Andrew Bryant didn’t want to pay the ferryman until he got him too the other side…
Another month, another change of scenery for the Lone Wanderer…
After the last XP cap-boosting downloable expansion, Broken Steel, left the endgame wide open, Bethesda have been beavering away on more content and have unleashed Point Lookout on wasteland inhabitants who might (what with them being somewhat at a loose end following the crushing blow dealt too the Enclave), somehow, find the prospects of travelling to an irradiated holiday peninsula in Maryland almost irresistible.
Bethesda seem to have been a bit stumped on how to integrate this content into the game – no radio distress call, no integration into the plot line, just a simple message box informing that the Duchess Gambit, a decrepit yet sea-worthy paddle steamer, is ready to ferry adventurers to the forsaken resort from a nearby dock on the Potomac.
Upon arrival, the landing sequence sets the scene quite clearly – a misshapen figure watches from a nearby dune before howling in a menacing fashion, a large opulent mansion smoulders ominously in the distance and the decaying remains of a centuries old holiday resort surround you like a particularly bad smell. The ever-shifty Tobar, your captain for the short journey down the peninsula, reckons that the burning mansion would be a good place to start for any self-respecting treasure hunter.
The landscape is certainly different to the Capital Wasteland that players are so familiar with – the lore dictates that the nukes never hit the area, so the sparse desolation of old is replaced by reams of foliage, swampland and the occasional violently territorial hick, mutated not only be the radiation that as filtered downstream from DC but by hundreds of years of inbreeding and exposure to a plague that just canonically happened to lead to the creation of that lovable Fallout stalwart, the FEV – who says Beth weren’t paying attention in Fallout classes?
Your hunchbacked foe come in one of 5 variations of various size and aggressiveness, raring across the swampland unabated in true Deliverance fashion, speaking in broken hick-language and squealing as they double team you, one brandishing a shotgun, peppering your hide with buckshot with an unerring accuracy whilst its ‘pal’ heads straight for your cranium with an axe.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious work that has gone into the ‘swampfolk’ (who are liberally scattered across the map where required), they are but a token flavour of the location, barely featuring outside of the local dialogue as the main plot of the expansion concerns (disappointingly) the ongoing feud between a ghoul who has taken up residence in the mansion and a group of tribals who seem to be out to destroy it.
The plot of the expansion definitely develops into one of the most interesting to come from the DLC so far, with a story that will take the player too all corners of the nicely sized location which doesn’t seem cramped yet is easily to fully explore with a brisk stroll, but more work done with the ‘true’ locals would be nice. Other quests involve the brewing of moonshine (a bit more involved than in Fallout 2) and retracing the steps of a Chinese double-agent.
High-level characters are catered for with a location-wide damage buff which makes all ‘new’ critters significantly more deadly, meaning you have to watch your back constantly amongst the darkened swamps & trees, especially as Tobar specifically prohibits your followers or Dogmeat coming with you (for reasons that will become clear as the pack proceeds).
As the fourth of five planned DLC packs, Point Lookout unfortunately falls into the same lot as Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, in that they are not really critical to the Fallout 3 experience because of their disconnected nature and lack of contribution to the main game. All things considered however, it is the most interesting and diverse expansion, showing that the Fallout 3 art team can really do more than just desolate wastelands. It’s also the first DLC that can be experienced without needing to explicitly shoot everything in sight, with plenty of non-linear exploration and stealth thanks to the trees offering a plethora of hiding places.
Oh, and the best bit about my visit to Point Lookout? NO DAMNABLE ALBINO SCORPIONS!