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Having finished Fallout 3 without any DLC installed, I decided to install all of the DLCs at once and continue my adventure. I've been thinking it might be fun to write blog posts here about each of them, except that I'm too lazy to take notes or anything else that would help me write something very insightful. I guess I'll just jot down some random thoughts and see how that goes:

First up is Operation: Anchorage, which I will subsequently refer to as "O:A". Before I give my thoughts on that, however, I should mention that I started by installing all 5 DLCs and playing with a level 20 character who was right at the end of the last part of the main Fallout 3 questline. This probably presents quite a different dynamic from that experienced by people playing the GOTY edition, especially with O:A since it can reportedly be experienced by low-level players. Indeed, I found that even though the O:A simulation traded out my items for different ones, I still had all of my stats and perks (most notably Grim Reaper's Sprint); I didn't find the enemies in O:A to be significantly less challenging than those in the Capital Wasteland, however, but that's probably not saying much since I was easily the most dangerous entity in the wastes!

Anyways, the lead-in to the simulation was mostly unremarkable, albeit well-done. It was nice to see the Brotherhood Outcasts fleshed out a little bit (I hadn't previously bothered to deal with the people at their HQ much beyond greeting them, and of course the members that wander the wastes just blow me off), and it was also interesting to see how dramatic a well-maintained non-vault outpost looks compared to the rusting, crumbling interiors seen most everywhere else. Seeing the Outcasts react differently to me depending on whether or not I was wearing Outcast power armor was also a nice touch.

On the other hand, O:A did not escape having its own share of bugs, either. Fortunately, the only one I can think of off the top of my head that is worth mentioning is that the elevator to the outpost is bugged. Specifically, I had to enter it twice every time after my initial visit because it would already be at the bottom on the first entry, and the inner door wouldn't open. I did also find it odd that all of the items in this outpost - as with those in The Citadel - were not marked as "owned", which allowed me to loot them at will without pissing off the Outcasts. This struck me as both good and bad, as I am a compulsive scavenger but would probably have enjoyed a break from feeling compelled to haul random crap back to my Megaton house.

The simulation itself is the meat of the DLC, of course, and it didn't disappoint. The lack of interaction with random objects combined with the presence of ammo and health dispensers was almost more jarring than the change of scenery and removal of my equipment, however, but it did do a good job of reminding me in a subliminal way that I was in a "simulation". Somewhat less bearable was the linear corridor-style paths through most of the simulation, with few side-passages to explore (and even fewer rewarding ones), although to Bethesda's credit they did try to alleviate this a little by branching out into multiple areas/objectives that could be tackled in any order.

Perhaps most jarring of all, however, was the annoying tendency for enemies to spawn much too close to me. As a Small Guns focused character, I found it frustrating that enemies often repeatedly appeared so close that they were already almost in melee range. This was an unwelcome change from the feel of the main game, which had always made it feel like enemies were already present at any given location long before I ever arrived. Needless to say, I found myself reloading my quicksave often.

O:A seemed fairly polished on the whole, however. The story was nothing to write home about, although it was a refreshing change of scenery and pace. The rewards for completing the simulation were also not as useful as I would have hoped; they are all now gathering dust in the weapons+armor locker in my shack, as they were either less powerful than my existing gear (Ranger battle armor + Ledoux's hockey mask + Xuanlong assault rifle + Ol' Painless) or had some crippling disadvantage (limited ammo/repairability etc.) and/or some other quirk.

Bottom line: O:A is really only going to be useful for people who plan to tackle it early in a playthrough to acquire some intermediate-to-advanced equipment when it will really make a difference, although it does provide a nice change of scenery/pace for people who have already spent a lot of time exploring the Capital Wasteland.

Oh, I should also mention that it probably took me a few hours to complete. It's not very long, but it doesn't feel too short either - except that the ending is a bit sudden.