Friday, July 29

Neon Wasteland: How to Break an Honest Heart

First of all, an apology to the Bitmob staff - particularly Dan "Shoe" Hsu who awarded me with the download that is the subject of this post - for ignoring a lesson from my childhood: when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me. Last month, I disclosed that I had assumed that I had to finish the Fallout: New Vegas' main quest line in order to have a chance of surviving the downloadable expansion, Honest Hearts. Upon deciding the fate of New Vegas however, I learned that there's no going back. It probably would have made sense to consult a resource like the Fallout Wiki, however I piggishly insisted on slogging it out alone.

 This conversation never happened!

So without further ado, my first adventure to Zion National Park.

It started out pretty rough; mainly because I couldn't find the NPC to start the quest that takes you to Zion. It was placed pretty clearly on my map, but in the middle of the night, a darkened cave entrance isn't overly obvious. Which is just as well, because without stumbling to the north of the Mojave Wasteland, I wouldn't have come across a small squad of aliens with ridiculously effective weaponry.

Equipped with some other-worldly hardware, I wandered around the Mojave until sunrise. Then I could see the gaping hole that evaded me during night hours. I wandered in and came across a wary group of travellers. I was told I could join them after lightening my pack. After two hours searching for this introductory quest, I'd now have to wander back to the New Vegas Strip to drop most of my gear. Fast forward fifteen minutes and I was back where I needed to be and ready to go.

Now for the frustarting part.

After initiating the first quest and watching a modest slideshow, my companions came under fire from some indigenous folk. Knee deep in the blood of newly-acquired friends, I fought back, killing all of the White Legs people who opposed me. I looted my assailants' freshly-fallen bodies and proceeded across a rickety bridge. Again I came under fire, this time from a unique NPC named Follows-Chalk. Heart still pumping from the assualt I had just survived, I switched to my alien firearm and reduced my opponent to a blue, chalky substance. To my surprise, I received notification that I had failed a quest and that another had been added, "Chaos in Zion." Bemused, I carried on with weapon drawn.

 Wrong place, wrong time.

The environment in Honest Hearts was uncharacteristically captivating. Indigenous art decorated cliff faces. Instead of the dreary browns, greys and pale greens of the Mojave Wasteland, Honest Hearts is home to earthy, red tones and rustic camp ground structures. A complete and necessary change in palette.

Despite the inviting, new location, I still found myself subject to an unrelenting assault from all of the Zion National Park's inhabitants: regardless of tribe or species. No matter how many locations I came across, not a single living creature was happy to see me. Surely this new expansion was not solely a survival-based affair? I began to question whether there would be any conversations or friendlies to encounter in this beautiful hellhole. Still, my enemies were no match for my recently-acquired alien blaster. Even the giant yao guai and cazadors were helpless against this other-worldly hardware.

The killing continued. I slaughtered Daniel, Walking Cloud, the Sorrows, Dead Horses and anything else that moved, until I finally reached the quest marker at the north of the map in Zion Canyon. I collected a map and was then instructed to return to the Mojave to complete the quest - and unbeknownst to me - the Honest Hearts expansion.

I watched another slideshow that described the carnage I had brought to this intriguing location. I had unknowingly flunked the downloadable quest, but still: what were the developers thinking, with a quest that could so easily be shrugged off course with some careless fire? Under assault almost the second I arrived in Zion, I could only assume that Follows-Chalk was another savage enemy.

There's that word again: assume. I was so busy defending myself from the frenzied attack of the White Legs tribe that I assumed Follows-Chalk would do me harm and because of that, Honest Hearts was almost completely lost to me.

 This dude looks evil, but I guess I shouldn't assume

Quest Design 101: Do not place an all-important NPC in the midst of a deadly firefight. A battle where one stray bullet can cancel out hours of potential questing.

Can you recall any other examples of broken quest design?

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