I have played the New California mod with a handful of recommended add-ons to modernize New Vegas; there was only one playthrough – Enclave > Escaped from Raiders > NCR > Mob > Enclave (with a jump into the Supermutant ending to see what was it like). There are many paths to choose from, and different combinations, but, I'm fairly sure I already got the gist of the mod.
It's not great.
I'm not an actual reviewer – I'm not sure on what should be reviewed – so I'm just going to talk about the main things that the mod adds, with a tiny tl;dr on each paragraph.
– PLOT –
tl;dr – the main quest's beginning is powerful and intriguing, but the potential dies out after the prologue; suffocated by strange and edgy plot twists that make little sense.
New California's initial plot intrigued me: the protagonist, orphan of an unknown tribe adopted into Vault 18, ends up squished into an evil Enclave-backed coup that destroys his home and forces him out into the dreadful Wasteland. Multiple choices allow us to mold our character from the very beginning (how some characters will react to us, what kind of background lore we'll discover, which opportunities will be open to us, what companions, perks or equipment we'll get a hold of, and so on and so on). This mod's Prologue is basically a perfect 101 of how a RPG videogame should work, and the developers most likely spent a lot of time around this initial phase.
Alas, the main questline completely falls apart after the Prologue.
While there are multiple branches that we can take (focused around which faction we can side with, though the secondary factions have little influence and are mostly there for flavour. We'll still manly work with the NCR or the Raiders), the main questline soon becomes a set of – "Go to A from B, kill a horde of X, return to B for the next quest" – with little variation between missions. The climax comes all of a sudden, with little build up towards the end; we basically run errands for one faction until we're hit in the face with a plot twist. A barrage of twists follow up one after the other, story bits that – in my opinion – would look best in a weird Sonic fanfiction than a Fallout mod.
|!SPOILERS ABOUT THE ENDING!|
The barely implied, but intriguing, need to search for the protagonist's tribe after escaping V18 is blown apart when… We discover that our character is the creation of a Super Mutant, who cloned Fallout 1's Vault Dweller's DNA (???) and injected his creation with a Pre-War parasite, to eventually create a fertile mutant that could continue the Unity's plan and breed more monsters (this makes /some/ sense). We also discover that the Enclave officer and his sister, backers of the Vault coup, are actually clones of an experimental mutant (an edgy bounty hunter) that appears once in the story (???).
– CHARACTERS –
tl;dr – characters are one dimensional, there's no real development as they're only there to progress the story.
The mod's characters, if you can call them that, all fall under certain archetypes and never stray from those. You have the well-meaning but rebellious NCR general, the corrupt senator, the heroic ranger, a NCO (?) unhappy with his post, the secretive and edgy bounty hunter who doesn't care for law, and so on and so on. There's not a lot of development or conversation options for most of them, outside of the little dialogue choices and (sometimes awful responses) we get during the main questline.
A handful of them managed to stand out, despite the lackuster characterization, thanks to their top-notch voice actors (like Briggs, his sister, Rossman or the Supermutant Gatekeeper).
I wasn't able to experience this mod's companions, since I ended up outside of Vault 18 alone and only managed to link up with Kira. Inside the Vault she was a good character… outside, however, she became silent and was only there to shoot my enemies or remind me of a companion quest (which, of course, progressed alongside the main story) that really went nowhere.
– ENVIROMENT –
tl;dr – the map is big but, outside of a handful of locations, lacks meaningful content.
The map is not too big, but it's pretty devoid of good locations. There's no room for meaningful exploration and – while I think this was addressed by the developers – it turns going from A to B into a slog, especially when you have to travel all across the map for the main quest.
The main locations that I explored – Vault 18, Union City, Athens-Tec Mine, Fort Daggerfall (?), and the tribal village – are beautiful to look at; there clearly was a lot of care in creating these locations (you can see them in the screenshots, too!), they're all unique and clearly stand out. There isn't much else to them other than the graphic eye candy, however, as most of these places (Vault 18 aside) are quite empty. There's no meaningful characters or quests (outside of the main quest); you have standard merchants in the main towns and a lot of NPCs to shoot at everywhere else.
Side locations are just plopped areas, often lacking interiors (and when there's an interior, it's generally empty or lifted directly from New Vegas cells) full of enemies to shoot at.
– GAMEPLAY –
tl;dr – the mod's branching path is interesting, nothing new outside of that.
The mod offers an interesting system of branching paths from the beginning. You can join up with a faction but also secretly help someone else to overthrow this faction, WHILE being a member of the Enclave (though, the side factions are mostly there for flavour). Aside from that, the game turns into a 'go here, kill this horde of enemies, come back' pretty quickly (I eventually activated god mode to chew through the final enemy horde, as it was just incredibly stupid).
There are a few SPECIAL/Skill checks sprinkled here and there, but they're somewhat rare and mostly used in dialogue (some checks require metagame to pass – I had to pass a high barter check once, while most other dialogue checks were CHARISMA based).
All in all, I think that this mod was a disappointment. I liked the beginning, loved the look of the main locations and found the branching paths pretty interesting; however, the mod's only meaningful content – its main quest – falls apart right after the Prologue.
Given all the hordes of NPCs I had to fight, this could've worked as a DOOM mod. Maybe.
© Post "Fallout: New California disappointed me (spoilers and, uh, fixed)." for game Fallout.
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