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The two men at the center of Honest Hearts are good, sincere blokes that nonetheless don't see eye to eye on how to deal with the White Legs, a violent tribe of nomads eager to scalp anyone that dares oppose them. One of these men is Daniel, a Mormon missionary with close ties to a tribe called The Sorrows. The other is Joshua Graham, otherwise known as The Burned Man. Joshua favors an aggressive approach toward the White Legs, which is no surprise given his violent past with Caesar's Legion. He is beloved by the Dead Horses tribe and preaches that mankind should shun the greed of the outside world. You stumble upon both men after the trading caravan you join falls victim to the White Legs, though neither makes a very strong impression. Joshua needs supplies like lunch boxes and walkie-talkies; Daniel sends you to find maps and disarm traps. These are nice men that nonetheless make you wonder how they managed to inspire the devotion of the locals. Joshua tells you that he was put on Earth to show people how to fight, yet he speaks in even tones, without an ounce of passion. For someone called The Burned Man, his personality lacks fire, and the tasks he needs performed are hardly extraordinary.
As mundane as the narrative is, you still get welcome opportunities to make decisions, though they would have more weight if you felt more invested in the consequences. Standard quests allow for a bit of flexibility. You might kill the gigantic Yao Guai creatures threatening the camp or collapse the cave in which they live. You could convince a tribesman to follow his heart and explore the "civilized" world or encourage him to stay with his people. The final series of decisions determine the future of several characters and their tribes, and these are outlined in an epilogue that closes the adventure in traditional Fallout fashion. Some of these characters include a few that join you as followers, and they, like Joshua and Daniel, are remarkably even tempered. It's nice to have their company, however--particularly that of Waking Cloud, a pious Sorrow tribeswoman indebted to Daniel for her saving her life. It's too bad that some of the quests these characters join you for are so routine. Find a key, open a cabinet, search for a compass: These are simple fetch quests that needed some dressing up with better context.
Including The Burned Man in this DLC presented Obsidian's writers with a problem: his legend was so well developed in New Vegas that meeting him in the (charred) flesh is going to inevitably be a "Huh, I imagined you as taller" moment for a lot of players. It's a challenge I think they've risen to with reasonable success, as conversations with Graham reveal him to be a well-developed character outside of his own mythology. His descent into 'sin' (for want of a better term) is believable, given the setting; as are his new motivations for action. Rather than excusing slaughter in the name of power and order, he now justifies his actions by appealing to God's wrath. In addition, the fact that neither of the New Caananites pronounce Caeser in his preferred Latin fashion is a subtle rejection of his influence over them. It's a great example of how good writing never spells things out.
Elsewhere, the DLC is prone to over-exposition. Due to what I assume were time and budgetary constraints, the Dead Horses and Sorrows are represented almost entirely by two tribal companions who travel with you through Zion at various points and provide (along with Joshua and Daniel) the vast majority of information about the area and its inhabitants. Other tribal peoples populate the two camps, but don't have any kind of distinct personality of their own. The Sorrows have a shaman, and there's a hilarious cameo from a chem-addicted blowhard named Ricky but that's about it. This means the bulk of Honest Hearts is spent interacting with four people. In Dead Money, this was also the case, but there it made sense due to the circumstances of the add-on. Here, it feels a touch sparse.
Honest Hearts is a solid piece of DLC that adds just about enough to make it a decent purchase, but doesn't add an interesting enough tale which would make it absolutely essential. While the heightened level cap, new weaponry, and fresh perks may be a draw for some, the clichÃ©d and somewhat dull story culminate in a solid yet unspectacular add-on. One for New Vegas fanatics certainly, but easy to pass over if you tired of that sorry tale a long time ago.
Brutal Gamer, 6.0/10
Honest Hearts doesn't add much to the tried and tested Fallout: New Vegas formula. While the different new location offers a huge change from the Mojave, it's disappointing that a potentially interesting story of essentially colonialism doesn't get more of a push. If you enjoy exploration, looting and want an increased level cap then yes, invest in Honest Hearts. If you're looking for something that's new and different however, you'll be disappointed.
Here's hoping Old World Blues and Lonesome Road, due in June and July respectively, bring something unique to Fallout: New Vegas.