Fallout New Vegas: Side questing

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Up until this point in my playthrough, I’ve pretty much been sticking to the main story path without much in terms of deviations. This week? This week I’m deviating as all get out. Finish up some side quests and then do what I love to do in Fallout the most, which is to angle toward different unexplored landmarks and see what’s out there.

I think this might have been a developer’s cry for help after an enormous crunch session.

One benefit of doing this wandering/uncovering the game map is that I ended up in a lot of combat situations and therefore started raking in a good amount of XP. I need the extra levels, and in the span of the week, I think I went up 2.5 levels from combat alone.

Poor geckos. They were just freaked out at the armed space woman invading their territory.

Another helpful factor of this personal expedition was the addition of my first companion, Boone. He’s not the most lively of characters — just a stoic sniper who really hates the Legion — but he’s absolutely great at picking off bad guys at a distance and helping to conserve my ammo.

I wandered through a long radioactive gulch (completely safe, thanks to my spacesuit’s high rad protaction) and then found this drive-in movie theater. It’s not as fancy as the one in early Fallout 4, but I like touches like this.

And there was this memorial. For something, I didn’t find out what. I had a feeling that this might be an actual real-world landmark of sorts, something that the Fallout series does on occasion. But I didn’t feel like researching it.

Fallout New Vegas’ map design is rather genius in its layout. You start the game very close to New Vegas, but there are a lot of high level mobs between you and it, so to get there you have to take a very roundabout route to eventually get there. There aren’t any invisible or visible walls stopping you from trying to go straight there, but you’re probably going to die.

When I stopped back in Novac, the gift store owner let me know that the town was gifting me with my own hotel room. I guess this is my HQ now? Having a bed and a storage locker right near a vendor is very convenient indeed!

Fallout New Vegas: Giant dinos, space suits, and rocket ships

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The journey from Primm to Novac ended up being surprisingly long, taking several gaming sessions and not just a few detours while in the wasteland. My favorite part was coming across two battling groups that I let kill each other so that I could loot their corpses in peace.

Eventually, however, I arrive at this fabled town and bear witness to its dominating landmark: a giant dinosaur statue (that also doubles as a gift shop). I also learn that “Novac” is short for “No Vacancy,” as in a modified hotel sign. Ah. Gotcha.

Bizarrely, Victor the Cowboy Robot shows up, having felt led to cross the desert and beat me here… for some reason. He doesn’t know what, and I get the feeling that there is so much more to this machine than he is letting on. I do not trust it.

One great running joke of Novac is that the wastelanders inherited boxes and boxes of small T-Rex souvenirs that nobody (rightly) wants to buy now. There are desperate signs all over the place to this effect, and the store even has 1,000 unsold dinosaurs waiting.

I did not buy one. What I *did* buy, however, was a very special pistol that had a big bonus to critical chance. It also looks all space agey.

Novac isn’t in any immediate danger, but the few townsfolk are concerned about a bunch of ghouls (Fallout’s version of zombies) that are holed up in the local rocket factory. Guess what job I’m given? Let’s go clean house!

I would love a tour, but I assume that I am too late. On the road to REPCONN, a guy accosts me and says that he’s been following me because I picked up a blue chip somewhere (which I don’t remember) and he wants to tell me about this fabulous treasure hunt that collecting such chips puts me on. Then he runs off. Okay, then, thank you for that nonsensical interlude!

REPCONN itself is one of those large, ugly, and maze-like Fallout dungeons that I’m not as fond of exploring. It was dark and not very photogenic, so just believe me when I say that I killed a lot of ghouls and stealthy supermutants (called “Nightkin” in this game). The ghouls try to get me to help them out, saying that they’re actually peaceful and need to have the mutants gone, but there’s a bunch of armed rockets in the basement that say otherwise.

At least I got myself a genuine spacesuit for my troubles. I look awesome! Might just wear this for the rest of the game.

With the ghouls’ obstacles overcome, they’re finally able to go on a “Great Journey” to some wonderful place via rocket ship (naturally). I mean, if you were looking for a game where zombies become astronauts, well then, you’re in luck here. I just felt bad for Chris, the human ally who thought he was a ghoul, since he had to get left behind (radiation danger, you know). I resettled him in Novac.

All of the hard work of clearing out the REPCONN facility paid off nicely once I got to see the rockets take off to the Ride of the Valkyries on the radio. Godspeed, zombienauts!

One thing I realized going through this playthrough is that I really haven’t been doing much in the way of side quests. And that’s not good, so I’m going to try to ferret at least some of these out and backtrack to finish some I’ve missed along the way. There is one in Novac that has to do with the kidnapped (and subsequently killed) wife of the town sniper, Boone. It takes some detective work — including interviewing the local crazy man — to finally discover that it was the nice desk lady that sold her (and her unborn child) into slavery for 2,000 caps.

This upbeat quest is resolved by dragging her out in front of the dino, where Boone shoots her. Justice?

At least I got to level 7 and obtained my first companion in the game. Boone isn’t much of a talker, but I’ll be glad for his firepower. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about companions or pets in the game up to this point.

Fallout New Vegas: The long road to Novac

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

You can’t see it, but my eyes behind those goggles are hollow. My lips are cracked from the screams. And that burning town behind me? That’s the horror show that was Nipton, California.

Let me back up a bit. Right now I’m making the very long journey from Primm to Novac. It’s a trip that literally spans two states and a whole lot of deadly between Points A and B. I’m overloaded with gear I’d like to sell and probably greatly underleveled (I’m inching my way toward level 6), but it’s where I need to go.

And then I arrived at Nipton.

The storytelling that happened in Nipton is actually well told. You don’t know it when you arrive, but it starts in reverse, with the very end of things. This loony guy comes running at you, extremely jubilant that he’s won some “lottery.” He doesn’t explain it, but goes running into the wasteland all giddy and out of his gourd.

I walk past him and enter the town, which looks like a scene from Dante’s Inferno. Everything’s broken, burning, or dead. Lots of folks hanging from crosses.

And the game tells me that these people, who are obviously still alive, can’t be cut down because that’d kill them. So? I’m sure they’d rather one final moment of mercy than to leave them up there. For shame, New Vegas.

Anyway, a crippled man in the general store fills me in on what happened here. The Legion came in and backed a guy to become “mayor” if he’d just betray everyone. Kind of a Trojan horse situation. Then the Legion took over the town, rounded up everyone (mayor included), and ran a “lottery” to see who lived, who would be horribly maimed, and who would die in various ways.

This guy ran the show, and if it wasn’t for the six guys and multiple attack dogs around him, I would have taken him out on the spot. As it was, he let me go to “spread the word” of what happens to lowlifes.

Suppressing the urge to run away, I did a very careful looting of the town left behind. There were a few interesting houses, such as one with an aggressive floating robot and another with numerous traps, but in the end I walked away with plenty of upgraded weapons and ammo.

I also got to fight a whole ton of dogs, including this one up here who thought that he’d attack me by running over a mine. How’d that work out for you, Fido?

After what seemed like forever, I finally left Nipton and California to enter Nevada and a lot of empty desert. As a player who vastly prefers wide-open spaces to dense urban crawls, this was a relief.

Still a very long way from here to Novac, but I have hope that I’ll see it through. Some day. Maybe next week.

Fallout New Vegas: Bug phobias

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I’m still at that very vulnerable stage of a Fallout game where my stats aren’t great, my gear is sub-standard, and I’m not that great in a firefight. Perfect time to start working my way through a heavily armed camp of bandits inside of a hotel, right?

So this was me, more often than not: shot through the heart, and I was to blame. Reload. Die. Reload. It got even worse once I hoovered up enough loot that my travel speed slowed to a non-jumping slow jaunt, which I stuck with because I’ll be cornswaggled if I give up future caps because I want to run around like a track star.

Not advised: Using a huge flamethrower in a very small confined space. It’s kind of overkill — and has a tendency to backfire — but I had a moment or two of fun even so. Say hello to my little friend!

At least Primm ended up helping my advancement. After reprogramming a cowboy robot to ALSO be a cowboy sheriff robot, I dinged level 4. I know enough to pick early perks that pay out in more skill points and XP gained, even if those aren’t sexy perks. They’ll help out in the long run.

With loot sold and a deputy rescued who pointed me in the direction of Nipton, I left Primm during a particularly gorgeous day. It was the kind of day that made me want to strike out in a random direction and get myself killed in a glorious fashion.

One of my favorite elements of any Fallout game is the in-game radio, which I usually prefer to the soundtrack score. Not that the score is bad or anything, it’s just that the selection of songs and DJ patter put me at ease and give a feeling of companionship along the road. Plus, Radio New Vegas had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion with its goofs.

The road from Primm to Nipton proved to be mighty hazardous. Lots of gangs, lots of mutated bugs, and very little in the way of shelter or help. I went through ammo like nobody’s business, but at least I was raking in XP and clawing my way to level 5. So far I’ve been dumping a majority of my points into lockpicking and science so I can unlock things to get better loot, but I don’t want to neglect guns or other useful skills for too long.

GIANT ANTIE JUST WANTS TO GIVE YOU A SMOOCH! Mwah!

Fallout New Vegas: From Goodsprings to Primm

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Continuing on with the tutorial section of Fallout New Vegas, I explore the starting town of Goodsprings. It’s a quaint little Western dive that is making its way in the post-apocalyptic world, and it even has a mascot — a roving robot named Victor. Who’s a cowboy. Because of course he is. Apparently, Victor is the one who saw the Caesars dump me into a shallow grave and rescued me, even though — according to the townspeople — he’s never done anything helpful in the past.

I have to say that the tutorial section is fairly well integrated into the game. Doesn’t really feel like you’re playing a tutorial, for the most part. Some easy quests, some light crafting, a bit of combat, all while I familiarize myself with the controls. It’s pretty familiar, coming from the other modern Fallout games, and I rejoice to have proper VATS working once more.

Another thing that the game does well at the onset is hitting you with the surrounding backstory from multiple angles. Various NPCs talk about what’s going on until I have a good sense of the larger situation — that the New California Republic has moved into the area to take the Hoover Dam, the evil slaver Caesars are pushing back, and New Vegas is a plum prize with its electricity and modern amenities.

There’s Vegas itself in the distance. I hope we’re not going there too soon; I don’t especially like the bigger cities in these post-apoc RPGs.

One thing that is hitting me hard about this game is how similar New Vegas and Fallen Earth are in feel. Both have that broken up desert southwestern setting, so I guess that makes sense, but in any case it makes me really glad to be exploring this game world.

With everything done in Goodsprings that I can see, I head down to the next major town and quest destination: Primm. It’s less cozy than where I came from, as the small village (which includes a couple of casinos and a broken-down rollercoaster) has been overrun by criminal elements and the NCR refuses to step in to help.

At least I’m starting to fill in the blanks as to my weird backstory. I am Courier Six, the last of a group of couriers sent out to deliver a package. I was the only one waylaid and left for dead, although a guy in Primm hints that there was something special about me that triggered this event. So to speak.

At least I get my first real dungeon crawl here. I’m not fully equipped for a heavy slog, but I have enough armor and weapons to make my way through. I find that with my large AP pool, it’s best to run up quick to a bad guy, trigger VATS, and then line up about six attacks in slow-motion.

VATS is what makes this a lot more enjoyable than it has a right to be. I’d hate for this to be a twitch-based shooter with murky rooms and hard-to-see mobs, but with this combat system, it’s a lot of fun to plan out attacks and then see how they unfold.

Fallout New Vegas: Waking up with a splitting headache.

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2010’s Fallout New Vegas. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

It’s time for a brand-new retro gaming series here at Bio Break, and I was in the mood to tackle an RPG once more. Out of all of the titles I have sitting around, one popped out at me that (a) had developed a strong cult following and (b) I have never actually played before. And that is Fallout New Vegas.

This was a 2010 spin-off by Obsidian, not Bethesda, that was notable both for its very buggy state and its generally better “Fallout feel” than both Fallout 3 and 4. Maybe it was the fact that it stayed out in the American Southwest (shades of Fallouts 1 and 2), or perhaps it was a simply better designed and written game. As a big fan of the Fallout franchise, I’m really psyched to be trying this out for the first time! It’s probably going to be a lengthy series, but that’s OK — I have no where better to be at the moment.

I still get goosebumps every time I hear Ron Pearlman growl out, “War. War never changes.” at the start of the Fallout games. This beginning is different than most of the other Fallout titles in that my character doesn’t start in one of the underground Vaults but rather is a courier who is waylaid by some ne’er-do-wells outside of New Vegas and then shot through the head. That’s the start of the game. You’d think that’d be the end, but somehow I survive that and being buried alive. Not quite sure how, but I’m not complaining!

If war never changes, neither does the butt ugly character creation options that these games have. That up there is seriously the absolute best I could make a character — the females, in particular, look bizarre, like an alien stretched a human skin over a weird skull.

So instead of being dead forever, I wake up in the house of Doc in a quiet Mojave town. The house serves as the character creation process, and it’s pretty well-integrated as Doc gets to know who I am and I absolutely rob him blind of everything not nailed down.

Then — and here’s the worst part — I sell it all back to him. He didn’t seem to mind, and I needed the bottle caps.

By far, my favorite part of Doc’s house is the Vigor Tester, which is a stat allocation screen disguised as one of those old timey Western saloon games. The animations, descriptions, and labels on this are arresting and even hilarious (I particularly loved the descriptions for luck). I’m going for an all-around useful character build, as usual for these games, although I do make one unorthodox decision…

I’m sorry, but when a Fallout game gives you the option to toggle on bizarre encounters, you take that with a polite “Thank you, ma’am” and don’t look back. I am definitely not “the serious of temperament.”

It’s actually really easy to get geared up even before I leave Doc’s house. It certainly helps that there are weapons, ammo, and food lying around, and Doc gives me a bunch of bobby pins, a Pip-Boy, and even an old Vault-Tec jumpsuit before I head out. I can’t tell you how excited I am at this point — let me at this world already!

And so I step outside with a new face, a song in my heart, and vague instructions to head to the saloon and make myself useful. This right here reminds me so much of the soon-to-be-shuttered Fallen Earth that it hurts a bit. All in all, a good beginning to what I hope will be an epic journey.

Dagger of Amon Ra: Acts 5 and 6

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1992’s The Dagger of Amon Ra. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The final part of Dagger of Amon Ra is a departure from a lot of what’s come before. Right away, the game transitions into a chase scene between Laura and her strangely robed (um, why?) murderous pursuer armed with a mace. There’s incredibly little time to do anything in a room before the killer barges in and insta-thwacks Laura’s skull, so this becomes all about precisely going to the right place and doing actions to stall the killer.

So, a LOT of trial and error. The stressful music adds to the not-fun feeling of all of this, but since it’s not that difficult to figure out what to do, I’m not complaining. At least Laura gets her cardio for the week.

During this chase sequence, Laura gets to see parts of the museum that were formerly hidden, such as (naturally) a sarcophagus room and a giant underground temple where people worship and sacrifice to the Egyptian god Amon Ra.

Um… wait, what? Could we go back to…

Guess not. So Laura gets captured by these happy folks, and the only way out is (drumroll)… hieroglyphic decoding! Not only do you have to solve two riddles, but you must do so with a hieroglyphic code that you had better copied down earlier in the game or else there’s absolutely no way to progress past this point. I can’t imagine how much of a kick in the pants this would feel for a player to be so near to the end of the game and yet 100% be unable to finish without resorting to an earlier save state.

My theory that Steve is the real murderer was dashed here when Laura discovers him tucked into a coal bin. Kind of wish that HE’D been the one bitten by a snake, but no such luck.

And just in case you were wondering, yes, there are so many ways to die in this last part. Laura practically ping-pongs between fatalities in Act V.

Ultimately — and I am not making this up — Laura leaves the underground temple and travels up through a secret passage that spits her out the mouth of a goofy looking T. Rex. Said dino also helps to capture the real killer, who dangles there without identification.

Of course, no good adventure game is complete without a test at the end, right? I am not joking. There’s an actual test. You have to have been looking for evidence, clues, and listening to conversations to figure out a whole series of whodunnits along with their motivations. That feels a little unfair, considering all that Laura has been through, but it’s in keeping with the investigative spirit of the game.

Solve all these and Laura becomes the talk of the town! Way to go, Laura, you’re swell.

So just in case you were wondering, the two main culprits of the game were Detective O’Riley and Watney Little. The latter was killed and the former gets 60 years of hard labor in prison. At least he gets to have his Scooby Doo monologue, promising vengeance in a sequel that never happened.

And so The Dagger of Amon Ra comes to an end. I had somewhat higher expectations for this game after hearing some people talk it up, but for me, it felt like an average Sierra game. Some yuk yuk jokes, some clever and infuriating puzzles, and some nice pixel animations. But the whole setup of the museum crimes and murders felt kind of ridiculous and nonsensical after a while, and I got extremely tired of all of the backtracking through the place.