An open letter to the Fallout: Project Brazil team **SPOILER ALERT!!**
I have been playing and re-playing through Fallout: Project Brazil, your team’s magnificent unofficial expansion for Fallout: New Vegas, ever since the first act was released, and I wanted to share with you my thoughts on and experiences with it thus far.
As I continue to play through the first act, I am continually stunned and amazed at the quality of Vault 18 and its inhabitants. The vault dwellers come and go, do their own things, and react to the player in conversations based on their previous actions – mainly, the fateful football game at the beginning. The various conversations I had with the colorful characters show off your team writers’ skills very well, as they all add clever, believable flavor to all the characters, from the aggressive, callous Colonel Bragg to the wizened Overseer Christianson. The vault itself shows wear and tear, and the life which has flowed through it for the past 200 years, through the advertisements, the vault rooms and how they’re decorated, and the graffiti scrawled across the walls. The rooms themselves also speak to the characters who occupy them: for example, the bookcase full of unread books in Ben Kuntz’s room reveals Ben’s love of learning about the past world in spite of his inability to read, and, perhaps, a hidden pining to be able to read. After all, why would he keep books he can’t read in his room?
Another favorite part of the expansion for me are the dialogue puzzles you added: for example, when meeting with Lieutenant Chevy for the first time as a jock, you must be polite, serious, and respectful towards her. Any response resembling a ” ‘Sup dog!” or ” I’m down with that, homefly!” gets you ushered out to maintenance duty – and having to face a furious Colonel Bragg. It’s definitely a welcome change of pace from the easily-identifiable dialogue trees from Fallout: New Vegas, and it also helps in the excellent world-building of Vault 18. In fact, the way this puzzle is done is an excellent example of how Fallout: Project Brazil’s dialogue puzzles are not only clever in a rather subtle way, but are also accessible. Can’t hear what the character is saying? No problem – so long as you’re paying attention to the subtitles and how the character presents themselves, you can still solve the puzzle. Can’t see the character or subtitles? Also no problem – the character’s voice and inflection are enough to convey what kind of a person they are almost immediately, making dialogue choices easy for the attentive.
On a related note, I also loved the whole “you’re infected with an alien parasite and will betray us all” bit you can say should you have max Perception and foolishly tell the Lieutenant you’re aware of the Enclave’s plans for Vault 18. It was hilarious that I could say that, succeed, and the Lieutenant confirm it as fact as though nothing odd had been said. (I also should’ve seen her killing me coming, especially since she explicitly said “…before I kill you?” in her response before the final conversation in that part of the dialogue tree. Oops.)
The stats and perk-based gameplay of Fallout: Project Brazil is another favorite of mine. I enjoyed the benefits and downsides to being a nerd or a jock – like being able to command an army of Protectrons as a nerd, but being stuffed into a socially-negative stereotype; or being a genuine people-person as a jock and being able to join the Enclave early on, but being ignorant of some aspects of nerd culture – even if you’re a smart jock – and missing out on some of the more fun benefits of nerds, like ALPHA and the Protectron army.
Speaking of smart jocks, I like how you can actually get a special perk, which unlocks unique situations and dialogue options, if your Intelligence is high enough to overcome the initial Intelligence penalty of being a jock. In fact, I so enjoyed this ability to rise above the jock stereotype prevalent in Vault 18, I found myself wishing an equivalent perk was available for nerds. While a buff nerd, a nerd whose Strength is sufficiently high to overcome the initial Strength penalty of being a nerd and has been able to demonstrate his abnormal (for a nerd) physical prowess, will probably never earn the same kind trust or recognition as a jock, especially with Colonel Bragg, I could imagine that, if given the opportunity to do so, a buff nerd could prove to Lieutenant Chevy that s/he’s not just a nerd – after all, the Lieutenant seems (and claims) to be a better judge of character than her brother, who pridefully implies himself to be a master judge of character in the intro video. Thus, a buff nerd could be given an opportunity to join the Enclave early on like the jock.
On a similar note, I’d like to add that there were some situations where I thought clever (or meta-gaming) players could ‘jump the rails’, so to speak, and gain unique dialogue options and situations as a result. For example, when Colonel Bragg confronts Overseer Christianson, he tells you to “follow his lead”. Most players will watch the ensuing conversation and the death of Christianson, with Colonel Bragg wishing he had pulled the trigger sooner. Meta-gaming players could take that to mean “you idiot! Why didn’t you shoot the Overseer?!”, reload an earlier save game, and shoot Christianson upon entering the terrarium, which is what I did to no avail. Clever players would shoot Christianson by taking Bragg’s order literally – after all, Bragg has been shooting weaklings (nerds and those unable or ‘unfit’ to fight) and non-Americans (anyone unsympathetic to the Enclave or unlucky enough to earn Bragg’s wrath) left and right. What is he waiting for? Either way, Bragg will berate the player, wondering why s/he has openly defied his orders. Any player with sufficient Perception would be able to point out to Bragg that he was letting his arrogance and pride over his victory get in the way of his duty. A born soldier might be able to do the same, only by pointing out that s/he never disobeyed Bragg’s order – s/he was merely following his lead, like any good soldier would do regardless.
Before I go further, I would like to thank you and your team for your dedicated support of the expansion – not only were bugs fixed, but Vault 18 itself was improved, ranging from performance improvements to making navigation and locating critical quest items easier. I must also thank you for your humor, which transcends the game itself and imbues its unique properties into everything which is written, from patch notes to announcements to readmes. Such a consistent and entertaining presentation of a game or expansion is, in my experience, quite rare, and it makes following the game’s latest developments all the more enjoyable!
Lastly, I must praise you and your team for the unbelievably gorgeous overworld which has been designed for future acts. White it is, understandably, a work-in-progress, given the Vault 18-focused nature of the first act, it is truly, to use the words Douglas Adams once used to describe the original Myst, a beautiful void. Ruined cities and towns, which are few and far between, still speak of the past thanks to the impeccable detail used to decorate them and the raiders which occasionally traverse them; the landscape is clearly designed in such a way that it can believably be called barren rather than the result of laziness; the various hubs are remarkably distinct, from the bastion of civilization which NCR’s Union City provides to the wild, unkempt Super Mutant fortress of Fort Daggerpoint AFB, still standing after 200 years and a hostile takeover by the very creatures created within its mighty walls.
Among the many locations in the lands beyond Vault 18, I still come back to Fort Daggerpoint AFB. Not only is it a true challenge to fight your way through the hordes of gun and club-wielding Super Mutants, the grenade-loving FEV creatures, and the dangerous, heavily-armored, and marksman-like ALPHA-class cyborgs (I assume that’s what they are since they bleed), the reward hidden within the fort is genuinely worth it. The interior is like you took an NCR fort from Fallout 2, put it inside a mountain, made it fully 3D, and imbued it with the same world-building ideals used to create Vault 18. The result, combined with its sheer scope and size and in spite of its present emptiness, is just as much a beautiful void as the overworld is. I could go on for several paragraphs describing the awesome spectacle which I witnessed as I explored its emptied, hallowed halls, but I’ll spare you such a fate by saying I eagerly await to see it completed in the second or third act.
Thank you for reading this long letter, I wish you and your team good luck in your continued work on Fallout: Project Brazil and all your future endeavors, and I eagerly await with baited breath the release of the second and third acts. If what I’ve seen is any indication, it will be well worth the wait!
James McDermott, aka Expack