Choices. Life is full of them. Some of them are mundane, like what to have for breakfast or what show to watch on Netflix, while others are of greater consequence, like who you choose to marry, or whether or not you upvote that cat picture on Reddit.
You should always upvote that cat pic, by the way.
Meanwhile, games try and capture that lifelike feeling by offering the player similar choices. Do you use a sword or a dagger? An assault rifle, or a pistol? Do you save the princess or leave her in the dungeon to explore the wider world without royalty dragging you down?
Fallout: New Vegas was a classic in the franchise that offered players an unparalleled amount of choices. Almost every quest you embarked on had a choice at one point or another, if nothing else than what order you kill those Legionnaires in. For most Fallout fans, New Vegas represented the pinnacle of choice-based, story-driven campaigning, where everything you did felt like it mattered.
And yet, most of your choices weren’t actual decisions at all. They were the illusion of choice.
How many times did you rescue the enslaved wastelander, only to find them dead of a radscorpion a few paces away? What actual good was it in choosing to be benevolent if your benefactor up and gets themselves killed after 30 seconds?
Fallout: New Vegas is full of choices that on the surface seem profound, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find none of them ever really mattered. Here’s a smattering of those choices to make you feel like a leaf in the wind.
20 Your Finger On The Switch
There are a lot of seemingly monumental choices that New Vegas provides you that should have far-reaching consequences for the Mojave, but ultimately turn out to be underwhelming.
Take the quest “That Lucky Old Sun”. In this quest you’re tasked with bringing online a massive solar generator that’s controlled by the NCR. Once you’ve got it fully repaired you have a choice: you can divert the power to New Vegas and Camp McCarran, as requested by the NCR, or you can send it to the Fremont and Westside as requested by the Followers of the Apocalypse, or you can just give it out everywhere like a commie. Either direction you go, it doesn’t seem to change any particular location. New Vegas is the same by the time you arrive, and both Fremont and Westside are as drab as ever.
19 To Benefit The Many, Or Save The Few
It wouldn’t be an RPG if you weren’t ever given the tried, tested, and true moral quandary: do you sacrifice a few for the benefit of all, or make everyone suffer just so a few more can live? “Hard Luck Blues” eventually slaps you with that choice right near the end when you’ve finally made it past hordes of vicious ghouls and find yourself in Vault 34’s reactor.
Just as you’re about to close to rector vent to stop poisoning the nearby farms, a message pops up on your computer terminal saying there’s a group of trapped refugees. Opening the door would for them to escape would irradiate the fields, but closing the vents would cut off their air supply, killing them.
Here’s the thing: the sharecropper fields are still there if you choose to save the refugees, and killing them doesn’t do much other than removing a few NPCs from Aerotech Office Park. You might as well let your heart guide you since the net effect is virtually nothing at all.
18 Helping The Not-So-Great Khans
The Great Khans are a bit of a do-nothing group in New Vegas. Ostensibly they’re there act like the Mongol Hordes of the old world, but in practice, they just seem to be selling drugs and living in yurts.
New Vegas gives you the choice of whether or not to help the Khans actually become great again. If you do then they will help you in the final battle at Hoover Dam, lending their forces to fight against either the NCR or the Legion depending on which faction you side with.
The thing is, the Khans are so weak that you might as well not have bothered. They’re armed with tiny peashooters that do virtually nothing but scrape the paint off the armor of either faction, and their unarmored members die in seconds. Some help they turn out to be.
17 That’s A Wrap, Caesar
I very rarely sided with Caesar’s Legion. Something about the whole assaulting and pillaging thing just never really sat well with me. But if you can stomach the omnipresent stench of blood and despair, then eventually Caesar himself will deign to speak to you - albeit at spearpoint.
You see, Caesar has a problem: he’s got cancer. He needs an operation to remove a tumor from his brain or he’ll be dead in days. It’s up to you to figure out how to do brain surgery in the desert using some old-world technology. You can choose to save the biggest psychopath in the desert, or you can kill him and make it look like an accident.
Either way, it doesn’t really matter. If he dies, Lucius just takes over the whole pillaging party. If he lives, it’s just more of the same. It’s almost like this powerful and charismatic leader matters less than the murder party. Who knew?
16 ...Or I Could Just Kill You
There’s a lot of quests in New Vegas that fall under these lines: you can go through the rigamarole of repairing this, fixing that, talking to this person, or, I could just kill you.
Case in point, the quest “Crazy, Crazy, Crazy”. If you manage to get past the horde of Super Mutants littering Black Mountain, you’re confronted with the problem of Tabitha, their crazy Nightkin leader. You now have a choice: you can fix her robot, Rhonda, you can rescue Raul, the ghoul mechanic, or you can just frickin’ kill her. No matter which path you choose, the reward and outcome are all the same. The only difference is a brief blurb at the end of the game saying how Tabitha and Rhonda had lots of great adventures in the desert if she lives. Which is a big if.
15 This Is The Opposite Of Intelligence Gathering
This is probably my favorite quest in the game for how friggin’ pointless it is. In “Eye for an Eye”, an NCR Sargeant tasks you with sneaking into Cottonwood Cove, planting a bug to listen in on Legion radio communications, and stealing some Legion troop documents. If you decide to get caught and you’re not hostile with the Legion, their commander can give you some fake reports and send you back to the NCR, which completes the quest just as easily as having done the quest for real.
It gets better: once the bugs are planted, the same Sargent asks you go back and just murder everyone. Normally a radio bug only works if there’s someone still speaking into the radio, but apparently, the NCR don’t even care! You go to all that trouble of infiltrating their camp only to negate everything by killing everyone. True tactical genius.
14 A Rose By Any Other Name
Let’s talk about a choice you’re given right at the beginning of the game that is perhaps the most pointless one you’re ever presented with. I’m talkin’ about character creation. Specifically the looks department. You can make yourself look a gorgeous supermodel wandering the wastes, or an ugly Quasimodo hobbling from camp to camp, but either way, it makes no difference to how the game plays.
And it should. You have a charisma stat which actually determines dialog options. Being super pretty or hideous should really change the way the world interacts with you. I mean, if I walked into a store with a face like that then I’d probably find buying a pack of gum to be a pretty tiresome affair.
13 White Legs, Black Hearts
The worst choices in New Vegas are the ones where you think you’ve made a profound moral decision, only to have that choice revoked a few seconds later. That’s what happens in “Crush The White Legs”, one of the final quests in the Honest Hearts DLC.
The White Legs are the main antagonist group working for the Legion. They’ve come to Zion to kill everyone and take over the canyon. At the very end, you’re confronted with their tribal leader, Salt-Upon-Wounds, who challenges you to a duel. Once you defeat him (something that’s not hard to do, given the presence of VATS), then you can choose to let him live or kill him.
But it doesn’t matter what you choose since he dies either way. Let him live and the end credits show that he meets his end, along with the rest of the White Legs, not soon after leaving Zion.
12 I Thought The Apocalypse Would Be More Apocalyptic
Lonesome Road is a fitting end to the saga of the Courier, and New Vegas more generally. You finally meet your hitherto unknown rival, Ulysses, kill him, and then decide what to do with his recently unearth nuclear arsenal. The sins of the Old World are indeed hard to bury.
You have a choice of three: send that nuke to NCR territory, send it to Legion territory, or if you’ve managed to rescue Ed-E, cancel the launch. Doing nothing is easily the most boring option, but choosing to nuke either side is almost equally as disappointing. One would think that a nuclear explosion would wipe out large swaths of either NCR or Legion settlements, but in the end, all that appears is a small crater with some unique gear. It doesn’t even matter which side you nuke since the stats on both are identical.
Surprisingly, while your reputation does drop for nuking either side, they won’t attack you even if your reputation drops into the negatives.
11 All Bullets The Same
One of the things everybody loves about New Vegas is just how much of an expanded arsenal the game has when compared to Fallout 3. There are a ton of guns, weapons, and modifications to make every character feel unique not just in skills and perks, but also in style.
And while the gun you choose certainly matters, one could argue that if you decided to play the game differently, choosing your weapon based solely on ammunition, the choice becomes rather pointless. Nearly every ammo type in the game, from the 5.56mm to the venerable .357 Magnum, remains viable to get you to the end-game.
How do I figure? Let’s take the .357 as an example. You begin the came shooting a lowly Cowboy Repeater, but eventually gain access to the K9000 Cyberdog Gun in Old World Blues, a gun more than capable of shredding a Deathclaw with ease.
10 Dirty, Worthless Money
Perhaps the most hated of all New Vegas DLC, Dead Money presents the player with a choice: do I even bother playing Dead Money, or do I just skip it and go straight to Old World Blues?
The choice seems to matter on its face, but upon closer inspection, it matters not at all. Dead Money is a frustrating add-on that pulls the worst trick any game company can perform on its players: removes all the player’s wealth and items and makes them start over. Well, almost. You still have your perks and skills and attributes, but your inventory is completely removed before entering into the Sierra Madre.
Worse still, the only thing you can take with you upon leaving are bars of gold that can be sold at vendors for caps. But by the time you actually do Dead Money, you should be rolling in caps, making them practically worthless.
So when deciding whether or not to do Dead Money, just remember not to spend too much brainpower on the decision. It doesn’t matter either way.
9 To Be Or Not To Benny
At first, the plot to New Vegas is simple: find the guy who shot you in the head and exact vengeance. Cool. I can dig that. Then you actually find the guy, called Benny, and you’re presented with the choice of killing him or letting him live.
This may come as a surprise to you since I’m sure most of you murdered the hell out of Benny, but if you let him live he actually winds up dead anyway - or very close to. There are very few options that end with Benny escaping your clutches alive since even if you work with him he’ll inevitably betray you, but if you insist on keeping him alive he’ll fall into Caesar’s hands.
But either way, it doesn’t really matter. Benny doesn’t contribute to the story after your confrontation at The Tops, so the choice is pretty pointless.
8 Sometimes The House Doesn’t Win
Oh, those moral quandaries. New Vegas is just chock-full of them. Like whether or not you let Robert Edwin House live after you find him in the basement of the Lucky 38 casino.
The man has been kept alive via Old World machinery for over 200 years, plotting his return as a pre-eminent power. If you decide to work for him he’ll have you sabotage both the NCR and the Legion’s efforts to control New Vegas, but if you decide to work against him you’ll break into his secret underground vault where his decrepit body is kept. You then get to decide whether he lives or finally dies.
Except the choice is moot since simply by opening his life support unit he’ll die anyway. At centuries old, House has long since lost whatever immune system he had as a healthy human, and the bacteria present in the very air will do away with him inside a few months.
7 Sanity Is Overrated Anyways
One of my favorite races in Fallout would have to be the Nightkin. They’re Super Mutants, so they’re already a little mentally off, but they’re given the double whammy of going schizo from constantly using Stealth Boys. I guess nobody had ever done a study of the long-term effects of being invisible.
To cure them of their crazies, Jacobstown’s Doc Henry tries to study a new model of the Stealth Boy, the Mk. II, which shows some promising technology. If you manage to peacefully settle a dispute with the Nightkin leader, you’re eventually presented with the choice of either letting your companion Lily continue to use the Mk. II, and thus assisting with Doc Henry’s research, or asking her to stop.
Once again, the choice is irrelevant. The only difference between the two is in the end credits when it takes “a little longer” to find the cure if Lily doesn’t wear the Mk. II.
6 The Road To Success Is Paved With Drugs
There’s a lesson to be learned in the New Vegas quest, “Flags of Our Foul-Ups”. You’re presented with the problem of four NCR cadets that are underperforming in their soldierly duties and tasked with helping them get up to snuff. You’re then given four paths to victory. You can:
-Put your nose to the grindstone and actually make the cadets do some training
-Talk a lot
-Do a lot of drugs
-Cheat by hacking the NCR’s computer records
No matter which path you choose, the quest ends with the same reward. This has a remarkable correlation to the real world, where there are essentially only the same four paths to success.
5 Remember The Time? Me Neither
The best companion is Fallout: New Vegas is Ed-E, hands down. But a close second is Boone, the moody, emo sniper who lost his wife to Legion slavers.
While Boone’s skill with a sniper rifle and ability to make enemies stand out in an orange glow are both useful, his personal quest is of questionable value. Unlike every other companion, Boone doesn’t get a bonus perk upon completion of the quest. On top of that, he just gets a fancy new set of armor when it’s all said and done.
Which armor you get will depend on whether you tell Boone to man-up and get over it or try to make the world a better place in his dead wife’s memory. But as usual, the choice is just cosmetic. Both the 1st Recon Survival Armor and the 1st Recon Assault Armor have the exam same stats and even look very similar.
4 Inescapable Terror
Cazadores. Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of men and Super Mutants alike than the terrible buzzing sound of these winged death machines. Nothing can withstand their harpoon-like stinger, and neither can anyone predict their irregular, zig-zagging flight.
When confronted with a Cazador the player is given the worst dilemma. You could fight, and likely die since whatever you’re armed with is surely inadequate to subdue these insect nightmares, or you could flee and also likely die as Cazadores are the fastest creature in the Mojave. Nothing escapes their devilish speed and cunning.
There is no choice. There is only death.
3 There’s Nothing SPECIAL About It
Along with customizing your appearance, New Vegas allows you to customize your Courier via seven attributes: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. How you distribute your attributes can drastically alter the efficacy of your character at certain tasks, like lockpicking or hacking, while also changing your damage dealing capacity or critical hit rate.
And yet your choice here doesn’t matter either. Practically every section of the game has multiple routes to success, so even if you can’t pick that lock you can probably hack that computer, or talk to someone to let you inside, or even just walk around whatever is blocking your path. It’s even possible to play an entirely pacifist game by never hurting a soul, so what does all this SPECIAL nonsense even matter?
2 NCR? Legion? It’s All The Same, Man
While I’m on a role, what does it matter which side ultimately wins at Hoover Dam? If the NCR take the dam, then they take over the region, instituting their laws and their customs and taxation, and everybody is enslaved to another capitalist machine. If the Legion win, then they also institute their laws and customs, and everybody gets just as enslaved, only the Legion has the decency to actually bind you in chains and hold you at gunpoint just to make it clear who’s in charge.
And what if House wins? Is an army of robots oppressing the populace while an artificial intelligence determines their very lives somehow any better? Would you rather the hand that keeps you down be a metal tentacle, a human fist, or an accountant’s ledger?
1 But Really, None Of It Matters
If you’re brave enough, or stupid enough, you could just walk straight to New Vegas as soon as you wake up and finish the game immediately. It’ll be hard since there’s a bunch of Deathclaws standing between you and Vegas, but it’s possible. Thus, choosing to do the main quest is itself a pointless endeavor since it can be completely bypassed from the word go.
I guess you could back even further and say that choosing to play New Vegas at all was pointless. Neither was getting up this morning. Nothing really matters. We are all irrelevant specs in a vast sea of emptiness called time.
Whoops, forgot to take my meds. Sorry about that.
Your drying pan won't protect you from the wrath of societal cancellation, Brock.