Friday, September 4, 2015

"Fallout: Old World Blues" 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).
"Old World Blues": AKA "The Best One" and "Arguably the Only Good One".
            After finding a downed satellite at a drive in theater you are teleported to the hidden laboratory of THE THINK TANK.  A collection of mad scientists who have removed your heart brain, and spine replacing them with cybernetics.  You must hunt thru the crater their facility rests in, battling robot scorpions, cyborg dogs, robots, and mutants in hopes of getting back your brain.  This place used to be an underground mountain fortress until SCIENCE happened and turned it into a crater dubbed the Big Empty.
            Smaller stories and hints to the events of the other DLC packages are present as well.  Elijah, the mad scientist asshole who forced you to help him rob the Sierra Madre in “Dead Money” got the bomb collars he used from here, as a section of the Big Empty is an old style prison camp used for human experimentation.  A pathetically sad moment happens when your character approaches the prison camp area, and the prisoners charge you rather than trying to communicate, all of them still have their bomb collars on (thanks Elijah) and immediately die of head explosion when they pass thru the gate to attack you.  Little stories within the bigger narrative are what keep Fallout a rich and interesting universe.
They do not really explain why a satellite dish would have been in a mountain facility, I guess it was built in the crater later.

Environment & Characters:
            The environment while uniform in many respects, all the action does take place in a single massive crater still manages to be varied and interesting, with pipes, satellite dishes, hills, bunkers, caves, and a chasm filled with gigantic glowing red crystal.  Some of the testing facilities are made to look like a high school or an idyllic neighborhood adding another strange layer to the cake.
            There are 6 other characters you must interact with, 5 of which are the THINK TANK who are responsible for your missing brain and the mutant horrors that are out and about.  They are all brains floating around in robotic bodies with computer monitors serving as creepy disjointed faces.  They have a variety of personalities encapsulating scientists, those obsessed with furthering knowledge, another is standoffish, another is put upon, one is strangely sexual, and the last is interesting in showing up everyone who ignore him in high school.  The other character you must interact with is Dr. Mobius who takes residence in the Forbidden Zone generating a legion of robo-scorpions to wage war and the THINK TANK.

Modern movies have perhaps given us a sense of, "seen it all before".  But when you think about it... a lot of this stuff is weapons grade fucked up.
            Some optional characters are the various artificially intelligent appliances around your lad headquarters, dubbed “The Sink”.  A tiny robot obsessed with coffee mugs, a couple of catty light switches, a germ-aphopic sink, and a murderous toaster are good examples of what you can expect.  They all have some useful abilities that you can augment via finding more files to upload.
            I cannot emphasize enough that this whole DLC has the most and best dialogue in spite of all of that dialogue happening in 3 rooms.  It is a hilarious salute to the strange over the top and surreal science fiction of the drive thru era of B-Movies.

Enemies and Loot:
            Gold Stars in both categories.
Since this is the birthplace of numerous monsters of the wasteland it is populated with a hugely diverse group of enemies.  Too many to list, and more than a half dozen unique boss monsters that will wreck your shit.  They are fun and even though you do not talk to them they have personality in how they fight and how powerful they are.

Also, bad guys inspired by an episode of "Doctor Who" written by Steven Moffet, so mild-screaming-terror is not unreasonable.

Expect to find a lot of cool weapons even when fighting the common enemies.  A highly useful weapon is the Photon Ax a melee weapon that is super helpful against all the robot scorpions wandering around.  There are also lots of outfits with useful properties, a Gatling gun with a dog’s brain and several items that are plot points to retrieve and upgrade.
If you conquer the Big Empty you will get a teleportation device that will allow you to return to the Sink and use it as a super powerful home away from home.

            Here is the only real ding in the chassis.  This mother is hard.  You will frequently find yourself getting your ass kicked by legions of bad guys and that ignores the instances of horde closets, opening a door to a dozen regular guys and a boss monster and you being totally unprepared.  Melee is a must as tons of mutants will close the distance and wail on you before you see them let alone before you can ready a gun.
            Have healing supplies, I played this in an instance in which I ran out of stimpacks having started the thing with more than 100 and had to just abandon the character to never completing the mission.  It was only later that I tried playing thru again… and had the good sense to lower the difficulty, so I was not running away from one legion of murderous monsters only to run into another legion.
            I can’t think of any sort of character build that would give a super advantage… Though Speech, SCIENCE, Medicine, and perhaps Energy Weapons fit with the theme.  The unique energy weapon you get is better than the unique regular gun, so consider that.
There seems to be an eye motif, but I couldn't tell you what they are trying to symbolize in the story.

Overall Final Verdict:
            No real confusion on this point.  I loved this DLC even when it was kicking my ass.  So turn down the difficulty, and play it.  (Maybe someone will read this and think, “What a casual gamer that he couldn’t dominate this DLC on hard difficulty”, maybe, but I really just play games to unwind.  Feel free to use your skills to show me up, have fun.)


If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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