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A co-worker today asked me about Old World Blues. He was probably just trying to be polite, because everyone knows that Fallout is my strong suit, but he also mentioned hearing that the newest DLC is far and away the best of the three.

I didn't bite his head off. Firstly because, come on, that would be rude. At least he was polite enough to ask me about it while waiting his turn to gush about F3AR.

But mostly, it was because I really had to think about it. And now that I have, I've decided it better to blog about it than vent my spleen in talk pages. So here, in no particular order, are my thoughts on Old World Blues.

1: The perks are awful.

I don't mean the unlockables, which are, as always, pretty cool. I mean the purchasable perks, which I find extremely lackluster. I should mention that I've started each DLC at the previous max level, so generally the perks have been an interesting way to expand a well-honed character. In the other DLCs, the perks always felt like they had something substantial to add, evolving my character in meaningful ways. Here, for example, are four perks I thought were fantastic.

  • Dead Money: Light Touch was a bit of a revelation. I'd always concentrated on sniping for headshots and criticals, but up until the Sierra Madre I'd been tooling around in power armor, sneaking at a snail's pace and sneering in the face of deathclaws. Light Touch felt like a real, tangible response for my character thrown out of his element. Not only was he forced to shed his heavy armor by the limitations of the setting, he rose up and became better at what he did because of it.
  • Dead Money: Old World Gourmet is just a hell of a lot of fun. Cass's Whiskey Rose perk was always awesome, and this perk made being a drunk even better. I went from dumping booze in my fridge in Novac to having Scotch hot-keyed.
  • Honest Hearts: Tribal Wisdom. Cazadores are bad. Giant Cazadores are even worse. Giant Cazadores showing up out of nowhere to *$%@ your face in while you were just minding your own business is flat out horrible. But do you let that get to you? Hell no! You watch, learn, adapt! You shrug off their damage, ignore their poison, beat their heads in and EAT the bastards, just to show 'em!
  • Honest Hearts: Sneering Imperialist. This one was so hilarious, especially the pip-boy image, that I had to take it in a heartbeat. Not only did it help me with the White-Legs, it also made a lot of sense: even after I'd knocked off the Fiend leadership, every couple days I still swept the ruins of West Vegas out of spite and desire for sweet, salable Laser RCWs.

What does OWB offer in comparison? Atomic? Amusing, but I habitually avoid rads like the plague. Implant GRX? Interesting, if I'd ever had enough END to take it. I play a sniper, it's all about Luck, PER, and AGL, baby. Them's Good Eatin was the best of the lot, although lacking the character of Tribal Wisdom or Old World Gourmet, but at level 40+, I wasn't worried about having healing items on hand. What I was more worried about was...

2: The enemies.

To be honest, enemy blandness is not a new problem in Fallout: NV. In Dead Money, for instance, the Ghost People really ceased to be scary once you had seen more than three of them in one place, and after that they just felt routine, if difficult. OWB takes this to exponential levels. For example:

  • The Lobotomites. Oh God, the lobotomites. At top level, these bastards come out of nowhere with .45-70 Gov't weapons doing 1/3 of my health with each hit. You cannot snipe them at range, you do not want to be right up on them, but none of this matters, because you will never get the drop on them. In the interests of science, I'm replaying OWB with a save around level 20, but the fundamental problem still remains: The lobotomites are the most boring goddamn enemies in the game.
  • I don't mean that fighting them isn't difficult. In my experience, most fights were spent animatedly hopping backwards and swearing. I mean that they're grey, drab, silent, and have absolutely no character. I know that's the idea. I get it. I just mean that, despite them being what friends of mine call "Nintendo Hard" to kill, I feel absolutely no sense of accomplishment once they're dead. Oh, look, I killed a grey dude in a grey jumpsuit with an unlikely but ubiquitous grey gun. Yippee! I don't even feel a sense of relief, because I know that the second I turn my back, it will start all over again.
  • The Robots. While it was hilarious to see more Mister Gutsys, ultimately it was annoying how they felt the need to take every robot in the game, give em a million more hitpoints, and slap them around the map. This is largely for the same reason as above: lack of control, and lack of satisfaction once they're dead. "I killed 5 Securitrons to get to House!" Fantastic! "I killed 'another five securitrons after turning my back on a dead cyberdog and 15 dead lobotomites." Not so much. Also, slapping a unique version of a baddie in a location does not add character, especially when you've done it with half the map.
  • Night Stalkers. Remember how much you hated these things when you walked off the road at level 2? Well, now they're worse! In a fun way? Of course not!
  • The Robo-Scorpions. Definately the most interesting. Again, these would have been more fun if I were not fighting six of them in reverse-bunnyhop mode.

Ultimately, it's the sense of control that kills me. I don't mind fights being hard, or having to chem up and use tactics and traps to get by. If I've stalked for three minutes for a perfect headshot, or get addicted to five chems and use all of my plasma mines to take down a Deathclaw Mother, that's a rush. If I can't walk ten feet (with 100 Sneak!) without getting a Saturnite Fist elbow-deep in my ass, there's a problem.

3: Gear here, Gear there.

As far as gear goes, I would say Honest Hearts wins, hands-down. After Light Touch in Dead Money, Grahm's armor was a gift from on high, and the Survivalist's Rifle stopped any fight, dead. That is, until you enter the Big MT. Once you hit the Sink, your fantastic light armor is worth about as much as a kleenex tuxedo, and lasts half as long. Crit chance doesn't seem to matter when you're doing a tic of health per shot, and your 12.7mm show-stopper feels about as handy as a 10mm Pistol in Deathclaw Promontory. What, you may ask, does OWB offer to fill this gap? Well, let's take a look.

  • Stealth Suit mk II. Hey, you remember when you took those perks and went light? Well, forget that shit, because this medium is here! This armor, once upgraded, offers some nice stat perks, a speed boost making you about as fast as moving in light armor, and a sneak bonus that will not hide you from anything, anywhere in the Big MT. But you'll wear it all the way through the DLC anyway, and you wanna know why?
  • You guessed it! Automated Stimpak resevoir. Because when you're fighting enemies that can kill you in two hits, four at a time, you can't afford not to wear this beauty!
  • Sonic Emitter. Hey, you know your other weapons do jack against anything here? Well how about a weapon that does inconsistent damage, is hard to aim due to a timing effect, and occasionally without rhyme or reason causes your enemies to fall over or explode? This weapon is actually a lot of fun, except that it makes unpredictable fights impossibly confusing. Will my enemies die early this time? Will I plink at them for ten minutes until their friends show up? Who knows?
  • Christine's COS Silencer Rifle. As a long-term Sniper Rifle user, I appreciate this weapon. Except for, you know, it's completely lack of reskin as a unique weapon. This makes it feel like the kind of unique weapon modders will lazily add at the last minute to their SuperDesertShack, an unchanged Varmint Rifle doing 300/shot named "Spiffy." I would also appreciate this weapon a hell of a lot more if I ever had the opportunity to snipe anything in this DLC. Ooh, some lobotomites on the ridge across the way! Maybe I could line up a shot if ten Nightstalkers weren't viciously humping my leg.
  • LAER/Elijah's Advanced LAER. The LAER was an epiphany to me, in that it had been sitting in my inventory for ages, on both my high and low level run-throughs, before I thought about using it. So far, this has been the only weapon with consistently decent results against baddies here: about like using a 10mm Pistol on a Legion Assassin, as opposed to a Deathclaw. Besides waiting until the Sonic Emitter crits and blinking all my precious 12.7mm away with the Survivalists, this is the only weapon that seems to stand on its own. I guess the high damage and the MFC's inherent -DT make it tolerable, if nothing else. So yay! You've filled the conceptual slot I used to hold for Cowboy Repeater. Good for you!

So, none of this is to say that I didn't enjoy Old World Blues. The plot was awesome, the characters are awesome, and the setting is pretty neat. And they have James Urbaniak, for Christ's sake. But the balance ultimately hurts it for me. I'd thought Honest Hearts was inconsistent, with Giant Cazadores and Green Lizards often accomplishing my kill missions for me, but you could at least get around ok.

I also don't mind things being difficult. I do like a challenge, but I like it to be something I can surmount with intelligence and skill. Running through 20 stimpaks faster than I could use them myself just to get between two locations is idiotic. Being unable to walk out of a door unmolested with 100 Sneak and a Stealth Boy active is idiotic. Winning a tense two-minute gunfight to loot the corpses of a slobbering idiot in a grey jumpsuit and a copy-paste Securitron is completely unsatisfying.

Best DLC? Honest Hearts. Best plot and characters? Old World Blues. Best vending machine? Sierra Madre. And, for me, that's that.

(SPAMLibArmy 02:17, July 26, 2011 (UTC))