Jul 21, 2011

Review: Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hearts DLC

Wear Sunscreen!

Scanning frequencies on his radio, the courier suddenly picks up an unfamiliar signal on his Pip-Boy, which turns out to be a contract offer as caravan escort on a mission from the Mojave into Utah, to establish trade with a friendly tribe.  Surely enough as the Courier is used to unforeseen hindrances, shortly upon arrival, things go terribly wrong. The escort mission quickly turns into sandbox adventure of its own in a habitat quite different than what our courier is accustomed to.

And with that its time to welcome adventurers and curious souls to Fallout: New Vegas - Honest Hearts. I will try not to spoil too much besides what we were teased with in the trailers.

Starting off, the courier gets to meet the Burning Man aka Joshua Graham, aka former second in command supervillain of Caesar's Legion. While I'm sure some lorebuffs would already be sold at this point, there's a bit more to this expedition. The primary mission of the courier gone terribly wrong, he is instead forced into dealing with a conflict between foreign tribes of the Utah natives, just to be able to make his way home.

This all said, its time for my own thoughts on the DLC:

First off, Honest Hearts has a much more open mission structure than that of Dead Money. While not comparable in size to the New Vegas area, Honest Hearts still offers a much more exploration friendly experience. The Utah world, while fairly small, is also a completely different experience to explore which is a very welcome addition to players who have gone through the original story in New Vegas a couple times. Instead of endless desert wasteland, the player is instead introduced to the big canyons including its tourist traps and other features.

Scenic view from Honest Hearts

As mentioned, the mission structure is also a bit more open and while there is still an overlying objective from the beginning, the Courier is welcome to make any number of detours along the way.  I personally found the exploration and discoveries very satisfying, and while I won't spoil anything further I suspect any Fallout lore buff will enjoy all the little discoveries there are to be made immensely.

While there are dozens of locations to discover and pillage, I still found this DLC fairly short, made even more clear after I just finished another run through both Dead Money and Honest Hearts. Having been through them both before, this time I focused only on completing any quests and significant rewards, and just getting through the whole thing. I spent about 4 hours on Dead Money, while Honest Hearts was finished in just under 2 hours. While I appreciate the open enviroment of Honest Hearts, I am still a bit disappointed in the low amount of missions and gameplay time it offers. I felt the same way after my first play through it, and it actually took me several months to consider heading back to Honest Hearts after I had been through it once. For me, that is a long time, I am a total New Vegas junkie and find myself starting new characters and trying out new mods on a weekly basis.

From a gameplay perspective, I have to say I enjoy Honest Hearts over Dead Money or even the original game. In that regard the DLC impresses, and there are of course the advantages of another 5 levels added to your level cap, but also some new perks and quite a few more crafting options. The focus on crafting in particular appealed to me, and feels like it picked up on a few things that should have been in from the Vanilla release already. Of course, there are mods which expand on such already, but I feel I can't weigh that into my opinion of a DLC as I feel it should be weighed against the developer releases.

So, the crafting is expanded a bit, but so is the combat. There are a multitude of enemies of different types. There's tribals, new types of mutated insects, the return of a feared adversary in Fallout 3, and some other goodies. To make that whole experience complete are of course a slew of new weapons, mostly focused on Guns, Melee and Unarmed weapon types this time around. However, the combat doesn't usually challenge the Courier a lot. This will of course vary depending on your character's specialization. On my last play through I had a level 22 Courier with Speech, Science, Repair and Guns maxed, and Energy Weapons, Melee and Unarmed at 25. Playing on Very Hard and mostly rushing through the content I can't say I felt much resistance from my foes. I suspect the "And Stay Back" perk contributed a lot to my success though, talk about overpowered perks.. :)

Firefighters Utah Dpt. post-nuclear war

In conclusion, I think that the Honest Hearts DLC does a decent job at expanding the original game. It should have had a few more mandatory missions I feel, but then again exploring can be its own reward, and is this time around. This DLC is also much more open than Dead Money which is very welcome, not to mention the lack of lame gameplay gimmicks which annoyed me to no end in Dead Money, and still do. So, as a DLC I would have to say Honest Hearts is a better experience than Dead Money. It's worth picking up, even if you, as I, wasn't blown away by the first DLC. I do wish it was a bit longer though.

+Lots of exploration to do
+Lore fills in some blanks in New Vegas story
+- More varied combat than Dead Money, but poorly balanced (Too easy!)
-Low replay value

For number lovers, I'd give Fallout: New Vegas - Honest Hearts a strong 6 out of 10, which is more than I would give in my Dead Money review here, except I didn't give it points.

No comments: