Video Game Review: Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Curious Village

(https://i.ytimg.com/vi/aLoLsguUlUo/maxresdefault.jpg)

(Nintendo DS, 2007)

After I completed every Ace Attorney game available to me (Only omitting Investigations 2 and Grand Turnabout, neither of which got an English version), I became intrigued at the idea of playing Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright to continue my path through the Ace Attorney series. The problem was that I had never played a Professor Layton game and I wanted to have some of the story of Professor Layton understood somewhat before I played the game. There was a problem that Professor Layton is a long series (seven games in total, not counting the aforementioned crossover), but I decided to give it a shot, starting things at the very beginning with Curious Village. I was even a little giddy about starting it, hoping that I’d find another series on the DS that I’d be able to obsess over. Now that I’ve finally completed it, it’s time for my verdict. Was Curious Village a mystery worth delving into, or was this an open and shut case?

First impressions are everything, and Professor Layton had a fairly good start with a well-animated opening cutscene akin to those seen in Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies. Professor Layton’s voice is calming but a little flat, and his protégé Luke seems the energetic type, but his voice is overly high pitched and somewhat annoying. You only hear their voices in the ten or so cutscenes or at the end of the puzzles, however, so they don’t grate too much. Once the cutscene was over I was disappointed to discover that Curious Village is ugly. Like I say, I’m not one to harp on the graphics of a game (especially a handheld game), but the problem here isn’t that the technology isn’t up to snuff, but that the style is simply awful. The characters look like… well, if you haven’t seen the film The Triplets of Belleville, go google image search that movie. Curious Village looks a lot like that movie, except that the characters tend to be fatter in Curious Village. While it’s certainly a stylized look, it never appealed to me and I think it just looks ugly. The backgrounds aren’t much better and tend to be this dull mud color that doesn’t make you want to explore the details of each scene like in the Ace Attorney games. The music is forgettable, and I tended to keep the game muted for most of the time I played as a result.

The controls are good enough, but still lacking in some aspects. This is a game that primarily uses the touch screen, so get that stylus pen ready. One of my biggest complaints is that moving between each screen is kind of clumsy. You have to tap a little foot icon in the bottom right of the screen, and then tap one of the arrows somewhere on the screen to go to the next location. Ace Attorney at least let you use a shoulder button to access the move menu, and then also let you use the face buttons to choose on that menu. Professor Layton is one of those games that are so in love with the touch screen that it ends up hurting the game’s accessibility.

Now for the game’s story… Professor Layton makes itself out to be something of a mystery story akin to a Sherlock Holmes story. It’s so dedicated to this idea that it actually has a menu dedicated to “Mysteries.” This does help you keep track of what the hell is going on, but it reeks of the developers pushing their theme a little too hard. On a whole, “bland” is the word I would use to describe the story. I never felt myself very interested in figuring out what the mysteries were and it didn’t help that they were basically impossible to figure out. The hints they give you are so vague that it seems like the game just wants you to marvel at how neat its plot twists are when they come. They’re not neat, they’re not clever, and they’re honestly really convoluted and stupid. What’s worse is that most of these mysteries don’t even have a good reveal. No joke, in the final act Layton just kind of explains to Luke what all happened. Unlike in Phoenix Wright, you as a player don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. You don’t put the pieces together yourself; you have them put together for you because it’s so badly written. What’s worse is that I really expected the puzzles to be well-integrated into the story. A puzzle to figure out which way a suspect went, a puzzle to eliminate suspects as a possibility, ect. In reality, here’s how they justify all these puzzles. The primary export of the village that you’re in (called St. Mystere, because that’s how subtle this game is. Yes I realize that I liked the puns in Ace Attorney, but there they’re at least funny) is puzzles. Yes, friggin’ puzzles. These people just like puzzles so much that they constantly think up new puzzles. That means that something like 95% of the puzzles in the game have nothing to do with the story and are simply justified in ways like “Hey, I won’t tell you what I know until you solve this puzzle” or “I won’t let you into this building until you’ve solved X puzzles.” The puzzles should be a natural part of the game and flow with the story. Here, it’s as jarring of a jump as the average Family Guy skit. It’s a huge missed opportunity, and just disgusts me because of how pleased with itself the game seems. It loves its puzzles and seems to believe that it has a perfectly good justification for them within the series when it reality it’s just a reskinned Brain Age game.

The characters? All forgettable. Layton and Luke barely have a scrap of personality between the two of them, there’s a very token villain who’s so cartoonishly evil that he actually has an evil moustache, and I don’t think there’s anyone else even worth mentioning. The characters really are that bad. It’s downright embarrassing.

Now for the puzzles. Let me start out very unambiguously by saying fuck these puzzles. This game has three types of puzzles: laughably easy puzzles, trick questions, and so frustratingly difficult that you’re in danger of throwing your DS through the nearest wall. I am not joking when I say that these puzzles try so hard and fail so much that it’s honestly rather spectacular. Let me give you an example. I’ll give you the wording of the puzzle exactly so you know how idiotic these puzzles can get:

“From high in the sky, a pair of aliens observes humans using a bizarre object. Perplexed, one alien turns to the other and says: “How strange. The Earthling is opening a hole in a sheet of paper and marking it with a line to show the other Earthlings where the hole is. I’ve never seen anything like it!” What could these extraterrestrial visitors be talking about?

Got that? Got a good answer? No? Of course you didn’t! Don’t worry though, I brought the completely useless clues to help you:

Hint 1: Even something as common as paper can look bizarre to someone who’s never seen it before. What kind of device puts holes in paper? It must have a needle or sharp point on it.

Hint 2: The object uses a needle to punch a hole in a sheet of paper. Then it’s used to draw a solid line around the hole. Since it draws a line, it must have some sort of writing implement attached to it.

Hint 3: It’s safe to say that very few people ever use these once they grow up and join the working world. However, because of math class, a startling number of students probably have one in their bag or their desk at home.

Maybe, MAYBE with that last hint you got it just because they gave you as much as they could without outright saying it. But let me give you the answer: a compass. You know the kind you use in Geometry Class? That stupid fucking thing? That was the answer. I cannot imagine that anyone got that with either getting to hint 3 or looking it up on the internet (almost certainly the latter). That is just one of many convoluted puzzles. On top of that, this game has some sort of fetish for sliding puzzles, which I absolutely hate. They’re slow, boring, and so easy to mess up that you’ll end up repeating them dozens of times before just giving up. On top of that, they just feel lazy and poorly imagined.

These puzzles can be given by villagers or found in the environment (with some of them being hidden so well that you’ll need a walkthrough to find them, such as being hidden on a random brick on a random background). You can also find “hint coins” in the environment. You can spend these hint tokens to unlock up to three hints per puzzle, but the usefulness of these hints varies widely. You’ll have some hints that will almost outright tell you the answer and others that are some variation of “keep trying!” I cannot tell you how much those mocking hints angered me. I’ve already given examples of these above, so you can tell how worthless they can be. The game also has a series of collectables, which include parts for a robot dog that will help to point out hidden coins and puzzles once complete, pieces to a painting which you need to assemble, and various pieces of furniture for Layton’s and Luke’s rooms at the Inn where they’re staying. The object in that minigame is to figure out which pieces goes to which room to make both of them the happiest. Each of those collectables will eventually unlock another series of advanced puzzles for the end of the game. Those puzzles include some really difficult ones, though I can’t tell how difficult because by then I was so sick of the game that I was just looking up the answers. Yes, I was actually avoiding the game’s main feature because it was such a pain in the ass and so utterly unenjoyable. Did the game have some good puzzles? Yes, occasionally I would experience the “Ah-HAH!” moment that makes puzzle games so enjoyable, but it was very rarely, and sandwiched between such long stretches of misery that I just can’t forgive the game.

I’m really struggling on a score here. I’ve always said to myself that I reserve my lowest score for a game that’s not only bad, but for one that really offends me, and I’m kind of almost there for this game. At the same time there was some giddiness at first as I hunted for puzzles and some of the puzzles were legitimately well designed, so I’m feeling somewhat charitable. Still, its few strong moments won’t make up for an ultimately flawed game.

I give Professor Layton and the Curious Village a 2 out of 5.

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Infighting: Fallout 3 vs. Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout-3-vs-new-vegas(http://thisgengaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Fallout-3-vs-new-vegas.png)

Inspired by the likes of Sequelitis, I’ve wanted to do a series about comparing games within their respective series, be they sequels, spin-offs, or just something similar that happens to get compared a lot. I’ll start this off with a video game one, but in the future I hope to do more of these to include other types of media.

With Fallout 4 now out among us mere mortals, I only thought it appropriate to take a look at the other modern Fallout games in detail. And, well, this series has a hell of a history. The first game was released in 1997 by Interplay and is now on many shortlists for the best game of all time. It crafted a unique take on the post-apocalyptic world and collected a cult-like following. To capitalize on this success, Interplay created a new studio called Black Isles Studios, which would go on to create Fallout 2 in 1998 and then many games for the Baulder’s Gate series. A few spin-offs were made by other teams (Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel and Fallout: Tactics) but they never garnered the same praise as the main title games and fans were hungry for more from Interplay. The team then went to work on Fallout 3: Van Buren which was to be released in 2003 before the tragic closure of the studio.

Shortly after, Bethesda Softworks would license the rights to create Fallout 3 from Interplay and began development on the game in 2004. The studio would later buy the rights to the full series and license the rights for an MMO of Fallout to Interplay (Though the team never started full development, a lawsuit ensued and Interplay ultimately lost the rights permanently). In 2008, Fallout 3 was released to universal praise as a glorious update and reimagining of the entire series, paying homage to the classic games while also defining itself as a new direction for the series overall. This game is so universally loved that it was actually featured in the Smithsonian Museum of Art in 2012! While Bethesda would scamper off to work on Skyrim and Fallout 4 in secret, fans craved something in the meantime. Bethesda refused to talk, and instead Obsidian Entertainment stepped up to the plate to release Fallout: New Vegas in 2010. Obsidian was made up of many members of Black Isle Studios, so there was a great deal of excitement to see what the team would bring to the plate by bringing the new style of Fallout back to the Western US roots of the first two games. While the game was released to critical praise, there remained murmurings of how it was the inferior of the two modern games. Complaints about various elements piled up until certain gaming circles began to regard New Vegas as a bad game. Were they right?

HELL NO. Anyone who doubts New Vegas’ quality is just kidding themselves. It’s a superb game that was clearly made with a great deal of love and care. However, I’ve gone on record in the past saying that I prefer Fallout 3, and decided to put that to the test. I’ve come up with seven elements with which I believe the two games differ enough to compare, and decided to see which comes up on top. You won’t see graphics or gameplay on this list because they either don’t matter to me (in the case of the former) or aren’t different enough to merit talking about (the latter). With that being said, let’s begin.

Music

While music is certainly important in games, it might be a little confusing that I see it as important enough to dedicate an entire category to. However, in Fallout the music is extremely important because of the Pip Boy’s radio. Wandering through the wastes while listening to the classic jams on your radio is a core part of the experience and what songs the team selected for your adventuring can say a lot about the game. In general, the songs range from the 50s to the early 60s and try to at least loosely follow the theme of the game in some way. Okay, yes, this is basically Galaxy News Radio versus Radio New Vegas, but not entirely. The DJs won’t be brought in until a little later…

Fallout 3’s radio includes the likes of “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” “Butcher Pete,” “Mighty, Mighty Man,” and “Civilization.” The soundtrack is clearly most focused on the idea of a destroyed civilization and rebuilding. Fallout: New Vegas has more love songs and more “civilized” songs with the likes of “Blue Moon,” “Mad About the Boy,” “Love Me as Though There Were No Tommorrow,” and “Heartaches by the Number.” On a whole, I really like both soundtracks and there’s not much to complain about. I like Fallout 3’s better overall, but New Vegas might have the best song with “Blue Moon.” Fallout 3 does have a bit of a sticking point with me because there’s a song that SHOULD be on GNR that isn’t. “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” was featured in the E3 2008 trailer for the game, but never in the game itself which was really annoying because I really liked that song.

The quality of the songs in general is a bit of a wash, so now we look at the “location specific” music. By that I mean the music put in Fallout 3 because of it being set in Washington DC and the music put in New Vegas because it takes place in the Mojave. The Mojave waste has quite a few western and cowboy-like songs which include “Big Iron,” “Johnny Guitar,” “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle,” and “Hangover Heart.” While I’m not normally much of a country fan, these songs were actually really good and fit the setting perfectly. I found myself preferring the repeating rifles and revolvers just to keep in character as much as possible. Fallout 3 on the other hand has a number of patriotic songs courtesy of Enclave Radio. “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Dixie Land,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle.” The songs DO fit the setting but… well, if you’re listening to Enclave Radio, you’re doing it wrong. Enclave Radio sucks. I don’t like beating on the patriotic songs but they honestly just aren’t very good. You’ll almost never find yourself listening to Enclave and for good reason. And for the reason the point goes to Fallout: New Vegas.

Plot

The story has always been one of the most important parts of any RPG for me and there’s no exception in the Fallout games. Both of these games take a pretty different turn as far as their main narrative goes, not the least of which that New Vegas doesn’t actually have you playing as a vault dweller. Every numbered Fallout game (Including the upcoming Fallout 4) has you play as a vault dweller, or at least someone who is descended from a vault dweller (In the case of Fallout 2). However, the spin-off games do not keep this consistency, though most people do count New Vegas as a main series game.

New Vegas is a story of revenge (Or of the most dedicated delivery boy, if you’re so inclined) and starts with your character being dug out of a shallow grave. You discover that you were a courier tasked with a delivering a strange platinum chip to the New Vegas strip until you were caught by a man named Benny who stole the chip and shot you in the head. You survived, however, and now you need to hunt Benny down, retrieve the chip, and then settle some unrelated dispute over Hoover Dam… what? Aside from the fact that I imagine very few people would think it would be a good idea to track down the person who shot you in the head lest history repeat itself, I just can’t find myself giving a crap about the Hoover Dam struggle. It’s mainly because I really don’t give a crap about any faction (Except maybe Mr. House). On that note, it’s nice that there’s an option to basically go at it yourself, but if the real goal here is freedom, shouldn’t I, some random Courier who already finished his job just be able to ignore the situation once my part was done? Yeah you can do that by simply never continuing the main story past that point, but it doesn’t change the fact that Hoover Dam becomes a very convoluted and bad climax.

Fallout 3 on the other hand has you play as a dweller from Vault 101, where “No one ever enters, and no one ever leaves.” The game begins as your life begins… literally as you’re born. The real game doesn’t actually begin for another 19 years, when your father escapes from the vault. The Overseer sends his men to apprehend you, and you manage to escape as well, being thrown out into the wastes with just one goal: find your father. This is the kind of driving force behind a game that makes you want to keep playing. While there’s a mystery in New Vegas, the one in Fallout 3 is much more personal, interesting, and has better reveals throughout. Even once the father plot is resolved and the game needs to give you a new motivation, it handles it quite well and I feel myself wanting to continue. There’s no doubt here, the point goes to Fallout 3.

World

The most important part of any open world is the world itself. If you don’t like the world, you won’t want to explore or play. Constructing an interesting, engaging world that’s fun to mess around in isn’t as easy as you might think, and both games have a unique take on this.

Fallout 3 takes a very war-torn vibe. Taking place in Washington D.C., which was a primary target for enemy warheads, there isn’t much left intact, which is why actual towns are rare and come in very unique flavors. Megaton is built in the crater made by an unexploded nuke, Rivet City was built on a beached aircraft carrier, Underworld is in a museum, and Tenpenny Tower is in a salvaged hotel at the edge of the wastes. Other than that, the only really settled places you’ll find are either tiny or defended by a huge amount of firepower (The Citadel, home of the Brotherhood of Steel, or Paradise Falls, the Slaver city). Finding these places and the awe of seeing how unique and interesting these locations are what makes them their own reward. Towns like these are rare in the wastes, however, as downtown DC is a warzone between the Brotherhood of Steel, the Enclave, and the Super Mutants. This really gives a sense of dread and loneliness wherever you go in the wastes… the perfect atmosphere for this game. If the world has a weakness, it’s that the game has a bad habit of directing you through way too many subway tunnels. Certain parts of the map are completely inaccessible without trapesing through another samey-looking subway station (Including most of downtown DC) and it just gets a little tiring with how many interesting locations this game has to have to be stuck in what is essentially a sewer level for so long.

New Vegas returns to the side of the country that was seen in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2. As the name implies, Las Vegas (Or New Vegas, as it is now known) is the main location in the game, though part of the map also exists in southern California. The game is largely contained in Mojave Desert, which certainly gives the game a barren and empty feeling… perhaps too empty. So much of the game is just walking down an empty road, which can be sort of calming, but also boring because, unsurprisingly, a desert is pretty lifeless. The main issue I hold with this game’s world, however, are the cities. New Vegas is far more settled and civilized compared to Fallout 3. The only big cities in Fallout 3 are the ones I mentioned above. The fact that humanity is basically clinging on for dear life makes the game more tense and makes scavenging all the more important when you have to take long treks out into the untamed wastes and make the game more engaging because of it. New Vegas, however, has tons of settled places. Primm, Goodsprings, Novac, Jacobstown, tons of NCR and Legion bases, various faction safehouses, and the huge safe area around New Vegas, which includes several slums which are each their own cities (Freeside and Westside). Of course there’s danger within each city, but those pale in comparison to the dangers of the wastes. On the upside, New Vegas gets to add a bunch of new and interesting locations with the casinos. The casinos are really fun places to adventure in (And a great source of income if you pump your Luck to 10) and require some strategy and finesse to fight in (Your weapons are taken from you when you enter major casinos, so getting your sneak up to be able to smuggle in bigger weapons is key). New Vegas does have some great locations (Including Vault 11, which is my personal favorite vault), but taken on a whole, the DC Wastes are where I prefer to adventure. The point goes to Fallout 3.

Characters (and Companions!)

No RPG is complete without its NPCs. These games have some of the most memorable characters in any game I’ve played, so picking a winner is going to be tough. Still, momma Loony didn’t raise no quitters, so let’s dive right in.

Fallout 3’s list of characters is really something to behold. Sarah Lyons, Moira Brown, Lucas Simms, Herbert Dashwood, Allistair Tenpenny, Mister Burke, and even Liam Neeson (Okay his in-game name is James but everyone just called him Liam Neeson). They’re all wonderfully interesting characters and it’s great to see that Bethesda increased the quality of their voice acting for this game (It was sub-par to terrible in Oblivion across the board with the exception of two characters). On top of that, we have one of the greatest DJs in history (real or fictional) with Three Dog. Three Dog is perhaps the most important character in the game with some of the most lines because he’s with you for most of your journey through Galaxy News Radio. He’s a wonderfully realized character and is masterfully played by Erik Todd Dellums and makes your travels through the wastes that much more enjoyable.

Meanwhile, New Vegas manages to have its own memorable cast. Robert House is an incredibly well done character, which is important since he’s basically the central figure of the game. He’s written well, he’s intimidating, he’s charismatic, and you legitimately believe that he put New Vegas together and has been running it for more than a century. The Legion’s characters are well done and the voice actors even do some authentic Latin pronunciations of words like Caesar (they pronounce it like Kaisar). The NCR has authentic military language and I believe all of the soldiers that I meet. The DJ we have here is Mr. New Vegas. He is enjoyable to listen to and charismatic, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Three Dog. Less of a knock on Mr. New Vegas and more a statement of how iconic and awesome Three Dog is. If this game has a weakness here, it’s that there are so many characters that many of them get forgotten, leaving the number of memorable characters somewhat lacking.

But before I come to a decision, I have to give some love to arguably the most important characters, the companions. New Vegas completely revamped the companion system and not only made the mechanics more useful and more easily accessible, but also giving them more character. The primary companions are Craig Boone (Ex-NCR Sniper), Veronica Santangelo (A Brotherhood of Steel Scribe), Sharon “Cass” Cassidy (A caravan driver), Arcade Gannon (A doctor with the Followers of the Apocalypse and secretly a member of the remnants of the Enclave), Lily Bowen (An insane Super Mutant Nightkin), and Raul Tejada (A ghoul mechanic). You also have two secondary companions with ED-E (A refitted Enclave Eyeboy) and Rex (A cyborg dog). I cannot begin to describe how well done these characters are. I legitimately have trouble deciding who I want to bring with me on my adventures because they’re all so good. Each one has a past to uncover and a quest associated with it, and they’re all funny and just a blast to have with you on your adventures.

Now, Fallout 3… I really wish these guys hadn’t been throwaways. Ugh, I’m really showing my hand here, but the companions you have are Fawkes (A friendly Super Mutant), Star Paladin Cross (A member of the Brotherhood of Steel), Sergeant RL-3 (A military Mister Gusty), Butch DeLoria (A former resident of Vault 101 and leader of The Tunnel Snakes), Jericho (A mercenary), Clover (A slave), Charon (A ghoul bodyguard), and Dogmeat (The classic Fallout dog companion). If those sounded much simpler and less interesting than the descriptions from the New Vegas section, that’s because they are. The companions in Fallout 3 have very little personality, barely have associated quests, very little backstory or dialogue to explore, and in general aren’t fun to adventure with. Worst of all, a lot of them will only join you if your Karma is at a specific level which greatly limits who you can take with you. There are some faction restrictions in New Vegas, but in general it isn’t difficult to get all of the companions to join your side. In Fallout 3 you’ll just end up bringing Charon and Dogmeat because those are the two easiest to get.

So, where does that leave us? Fallout 3 has the better regular NPCs, but New Vegas has the better companions which means… what? Well, Fallout 3 only slightly hedged out New Vegas’ NPCs, and New Vegas blew Fallout 3’s companions out of the water, so I have to give this point to New Vegas.

DLC

I debated on if I’d actually include DLC, but considering how big Fallout DLC is and how much value they usually give, I figured that they deserved its fair shake. For the record, I’m not going to be discussing the item packs like the Gun Runner’s Arsenal, just the adventure expansions. I’ll be comparing similar DLC between the games so as to make it a little easier on myself to decide a winner in this tangled mess. Because Fallout 3 has 5 expansions and New Vegas had 4, I’ll be excluding Fallout 3’s Operation Anchorage. You’re welcome Fallout 3 (AKA it sucks).

The Pitt vs. Dead Money

There comes a point in every RPG where you should have all your gear stripped away from you so that you’re force to make do with whatever you can scrounge together. I love these types of moments in games and that’s what is put on display here. The Pitt takes you to the remains of Pittsburg where slavers have taken over, forcing the population to work in a toxic, dangerous environment filled with horrible, mutated creatures. You enter to help the slaves, going undercover and having your gear stripped away so that you can overthrow the slavers. Meanwhile, Dead Money has an elder from the Brotherhood of Steel kidnap you and several other individuals to attempt to break into the Sierra Madre, a legendary casino that has remained sealed since before the Great War.

The Pitt really does everything to look the part. Pittsburg is on its last legs, and even just crossing the bridge to enter the city you can see how torn apart this city is. The slaves are depressed and live in disgusting conditions, and the slavers are assholes… though I would expect them to be a little crueler than they actually are (though there is a reason for that). The characters aren’t particularly strong but there’s a lot of cool equipment, including the auto axe which is a spinning axe blade which causes exactly as much damage as you just imagined. One thing that hurts it greatly in my mind is that it sort of chickens out on the whole “strip the player of their gear” thing. As you enter the first hostile area in the game, you will find not two steps in front of you a an assault rifle with three magazines. I mean… really? What was the point of me even smuggling a pea-shooter in if you were just going to give me this right off the bat? On top of that, you get your actual gear back so quickly that it’s almost laughable. Still, the Steel Yard is a really cool location, the story is fairly strong, and there is a lot going for this DLC.

Dead Money is much stricter on forcing you to scavenge for what you can. You wake up with a battered energy rifle that only has about thirty shots in it, and the rest of your gear is gone and won’t be back until after you finish the whole DLC. Having to make do with what you can find is essential, and you’ll especially need to be on the lookout for special codes which will allow you to buy additional gear from the vending machines scattered through the area. Crafting is critical, as is making use of your companions. On that note, the companions (Dean Domino, Dog/God, and Christine Royce) are all really well done. Some of them have ties to characters in the main game, to Fallout lore, and in general they’re just a blast. There are certainly some annoyances in the DLC. The map can be confusing, the bomb collar you’re forced into and the proximity traps that cause them to explore are particularly annoying, and the hologram enemies are frustrating to deal with. Despite this, Dead Money wins because it has the balls to keep your gear away from you for the whole adventure.

Point Lookout vs. Honest Hearts

I’ll be honest, these two don’t have a ton in common and they were just the leftovers once I had matched the others together. However, they are a little bit similar, since they’re the DLCs that basically add a new, smaller sandbox to the game.

Point Lookout takes you to… well, the Point Lookout state park in Maryland. You go there to uncover the mysteries there and find a strange cult that cuts out part of the brain of their members, mutated hillbillies, and all manner of creatures that go bump in the night. This is very much supposed to be more of a horror-style DLC, and it manages to come up with some legitimately creepy moments. Though the style didn’t quite fit for me, I can’t doubt that the world is strong, plenty of new weapons and enemies litter the land, and you legitimately want to see what’s going on in this area. The characters are a little weak, but the DLC ultimately works and managed to generally scare me at times.

Honest Hearts takes place at Zion National Park in Utah and sends you in with a trade caravan which is slaughtered, leaving you alone as the various tribes in the park battle for control around you. The tribes are really creative modern versions of Native American tribes (One of your companions is called Follows Chalk because of the chalk marks they use to mark their way around the canyon, which seems like a natural progression for something like this) and include a bloodthirsty tribe looking to hunt you and the other tribes down. Along the way, you’ll also meet The Burned Man, former Legate of Caesar’s Legion before Caesar burned him alive for his defeat at Hoover Dam. While this is all find and good, I didn’t really feel much for the world itself. It didn’t call out to me and I didn’t really want to explore the world it made for me; a cardinal sin of an open-world game. With that being said, the point goes to Point Lookout.

Broken Steel vs. Lonesome Road

At this point I should mention that all of the New Vegas DLC raises your level cap by 5, but Broken Steel is the only Fallout 3 DLC that raises your level cap (From 20 to 30). This automatically gives New Vegas DLC a little more value, though considering that Fallout 3’s levels are more game changing than New Vegas’s, it kind of balances out.

Anyways, Broken Steel and Lonesome Road are both kind of the “Campaign Extender” DLCs, but in a different way. Vanilla Fallout 3 and New Vegas both end once you complete the final mission (Which, in my opinion, sucks), but Broken Steel allows you to keep playing after the final mission. It gives you additional missions and content taking place after the final mission, which includes new side-quests and new story missions as you hunt down the remains of the Enclave. New Vegas still ends with the final quest, but Lonesome Road is the most challenging of all the DLC, having The Courier trek across The Divide, a dangerous area of Mojave that was ripped apart by earthquakes and wind storms. It’s covered in radiation, deathclaws, and all manner of things that want you dead, and at the end stands Courier Six… the man who was originally to carry the Platinum Chip before he dropped the job on you. I will say that “Lonesome Road” is a bit of a misnomer. Just like all the DLC, you can’t bring any of your companions with you, but you actually do get a companion with you for most of the journey: a modified version of ED-E. It’s a little baffling that they chose to do it, since it goes against the very concept of the DLC, but it is a small companion that can’t speak to you, and it does have some interesting story behind it, so it ends up being a positive addition, if somewhat confusing.

I remember being very excited for Broken Steel but ultimately being kind of disappointed. The main quest doesn’t really have a main anatagonist and it just kind of staggers around until the final act (which is admittedly pretty cool). The side-quests it adds are fun, but there aren’t very many of them, which seems like a wasted opportunity. If the developers had changed more than just a few select locations in the time skip between the final mission of the main quest and the beginning of Broken Steel, it would have allowed it to be much deeper than it actually was. Lonesome Road, on the other hand, is on full display from start to finish. It’s tense, exciting, and genuinely makes you giddy to get to the end and discover the truth about Courier Six. Admittedly the ending doesn’t quite live up to the hype, but the journey is more important than the destination, and it’s why Lonesome Road takes the point.

Mothership Zeta vs. Old World Blues

Now it’s the battle of the Sci-Fi DLCs. Mothership Zeta is the only DLC to take you into space as you’re abducted by an alien mothership north of DC and are forced to cobble together an offensive with the people you meet on the ship, defeat the aliens, and make your way home. Meanwhile, Old World Blues has The Courier get kidnapped by a group of scientists (Kept alive since before the Great War by putting their brains into robots Dr. Gero style) and taken to a science research base called Big Mountain where his heart, brain, and spin removed and replaced with cybernetics. Now, you’re being forced to help the brains in their battle against the nefarious Dr. Mobius.

Full disclosure, I hadn’t played Mothership Zeta until just a few weeks ago. It was the only Fallout DLC I hadn’t played and I just never got around to playing it. I also hadn’t heard great things about it, but to be as fair as possible I knew I had to throw Bethesda my money and fly to spaaaaaaaaaaace! And then I immediately regretting going to space because it was booooooooooooring. There are only a handful of new enemy types and weapons in the DLC, there are only three quests, the ship is pretty small and doesn’t allow for much exploration off the beaten path, and it just feels like a chore to go through. The aliens get really boring to fight really quickly (And since I had to dust off one of my level 30 characters to play this, I was dismayed to find out that some of them had a ridiculous amount of health) and the spaceship was a really uninteresting environment to fight on. The only saving grace was a few interesting characters that I defrosted. The aliens had been abducting people since before the Great War and then freezing them in cryo pods, so your allies included a little girl from before the bombs dropped, a samurai from feudal Japan (Who you can’t understand a word of), a cowboy, and a medic straight from the front lines of Anchorage. Unfortunately, these characters are very shallow with very little story behind them or a chance to get to know them.

Now, if I hadn’t already made it painfully obvious which of these DLC I’m going to pick, Old World Blues might be my favorite of all the Fallout DLC. Big Mountain is a fun-filled sci-fi romp filled with interesting enemies (Robot Scorpions? Hell yes!), interesting weapons (A gun with a dog’s brain plugged into it? I don’t quite understand why but HELL YES!), and so many funny and interesting characters that I can’t even begin to do it justice in what time I have. Every single appliance in your home base talks, and they’re all just so well-written that you have to love every single one of them. The brains are hilarious and fun to talk to, and Doctor Mobius (The main villain) is constantly mocking you and keeps a looming threat constantly overhead. You even get to have a chat with your brain at one point! The story has a decent twist and it’s one of those DLCs that just keeps giving and giving with the content. Without a doubt, Old World Blues wins.

Looking back, I really gave Fallout 3’s DLC way too much credit in the past. While on a whole it was good, it had a lot of weak spots that, after playing New Vegas’ deeper content shocks me more than anything. With that being said, New Vegas takes the point here.

Quests

No RPG is complete without its quests, and both of these games handle their quests very differently. Fallout: New Vegas is absolutely littered with side-quests. They range from as big as delving into an abandoned vault to recover data and rescue a missing researcher to as small as repairing a radio at a bar. New Vegas is all about giving you new objectives to complete and while it can be overwhelming at times, it’s nice to always have some sort of sense of direction. You’re practically tripping over quests everywhere you go and they encourage you to go to every corner of the world.

Fallout 3, on the other hand, has a much more measured approach to quests. Other than the main quest, there are only a handful of side quests that your PipBoy actually registers. Aside from that there are a number of unmarked quests, but even considering that the number of the quests can be lacking, it’s impressive the amount of detail and thrill can come from some of these side-quests. Riley’s Rangers especially is almost like a short action movie battle through a hospital, hotel, and finally a rescue of this mercenary unit. It’s clear that Fallout 3 chooses quality over quantity.

Unfortunately, with so many quests in New Vegas, some of them simply suck. They’re either really short, completely pointless, or both. One mission is given to you by a chef in an NCR base. His oven is busted and he needs parts to fix it because he’s stuck making gruel without it. I brought him the requested items (accounting for an annoying glitch which required me to get an extra component than the chef hadn’t mentioned) and was rewarded with… wait for it… NOTHING. Actually nothing. Now, I don’t expect every NPC to shower me with loot for every little thing they do for me… that’s fine. But the guy didn’t give me a meal on the house and he didn’t discount stuff in his shop. Hell, his shop didn’t even get any extra stuff courtesy of being able to make better food. Okay… well how about some reputation with NCR? I’m sure the cook would put in a good word for me, and the troops surely appreciate having a higher quality of food, right? Nope, no reputation. FINE, well at least give me my experience points for completing a quest! …There are no XPs for this mission, are there? What the hell was the point of this mission? Was it to waste my time? Well, mission accomplished.

I don’t want to beat up on New Vegas too hard because it really does have some fantastic quests, but they’re just too inconsistent. As it turns out, quality beats out quantity and this point goes to Fallout 3.

RPG Elements/Combat

Let me say right away that New Vegas does have something of an advantage since it got to look at what Fallout 3 did and work to improve on it, but we all know how common it is for developers to try to fix something that isn’t broken, so it’s time to see how these teams brought these elements together.

Fallout 3 has actually become something of a baseline for RPGs now. Perks are huge and then number of games that they appear in is really staggering because picking a perk just feels good. On the other hand, some perks are basically useless and by the time you get to the end of the game you become so friggin’ overpowered that the game needs to generate bullet sponges just to give you any kind of challenge. New Vegas managed to refine this system by only giving you a perk every other level. This does give leveling up a little less of an impact, but it allows the game to balance its challenges much more easily. There are more perks too, and some of the perks have been reworked to be more useful, and others were simply nerfed (Looking at you Grim Reaper’s Sprint).

Fallout 3 had a crafting system, but it was somewhat token. You could collect materials and blueprints to create seven different weapons which range from creative and awesome to cute but useless. It results in some really iconic weapons like the Railway Rifle and the Rock-It Launcher, but it always felt like the crafting system was just kind of there. New Vegas made an effort to make a newer, deeper system. You’re able to craft ammo, weapons, armor, meds, food, and all manner of stuff depending on your skill in Survival, Medicine, Repair, ect. However, a lot of this doesn’t end up being used at all. The weapons and armor you find are usually better than what you can make, you find plenty of sufficient ammo, and the same goes for meds. You don’t need food (Even in Hardcore mode food is barely important, more on that in a minute), and most of what you can craft doesn’t end up even being noticed. There are a few expectations but it feels like a system they put a lot of time into but never balanced the game around. Really, crafting doesn’t feel necessary in either game.

Now for things that New Vegas added. Lots of new kind of weapons and armor of course, though I won’t hit Fallout 3 for that because it did fine with the gear it had available. New Vegas added Hardcore mode, which made changes like requiring you to eat, sleep, and drink to avoid negative effects/dying, giving ammo weight, and making healing more difficult. On a whole, however, I didn’t find myself having more difficulty. It’s easy to keep enough food and water on your person to keep yourself healthy and even without a supply you can last a long time without too many negative effects. I could always carry plenty of ammo, especially once I cleaned out my inventory a little, and while healing could be a bit of a pain, I still had little difficulty from start to finish. It was a neat idea, but they never went all-out with it. The JSawyer mod for the PC version makes the game much more realistic and makes so much more radical and difficult changes, but console owners won’t be able to try it, so it won’t help New Vegas much. New Vegas also made a lot of little changes that actually went a long way. Giving more dialogue options that you can take depending on how high your various skills are and removing the % chance from speech check and instead just give a minimum skill requirement. On top of that, adding skill magazines and making skill books rarer and more powerful made the thrill of hunting them all the more fun and incentivizing. Otherwise changing the value of caps can seem to lower their value, but does encourage you to scavenge more and utilize the casinos as a source of income (And you don’t even have to spend all day gambling. With a high enough Luck you win a vast majority of your Blackjack games). Adding reputation to compliment Karma and disguises on top of that, New Vegas has made the Fallout experience deeper than ever.

The real question to ask when deciding this point is this: did New Vegas’ changes make the game deeper and more enjoyable? And the answer to that is an enthusiastic yes. And with that, the point goes to New Vegas.

Conclusion

And with that, we leave the score at 4-3 in favor of New Vegas. When I realized that the split went in that direction, I was honestly shocked. I’ve always said I preferred Fallout 3 to New Vegas, and yet my direct comparison of the two says that New Vegas is the winner? How is that? Well, I’ve always valued Fallout 3’s world above anything that New Vegas did. New Vegas improved in nearly every area, but you can’t beat the DC wastes, and listening to Three Dog encourage you through your fights just gives me such a sense of nostalgia that I don’t think I’ll ever personally value New Vegas above Fallout 3. However, from an objective perspective, the numbers don’t lie. The winner of this edition of Infighting is…

New Vegas

(http://cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/steam/apps/22380/header.jpg?t=1379375668)

About Me

I’m a loud asshole.

If that’s too little to go on, my name is Jack Futty and I’m an English major at Ohio State University. You may notice I left the “The” off. That’s because even I’m not as big of a stubborn asshole as OSU.
I wrote for a small online newsletter called “The Supercheats Newsletter” on Supercheats.com under the name imaloony8.0 for a few years, writing reviews and such for them. Then I bugged people on Facebook with my opinion and then I started this blog knowing full well that no one will probably read it.

I’ve been a gamer ever since I played Pokemon Red when I was a kid, I’ve been into Anime since I first watched Dragon Ball Z, and movies have just been in my blood. Trust me when I say that I am a nerd and I know what I’m talking about.