We rejoin Kluge as he wakes up at the Wolfhorn Ranch after a long day of killing geckos beneath Vault 19. It's just us and ED-E. We are apparently afflicted with the maximum amount of drug addictions, the game not giving me any more, despite taking about 15 doses of jet the previous day, and we are in withdrawal from all of them. And we're thirsty.
Felix goes outside to the dirty tank of irradiated water that he uses as drinking water. Probably as a shower too, when my Xbox is off. In exchange for quenching his thirst, the vat gives him radiation poisoning. But shit, Felix's endurance is already 1, so whatever. We can fix that when it gets worse.
I check Felix's gear before we head out and I notice he only has 36 caps. What the fuck. They're not in the lockers back in the ranch, they're not even inside ED-E. Try to think back to that murky play session lost in the mists of time (I cba blogging it) and what I did inbetween Vault 19 and here.
Felix had gone to New Vegas Square after Vault 19, all pumped up on victory (>40 gecko steaks!) and drugs. I think the guys that hang out here are the sort of people Felix wishes liked him. There's that cool guy in the picture above, who will never talk to Kluge because he doesn't know enough about guns. But I'd just raised Felix's guns a little to snag the Cowboy perk, and if he read one of the magazines he had, he could bluff through a conversation with this guy. It worked out great; right after the guy started talking about survival, and Felix loves that stuff, so they hit it off great. So great, he even told Felix a secret recipe for making special .44 magnum rounds. Kluge thinks he's hot shit right now. He goes straight to the Gun Runner's vendor robot and buys a .44 magnum and a trail carbine. Then he buys a scope for the carbine and a customised frame for the magnum, even though I don't know what that is.
I find them in one of the lockers now, underneath all the baseball bats. They cost Felix all of his money. He doesn't know how to shoot guns. He isn't good enough to make the bullets that guy told him about. He doesn't even have enough money to buy normal bullets. Felix leans over and is sick into the bucket next to his bed. Sick with disgust at himself, and radiation poisoning.
So we need money. Felix's drug habit isn't going to support itself. I think it's about time we checked out Black Mountain. We go to Jacobstown to get Lily first - if we're going to mount a raid on a radio station run by an insane mutant, I figure it can't hurt if we bring one of our own.
There's onle really the one path up the mountain, and at the foot of it we run in a mutant. He's called Neil. He doesn't sound moronic and can form sentences so I guess he's one of the good ones. It turns out that this mountain is some kind of colony for all these bad mutants. Whatever man. He says if we meet him at the top of the mountain he'll help us turn it over. Then he says it will be a lot harder for Felix to get to the top than him, and runs off. He's a dick but whatever, having one mutant following Felix is enough.
The sun sets as we head up the path ourselves, all maximising our 100 sneak skill and Lily's stealthboy prototype. It's a big, zig-zagging path up the mountain, with little scrap metal checkpoints here and there. We make it past the first two just fine, but after that some nightkin manages to sneak up on us and starts smashing ED-E, because I guess he can't sneak so good, or at all. The mutant doesn't last a minute against Lily and Kluge though, and nor does the next one.
We're at the final checkpoint when it all kicks off. Some mutant up on the cliff above us is literally raining fire down on us. Lily's got the same gun he has though, so I let them shoot clumps of fire at each other until my one wins and the other one dies. But more mutants take this opportunity to rush us. There's four or five down with us and two more up on the cliff. Lily wades in to it so I get Kluge to drug up and follow in, chainsaw in hand. When we're done cutting them up, I see ED-E, with his little laser, is locked in a shootout with the two mutants up on the cliff, who have miniguns. By the time Felix runs over, ED-E is on 1hp. He tries to give ED-E stimpaks but it's not enough. Probably because he is a robot and they are medicine. He drops to the ground. Lily and Felix run up around the cliff to kill the last two mutants. The minigun shreds through Felix's non-armour and very nearly kills him. But he's all mad so he doesn't care. That robot was probably really expensive. With them gone Felix heads back down to ED-E.
Felix doesn't know anything about computer or robots, but he's pretty sure you don't bury them. He looks at it for a minute, checks to make sure we didn't leave anything valuable in it, then go.
we made it to the village at the top and Neil's there like he said he'd be. He says his plan for helping us is that he'll say there's an intruder in the village to draw the nightkin out. We point out that there is an intruder in the village, and that it's Felix, and that this plan doesn't help me at all. He tells Kluge to sneak past them and then he runs off.
So we sneak. Lily has an advanced prototype stealthboy, Felix's sneak is 100, and ED-E is dead so won't mess us up again. The nightkin spot us instantly. Neil is a dick. It's another horrible fight going toe-to-toe with giant mutants who are way stronger than Kluge. He makes it through thanks to buffout and the fantastic anti-limb properties of his chainsaw.
Neil comes back now (thanks!) and tells Felix that it's now a clear run to Tabitha, the mutant who runs the radio station. He doesn't want to come with.
We walk up to the station. On the broadcast tower before we get there, is a nightkin who isn't Tabitha, but does have a rocket launcher. The first missile hits Felix dead on. He's on less than 20hp. Fuck you Neil. I hide Felix behind a rock and have him eat one of our precious but fantastic desert salads. Back to full health, and back out from behind the rock. Straight in to another missile. 27hp. Come on. Another desert salad, but this time Felix doesn't stop running. We're underneath him when he's reloaded so he can't shoot us. Felix is on him before he has a chance to turn around. He's fucked, Kluge has got a chainsaw. Cut his head and all his limbs off. take his rocket launcher. It has a girl's name on it. Gay.
There's three buildings here. Felix goes for the one in the middle. It's full of crap. Some good but mostly bad. There's a robot lying on a table in one corner that doesn't work. it's that Rhonda from the radio show. I don't really give a shit about this, and Kluge definitely doesn't. But if he takes some mentats, then reads a science magazine, he can just pass the skill check to fix Rhonda. So we have to. We follow it as it goes outside and Tabitha is there, all enormous and definitely insane. She's just really happy that Kluge fixed her stupid robot though, and leaves peacefully. Stolen so much shit at this stage that I just fill up Lily's inventory with it and send her off for home. One of the other buildings is a prison. Inside is a ghoul. He's called Raul. He's sarcastic and snarky but he wants to come with me becaue he's scared of dying. Felix says ok, he can come.
Felix and Raul walk around a few days, talk about Raul's life. He used to do some stuff but he's like 200 years old now so is kind of past it. Kluge says that if he wants he can stick around and fix his shit for him so he can feel useful. He's happy with that. And I could really do with the maintenance. This chainsaw is the only one I have.
Because one of the guys you need to talk to for Raul's supposedly-organic-quest-that-totally-isn't-because-I've done-it-before-already is Corporal Sterling, we find ourselves in Camp Mccarran. So I figure we can do Three-Card Bounty. Felix still needs the money. I don't care if the NCR are Caesar's worst ever enemy. He's been a dick to Kluge and not been paying him enough at all. If these guys want to pay Felix to kill some guys he'd probably kill anyway, then I'll take that paper.
First bounty on the list is Cook-Cook. Felix talks to a bounty hunter in the camp about him. The hunter is full of shit but he knows he is, so I guess he's okay. Felix ignores everything he says anyway, and just runs in a straight line until he's at Cook-Cook. He's in some ruined house. Raul actually has a gun, unlike basically anyone else who will follow me around, so that's a nice change. He just stands at the back and starts putting rounds in to the house. This draws out all of Cook-Cooks pals and Felix can just cut them down with his huge axe one by one, until it's just Cook-Cook left. He's got a flamethrower and probably thinks he's a real cool guy but Kluge chops his head off so whatever buddy.
Back at camp Major Dhaltri and his huge beard gives us all this shit about how Felix messed up Cook-Cook's face and so he can't pay us the full bounty. Cook-Cook wears a mask covering his entire face, and Dhaltri never met the guy anyway. So Felix steals shit from around the camp until I figure we're square.
Next bounty is boring. Have to cut a bunch of dogs up and then a woman. One of the dogs breaks Felix's leg but I'm used to that now. Clean kill so full caps from Dhaltri.
Last bounty on the list is some guy called Driver Nephi. Dhaltri tells Felix to ask First Recon for help. An opportunity to get paid for no work appeals to Kluge so we take up the offer. We meet the whole gang and hear their plan. It's a real doozy: they all sit around hiding while Felix runs out on his own. Nephi and his friends will then supposedly come out to kill me, and when they do, the First Recon guys will gun them down. It's a huge open flat space between the Recon guys and the Fiends. The sort of place Kluge is absolutely helpless in. But he runs in anyway because he's not about to let the NCR know he's a little bitch or that he cares that the NCR's plan fucks him over.
But man does it fuck him over. The Fiends only run out a little bit. The Recon guys aren't firing. Nephi isn't here at all yet so I guess they don't want to spoil their incredible plan. So it's basically Kluge in a field getting shot by a bunch of lasers. This fucking sucks and he's dying so I pull him back to near Raul, who starts shooting the Fiends. This makes them switch to shooting him, cause I guess they figured out I wasn't doing shit. So I run back in to the field and try and get close. They're not as dumb as they look though, and start throwing dynamite at Kluge. The lovely flash of crippled limbs on the screen. Nephi's finally shown up though. He runs fast as fuck and is barreling straight for Felix. I try to run him back towards Raul on his broken legs but it's really not that impressive. First Recon finally start firing right before Nephi gets to Felix. They're shitty shots though and don't manage to hit him even once before he hits Kluge, crippling his head instantly. But he dies pretty much after that. We take his head back to base. Turns out First Recon shot him in the face over and over so I only get half pay again. Thanks guys. They pay me some NCR money though, and Kluge stole some more shit before we left.
Felix goes to see Usanagi to get all his limbs healed and cure his radiation poisoning.
I'm pretty sure Raul is my favourite companion and Three-Card Bounty is one of my favourite quests. It's not a very exciting quest. It's short, and it's easy. But there's just a lot of characters, of things happening. The one big problem with the Fallout series for me is that nothing ever happens when you're not around. You can go around and meet a whole mess of cool people, but they never meet each other. In Three-Card Bounty you have Dhaltri and all the First Recon guys, the three Fiends you have to kill, and even that Little Buster bounty hunter guy. It's nothing major, but it's just nicely done. You know who you're killing and who's helping you do it, and it just adds a lot to what is a very bare-bones quest, ultimately. Even the Nephi bit with all the sniper ambush is basically just smoke and mirrors, but it's cool because the big walk down to the crushing plant combines with the stories you've heard from everyone to get some proper build up. Telling Betsy you killed Cook-Cook (and telling Pretty Sarah, too), and getting her help from Dr Usanagi, and sending First Recon off to Forlorn Hope after you take care of everything (only that didn't happen this time on account of how I've wiped Forlorn Hope out), that shit just breathes a little life in to a world that, while awesome, can feel a little static and lacking in characters at times.
As for Raul, he's just the only one who really fits as a sidekick (although Arcade is pretty close). Boone's dead as a human, basically, and can't really do things like make friends. Lily's insane. Rex is a dog, ED-E's a robot, when it comes down to it Veronica is Brotherhood, and I guess I haven't given Cassidy a fair run yet. But Raul just slots right in to the role. The self-deprecation, the fatalistic jokes about your decisions and actions, even his maintenance perk all set him up as a great complement to your guy. His character quest deals with this too, about taking a back seat but still helping, which I guess is why I tend to finish it that way, rather than the way where he becomes a vaquero. The latter way, he's just another gun you bring around with you sometimes for fights, same as Boone or whatever. But as the sidekick mechanic, he's the only guy I can really see sticking around with the main guy as a proper 'companion' (no homo).
As for Kluge, he's level 22 or 23 or so now (I actually did all this like three weeks ago and can't remember properly), and grabbing Raul was the last of the main Mojave sidequests I wanted to do. Which means it's DLC time. Next four posts will be the four DLC stories (I figure Lonesome Road will be out just about the time I finish up the first three), and then we'll hopefully steamroll on to the grand finale at the Dam.