Fallout

9 and 1/2 years later, one Courier finally reaches the end of his lonesome road.

fallout 2 - 9 and 1/2 years later, one Courier finally reaches the end of his lonesome road.
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Been a long time coming. In the small town in which I lived back in 2010, I was one of a just a handful who came to get our copies of Fallout: New Vegas from the local Gamestop during the midnight release. I had college midterms that week and my only chance to play it was that night, so I pulled an all-nighter, with only a pony keg of beer and a large quantity of Monster left over from my friend’s birthday party Jager-bombs for supplies. Felt like absolute garbage the next day, but it was worth it; I got more than six hours of sweet playtime in before going to school in a state of gut-churning delirium.

That playthrough however would never be finished. I can’t remember exactly where I fell off the wagon, only that I did fire up the Xbox 360 long after I had given up on it to try to get the momentum going again, and failed. I know I must have been close to the max Vanillla level, and reasonably far along in the main quest (failing the other faction questlines and such) Had probably done at least 75% The next serious attempt came a few years later, when I was able to borrow a friends GOTY (or Ultimate, can’t remember what they called it), also for Xbox 360 and try it again, but with the higher level cap and DLC additions. This time, I was somewhat more methodical, remembering what I’d done and how I wanted to do it right, and then going so far as to venture into Zion, completing Honest Hearts, and then entering Lonesome Road next. Though I was in my mid-twenties levelwise, I found LR to be challenging and a little confusing. I didn’t actually realize I could leave it at any time and come back, and I lost interest again. That’s where the second attempt failed.

A friend of mine stayed with me when he was between he was between places, and he used my old copy to do an all-Legion vanilla playthrough. I saw most of this, and it triggered my interest again. Even so, it would be years later until I finally felt the lure of New Vegas tugging at my soul again, and found a nice discount on Steam. So I downloaded the game, and started for the 3rd time. This time I vowed to do something different; rather than the traditional “stealth sniper” model of combat, I would go all-out melee. I min-maxed hard, as I usually do, planning around my eventual stats with my ideal gear loadout and the fact that I would eventually have all skills maxed. Had to take a 1 in Charisma, but it really had no noticeable effect on the game, especially since I pushed Speech high fairly early. Ended up with 10’s in Strength and Luck, a 2 in Charisma, and 9’s in every other SPECIAL stat.

I looked up quite a few things beforehand, aiming for ideal outcomes. This is what led me to misinterpret a key detail regarding the NCR/Legion infamy resetting during the main quest, and so rather than avoiding confronting Benny during the conclusion of “Ring-a-ding-ding!”, I actually did not enter the Strip at all until after I was Level 50, having concluded Lonesome Road (which made swapping companions a giant pain in the ass). I had decided to nuke both NCR and Legion at the end of Lonesome Road, and not because I planned to finish on the Independent questline. No, it’s because I played the most OCD looting obsessed scavenger you can imagine. Wish I could say it was “role-playing” but truth be told, I just couldn’t stop myself.

Two things about that: firstly, I wouldn’t make the choice of nuking the two factions again. Honestly, regardless of who I planned on siding with, I wouldn’t bother nuking either. I don’t consider the Scorched Sierra Power Armor useful, especially compared to the Remnants or Gannon armor, and the Armor of the 87th Tribe looks kind of cool, but it’s a pretty poor weight/DT ratio and the only time I bothered equipping it was during one of my many fights against Legate Lanius, as a joke (wearing the Marked Beast Helmet and wielding the Blade of the West. I know, I know, very original…) Also, neither of the unique Grenade Rifles are that interesting. By the time I obtained them, I had Red Glare, Annabelle, and a Fat Man and a stupid amount of ammo for those weapons, so the 40mm grenades just felt beside the point. Secondly, damn did I over prepare. For pretty much everything. Playing mostly melee until all my other weapon skills caught up, I hoarded tons of late-game weapon ammo and I just never had the chance to use much of it. Not mention hundreds if not thousands of healing items. Oh, and money? When the Securitron did my credit check to see if I had 2K caps and could enter the strip, I was just shy of 1 Million. I had closer to 1.2 Million by the time I actually tried gambling in any casino (other than the Sierra Madre), I had a ton of Pre-War money, a large reserve of both Legion and NCR money, and I stole all 37 gold bars from the Sierra Madre vault and didn’t sell 1 of them. I spent way too much time hoarding, and despite playing on Hardcore there was only a couple of times where I ever felt like I was suffering for it or needed to actually change my actions due to food, hydration, or sleep. When I did the Arizona Killer quest, I thought there was going to be a huge number of NCR troopers and Rangers present. I just reverse pick-pocketed the C4 I’d been hoarding onto everyone present, left about 5 blocks on the stage, and then, just to be a dick, sat on the observation platform using a Stealthboy and waited for Kimball to finish his speech before shooting him in the head with an exploding .50 MG round. Immediately after, I pushed the detonator and there was literally no one left on top of the dam.

I didn’t enter Zion until I was around level 30, having already completed 80-90% of the sidequests. After I finished HH, I spent some more time wrapping up in the Mojave, then I did OWB. After that, I finished literally every remaining quest in the Mojave I knew of except the ones that would anger the Legion. Then I did DM, and then I completed the remaining side-quests, becoming an enemy of the Legion, including taking Boone on a nice little trip to wipe out Cottonwood Cove. Finally, I completed LR, let the nukes fly, but saved Ulysses for reasons I’m still not sure about. Happened to get the NCR Courier Duster, which I was happy about; that extra carry weight is actually pretty useful and I wouldn’t have bothered wearing any of the other ones based on their stats.

From that point, it was all fairly straightforward. Although since I had several hundred hours invested and this felt like the most complete playthrough I’d ever do, I saved a couple of key “point of no return” moments. On this same file, I finished all 4 main questlines. Started with the Legion, because I had to destroy the Securitrons in the Fort for them alone, and their quests contradict everyone else’s. Then I did Mr. House, because both NCR and Independent require him to die to move forward after a point. NCR was 3rd, and then finally, Independent. For the first 3, though I did complete all companion quests (except “For Auld Lang Syne” during the Legion one), I did kind of a rush job. Then, I really took my time with the final playthrough, because the Independent ending was the one I’d really wanted all along. Took some companions on a nice vacation, like taking Veronica to watch as I got kicked out of every casino, or when I gave Boone my CZ37 Avenger and I took my Shoulder Mounted Machine Gun and we went to Visit Caesar like the hammer of justice. But tonight, I finally did it, and I finished my ultimate playthrough, which despite ending 4 times, didn’t feel over until the last one.

Despite playing on PC this time, I didn’t use mods. I wanted the experience. And I have to say, holy fuck does this game still crash way too much. It’s really kind of unbearable at times. I love New Vegas overall, but goddamn it’s buggy. We all know it, just had to get that off my chest. I do think it’s interesting how there’s really no “totally good” ending. All the major factions have their appeal, and their drawbacks. Obviously, the Legion is worse than most. But they’re inarguably effective, and my understanding is that cut content was supposed to expand upon what is only hinted at in-game, which is that life is actually pretty good for everyone in Legion territory who isn’t one of their slaves. The NCR dedicates itself to noble ideals but is bogged down by a corrupt bureaucracy and oligarchy, and plenty of folks in the Mojave aren’t asking for their kind of help. They’re also an imperialist power overreaching, so there’s that. Mr. House himself is an interesting case; while his vision would undeniably be of benefit to mankind, he’s not remotely interested in improving the lives of anyone who he doesn’t employ and thus most of the people just fall by the wayside. He’ll more or less ignore suffering and chaos unless he sees a profit in stopping it. The Independent ending of course puts you in charge, but it doesn’t give you much opportunity to decide what that means, which I found to be disappointing. The Ending slides indicate that really, not much changes aside from the retreat of the 2 foreign powers.

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Although it’s never been announced that any ending is Fallout canon, I have to believe that the Independent ending is meant to be such. Neither the NCR nor Legion could really be allowed to win and control Hoover Dam; the entire political landscape would have been thrown too far out of whack. Despite the fact that it’s been over 2 centuries since the great war, the Fallout series basically can’t move past the “Post-Nuclear” world, and having one giant regional power control close to a quarter of the continental US would upset that too much. Similarly, with House’s plan to reignite the high technology sectors and send colony ships to new planets, the game world of Fallout would end. Fallout needs a lawless wasteland as the backdrop, and the only ending that doesn’t upset that delicate balance is the death of Mr. House, the retreat of the NCR, and the defeat of the Legion. There's also the fact that Wild Card is the one main questline that can't be failed by interacting with another faction, and is only no longer able to be completed once you've begun another faction's endgame quest.

Knowing that New Vegas is largely based on the canceled, original Fallout 3 makes a lot of sense. Though I entered the series with Bethesda’s Fallout 3, I have read a lot of the lore and this game feels much more like a continuation of the story set up then. Even though The Courier is far removed from The Vault Dweller and The Chosen One (though maybe not as far removed as we think, given the extent of his prior travels), the story of the NCR, the Brotherhood, and the Enclave all feel much more connected to the events of the Mojave than they do the Capital Wasteland, despite the Brotherhood and Enclave’s more central roles in that story. New Vegas has the direct consequences of the past protagonists’ actions shaping the world, like the NCR’s transition from a tiny town, to a sprawling Republic, to a militaristic empire that is now sinking under the weight of its own overreach and inefficiency. Whereas 3 had just echoes of the past stories and one or two direct cameos like Harold. I almost now think of New Vegas as “Fallout 3” and Fallout 3 as “Fallout Bicentennial”; the spin-off that created a new-branching storyline to which Fallout 4 is obviously a direct sequel.

That brings me to where I wish this game had done better. I know, they suffered from a significant amount of budgetary and time issues. I know there was going to be more to the game than what made the final cut. And they did a pretty incredible job with what they had. The reusing of resources from F03 works pretty well and the game is fun, the character writing is great, I love the humor, the companions are mostly cool. What I wish is that the choices you make in quests had a bit more noticeable impact on the world, aside from random dialogue or radio announcements. I know there’s an in-game reason for why killing Caesar won’t affect the upcoming battle for the dam. But really, going to The Fort and killing him shouldn’t feel like an empty gesture. Both Legion and NCR tell you the Legion is better at taking positions than holding them; why the hell did the NCR never assault Caesar’s camp? I did it with one other dude and Sputnik. And then you can’t even free the 2 slaves that are there once Caesar and all the Legionaries are dead. Why wouldn’t the NCR send some rangers to go hold that hill and rain hell on the Legionaries in the camps below? They send a force to occupy Nelson after you retake it, this seems like a higher priority.

It’s also weird to me how little of a role the Super Mutants played in this game, coming here from Fallout 3. You’ve got the quest in Black Mountain, one or two in Jacobstown, and then like 2 other random encounters with Nightkin in Novac and the Repconn testing facility. And that’s literally it. After proving myself a friend to Jacobstown, I think it’s odd that you can’t ask the mutants to help out during the battle, or at least defend Vegas or something since the NCR and Legion probably would wipe them out if they seized power. This would especially make sense during the Independent Route, establishing Vegas as a haven for all. In general, I think if you’re going to decide to seize power for yourself you should have been given more of a chance to decide what that means and what you do with it. I would have really liked to see more options regarding the Brotherhood and the Followers and shaping how they’re going to fit in to Vegas society, post Hoover Dam. Mr. House was also taking cuts from the Three Families and using them fund his operations. I would have liked the chance to start running some of those operations. Hell, for any faction it would have been cool to get to spend some of my stupid amount of money late-game on improving their equipment, defenses, etc. There’s also quite a few quests that I wish had had alternate methods of resolution that would make sense. For example, why can’t you sabotage the Legion’s Howitzer in I Hear You Knocking or why can’t you take over the bottle cap press for yourself and just lie to Alice McLafferty in Pressing Matters?

Additionally, when one is working for either the NCR or the Legion, it’s irksome that you don’t actually get to join those factions. Would have been cool to go from Recruit Legionary through Centurion and then become a Legatus yourself. Caesar could have at least formally made you Frumentarius, since that’s what you basically become. NCR could have made you a Colonel by the time the battle begins for all the shit you did for them.

Regarding the DLC, and I know this is again due to budgetary reasons, I didn’t like how what you can do in one DLC can’t affect/be referenced in the others or the main game. I also wish you’d been able to go a little deeper on the connection between them, for example talking to Elijah more about Big MT or Graham about Ulysses. Or Christine about Ulysses. I found Elijah to be somewhat a disappointment in general, after him being hyped up by the Mojave BoS, Veronica, and the Think Tank. He’s just kind of a crazy dick.

Honest Hearts was enjoyable but it would have been better if you could get deeper into it with Graham. Plus he would have been a phenomenal companion to bring back to the Mojave; I think he might actually be my favorite character in the game. My favorite part in it was uncovering the story of The Survivalist. Wish finding all entries plus his corpse and belongings could have given you some dialogue options with the Sorrows, maybe even teaching one to be his successor or something. And the Desert Ranger armor was awesome, I wore it until I got the Elite Riot Gear in LR.

Old World Blues was just really solid: had a fun, weird story. Just wish it had an actual impact after you return to the Mojave and the Endgame. I mean, the Courier controlling, Vegas, Hoover Dam, AND the research and production of Big MT? Some shit’s going down. Where’s MY army of robot-scorpions to supplement my army of Securitrons? Only downside is the unique weapons are trash; the only cool thing was the Stealth Suit once it’s fully upgraded.

Dead Money was my least favorite DLC of all. First, the cloud was just annoying, and made it hard to enjoy the one time I lost all my shit and was forced to just play with the newly acquired equipment. Second, the Villa portion vs the actual casino portion is way too long, and I had much higher expectations for the interior of the casino. Third, while the characters were pretty interesting (besides Elijah), I couldn’t believe how there’s no resolution regarding Dean being the one who fucked over Christine and cut her vocal chords. Also, how’d he pull that off? She’s a BoS assassin, for fuck’s sake. Fourth, letting go my ass. My gold. MINE. Fifth, once you’re back in the Mojave, the presence of that vending machine plus the constant dump of chips is basically game-breaking. Not that I needed it by then, I’d pretty much broken the game by being a pointless millionaire hoarder.

Lonesome Road was cool overall. Dragged on a little longer than it needed to in some places. Ulysses, while certainly interesting, rambled a little too much and a little too metaphorically without actually saying much. Love the unique weapons from this one, love the unique armor. My one big issue is that I still barely understand the backstory of the courier after all that. Really wish they had gone into more detail, or that there had been a survivor from the community you helped build who could have filled you in more. Feels like you never actually encounter that community at all, since all the buildings are prewar and all the notes are either prewar or from the recent NCR expeditionary force. If I had to do it again, I’d just stop the nukes since I’d rather have the peace of mind and become idolized with the BoS than anything you actually get from Dry Wells or the Long 15. Also, though it killed me to do it at the time, I left ED-E so I could get the perk. But the more I thought about it, letting him die there actually seems less cruel than letting him try to continue to Navarro and discover what happened to it. Would have been cool if it turned out Arcade was actually the boy in the recordings though.

All in all, I’m glad I’ve finally seen the end of my own lonesome road. And now I’m going to uninstall Fallout New Vegas. But, since we are in the midst of a quarantine, guess I’ll fire up Fallout 4…

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