I mentioned before finding a way to get to New Vegas that subverted the devs' railroading attempts to force you to go down through Primm, past Nipton, and up through Novac (taking up more than half the blasted wasteland).
On this new game, I decided to test the theory. Played through the tutorial, cleaned out a small bit of the area surrounding Goodsprings, and helped Ringo take care of the Powder Gangers. This left me at level three, and brought in enough swag to buy us some passable amount of ammo.
We set off.
There's a path, northwest of Goodsprings; near the roadblock.
Up in the rocks, looking back down at town. You can see the roadblock to the left of my cursor. The path up isn't hard to find -- just look for the most friendly inclines.
Same position, looking northeast to New Vegas.
Stay up in the rocks, and you can make it clear to the Tribal Village before having to come down, or fight.
The village is the one place where you have to engage in combat on the trip. You can either drop into the valley, kill the one roaming young cazadore and sneak past the village (if you took sneak as a tag you should be able to pull it off if you hug the eastern side of the valley) or do what I did, and slaughter everything.
I took advantage of a limitation in the engine, and attacked the cazadores from the cliff overlooking the village. Their AI couldn't figure out how to get to me to retaliate, by and large. Two found their way up; but they did so slowly, and singly -- making them easy for my compatriots to pick off.
I also met the one real flaw in the plan, and the one hefty downside to trying to solo anything off the railroad tracks in this game: with a Guns skill below 50, you're in auto-suck mode. Hitting anything is difficult, and when you do hit you do fuckall for damage. It took nearly a hundred rounds of surplus 5.56mm to down four adult cazadores.
Nonetheless, we made it through with a minimum of grief.
From there, we moved in the lowest terrain available: between the state park and Bonnie Springs -- giant mantises on one side, Viper bandits on the other. Neither I wanted to tangle with at level four.
Unfortunately... the three redheaded psychopaths I roll with had other ideas. In avoiding a herd of bighorners, I strayed too close to Bonnie Springs, and one of the girls' radar went off. A fight ensued. All went well, except that the last Viper spawned with a fucking grenade rifle. I took a lucky hit and ended up with a crippled leg. Stims don't work on crippled limbs in hardcore mode. Fortunately, there are a couple doctor's bags to be found in Goodsprings, so I didn't have to limp all the way to Vegas. Retrieved some nice swag, though.
Ah, the promised land is in sight.
Another unfortunate point... is that I am not an expert at navigating by topo. It is not what you call one of my intuitive skills. Even less so when the map is the stylized pseudo-LANSAT map replacer that I downloaded as part of the Shiloh Desert Succubus package.
With night falling fast, and not a bottle of cateye to my name, I aimed for the El Rey motel to hole up for the night; since I knew better than to try to make it all the way into Freeside in the dark. I had a fair idea of where McCarran was (even though it doesn't show up right on that map) but misjudged my approach and wound up staring into Cook Cook's compound. I considered swinging around, but I was already navigating by the nightscope on my varmint rifle, and couldn't remember offhand whether there were more fiends south of there -- I knew there were more to the north -- and I wasn't willing to wuss out and go look it up on the wiki. I put several bullets into Queenie -- helpfully frenzying Cook Cook and having him take out most of the fiends. Once his wounded hide was taken care of, it was a snap to take out the two remaining henchmen.
I had thought that was that, but apparently there was a straggler that had been back by the South Vegas ruins entrance. As soon as they noticed, the girls astounded me yet again. Miss Mystery made with the frontal assault, Natasha swung round in a pincer move to attack from behind, and Maeva attacked broadside through a window.
They have learned advanced infantry tactics. This frightens me.
Once the compound was looted of everything not nailed down, we pressed on and made it to the rail line underpass; where I realized we were not staring at McCarran like I thought we would be. I managed to find the McCarran control tower by its silhouette against the night sky (remember, kids: when in doubt, navigate by landmarks!) and after cursing the map yet again, adjusted our course and managed to get to the motel just as my varmint rifle was about ten shots away from being broken.
After spending the night, we struck out for Gunrunners.
The vast majority of our thus-far-collected swag went into acquiring Maeva a riot shotgun to replace her craptastic caravan shotgun. The remainder went into ammo and reloading components for our new NosCo Super Blackhawk 44's, and Natasha's marksman's carbine.
From there, we headed into Freeside, and bummed around doing the odd quest until I realized that all the quests are made for level ten plus characters, and I didn't have the skills to complete most of them. Actually, I didn't have the skills to complete any of them; but some can be done via violence if you don't have the speechcraft skills. Once I realized this, we quit Freeside and headed north into the fields; killing the odd Vipers and looting here and there. When I saved last and quit the game to do some scripting on the sorters, we had been in the pawn shop in Westside unloading some loot.
The north end of the wasteland is not made for level five characters. Not at all. Fortunately my loyal partners are scary fucking monsters in the guise of beautiful women. They make up for my shortcomings.
And now, screenshots:
You can see here Miss Mystery herself, having a snack to kill time while the "doc" interviews me. She doesn't seem to like him much. I can hear it now...
"I hope you have some idea, Doctor, what will happen to you if he doesn't make it..."
Here's the NosCo Super Blackhawk single-action 44 Magnum in-game. I used the model for the "unique" variant of the 357 revolver. You'll notice I modified it so that the correct form displays when the weapon is held by an NPC -- the unique 357 displays as the normal one if you give it to an NPC.
The NosCo SBH does not accept weapon mods, but has increased accuracy and health over the 357 version. Think of it as a custom piece. Damage is higher than the 357's, but lower than the normal 44 Magnum revolver -- since the barrel on the SBH is shorter. Effective range is midway between the two. Base value is placed at 1000 caps.
I'm considering doing a semi-custom texture, and removing that ace of clubs mark from the stocks. I may also color-shift the whole thing, so that it becomes black with silver engraving rather than gold. I'll have to see how it ends up looking.
I have to confess I'm also tempted to grab myself a copy of CALIBR for FNV and make up a revolver and levergun pair in 454. The revolver would have to be converted to a five shot, of course, but the custom ammo types I could make...
And here are Natasha and Maeva, sporting their spiffy mod-added outfits.
Natasha is rocking the "Jill BSAA" outfit, while Maeva uses the "Tactical Cleavage Outfit"; both from the "BB Armors 1st Package" from this mod. The bouncy effect is minimal compared to the Oblivion BBB armors I'm used to, but it's nonetheless a nice touch. Maybe it's the size? I mean, most BBB armors for Oblivion are E to H cup. The BB for FNV actually has racks that are... y'know, within the realm of probability.
I do need to dig up my old FO3 retexture of the Jill outfit, though. I have the textures someplace in red and black; either of which would be much better than that pastel blue. The gray wasn't bad, either.
I also fully recommend the Bouncing Natural Breasts mod, as well as Body By Race and Armor By Race. Adds plenty of variety to game NPCs; even if it does complicate loot a bit.
Edit: Also, I really like that last screenshot of Natasha. I changed them over to a smaller backpack model, and I think it looks far more balanced for people who have to actually be on the move. That, and the way she's holding her ACOG-equipped M4 in a perfect low ready...
Think I may need to find Maeva a new outfit, though. Those "tactical outfits" aren't bad by any stretch, they're just a little... random for my taste. Seems to be too much conflicting stuff crammed together. Nice boots, though... definitely. I'll have to look through those two BB packages and see what else I can come up with for her.