essay, video games

Lonesome Road: I am disappoint

Given my time with the previous downloadable content from New Vegas, I was initially very excited about what this last section of the story would show me. I was told, as all of us fans were, that this would close off the story of Courier Six. It would be the dénouement for the entire chapter of the times spent in the Mojave. This is the end, we were told. Answers would be given. I was also expecting, given the nature of the trailer and the emphasis on the “You can go home Courier” that we would learn something about the past of Courier.

Something I noted — but can’t seem to find now — back when I was talking everyday about my travels in Oblivion was how I really wanted my character to have some backstory, to exist in that world more than just the time spent in prison. Once you take control of the character, he or she has a journey but no one knows them from before that point. They are a true tabula rasa and I was disappointed in that. The same, unfortunately, can be said of Fallout: New Vegas too. Your character does not exist until he or she is shot in the head and begins the plot of the game. No one knows who you are, you have no family and you have no past.

I was very interested to see if this “home” was the Courier’s true home, their beginning. What would be there? Was there a central place from which my character had a life, grew up and had relationships with other people before ultimately getting shot in the head and left in the grave? Who else, other than this mysterious Ulysses, knows me? If I started this person’s life in the middle and ended up in New Vegas, where did I start? Basically, I was torn between wanting to know more about the background of my character and wondering if I might not know this character I created, breathed life into, as well as I thought I did.

It it perhaps good then that the experience is so linear. Going from one section to another, there is an exposition tunnel that the character is walked through from one section to another. After each small section, Ulysses, the man that dragged you into this content with promises of answers, talks to you of his story and your story. You are a Courier. He is a Courier. You delivered a package, of some sort, and most likely caused all the trouble that is consuming The Divide, the area that the content takes places within and is about. He is now taking care of the area, is taking parts from here and there. He has a plan and one of the final pieces is to confront you, to see if he is truly the best Courier around. He wants to test himself against you before he tests himself against the world.

The entire downloadable content can be summed up in two words: unrealized potential.  Ulyesses’ plan is to use nuclear weapons to remake the world, to burn the new nations to ashes and start again. He had been gathering weapons and missiles in order to launch them in one go. He has been scouring the Old World in order to start again with an even better, as he sees it, New World. Yet, the most ironic part of both his plan and the content is that many of the tribes of the Marked Men, people from both The Legion and NCR remade by the high radiation and the constant storms, have the missiles themselves. They are just sitting about for the most part on trucks and carts for the player to explode in order to clear the path to where Ulysses has been holding up.

Even with the dark and grim atmosphere, there is an air of vacancy, of a general absence. The buildings that have been smashed together do not have personal items. The buildings have very little in the way of identifying marks and the corridors are empty. The highways, although a neat set piece, contain nothing but battles. There are Marked Men, and for some reason Deathclaws too, roaming about but they are few and far between in areas. It was a place where things should be but yet they are not. The places are empty. There is a lacking of people, items and details.

I wanted more from this. I’m not sure what that would be, what I would want, but it was not what I ended up getting. This downloadable content had more answers but they were all to the wrong questions. There was little in the way of backstory that actually mattered. Sure, it is interesting in a way to learn that the character existed before I met them but even that is not very fleshed out. There is an incident that may or may not have been the fault of the Courier in the past. There are people that have been hurt, others killed by something this same Courier might have delivered. Someone, Ulysses, seems to know The Courier but only by reputation that may or may not be earned. Nothing is definitive but hearsay built upon hearsay.

There was a great chance here to fulfill things I wanted from Fallout material. I wanted more story driven beats and I got them. But they were not anything that actually amounted to story that existed for my character. They helped fill in some greater parts of the world, as it revolves around a number of key people, but there was no real backstory for my character. There was no “home” to go to, it was less literal and more metaphorical. The pull-away message was that the journey of the person was the most important. It was not a matter of going from one place to another, from “home” to a destination, it was and is a journey. But it was not the journey I wanted, just one I happened to find.