Now Playing: Spade-related violence in Fallout 3: Point Lookout

Tom Francis

"Aww, mah eye!" wails a melt-faced mutant hick as I spang him in the face with a spade. I spang him with the spade again, but he makes no further comment. This is a magic spade, and by 'magic' I mean 'covered in shit'. The stated explanation for the +3 damage is that it's been used for years as a fertiliser shovel.

"Welcome to Point Lookout, bitch." I would have said, except that he lives here and I don't, and he died from feces poisoning before I could say it.

This is what became of Maryland: a putrid swamp so grim and desolate that even after the Capital Wasteland's howlingly bleak deadscapes it makes you want to drop to your knees and sob. And it hasn't got better in the last 200 years.

The reason I like it, the reason I've played this Fallout 3 DLC to death and barely touched the other four, is that it's a big chunk o'land. There is one questline that's longer and more spectacular than the others, but I stumbled upon it naturally from exploring rather than being shoved down it like The Pitt. Wandering around is more personal, more lonely and more evocative of life in a cold war nightmare.

My excitement at stepping off the boat onto a misty broadwalk didn't last long. The creepily deserted coastal town gave way to a deliciously spongey bayou, pocked with burping splats of liquid mud. It was a long time before I saw anyone, which goes a small way to excusing why, when I did, I ran directly at them to say hi.

I was shot, I think fourteen times. Lank haired rednecks let off their shotguns, their dungarees dangling open to bare withered chests, and a burly mechanic drawled that "You in the wraawng place giirl!" before hitting me in the skull with a baseball bat. And then Sloth showed up.

It wasn't actually Sloth, from The Goonies, but that was cold comfort as the lumbering malformed freak chased me across Maryland with a woodcutter. In fact, it would have taken the edge off if he'd been groaning "Hey you guuuuuys!" as he ran.

I'd emptied every gun I had into him, but he kept coming. I'd trodden in bear traps, blundered into deathbots and stepped on landmines in my epic run from one of the first enemies I met. After a while I stopped checking behind me - he was always there, gurning and swiping inches from my back, and looking was only bringing him closer. When he'd finally chased me all the way to the coastal cliffs, I just threw myself off.

Sloth was gone. But I was cold, cut, burnt, shot, beaten, badly irradiated, surrounded by Mirelurks and more than a little homesick. I clambered up the craggy rock face and staggered inland - cautiously - until I found a cathedral.

It was walled off, with an intercom next to the gate. I used it: silence.

It was gone dark, so I did what anyone would: stood stock still staring at the intercom for eight hours, then used it again. Silence. I left.

When I came back, a day later, I was dressed as one of the tribe I'd learned now lived there. They still wouldn't let me in, but they were at least talking to me. The conversation didn't go well.

In a few surprising minutes, it ended with me having my hair shaved off, a chunk cut out of my brain, and hallucinating that double-basses grew on trees, Nuka Cola Bottles were nuclear bombs, the world was upside down and a giant phantasmal needle was stitching it together.

But I got into that cathedral, god damn it, and one of the punga-fruit farmers inside offered me his shit-stained spade. I wouldn't call it Excalibur, but when you're looking for something to beat seven shades of fertilizer out of a hideous Goonies stand-in who gone done you wrong, a spade's a spade.

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