Downloadable content for an RPG sits on a strange precipice, depending of course, on whether or not a player has already beaten the game. To some it's just another mission to get lost in and continue along during the course of the game's natural progression, while for others it may be a good reason to start up an already beaten title. Good DLC will mix in a little bit of both for players though, offering a compelling enough storytelling experience for players to actively search out this bit of adventure, while at the same time providing an equally compelling gameplay experience that no one would want to miss the action regardless. Enter Dead Money, a new mission/side quest for Fallout New Vegas that looks to provide players with a little bit of both.
Players can start Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money from any save point they've made prior to the end of the game, by responding to a distress signal received in-game. It's hard not to talk too much about the plot lest it spoil much of the fun regarding the content. After all learning about the characters and background of the area is as much a part of the ride as the combat. Suffice to say, players shouldn't particularly find themselves disappointed with the content here. Captured by a rogue Brotherhood of Steel agent, players are set loose upon the mysterious treasure filled Sierra Madre Casino in order to unlock its secrets. The twist? None of this is being done by choice.
Filled with new enemies, traps, game mechanics, companions and skills, Sierra Madre adds an unusual but certainly amusing element to the gameplay by forcing players to keep track of their environment more than usual. An explosive device keeps players in check to make sure they stick to the mission, and four new companions (put in a similar spot) will assist the player as best they can, provided you're able to talk them into it. If successful players will not only gain access to new traits but further the story along, bringing the entire group one step closer to the goal of finding out Sierra Madre's long-sought treasure.
That's about as much as it's possible to say without giving away any spoilers, but it should be noted that the cast of Dead Money, from the Companion NPCs to the local enemies, is absolutely fantastic. The entire crew fits right into the world of Fallout quite nicely, and enemies, including the hotel itself, offer a pretty decent challenge even for veteran players. Furthermore much of the DLC spends some time fleshing out the background of other notable characters in the series, from the Brotherhood of Steel to the notable Ulysses; and additionally lays down some pretty interesting hints as to the future of Fallout DLC.
That being said the content is not without flaws, and some players may find that while amusing at first, the puzzles and overall flow of Dead Money can get rather old quickly. What at first becomes an interesting mechanic to keep the player in-line and within the boundaries of the Sierra Madre ultimately becomes a mechanical hindrance, forcing players into timed scenarios that feel as if they go entirely against the flow of the Fallout series after a while. It's neat at first, and it makes for an interesting change of pace once players first encounter it, but it gets old rather fast. Being confined to a single area in the world for any extension of time feels strange in such an open world game, but being put through a sort of gauntlet on top of that is just asking too much of players.
So how much will one get out of Dead Money? A fair amount if you're the sort of player that happens to love storyline and character interaction; and for those simply looking for upgrades, levels and new items it can be worth the trip just the same. Anyone who had a hard time finding a reason to trudge through New Vegas won't be inspired to come back on this one, and even those who are playing for the lore or combat will find their patience tested by all new elements brought forth in this downloadable content. Otherwise the best part about this DLC would be the future content it makes references to on the horizon, which will hopefully feature fewer trial and error elements and a little more straightforward action.