Man, Dead Money, the first DLC add-on for Fallout: New Vegas, had the potential to be great, to sit somewhere between Fallout 3’s Broken Steel and Point Lookout in terms of quality and content for the right price point. Alas, it does not get to sit on such a pedestal, but rather in a dark, desolate corner where it will wait to be slowly poisoned to death by an unforgiving toxic cloud.
My first go at exploring the canorous Sierra Madre and its nefarious surroundings did not go well. The DLC is tough, like end-assault-on-the-dam tough, and seems to slant more towards stealthy players that use melee and unarmed weapons, as well as having a high survival skill. Alas, my initial playthrough character relied too much on guns and stimpacks to make it very far. I quit out to an old save before even leaving the Villa, which is where roughly half of the DLC takes place. I would not experience the second half for awhile, waiting until my second playthrough character was high enough in skills and levels to tackle Father Elijah’s cruel maze once again. Having already played this part made it much easier to progress through, and there were new surprises here. The only thing I did differently was let Dog out of his cage, keeping the voice locked away inside; he ate a lot of Ghost People, except for that one time when he glitched across the screen and ate a trash can instead. Sigh.
Once inside the actual Sierra Madre casino, the Courier needs to locate the three companions used to help get inside and…deal with them. You may interpret that any way you want. To spoil, I ended up murdering Dog/God and Dean, but kept Christine alive. Zelda probably felt some kind of connection with her, I guess. Only after you’ve dealt with them can you sneak beneath the casino to find Father Elijah’s vault and the secrets its holds. And sadly, it’s nothing too exciting.
Each of Fallout 3’s DLC gave the player something to look forward to. Operation Anchorage strayed too far from the path of familiar gameplay, but rewarded the player greatly at the end with some unique weapons and armor; The Pitt plays home to some cool melee weapons like the auto-ax; Broken Steel introduced a new level cap, harder Super Mutant enemies, and removed the game’s ending; Point Lookout gave players a huge new place to explore; and Mothership Zeta, despite its linearity, showcased some fine alien tech. You will most likely leave Dead Money for the Mojave Wasteland empty-handed. There’s no amazingly unique weapons or gear to be found here, and much of the secrets inside Father Elijah’s vault is moot, weighing too much to be properly carried out. A dang shame. Seems like the greatest thing Dead Money gives players is a new level cap of 35, and they don’t even need to visit the Sierra Madre to get it.
Dead Money is not fun to play. Yup, it’s true. There is always something to stress over: broken limbs, lack of food, poison toxic cloud, Ghost People, setting off traps, crazy deadly holograms, radios and speakers setting off your explosive collar. It’s a hefty list, and I’m sure one Obsidian guy was like, “Hey, do you think we could throw in some Deathclaws, too?” I felt immense relief upon returning to Arizona’s colorful sky, and stood still outside for some time, taking it in, and not just because I had to wait for the game to recount, one by frakking one, every single thing it was adding back into my inventory. I couldn’t fast travel to Gun Runners because I was overweight, but the walk there did a lot of good for Zelda, and the air had never tasted sweeter.
Oh, and I saved and then reloaded to get both of these Achievements at the end because I truly never want to go back to Dead Money:
Cash Out (30G): Confronted Father Elijah in the Sierra Madre’s Vault
Safety Deposit Box (40G): Trapped Father Elijah in the Sierra Madre’s Vault
The Courier, signing off!