Your journey through Fallout New Vegas is one of revenge and curiosity that is heavily dependent on your participation. It’s role playing at its best, with vast side mission all contributing in some way to the big picture, your actions having long lasting effects throughout the Mojave wasteland. The New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion vie for control of the region, in particular Hoover Dam which is still operational and provides precious electricity. The new setting of the Mojave Desert – or old setting if you played the original titles – is a dangerous place. In addition to the two main factions, a couple of smaller ones are set on carving out their own little corner of civilization – or as close to civilization as they understand – and with you shot in the head and mugged for a mysterious item you were tasked with delivering to the city of New Vegas, It’s now down to you to choose your path in this treacherous region and hunt down those responsible for the headache.
There really is a sense of choice out there in the wasteland. Choosing to fight back in certain situations and forging relationships with factions and settlements through actions truly dictates the way the world sees you, and presents the same risk/reward feedback of real life decisions. The reputation gained through these actions becomes your driving force for the story, ultimately aligning you with your chosen friends and enemies. It’s a great system that encourages multiple playthroughs to see everything on offer. It also makes the journey more personal and this is reflected in the dialogue options as well.
Conversations are vastly improved over Fallout 3 and cover a much more diverse spectrum. Voice work is also excellent and seemingly includes far more actors than its sister-game. You’re provided with multiple opportunities to show off your oratory skills and – If your stats are high enough – this allows you to pull off feats like avoiding combat or fooling factions into thinking you’re with them. It makes for more interesting conversation trees and a more tangible set of characters that deliver the trademark Fallout subtle humor on all the right notes. Additionally this new focus on the charisma and speech skills makes them far more balanced against the favored combat ones. In fact there’s a great balance with skills throughout. No matter what kind of character you want to build you can do so without compromising the difficulty. It really is all about choice and you’re free to explore it to your heart’s content.
As with Fallout 3, exploration is a rewarding experience, and not just in stat distribution. The Mojave Desert is full of scattered abandoned and hostile occupied buildings, military camps, and villages. However, in contrast to Fallout 3’s several large settlements, New Vegas has much smaller communities and it’s a fitting difference. It feels more like a wasteland, and with Vegas in the center it makes sense that the majority would be living near or within this remnant of civilization. Like with the conversations, these details form a more tangible world, and it all helps to pull you in.
New Vegas itself is an interesting place. The mysterious Mr. House runs things and has helped to revive and maintain many of the virtues the city once had, so bright lights, flowing alcohol, prostitution and gambling is rife. It’s a very unique city for the Fallout experience and absolutely worth the time and effort to visit.
Fallout New Vegas does have some initial issues with pacing and difficulty, however. The first few hours are slow on story progression as it gradually introduces you to the region. It’s a good introduction for newcomers but for Fallout 3 veterans it can grate. You’re also restricted to following the path due to some vicious enemies beyond it. You need a good handful of levels under your belt and a decent weapon or two before the trademark exploration really becomes a viable option. Despite this however, they’re forgivable design choices. It certainly creates a good impression about the hostility of the wasteland which plays to the intent of the fallout world, and once the story gets going the pace quickens and the world fully pulls you in.
If you’re looking for an even steeper challenge, Hardcore mode could well be what you’re looking for. The gimmick here is forcing you to juggle a more realistic set of equipment encumbrance, food and drink consumption, sleep, and healing requirements. It’s a brutal mode that is excellent for the role playing enthusiast and certainly adds a more strategic and thoughtful process to the experience.
Regardless of the difficulty mode you can expect a decent challenge maintained through a strong and varied set of options in leveling. Much like Fallout 3, you can distribute points in a whole host of skills and New Vegas continues to grant you special traits on set levels. This time, traits are offered every two levels, and rather than them offering an unbalanced boost to your character you’re now presented with a majority of traits that boost one thing to the cost of something else. It’s a far more thoughtful setup that takes the RPG elements of the series to new heights.
The RPG elements aren’t the only mechanics to see improvements. The FPS style combat now includes iron sight aiming and it’s a welcome addition. New weapons also make an appearance and can now be modified with different ammo types for damage or armor penetration. Of course V.A.T.S returns allowing you to pause time and target specific areas on enemies, taking into account all your stats before firing, and it still remains the preferred combat option. As with the previous games, you can recruit a variety of A.I companions to tag along with you on your journey. They’re great company and certainly prove valuable and effective in combat.
Fallout New Vegas is an excellent game with only a few nits to pick. The visuals are looking a little dated now and the occasional bug can completely ruin the immersion, such as characters heads rolling off their necks and enemies getting stuck in the environment, but there’s nothing major getting in the way of all the fun. On our playthrough I experienced only a handful of bugs and in no instant did it prevent me from continuing. The improvements are welcome and in some cases – charisma and speech skill – game changing, and it all comes together to create an exceptionally immersive experience. Prepare to lose yourself once again to the wasteland.
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