Down in the Swamp
Given the absurd amount of time we’ve already spent winding through the numerous radiation-scorched nooks and crannies found throughout the dismal world of Fallout 3, it’s hard to believe the grim realities of post-apocalyptic living haven’t lost their luster by now. Many hours in, there are still more places worth exploring in the main game itself, but players who’ve craved a change of pace and a temporary break from the familiar drab grays and browns of D.C. are finding solace in some of the downloadable content Bethesda continues to churn out.
After exploring holographic snowcapped mountains in the arctic, venturing into an industrial Pittsburgh slave town, and waging a giant robot-led war against communism, the latest Fallout 3 DLC takes us to the murky swamps and jagged shorelined cliffs of Point Lookout. While the last few downloadable installments varied widely in their offerings – and suffered from a few unfortunate but temporary technical issues at launch – Bethesda seems to be gradually perfecting its formula. Though it offers more in terms of interesting encounters and strange plot twists than actual loot rewards, Point Lookout is easily one of the best and most challenging DLC excursions so far.
The wild excursion begins with a broadcast message announcing a ferryman stationed along the Potomac River is willing to take anyone with a thirst for adventure and exploration on a boat trip to Point Lookout. All you have to do is buy a ticket, hop on board, and be whisked away to the land of scientific rivalry, hippy cultists, and mutant hillbillies. Point Lookout is an intriguing place to say the least. You’re dropped off at the dilapidated remains of a seaside ghost town complete with run-down carnival attractions, some helpful amenities, and a boardwalk. A plume of smoke billowing out of a mansion settled atop a nearby hill serves as a literal smoke signal marking where to get the main plot underway. However, there’s also a lot of peripheral terrain and oddities to explore in this vast peninsula; you’re graciously given the complete freedom to do so.
Point Lookout’s main attraction involves stepping into of a bloody feud between an intellectual but foul-mouthed ghoul and a nearby religious cult full of brain-addled psychopaths. The main series of quests takes you along a winding path from the rocky shores and creepy woodlands to subterranean caves to deep swamp. Plenty of strange and surprising twists in the story make this one of the more interesting and less predictable downloadable adventures to date. Beyond the main trek, several strong side quests make scouring the mucky landscape worth your time. It’s also pretty fun when dementia sets in and the sky starts to melt, but we’ll let you experience that on your own.
While the foggy, depressing atmosphere found in and around the point has a lot of the same dark flavor as many of the previous locales we’ve trudged through in Fallout 3, there are definitely some nice touches that change things up visually. There’s a solid variety in the different areas found in this expansion, from the craggy shoreline that offers a view of the huge lighthouse and the ocean beyond and the more civilized feel of the abandoned boardwalk to the creepy doll figures impaled along stakes in the woods surrounding the swamp and the dangerous, mucky terrain itself.
The inhabitants of the region are just as tough to plow through as the landscape. You’ll run across a plenty of mirelurks, swampified ghouls, and new Swamp Thing-like creatures. Aside from a medley of re-skinned humans, most of the new foes mainly appear in the form of super ugly, overall-toting backwoods locals wielding double-barreled shotguns, firewood-chopping axes, and other primitive cutlery. While that may not sound like much of a challenge, these hearty yokels must eat their Wheaties, because they can take multiple missile blasts to the face without even flinching.
In fact, almost all of the enemies you’ll run into in Point Lookout are far tougher than the past few DLC installments, and their primitive weapons do a lot more damage than you’d expect. We went in armed with a full arsenal and an experience level ranging in the mid-20s and still wound up taking frequent dirt naps. Even with the heaviest weaponry you may have accrued from past adventures, including the über-powerful Telsa Cannon from Broken Steel, you’re going to find yourself sucking down all the stomachs you can get your hands on and running like hell more often than you’d care to admit. Perhaps to balance out the challenge, the expansion also introduces a new Punta fruit that litters the area. These can be chomped on to decrease your radiation level and heal a few health points, and you’ll want to collect all that you can find. The challenge is certainly a welcome one, yet it’s a little unexpected given the kinds of adversaries you’ll tussle with. These thick-skinned rednecks make Super Mutants look like wimps.
Point Lookout contains a few material pleasures to uncover, but hardcore loot-seekers are going to be slightly disappointed by the lack of new firepower to be gained. Aside from one admittedly awesome weapon picked up at the end of the main quest line and a few intriguing oddities culled from side quests, most of the new items available to pick up are far less exciting or useful than the equipment found in the other Fallout 3 DLC. However, the high quality of the plot, characters, and setting make up for the point’s stingy booty payoff.
Much of the feedback from past DLC expansions seems to be soaking in, and Bethesda appears to be adjusting the plans for future installments accordingly. Keeping up with ever-changing player expectations is no easy feat, but the sheer creativity and strangeness that manifests in Point Lookout is hopefully a harbinger of more good things to come. Indeed, a few WTF moments are really just icing on the cake in this well done addition to the Fallout 3 repertoire.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
An awesome range of locations to explore in a single expansion. 3.8 Control
Everything is still fine and in working order here. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Lots of swearing, lots of weirdos, and some trippy sound effects. 4.3 Play Value
Non-linear exploration returns! Clever twists and a great new setting usher in some welcome entertainment. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.