Fallout: New Vegas - Lonesome Road Review

23 Sep 2011

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Bethesda Softworks
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date:2011-09-20
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person,First-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Lonesome Road is, more than anything else, an ending. The character-driven storyline weaved throughout the Fallout: New Vegas add-ons has gone through many phases, which have led to both radically varying gameplay and narrative tone - yet consistent plot elements and themes have always shined through. Lonesome Road, the long-awaited final chapter, brings those ideas to a logical and satisfying conclusion. While when taken as an overall package, marked with bullet points and feature sets, Lonesome Road is not the strongest DLC offered up by Obsidian, its other strengths in story, characters and world design more than make up for the comparative lack of loot, side-quests and gameplay gimmicks.

Like all New Vegas DLCs, Lonesome Road starts with a radio message, though unlike the prior DLC packs, this message is one that is carried forward to the end of the world. The burden handed down by the mysterious courier Ulysses, the task of reaching the Divide, isn't driven by a promise of riches, or loot, but by a want for answers. The journey is long, and difficult, but that hasn't stopped the Courier before, nor should it this time... and by the end, those answers will be felt by the entire Wasteland, with the world, or the Courier, left scarred by the final decisions made.

More than any other New Vegas DLC, the returns provided by Lonesome Road are going to vary significantly based on personal investment into the New Vegas canon. This is not the kind of DLC that's going to give instant gratification, oodles of new gear to try out, and two-dozen side-quests to tick off one-by-one. Moreover, as the name Lonesome Road implies, it's a far more linear experience than what fans of New Vegas may be used to, winding its way from location to location in a set progression. This is, no doubt, going to be a source of contention between players, as many associate Fallout with open-ended gameplay, both in terms of exploration and play-style. Lonesome Road is hardly Gears of War, and even within the relatively narrow confines of the Divide there is still a significant amount of exploration to be done, but for those who wanted more locations like Zion and the Big Empty, Lonesome Road isn't going to provide that.

I hesitate to touch on Lonesome Road's story, because, as the prime focus of the experience, even small spoilers would hurt the sense of discovery. More generally, though, Lonesome Road is an introspective piece - it's smart enough to remain understated, and lets the Divide and its inhabitants speak for themselves, rather than forcing exposition and monologues down the player's throat. The narrative, while generally straightforward and sparse compared to prior New Vegas DLCs, isn't content being self-contained - its themes of the role of individuals within history, the nature of nationhood, and the unforeseen consequences of actions all provide food for thought, and more often than not claw at the fourth wall, speaking not to the Courier, but challenging the player instead. That it's also able to smartly tie in and shed new light on a prior companion character, and in doing so weave its A and B plots together so tightly, is yet another testament to the quality of storytelling on display.

Much as how Dead Money was driven by its ensemble cast and the stressful situation they were all forced into by a mysterious figure, Lonesome Road's focus is dead-center on another mysterious figure testing the Courier's limits. Ulysses is one of the most effective, well-realized, and refreshingly non-standard characters in any game I've played in quite some time - a complex man whose very nature is tainted by a label like "villain". Fans of Chris Avellone's prior works, whether that's Fallout, Planescape, or Star Wars, will find his trademark all over Ulysses, and the result is a character who can stand comfortably beside the RPG genre's finest. That said, Ulysses is also of the "philosophical, vague, and esoteric" school of antagonists, and most of the storytelling falls on his shoulders; combined with the fact that many plot points are left open to interpretation, some players may find him more frustrating than intriguing.
 
 

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