Given the relative mediocrity of previous Fallout: New Vegas expansions, Honest Hearts and Dead Money, one could be forgiven for gazing with a jaundiced eye upon yet another seemingly cynical attempt by developer Bethesda to eke out ten more dollars from the series’ fanbase. But don’t let predilections prejudice you: Old World Blues is an exceedingly well written, at times hilariously funny, and generally challenging (in a good way) expansion pack. While it doesn’t alter any fundamental gameplay concepts, it does much more of what Fallout: New Vegas did best: funny dialogue, interesting characters and settings, and plenty of cool items, perks, monsters, and, of course, drugs.
Set at the semi-fictional “Big Mountain” in the middle of the Mojave Desert, OWB starts the player off as something of a guinea pig in a pre-war science facility called the Think Tank. Here, the scientists have effectively turned themselves into undying robots and need you to help them get a few machines back online, clear out some mutated creatures (and you’ll finally learn how some of these mutated creatures came to exist), and do a variety of various odd jobs for them. In return, they’ll forcibly turn you into a cyborg. Yeah, it’s like that.
To be sure, OWB still suffers from some of the stutters, control missteps, and generally old-looking engine that all other New Vegas titles have had to deal with, but if you’re a fan of the series in spite of these, you’re not going to have any problem with how OWB looks or feels. As always, the voice acting, level design, and especially characters and dialogue, are simply top-drawer. Several characters, many of them varieties of intelligent kitchen appliances, steal the show, including “Toaster,” a psychopathic, megalomaniacal toaster reminiscent of Monkey Island’s Murray the talking skull, and “Blind Diode Jefferson,” a self-aware jukebox with a penchant for rambling, pointless (if hilarious) tales of woe.
Like any good story, it’s the characters that make OWB a fun place to play around in, and these are better-written characters than any previous Bethesda Fallout, which are perfectly integrated into the Fallout ethos. It’s like the writers at Obsidian made a careful study of all the Fallout minutia and built a believable set of quests and plot points around characters that were derived from that study. If you love the world of Fallout and would like to get more detail on the backstory and mechanics, you’ll love OWB. But even if you’re a casual fan of the series, or just someone looking for a quality RPG experience in general, you won’t be disappointed. This is one DLC pack that does everything right – hell, it’s even got the challenge level and the number of hours it’ll take to beat it (about 8) down perfectly. Money well spent.
Aug 8, 2011