By – George Weidman
Fallout: New Vegas is like interactive comfort food. I’ve been sampling from it again and again over a full year and it’s just as good each time. As an overwhelmingly long-lasting game that embraces player-driven gameplay and complexity, it comfortably resembles the FPS/RPG hybrids I grew up on and loved. Mmm, tastes like nostalgia. However, it can’t be perfect.
After a full year’s worth of patches and mods, Obsidian’s 200-hour epic manages to more effectively entertain now than it ever has before, with significant thanks to the consistently high-quality DLC chapters. Dead Money capably took the gameplay to a more “survival horror”kind of place. Honest Hearts toured the tribal cultures of the lush countryside outside Vegas. Old World Blues featured some truly funny writing and took an interesting peek at pre-apocalyptic Fallout. What Lonesome Road sets out to do is finalize the congruent storyline that previous three DLCs hinted at, as well as explain some actual backstory behind this courier we’ve been piloting for the past year. Unfortunately while Lonesome Road does all this, it fails to do it well. Thing is, Fallout is the “Twilight Zone” of gaming. It’s a delivery vehicle for mostly cheesy, but sometimes brilliant, short stories flavored with Cold War paranoia and underlying absurdism. All the previous DLCs fit the theme: they were poignant, funny, and interesting in a way that Lonesome Road isn’t. Lonesome Road is just dull.
The dull setting punctuates the dull characters. “The Divide,” the region that this extra chapter takes place in, is a wind-swept canyon pock-marked with small towns and barraged by constant wind storms. By Fallout standards, it’s actually pretty tame setting. In-game, it uses the same recycled wasteland textures and models seen from Fallout 3. A brown color scheme wipes away any semblance of artistic bravery, and though the last quarter sees you running through a gauntlet of toppled skyscrapers that might look new and interesting, it’s all covered underneath the same dull brown filter. I suggest you look for a lighting mod if you want to make Lonesome Road easier on the eyes.
In Lonesome Road, there’s only way to go: forward. There’s only one quest: the main one. Barely any secondary objectives are introduced and any explorable secondary locations are just side-shows for the main event. A handful of new weapons and perks are present as well as one new monster: the overpowered and respawning Tunnelers. They’re pretty beastly, and are better evaded than confronted. That’s all well and good, but the mere existence of this new content doesn’t outweigh the dullness of the rest of the package.
Only one new character is introduced: Ulysses, aka Courier 6. Though he’s written out in dialogue as a generic and dull evil mastermind, he’s actually got a fairly extensive backstory according to the collectable tapes and notes you might miss. All his dialogue is written in a style that is so thick with symbolism and metaphors that it could almost be misinterpreted as poetry, if it wasn’t completely lacking elegance. His lines are too cryptic to explain anything clearly and it’s extremely hard to follow what’s going on in the plot without a trip to the Fallout wiki.
I usually would advise multiple playthroughs to slice through thick convoluted plots like these, but Lonesome Road doesn’t have one. It’s just presented poorly. More backstory is revealed about ED-E, your robotic companion from vanilla New Vegas, than anything else. Though an ancillary sub-plot behind our courier is revealed, it’s not relevant towards anything that happened in the regular game. There is one kicker, though: the ending presents options that significantly change the status of the vanilla Vegas factions outside the Divide. Lonesome Road may be worth the trip if you want to reverse your character’s standing with Caesar or the NCR.
Is it Worth your Money?
Lonesome Road lasted this reviewer about six hours and most of it was a chore to play through. With that being said, it’s not quite worth the $10. But you know what is? The other DLCs. The pervading dullness of Lonesome Road is made only more obvious when compared to the life and energy that is found in Obsidian’s other DLC chapters. However, it’s not all bad. It had some good moments—most of which involved some truly desperate, white-knuckle combat against the high-level Tunnelers and Deathclaws. But for the most part, Lonesome Road’s evident dullness does more to red-flag it as the weakest link in New Vegas’ DLC chain than showcase it as a worthy purchase. One last word of advice: Lonesome Road is intended for players leveled 25 or higher.
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