My first experience in Dead Money was on a pure guns character, which made combat an extremely tedious slog. I thought going in on a melee weapons character might let me judge it more fairly, because a lot of my hatred for the DLC was tied to how tedious and repetitive combat was. Playing melee definitely expedited the combat, but I still didn't find anything to enjoy about it. Rant about why I hate this DLC below.
Dead money is by far the most visually and mechanically bland DLC for me. Aesthetically, there is just nothing there. It's an endless series of identical grey corridors you are forced to progress through in a linear fashion. Gameplay wise, it is very different from anything else in the game, but different doesn't mean better or interesting. It's only different in the fact that it removes all the variety in enemies and weapons and makes you fight the same copy/paste enemy with the same boring, unsatisfying weapons for the length of the entire DLC. As a guns character, you are given two guns, and neither of them feel like they have any feedback, and you have to shoot a limb over and over and over waiting for it to randomly explode. It's the most mind numbingly boring, tedious combat experience I've ever had in New Vegas. As a melee weapons character, combat is totally trivialized. Just special attack with the knife spear to knock them down and spam left click. That's all you have to do here entire DLC. It's not fun, but at least its over quickly. Haven't tried energy weapons, but there's no way I'm subjecting myself to this DLC a third time. I would be totally fine with the DLC taking all my weapons away if it had anything good to replace them with, but all the weapons in this DLC are incredibly unsatisfying. Maybe part of that feeling is due to the lack of enemy variety, but it's not a good experience either way.
Beyond combat, all the other mechanics also seem designed, not really to challenge you in any way, but to waste as much of your time as possible. The radios are not a challenge. They just make you walk in and out of rooms looking for them. They needlessly slow you down. The fog doesn't really present a threat. It just forces you to spend 30 seconds holding E on a sink after going through it, maximizing the amount of time you need to subject your eyes to the aforementioned identical grey corridors.
Speaking of which, I never got this "intense survival horror" vibe people sometimes attribute to this DLC, and I play on Very Hard in Hardcore mode. I'm not going to tell people to "git gud". It could be some of them just aren't abusing mechanics the way I did, and I'm glad if they got that experience. Scrounging for resources in the first 15 minutes was genuinely fun for me. Switching to my fists to kill a radroach without wasting durability on the pipe I found was fun. Of course, you'll have literally more weapons than you can carry after that, because most ghost people carry like 6 of them. Health isn't really an issue because there are sinks everywhere with a 5-1 HP-Rad ratio, which is essentially unlimited healing, and once you find the code to turn chips into stimpacks, you'll have more healing than you'll ever need. I never spent chips on anything other than stims, because everything else was kind of useless, and I left the DLC with 180 stimpacks on the hardest difficulty. That doesn't really feel like a resource crunch to me.
And then at the end of the DLC, it tries to tie its themes together with the gold bars, which would be a neat idea if the confrontation with Elijah wasn't so poorly done. Even with 100 stealth and a stealth boy active, he will immediately detect you if you so much as caps walk within 15 feet of him, even if his back is turned. He will pivot instantly to face you. It feels like its hard coded and has nothing to do with your actual stealth. That's reinforced by the fact that he automatically detects you if you get close to either door, even if all the same conditions apply and he's across the room or not even in the room yet. Except for one of the doors during one part of his scripted walk sequence. What a lazy way to do a "stealth" sequence. And even then, there's multiple ways to get out with all the gold, which sort of undermines the theme, but that really doesn't matter because the theme was already undermined. If you have any decent amount of luck, you can easily walk out of the casino with 15k pre war money. A 1-1 exchange rate between Sierra madre chips and stacks of pre war money is just ridiculous, but apparently that's what they went with, so by the time you actually get to the vault, the gold bars are essentially worthless to you. I only took them with out of spite for the DLC thinking it had earned the right to have themes at the end of the slog that it put me through.
TL;DR It all sucks Except the story and characters. And some of the dialogue. Those range from decent to good, but are not worth suffering through the rest of it.
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