Fallout 3: Point Lookout

Point Lookout is billed in as the most open ended, free roaming Fallout 3 DLC yet and as Bethesda describes it along these lines, you’d expect it to be the biggest and best. I anticipated great things but also wondered if the lack of a storyline meant the studio was looking for a way to simply produce supplemental content without having to expend a lot of time and resources developing a plot. The fact that the announcement and launch of this DLC seemed successive and sudden, especially compared to the other three, which we had known about for months prior, seemed to support the conclusion that this was a fast and cheap extension to the Capital Wasteland gameplay. This isn’t a fair assessment however and after spending several hours in Point Lookout I can gladly say that Bethesda did not cut corners here, but has created a new DLC chapter that more closely resembles the open adventure of the main game and is just as satisfying as the other more plot specific expansions.

Point Lookout as it’s description implies is not a story driven experience as Operation Anchorage, The Pitt or Broken Steel before it, but is instead more of a themed environment, which is basically what Fallout 3 is anyway. Rather than prompting players to engage in a certain scripted series of events, the game simply provides a backdrop for exploration and action that the player can enjoy at their discretion. Though it does not have a single plot driving the gameplay, it is not devoid of quests either. It provides several, one in particular is fairly lengthy and could be seen as the main thrust, however the player is not obligated to complete them and can engage in them at their leisure. Point Lookout doesn’t have an ending per se and can simply be partaken of at the players discretion.

It is in this way very similar to the main world of Fallout 3 and delivers on the merits that made the original so good as a microcosm of of the Capital Wastes. There’s no war to win, no slaves to rescue or Enclave to exterminate, just an open world of possibilities, strange inhabitants to encounter and adventure to be had. I fought with local cretins, explored a crumbling mansion, climbed to the top of a light house, jumped off and killed myself, and dug for buried treasure, among other things.

As a piece of real estate, Point Lookout is a riverside bayou. It’s themes are well realized and clearly drawn with southern swampland motifs that are complete, down to the moonshine and confederate hats you’ll find scattered around. The swamp itself is very distinct from anything in the Capital Wasteland or any of the other DLC, saturated and miry with tepid ponds and streams mottling the landscape. Fog and dreary overcast skies obscure visibility, frogs chirp and spiry mournful trees festooned with ethnic fetishes enclose about you in sparse forests. Dilapidated lean-tos and creepy shacks speckle the marshland. I wasn’t a huge fan of Operation Anchorage but just as I could almost feel the freezing air in my lungs I am reminded again here of how well conceived the environments are. I can just about smell the balmy swamp air. The environment is another distinct landscape that attests to Bethesda’s desire to use the DLC to explore visual themes and concepts they didn’t have a chance to in the main game. It’s another refreshing and different experience.

The marshland theme is appropriately completed by the indigenous swamp dwellers that populate the region. Lurking about the swamp are hillbilly mutants, including a flanneled brute and a shirtless crony, as well as a lumbering buffoon that looks like a cross between Left 4 Dead and Chunk from the Goonies. My favorite of the three is the scrawny shirtless one known as the creeper, a comically grotesque pot bellied characature with the same goofy expression permanently plastered across his mug. His slinky posture and doofish tufts of hair on either side of a bald strip (yes I said strip) are always amusing to encounter up close. As a rule, these locals don’t take kindly to your presence and assail you with a variety of  local weaponry including double barrel shotguns, lever action rifles and axes.

Other enemies include swamp ghouls, (same as usual) the glowing ones and the brutally tough ghoul reavers, mole rats, Swamplarks (mirelarks) and tribals. The tribals factor into the largest quest in the game and can be either friend or foe depending on how you play your cards (the only cards I played were hot lead and I was the dealer). There are also smugglers which play a less significant role. Mirelarks, and Mirelark Kings in particular, are used to great effect in this region. They are featured prominently and seem right at home in the salty seaside murk.

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The map is large but not huge and features beaches, seaside cliffs, and of course an abundance of swampland. The activities you can engage in range from modest affairs such as gathering ingredients to make moonshine, and collecting soil samples (yay!) to more involved efforts such as taking side in a local feud. Said feud is a large part of Point Lookouts gameplay and the best and longest quest it offers. It involves a dispute between a vicious mercenary ghoul and his longtime rival. I wont give away too much but it’s a lengthy and satisfying quest that gives Point Lookout some girth. The other quests, such as the moonshine one, are primarily errands and are fun for the sake of the action you encounter along the way. All in all the it’s a collection of about 5 quests and various other diversions and activities set in a new and interest environment. Nothing revolutionary, but satisfying as ever. The point is less about following a specific storyline as simply exploring the territory.

The weapons I mentioned before are less significant and flashy than the additions of previous DLC, such as the Gauss gun or Tesla Canon, but they are fun to play around with. The most impressive is the double barrel shotgun, a trusty no nonsense weapon handy for dispatching enemies with a single pulverizing blast equivalent to nearly 100 damage. It’s extremely satisfying. I have the bloody mess perk and it’s a powerful feeling watching an attacker utterly disintegrate into a chunky mist with one shot (sorry I just had to say it). The Lever Action rifle is a 32 cal. weapon similar to the hunting rifle offering slightly scoped sighting and fairly quick reloads. The axe is the melee weapon of choice for locals and if up close and personal is your style it does a respectable amount of damage. There is another more unique weapon you can acquire at the end of a quest but I’ll let you discover that one on your own.

With it’s interesting environment and cavalier gameplay, Point Lookout is a satisfying companion to Fallout 3. With the elbow room of it’s free form style and a decent amount of quests to partake and areas to explore it’s also a great value for 800 pts. I’ve spent around 10 hours playing through it. It’s another solid DLC installment. I’m pleased to see such support for Fallout 3 and hope Bethesda’s dedication continues on for time to come. There are plenty or other places in the radioactive wastes we have yet to set foot.

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