Sunday, 26 August 2012

A Great Review

Thought I would share this review I recently received via email. I thought it was particularly well written, showing both positive and negative aspects of Beyond Boulder Dome. -Rob

Review and Critique of "Beyond Boulder Dome" (version 0.7; hardcore mode)
by Michael Andre-Driussi (a.k.a. "MisterSirius" at Nexus) 24 AUG 2012

"In my opinion, this mod is solidly in the class of official Fallout DLC. Some DLC are better than others, and while we don't always agree on which, I find "Beyond Boulder Dome" to be in the middle range, better than the weaker DLC, and occasionally it breaks through into superior territory.

Two cases of its superior quality stick out in my mind. First was Deadfall Cave. I came through the first time trying to find a way to the NCR base (rather than on the manhunt portion of Monster Blood 2). The area design struck me as being very intriguing, with a lot of mood, and the danger of falling into a very deep pit. It was like something from Gustave Dore'.

The second case was a sequence of play at Inner Boulder. I visited the Toy Store, which was very satisfying. Then I went over to Nova Industries, where a sniper killed the gatehouse guard, starting off an incredible run to find a secret back entrance. As I was playing Hardcore mode with the Jsawyer mod, my fatigue level became an ongoing struggle, adding to the challenge. (I used up my Coyote Tobacco Chew and kept looking for a Nuka!) The secret entrance adventure then led to the "race the radiation" adventure inside the factory. Great stuff.

The premise of the two groups both having a different technique to deal with the harsh radiation seems especially strong. The BOS uses robotized ghouls (similar to the control helmets used by the Enclave on deathclaws in Fo3); the NCR uses ghoulified soldiers (similar to forced "dip into FEV" used by the Master in Fo1). Both techniques are creepy, yet both rise naturally from the source material. Well done!

Overall I found the mod to be as rich, engaging, and professionally crafted as a solid DLC, with a few bursts of even higher quality. The voice acting was very good. The death cage match sequence in the Boulder Dome was very exciting, and in hindsight I suspect it is a sly reference to the gladiator combat in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome."

On the other hand, I will now detail the bits that struck me as weak.


The airplane graveyard adventure at the opening felt weak to me. The landscape was incredible, but the scenario itself seemed so improbable to me (Chinese forces on the ground in Nevada? Combatants locked in battle for hundreds of years?) that it seemed more like a parable about the absurdity of war set in a "weird valley" that time forgot. With a few changes the scenario might work as a "weird Western" (the Blue and the Gray still fighting), or a generic fantasy story a la Conan (remnants of extinct empires still fighting), or something set on Barsoom, but as it stands it didn't quite fit for me within the Fallout franchise. That is, the Chinese presence in Fo2 are all descendants from a Chinese sub; the Chinese presence in Fo3 are all ghoulified spies (and terrorists and urban guerilla commandos) at the nation's capital, and regular soldiers holding Alaska in the VR simulation "Operation: Anchorage."

I can appreciate how this opening adventure might act as an overture to the entire mod, by suggesting that a peaceful solution can be found to Boulder Dome just as it was found for the ancient combatants. That seems like a solid Fallout type of fake-out, and I approve of that aspect.

While the voice acting in this opening adventure was good, there were some points where I felt there was too much talking. The back and forth between the crazy leader and the sidekick was a technical marvel, but it also dragged on for me, becoming like a tedious cut scene. This temptation for characters to speechify crept up again later, and it seemed like there were odd breaks in a speech because program limitations were being ignored. (I don't recall this happening in any DLC or main game, where a character talked on without prompting for multiple screens, but maybe my memory is faulty.) Again it felt to me like "too much talking," and I think it would be stronger if the writing could be tightened up enough that each speech unit would fit on one "postcard" screen.


This is an excellent maze. The white ants are great--it is fitting that they have a poisonous bite, which found use for my snake-bite tourniquet and all the anti-venoms I had acquired in journeys across the Wasteland.

But the story-logic applied to the dungeon leaves me scratching my head. The place seems like an abandoned installation that has been overrun by giant ants. Then it becomes clear that the mist areas are technological rather than ant constructs. Finally you get through and meet the NCR, and thankfully there is a quick way out. (I appreciate the repeated use of "long way in, quick way out" dungeon-design in this mod!)

The part I don't get is, if I have been invited to meet with the NCR rep asap, then how come I have to work my way through their death maze first? I mean, what is the point of the death maze? If it were an ant colony, that would be its own point (defend the colony); if it were a mad scientist's defense system, to keep outsiders from his "vital essence" formula, that would make perfect sense. But I can't see it as a recruiting tool for joining the NCR side in the Boulder Dome problem. So my easy fix solution for it would be to separate the dungeon from the NCR bunker--having the quest marker for meeting the NCR lead directly to the hatch which is currently the short cut, and spinning up a rationale for a mad scientist designed maze.


In my playing of the mod, the world map seems really scrambled. In the beginning, this placed the airplane graveyard as being someplace in the hills around Black Mountain, iirc. Once I got to Colorado, it felt like there was a disconnect between compass directions "on the ground" versus "on the world map."

For example, the travel point to Inner Boulder leaves you facing south. The portal to Mountain Park is north rather than east as the wp (world map) would suggest. From Inner Boulder to Outer Boulder is by walking south on the ground, yet on the wp, Outer Boulder is north of Inner Boulder.

On the wp there are two markers named "Nova Industries," widely separated. They should be close together: the south one should probably be "Nova Ind. courtyard" and the northern one might be "Nova Ind. Gatehouse."


That there are raiders in the dome makes sense, like the Fiends in the Vault.

OTOH, their presence makes no sense at all in story logic, since the outside area is so incredibly radioactive that both the NCR and the BOS have special suits and extreme methods. (The raiders seem straight from the wasteland, with no special radiation gear or clever trick, other than being able to talk their way into the dome before dying of radiation poisoning.) So either the raiders came in by some unknown "clean route," which makes NCR and BOS look stupid, or the raiders are actually mutants. That would make simple sense, if the invaders were supermutants and/or some non-feral ghouls, since these groups are immune to radiation. (In fact, this might be the pay off for the mystery of "Why are the robo-ghouls going offline?" In that they are being liberated by this mutant group.)

There is a hint that some of the raiders are mutants (e.g., "Little Brian" and the other hulking crushers), so maybe it just needs more emphasis in that direction.


In my day job I do a fair amount of copy editing, so typos tend to jump out at me.

Keith: only too left -> two left
Lester: sedatives were off -> wear off
Savant log #2: I know alot -> a lot (x2)
Follow up on S.A.R.G.O.N.: manufacturing isin't ->isn't
Personal Journal Entry (Richard Mudd), This has to be done: lose it's -> its

IIRC, the druggie scientist at the Brain Center in his pre-war journal said he was using Jet. I believe this goes against canon, which says that Jet was made after the War."

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