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Dead Money but Not Dead Enough

Dead Money but Not Dead Enough

  04:43:50 pm, by   , 1842 words  
Viewed 438116 times since 14/03/11
Categories: Games, Fallout

Back in October last year (my how time flies!) I wrote a post about Fallout: New Vegas, in which I described my disappointment with the game. My final paragraph contained the phrase "If I give it a few more hours, I might like it too", which turned out to be a decent prediction, if not 100% accurate. I've played a lot of FNV since then and although I've forgiven the game a lot of its faults, it's still not going to make my top 10 list.

First, having played the game for longer, I've experienced the full range of its bugs. Well... there are probably more bugs, to be fair. I can't find them, though, because certain actions crash the game before I can reach other, probably game-crashing, bugs. This was such an issue on the game's release that Bethesda had to put out a press release urging people not to return the game but await a patch that would actually make the game playable. To be fair, a patch duly arrived, but it's like shoring up one wall of a house to make sure it doesn't fall down, only to discover that it's the only wall still present: the game seems to be irretrievably buggy.

Second, one of the major fun things in the game gets taken away from you as soon as you start to enjoy it: the casinos. Win enough chips at any of the casinos in New Vegas and they ban you; and it's pretty easy to get banned from all of them, meaning you can no longer play the three games on offer (blackjack, roulette and slot machines). Apart from the money-making aspect, playing in the casinos is a nice way to relax after shooting up a Fiend encampment, and for the game to take it away is pointlessly cruel. True, with a luck of 10 you're basically making your own money, but then the same is true no matter what you do late in the game, when you can haul huge amounts of loot back to vendors and sell it.

Third, I really dislike the plot endings. I'm not going to spoil it here with exact details, but no matter what you choose to do you end up in a bloodbath. There may be ways of avoiding this but if so, I haven't found them so far. Yes, you can avoid rivers of blood, but you always get at least a small stream.

On the other hand, the game offered enough that it's kept me busy, even if a decent fraction of the time I've spent on it involved reloading saves after a crash. Then reloading earlier saves because my latest save was already glitched in some way.

And so we come to the main subject of this post: the first piece of DLC: Dead Money.

It sucks.

It is absolutely bloody awful.

I have never wanted to do harm to a fellow programmer before playing this (well... apart from one or two I was working with) but this DLC almost makes me want to track down the developers and do serious, major damage to them.

I'm going to try to avoid huge spoilers, but if you haven't played it (you lucky, lucky bastards) and think you might want to do so (save your money!) then look away now.

I've always been told that one should give positive feedback first so the recipient is buoyed up when the criticism arrives, so I'll do it that way.

Dead Money has a very, very good story and several of the best characters to appear in any Bethesda title - indeed any recent video game title. To boil it down into a non-spoiled soup for easy digestion, the Sierra Madre Casino was completed just before the outbreak of war. It was to be the biggest, most luxurious entertainment complex ever imagined, and all was ready to roll when the bombs started to fall. Miraculously, the casino remained largely intact and several people were attracted to the riches presumably contained inside. You are the latest to become enmeshed in the plot. You end up as an involuntary worker for Elijah, who "enlists" your help, along with that of three other unfortunates, to open the casino and plunder it. Elijah is interesting in himself, but the other three - Dog/God (don't ask), Dean, and Christine are even better characters, with a wealth of back story to be discovered.

On your quest to find the first of these three, you discover that the area around the casino is filled with horrifying "ghost people", who return to life unless killed in specific ways. You also discover that the collar being used to ensure your obedience is sensitive to loudspeakers: radios and PA systems can trigger it and blow your head off. To make matters worse, the area is filled with a toxic cloud that is harmful to human life. As you find your fellow prisoners, the story develops... but I can't really say any more without spoiling things.

So what's my problem? Brilliant writing and interesting characters? Cool new enemies and challenges?

Well to begin with, this is yet another Fallout DLC that takes your equipment away at the start. Several of the FO3 addons did this, and it's basically a dick move to make your life harder. There were various levels of logic involved in the FO3 addons, ranging from "It's all a Virtual Reality" to "We feel like doing it" but here we have somebody who apparently wants you to help him taking your gear away even though he's not going to be there when you wake up. This is massively annoying. It gets worse if your character hadn't bothered to put much time into improving his or her melee/unarmed/explosives skills because you're going to need 'em. The Ghost People I mentioned earlier don't just need killing, they need eviscerating if they're going to stay dead, and the only realistic way to do that is with the new hand-to-hand weapons you find. You can use guns, but since ammo is harder to find than a eunuch's testicles you're going to run out pretty soon.

Some people are going to claim that having your equipment disappear is necessary to balance the mod. Rubbish. I've paid my cash and it's up to me how I want to play it. If I want to drop all my stuff outside (there's a chest where you can leave it) then I can do that. If I want to go in fully stoked, I should be able to do that too. Denying me the choice is nothing but annoying.

Next: you can't go back. Once you've started the mod, your committed. That's it. You have to finish the whole damn thing before you can return. While this might make sense in terms of the story, locking a game player in like this is never a good idea because they're just going to get mad at you. In my case, the first time I played it I reloaded an earlier save after about an hour because of technical problems and because I wasn't enjoying it. If I want to waste an hour of my life on something unenjoyable, I'll watch an episode of Outcasts. I should be able to leave and come back again later.

The ghost people themselves. At first, the challenge is good. The first time you get attacked by more than one you realise you have a choice: eviscerate the first one you kill to stop it getting up again, or leave it and try to beat down the second before the first recovers. The 15th time this choice appears, with variations including three or - shock - four enemies... it's boring. To be fair, the game repeatedly suggests that you avoid the ghost people rather than fight them, but it then makes a point of creating situations where you can't do that. After you've killed your first dozen of these things, they're annoying rather than scary.

After your first couple of fights, you'll need healing. Unfortunately, all your stimpaks were confiscated along with your weapons (see earlier comment re "dick moves") and you can't sleep outside because of the toxic environment. Luckily, there are new vending machines scattered around the place that will sell you food as long as you have enough Sierra Madre chips to buy it. Yes, you guessed it, yet another damn thing you have to collect. In this case, the chips are scattered around the exterior, and fairly easy to find, but it raises the question: Why bother doing this instead of just leaving the items to find? You have to discover codes that unlock things like stimpaks on the machines, so there's yet another bloody thing you have to find.

Next, this thing about radios and speakers setting off your collar. When you first encounter this, it's an interesting challenge and easy enough to solve without being onerous. It turns out you can switch off radios and shoot loudspeakers to disable them. You'll never guess what happens later? Oh... you did? Speakers you can't destroy and radios embedded in accessible areas? Let's say it again: dick move. For me, this is the second most annoying part of the game. There are places where there is - essentially - no possible way you can complete it first time through. You have got to go through and get killed, possibly several times, until you learn the locations of the speakers you can destroy, and the spaces in the coverage of the others where you can catch your breath. That's utterly rubbish in an A/RPG like Fallout where you should be able to get through on your first attempt unless you've made an unwise choice such as diving into a cave and taking on its inhabitants without the necessary skills.

Finally... the bugs! There are so many! On my first playthrough, the first three (I think) missions went fine but then the fourth glitched out and I couldn't finish it. That one I solved by quitting and reloading a save before I even entered the DLC. A similar thing happened on mission five, which I could solve with a reload, and then when I hit the final mission, I couldn't get it to work at all. Nothing on the Internet suggests a solution and various console commands ended up crashing the damn game yet again. So I decided to write a long blog post and drink some Scotch.

You know what adds to it all? What acts as a final knee in the crotch of good gameplay? The bloody casino ban limit is in place at the Sierra Madre too! You'd have thought that after the sheer bloody misery of working your way through this awful mod they could at least leave the casino open! Except, if I read the reviews right, once you've finished the DLC the whole area becomes inaccessible. One last dick move from a thoroughly rotten DLC.

Good riddance to the whole noxious, bug-ridden piece of poo.



Comment from: Emoboy64 [Visitor]  

Here here! After playing FO:NV A few weeks ago for the first time, I was lucky not to have some of the bugs, but oh my, the game is still broken this long after release! The game was good, and personally I enjoyed the setting more than FO3, but with the bugs and glitches, I couldn’t bring myself to drag through a second playthrough let alone buy the DLC. For a re-skinned Fallout 3, it isnt bad, but I wish that they spent a little more time and showed some more care for it, that way, it would have made for a very memorable game.

14/03/11 @ 05:40 pm
Comment from: TheAlbinoOrc [Visitor]

Does the range of bugs you have experienced include the Zombie Canyon?

18/03/11 @ 09:47 am
Comment from: [Member]

I don’t know that one.

18/03/11 @ 11:14 am
Comment from: TheAlbinoOrc [Visitor]

Ah. Well, basically what it is, is that if you fast travel to the camp in the first canyon area to the north of Goodsprings, the bodies there get up and start attacking everything in sight, even though they only have something like one HP.

18/03/11 @ 08:05 pm
Comment from: [Member]

That’s the one bug I *haven’t* had! :)

19/03/11 @ 04:15 am
Comment from: TheAlbinoOrc [Visitor]

Hmm. It might just be me then. Perhaps it’s a disc issue?

19/03/11 @ 07:43 am
Comment from: apocalypsenow [Visitor]

you know what utterly pissed me the hell off about dead money? the piece of shit cloud cover all over the place, the “lets put speakers and radios where you cant even see them or shoot them bullshit,” and the annoying ass collar that beeped every two damn seconds. very goddamn annoying to say the least. I dont know if you played that DLC on hardcore mode, but if you did, youll agree with me that its EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. i love a challenge, dont get me wrong, but another thing that pisses me off is the bugs. I was nice to that douchewad dean domino for the majority of his quests, and when i go see him at the tampico, he has the NERVE to be EVIL. WTF. If i wanted to have to be forced to shoot him, i wouldve done it without doing his quests! so basically, it made me kill him when i didnt want to, thus killing the ending for the DLC. the weapons, and weapon mods are nice, the armor is gay except for the assassin suit, but other than that? yea, waste of $10. Rehashed FO3? fully agree. so do alot of people. christ, i couldnt WAIT to end dead money. it was retarded!!! I sincerly hope that they do a much better job for the “honest hearts” and “Old Bones” DLCs, which they havent even announced a release date for yet, but supposed to be here already to compete with crysis 2. man. i dunno. bethesda is seriously losing my vote quickly. Very poor and idiotic programmers they got working for them.

10/04/11 @ 01:30 am
Comment from: Serp [Visitor]

You’re going to get the next DLCs? I’m done, there’s no way I’ll touch another one. Well, the only way I would is if they were all released at once and were free. As it is, Dead Money was awful, and NV was bug-ridden garbage to begin with, and my patience is just about finished. I put more time into that game than it deserved.

Obsidian is the worst company in the world. They should not be allowed to make another game. This isn’t the first time they followed up a great game with a buggy, unfinished, untested piece of garbage.

I will probably go back to FO3 and check out the new mods people have up. NV is basically just a giant mod in of itself anyway. The biggest positive for NV is the incredible voice acting, especially for Chief Hanlon. That doesn’t really carry over to Dead Money though even. Once you’ve heard most of the voice acting there’s not much point to replaying the game.

23/04/11 @ 11:57 pm
Comment from: Ruth Hill [Visitor]
Ruth Hill

(oops! I posted this in the wrong place first! Sorry!)
This is the best review of this DLC I’ve seen. After reading several other reviews that said it was worth it, I bought Dead Money and was really, really disappointed. If I had found this review first I might have saved myself some money.

21/03/13 @ 05:23 pm

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