I must admit it was with some trepidation I embarked on the ferry to Maryland. There had been rumours abound that this was the most difficult expansion to date. I'm happy to report that whilst it certainly has challenging moments, it never felt impossible. I would like to mention that I was level 25 when I started, having been through Operation Anchorage previously. I believe anyone attempting this pre level 20 will be faced with a much harder time.
You begin your journey to Maryland by meeting a cheery old fellow by the name of Tobar who, after a brief description of what you can expect post landing, offers you passage (and only you, no followers allowed I'm afraid) to the seaside resort. Now is the time to make sure you are fully stocked on supplies, particularly all you, power-armour-wearing, laser-weapon fans out there, as replacement parts are almost impossible to find.
Once docked, Tobar advises you to visit the Old Mansion, as the prime clue I head in that direction, making a few detours to the shop and Motel along the way. The atmosphere at this point is fairly standard Fallout affair, although it's a pleasure beach, it is still a nuked pleasure beach. Once you have made your way out along the boardwalk and into the vast wilderness you really get a sense that you are somewhere quite different to the usual concrete/barren wasteland areas you have become so accustomed to.
The forest and marshland area are positively bristling with foliage (for Fallout) and the level of detail is right up there with anything you have experienced in the main game. The children’s dolls tied to trees were a particular highlight and give you a small glimpse of the enemies you will face up against. The first enemies I encountered were some molerats, not super mutated ones, just your bog standard molerats, the ones you can step on without breaking a sweat, what is all the fuss about, I wondered?
And then I saw one, a Tracker running full pelt at me looking like the illegitimate love child of Leatherface & Jupiter. 4 headshots later and he was still bearing down on me, ah, right this is a bit more like it. Another enemy worth mentioning are the creepers. As their name suggests, they can be on you before you know it, entangling you whilst their Tracker buddy closes the distance for some good ol’fashioned axing. Using different foes in tandem comes off as a decent bit of game design and provokes a new level of depth in the game.
Once I had made my way to the Mansion I encountered a Ghoul going by the name of Desmond along with his beloved dogs Freki and Geri (bonus points if any of you GW fans out there can tell me where their names came from).. I have to say that he turns out be the most memorable character I have encountered in all my time in the fallout world. His sharp wit and "I don't take no shit off no-one" attitude made me like him immediately. He set's you off on a number of missions all of which are in line with the game’s familiar flow. A special mention must go to the swamp mission, which is a great bit of game writing and will stay with me for a while. I won't spoil what happens, but let's just say it's a trippy experience.
All in all this is a more than worthy addition to the fallout world. With the main story taking 4-5 hours, and the numerous side quests adding another 2-3, you get plently of adventuring for your money. As well as the standard 100 points worth of Xbox Live achievements to keep you coming back for more.