Dead Money is the first DownLoadable Content (DLC) available for Fallout: New Vegas (FNV). It comes after the second patch has been released, supposedly fixing hundreds of bugs. I suspect I’ll write about that patch another time, but for now, Dead Money is keeping me amused.
Dead Money uses your same character from FNV, but in an entirely new location and story. The game recommends that you be at least level 20 before you attempt Dead Money, and notes that you’re unable to return to the Mojave Desert until you complete the main storyline.
The story begins as you find a new radio signal advertising the Sierra Madre Casino and are lead to an old Brotherhood of Steel bunker. Here you’re knocked unconscious by some kind of gas, and wake up near a fountain in the Villa outside the Sierra Madre itself – minus all your equipment. Any companions you had with you apparently give up looking for you and head back to their respective homes.
You’re quickly introduced to Father Elijah, talking to you through a hologram, who also introduces you to your new bling: an explosive collar around your neck. It seems he’s been trying to get into the Casino for a while. The Great War started before the place opened, and it’s now locked down tightly. Elijah has worked out how to open it, and he needs your help, combined with the help of a few others he’s … recruited. You all have similar collars, and all are linked so that if one dies, the others go with them. Apparently previous “teams” spent more time backstabbing than doing what Elijah wanted.
Your first task in this ‘heist’ is to gather your team. This introduces you to the Villa, and its inhabitants: the ghosts. These appear to be ex-humans in some kind of environment suits. They’re fast, unpredictable, and a bit of a pain to kill – even once you work out the ‘tricks’. If you don’t blow them up, or dismember them, all you do is knock them out for a bit – then they get up and keep coming after you.
There’s not much in the villa that doesn’t try to kill you. In addition to the ghosts, there are traps almost everywhere, set by previous fortune hunters – or previous puppets of Elijah. Also, the signal to your collar is subject to interference by the various radios and speakers around the Villa. Stay too long near a live speaker and the collar goes boom.
The other major problem is a poisonous red cloud that hangs around most of the villa. It doesn’t worry the ghosts; in fact it’s hinted that it may have turned them into what they are. The cloud also serves two other purposes. Firstly it makes the whole more claustrophobic, though really, the Villa does that well as it has tight streets that wind and twist, with very few straight stretches. Secondly, as you progress the cloud can be cleared out of one section, only to fill in another, almost serving as a moving wall maze.
Once you’ve assembled your team, you then have to get them all in place to trigger the ‘Gala opening’, which the actual security systems of the Casino are keyed to. That will allow you to get into the Casino itself. Which is about where I am right now.
The new location has a very different feel to the Mojave Desert and New Vegas, and I think that was a good move by the designers. On the other hand, the whole Villa is very much a “maze of twisty passages – all alike.” Even without the red cloud restricting your view, one part of the Villa looks very much like another part. Other than a few special areas, the scenery doesn’t reward exploration. Perhaps to make up for this there are a few things around to reward you. Firstly, one of your companions, Dean, has left caches of supplies around the place. There are 15 of these to find. Secondly, reading terminals often gives you part of the back-story of the Villa and Casino.
The story has certainly kept me interested. I’ve been enjoying learning about the history of the Villa and its problems; learning about my companions, and about this new ‘world’ in general. On the other hand, the sameness of the Villa sections, and the balance of trying to avoid the ghosts, the red mist and the radios sometimes took the game from “interesting and tense” to “keystone cops”. For this reason, instead of just playing endlessly as I tend to with Fallout games, I played in bursts. Having said that, I did keep playing. The story, and to a lesser extent the call of exploration, kept me coming back.
Now I’ve reached the casino itself, we’ll see what happens next, and what changes.