Gaming on a Timer

Thoughts – Building Consistency and DLC, Fallout: New Vegas

This article explores the various narrative links contained in Fallout: New Vegas and its’ three DLC: Dead Money, Honest Hearts and Old World Blues. As these links have been implemented with verisimilitude in mind, certain spoilers about all three DLC, as well as the upcoming Lonesome Road DLC, cannot be avoided – read at your own risk.

Disclaimer: As this post discusses how DLC can (with a bit of forward planning) help build consistency and thematic cohesion in the game world, several examples are brought. Day-1 DLC, such as “Prisoner of Stone” (Dragon Age: Origins) or the “Gun Sonata Pack” (Bulletstorm) should not be considered as true DLC as their purpose is to serve as an incentive to steer buyers away from used game markets (since said DLC are one-use codes). Such content is usually (if not always) developed concurrent to the main game; therefore analysis towards narrative expansion is rendered inconsequential.

One of Ulysses’ markings in Old
World Blues, these are common…

Concerning DLC, the vast majority of released meta-content (consisting of narrative expansions, such as additional quests, plot lines etcetera) is usually disconnected, or at least remote, from the main world’s plot and narrative – a good example would be Mass Effect 2’s “Kasumi – Stolen Memory”; while the DLC provides an interesting narrative, it is largely unconnected to the main plot.

Fallout: New Vegas and its’ DLC, however, follow a (relatively) unexplored method of interactivity between the main game and subsequent released content: while the DLC’s themselves are mostly self-contained stories, effort has been made to “tie in” their characters, story arcs and (in some cases) lore to each other, as well as to the main game.

Though their function is, thus far
unexplained (though speculated).

A good example is the character of Christine, first appearing in Dead Money; through various dialogue paths, the player learns that Christine is possibly a romantic acquaintance of Veronica Santangelo’s, a party member from the main game and has ties to Father Elijah (Dead Money’s main antagonist) who, via Veronica’s various conversations, is revealed to have been instrumental to both characters’ story lines.

What is even more surprising, however, is that Christine is also referenced in Old World Blues, where she was captured and experimented upon (thus the scarring the player character notices when she’s first introduced), while hunting down Father Elijah; it is heavily hinted that the events in Big MT result in Elijah’s eventual discovery of Sierra Madre (as again, several mentions are made – mostly via environmental cues – about Big MT’s involvement in designing and equipping Sierra Madre).

Christine, first shown in Dead Money
is revealed to have visited Big MT.

This unusual approach is taken to its’ extremes with the character of Ulysses; the mysterious Courier mentioned in the main game as the original courier in charge of the Platinum Chip, therefore instrumental in the player character’s involvement with the events of New Vegas. Ulysses is hinted at having a grudge against the player character, a concept (presumably) resolved in the final New Vegas DLC, Lonesome Road.

Several mentions are made across all DLC, as well as at certain points in the original game, that combine into an overarching story line leading into Lonesome Road; both Christine and Dog (Dead Money) reference Ulysses in the DLC’s ending slideshow, Joshua Graham (Honest Hearts) makes a passing remark during his first encounter with the player and finally, Old World Blues contains several environmental props, dialogue and audio-only cues hinting at his involvement with Big MT. and the Christine/Elijah conflict.

The Think Tank has some cryptic
info regarding Ulysses.

While using such foreshadowing techniques is not unheard of in games (good examples include the Citadel Keepers in Mass Effect and the FFVII “Holy” materia), it is a rare example of advance planning and good storytelling that DLC can not only expand, but also tie in with the existing narrative, in a display more commonly found in comic books (see continuity).

Ultimately, using said techniques serves as an example that with proper forward planning, the narrative can transcend its’ static nature and gain a more believable and quasi-dynamic feel; this, in result, helps the player immerse themselves into the game world, thus enhancing their experience considerably.

Fallout: New Vegas Wiki Page

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