corridor with 5 distinct sections. 1) The initial bunker in which you fight some robots, 2) the dust bowl, in which you fight your inability to see who is shooting flares up your ass, 3) an underground area, in which you fight lizard like morlocks who are frightened of the flares and flashbangs you stole off the other guys, 4) an overpass, which you will come to know well as you are murdered multiple times and have to trek it again and again, and 5) the temple in which you have the most frustrating Sisyphean boss battle ever against the worst character in not only the DLC, but the entire game.
            Who are the characters you will encounter on this journey?  There are 2.  One is a robot who only communicates in beeps like R2-D2 and who occasionally plays audio logs.  The other is the antagonist… The worst character I encountered.  Ulysses, AKA “I do not fit the tone of these games at all”.
Why is Ulysses god awful?  All he does is phone you up from time to time via your tiny robot pal to call you an asshole, and lay blame on you for how completely fucked this whole area is.
He is the dullest and most self-serious character in the game, rambling in pseudo-intellectual musings every time you encounter his voice.  And you can tell the creators just loved him, as his entry on the Fallout wiki is nearly as long as the central villain, Caesar’s entry.  Apparently he was supposed to have been a companion at one point in the game’s development, the only one who was to support the Legion’s cause of slavery and autocratic cultural annihilation.  Yeah, go fuck yourselves.  At no point does this mopey Mary Sue jerk off even approach the coolness that you think he has, instead he is just the emo kid in the back of class who won’t shut up about how we’re all so awful.  BARF!

Apparently there is a small number of Ulysses fans out there... As I was shocked to learn this artwork is not ironic.

Enemies and Loot:
            There are some robots which you have already seen in the rest of the game, and the human-ish soldiers you fight are a group mixed from Legion and NCR troops that got stuck in this valley, there is also an obnoxious number of Deathclaws, or as they could be more accurately described: the earthly manifestation of Satan and they will wreck your shit.  The new bad guys are the aforementioned subterranean lizard men with venomous claws, who use swarm tactics to take down the Deathclaws and (in theory) my fat ass.

This guy freaking nailed it.

            Thing is, many of these bad guys are totally wrecked by the treasure, which gives you the Flare Gun and turns fighting Deathclaws into a game of red-light/green-light.  The flare gun causes all Aberration type monsters to flee when hit with it, meaning that you let your robot pal shoot at the fleeing Satan with its tiny laser pistol while you just flare the thing whenever it starts running back to attack you.  You have 500+ shots for the flare gun when you get it so you will be fine so long as you just occasionally hit with it.  For the lizard men… the flare gun also works, but you can use flash bangs to spook off even more of them at a time if you want.
            The game does have a signature weapon which shoots tiny rockets at a ludicrous speed and you get an accomplishment for fully augmenting it with 40,000 caps worth of modifications… The thing blows, I found it too frantic for my usual play style of deliberate and cautious attacks, and it adds yet another visual effect to obscure the screen when you are fighting in the dust bowl.  It ends up becoming one of the most expensive guns in the game and it does nothing for me.  Maybe it was supposed to be a parody/joke element, the name is RED GLARE, but it makes no sense as a joke.

            Let’s go back to talking about the final showdown with Ulysses.  This guy is wearing a sleeveless leather coat and he fights with a bow staff.  I am wearing power armor and unloaded 6 missiles at him (and I know a few things about explosives at this point) and it dropped him to 10% of his health, he then regenerates so quickly that I could not finish him off.  Apparently this asshole has one of the highest hit point totals in the game and one of the highest regeneration rates.  Even when I tried pinning him in a corner and grinding him with a chainsaw he just blocked me with his staff.  It is a bullshit fight.  And it caps off a long line of fights that are frequently laborious repeat uses of the same flare gun then laser gun rinse and repeat strategy over and over.
            The only exploration aspect of the Lonesome Road is blowing up nuclear warheads that litter the landscape to access new areas… which massively cheapens the role of warheads in the setting, and does a lot to rob the area of danger.  Especially when preventing a nuclear attack is the goal of the final fight, “Why bother stopping the launch?  I have been setting these things off all day, what’s one more?  The things are only powerful enough to blow up a gas station and the radiation disappears in a minute.”
"Oh No.  A snow globe, the recurring motif used to illustrate Mr. House's obsession with keeping New Vegas pristine and locked away forever as his personal possession is broken.  Further illustrating how this expansion is so out of tone with the rest of the material."  Or maybe that is just my reading.

Overall Final Verdict:
            I am going to spoil the plot of this encounter.  Apparently prior to the start of the game your character delivered a package to the town that used to be on the Lonesome Road.  Ulysses was in that town and liked it.  That package caused a warhead to go off destroying the town, so now Ulysses wants you dead.  So a guy you have never met, wants to kill you for something you as a player did not do, to a place you as a player have never been to, and even if you did do all of those things you did not mean to cause the explosion so it isn’t your fault anyway.
            THIS IS BAD WRITING FOR AN INTERACTIVE MEDIUM.  It is also an easy fix.  Just have the game’s first mission be delivering a package in the area and then you get shot in the face by Benny and end up in a coma in a vault medical facility, you wake up and get treatment by Doctor Mitch, and then you are sent on your way.  The explosion of Lonesome Road happened while you were in the coma, nothing else changes, and you get to see the before and after of the place.  That seems to be something they are doing with “Fallout 4” as your character is from the pre-nuke world and emerges in the wasteland having been frozen in the interim, so it would work here.
            This thing sucked, and between the bad guy being boring to talk to, the story being so disconnected, and the ultimate conflict being both boring to play and lacks impact because of the nature of approaching that conflict (you can’t have someone explode a dozen+ nukes and walk around in it and then expect me to give a shit about a few more going off)… I loathe this expansion, and only labored to finish it out of a sense of obligation.

This is a Deathclaw.  Do you see the "Satan" thing I mentioned earlier?  Or maybe more of a Krampus?

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