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Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money
Welcome To The Sierra Madre
Dead Money tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic heist in the Sierra Madre, the greatest casino and hotel of the old world that was scheduled to open its doors for the first time on the same day the first bombs fell. It's also a total pain to complete, in large part because of how different it is.
Dead Money is unique among Fallout DLC in that, for the most part, you can't fight your way through it. Once you get inside the casino, the majority of ways you can die are related to either the bomb collar around your neck or the invincible security holograms, both of which you'll be cursing by the end of your adventure in the Sierra Madre. You'll have to sneak and talk your way through the Sierra Madre, for the most part, although you'll still have to do a good deal of fighting--including a one-on-one duel with one of the toughest human opponents in the game.
But before we talk about him, let's establish three basic facts about Dead Money.
1. You can't take anything with you to the Sierra Madre, which is another reason it is so challenging. You'll be scavenging weapons from the casino itself, so say goodbye to your gatling gun and your missile launcher; you'll be lucky to find an AK-47.
2. The bomb collars. The main antagonist of Dead Money, Father Elijah, has fitted you with an explosive collar. There are three ways for your collar to blow. First, you can turn down Father Elijah at the beginning of the DLC. Don't do that. Second, if one of your fellow prisoners die, your collar will go off as well. Third, and most importantly, if you stay too close to a radio or PA system for too long, your collar will blow.
3. The cloud. Outside the Sierra Madre is a poisonous cloud. Stay too long in it, and you'll die. So, don't stay in it too long.
Between the collars and the cloud, you'll need to keep moving in the Sierra Madre. Oh, by the way, the entire area outside the casino is booby-trapped. So, yes, you'll be running at full speed through a thick cloud while your bomb collar is seconds away from exploding, while dodging bear traps and pressure plates. Welcome to the Sierra Madre.
Surviving The Villa
Dead Money is split into two parts: the Villa, and the casino When you first come to, you'll find yourself in the Villa, a sprawling resort that sits at the foot of the casino itself. Your first goal upon waking up is to gather your team.
There are four threats in the Villa. First, the bomb collar. Second, the cloud. Third, the traps that our old friend Dean Domino has scattered around. And fourth, the ghost people.
The ghost people are a huge pain. Their weapons aren't the best, and they're far from indestructible. However, once you knock them down, you'll have to dismember them to keep them dead. That means blowing off a limb. Otherwise, they'll just get back up. They also don't care if you're standing in the middle of a poison cloud, or if you're two seconds away from your collar exploding. So really, the biggest threat from the ghost people is the way they'll hold you up and harass you while you're dealing with the deadlier dangers of the Villa.
The ghost people have pretty crummy weapons but, unfortunately, they're the only weapons you'll have access to for a while. And remember, since you lack proper armor for much of this part of Dead Money, those spears and gas bombs can kill you pretty quick.
You can gather your team in any order you like, although I would suggest grabbing Veronica first: her companion ability slows down the beeping of your collar, giving you more time before your head explodes. Keeping her around will make the whole process a bit easier.
God isn't particularly useful in the Villa, but his alter ego, Dog, proves quite useful. He will attack and consume any ghost people you down, meaning you don't have to worry about dismembering them anymore. Again, another headache saver.
Once you gather your three team mates, now it's time to...bring them back out into the Villa. You'll have to leave each of them at their position, and convince--or trick, or threaten--each of them into staying there. Whichever option you pick, your companion isn't likely to forget it.
Inside The Casino
Inside the casino you'll run into very few ghost people, and no poison cloud. In addition the casino is much easier to navigate than the rat's nest of the Villa.
You'll also be dealing with a lot of hidden radios and a lot of holographic security guards. Your attacks will have zero effect on them, so don't even bother. If they spot you, they'll zap you with electricity. While you can disable many of them--although it will take a high repair skill--many you'll just have to deal with. There's not much you can do except try to sneak by them.
Most of this section involves sneaking from one section of the casino to another. Dealing with God/Dog is mostly just a matter of sneaking around him before your final conversation. Dean Domino involves dodging about a dozen PA systems and radios, along with a good deal of holographic security guards. Your confrontation with Dean Domino will probably end with his death, although you may be able to talk him into not being a complete idiot.
Veronica is waiting for you in the hotel rooms. Here, you'll once again get lost, and you'll get to dodge the laser beams of an entirely new hologram. Same old, same old. Things change a bit--albeit not much--once you head down to the vault.
The Vault and the Final Showdown
Before you get to the vault, to the gold bars and the final testimony of the Sierra Madre's lovesick builder, you'll need to dodge a constant barrage of holographic security and PA systems. Save a lot, and consider switching over to third-person view for this section. You'll be doing a lot of jumping and balancing on beams.
This section is long and frustrating, but ultimately, pretty straight forward. Just keep moving and eventually you'll get to the vault.
How you handle this last part is going to be based entirely on your skills. The easiest, most profitable, and most dramatically ironic way to go about it is to pocket as much gold as you can carry, sneak back to the elevator, and leave Father Elijah to starve to death inside the casino.
Your second option is to fight. Elijah has a custom LAER laser rifle and, considering his age, he's extremely hardy. If your hacking is high enough you can turn the turrets against him. If you can't do that, disable or destroy the turrets before he gets down there. Your big advantage against Elijah is that you have a minute or so to get ready for his arrival, so consider setting up some mines.
Once Elijah is defeated, all that's left to do if for you to take the elevator back up. You probably weren't able to bring more than a few bars of gold, but fear not: even three of them will net you around 20,000 caps.
Dead Money is far from perfect, and its exploding collar mechanic, while increasing the tension, ended up being more annoying than immersive. Still, if you're looking for a problem that you can't shoot your way through, if you want to learn the secrets of the Sierra Madre and meet the fantastic characters, and if you want to walk out of it with literal bars of gold, take a trip to the beautiful, doomed Sierra Madre. Just make sure to save before you do.
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