It’s All Games and Carnival Tricks at Nuka World

Review by Mike Malpiedi

With the summer coming to a close, Bethesda has left us with some last minute summer hi-jinx thanks to Nuka-World. This amusement park based dlc is the last piece of content that Bethesda will be releasing for Fallout 4, so the question is does Nuka World give us the thrill-ride send off we’ve been looking for?

Well the answer is yes… and then again no. Nuka-World, like many games and pieces of dlc in the past few years, have fallen short under the weight of expectation. Overall, I spent about six hours with Nuka-World and was able to complete the main story-line along with a few side-quests. There were some fun moments romping around the decrepit park thanks to the wonderfully realized setting, but at the end of the day the game-play and quests offered aren’t enough to keep me invested for hours upon hours.

So let’s get into the review…

The Story & Setting

Nuka-World is an excellent premise for a Fallout expansion. A rundown amusement park controlled by three bandits gangs and transformed into their main base of operations, so they can reek havoc across the Commonwealth. The best part is you get to be their leader (if you so choose), so what is not to love right? Unfortunately this is about as deep as the storytelling goes for this last Fallout expansion. Sure there are several individualized stories that take place based on the area of the park your in, but all of those stories tie into the one main-quest which is to secure the park and offer different parts of it to the various raider factions. Each quest in the main story-line is boiled down to either basic fetch or kill everything quests. Although, I do have to say that my wasteland version of Frank Castle was quite pleased to find the “Open Season” quest which gives you the option to off all of the raider leaders and establish Nuka-World as an open trading post.

The setting of Nuka-World is what really tells the story though. Bethesda did a fantastic job of creating the amusement park and all of its different sections. Nuka-World has a total of six different areas that include Kiddie Kingdom, Safari World, Dry Rock Gulch, World of Refreshment/Nuka Cola Bottle Factory, and Galaxy Zone. Each section of the park felt like its own world. Kiddie Kingdom is beautifully dark and haunted with twisted fun houses and creepy neon-painted ghouls that resemble clowns from your worst nightmares. Safari World is a bit of an ode to Jurassic Park with busted cages littering the area and genetically cloned gator monsters running rampant. Galaxy Zone is a 50’s scifi heaven dominated by robots and Dry Rock Gulch looks like it is torn right out of an old spaghetti western (with a little spice of Tremors thanks to the Blood Worms).

Then lastly there is of course the Nukalurk and Automaton infested hell-scape that is the World of Refreshment which serves as a beautiful satire of American capitalism and corporate culture. Bethesda insured that each section of the park felt like its own realm. I also really enjoyed the added touch provided by the prerecorded messages that play throughout the park. Each section has its own recorded messages from the park administrators that are filled to the brim with history and humor.

It is unfortunate, however, that the setting vastly outshines the characters living in the park. There are a few gems such as the Wizard from the Kiddie Kingdom, but the rest of the new cast is underwritten and only fill basic archetypes such as wild man raider or blood thirsty sadist. I honestly didn’t care about any of the raider factions, each one was pretty swallow in terms of actual story and only serve as a way to get gear and simple grind quests. Each faction embodies very simplistic ideologies: the Pack are feral and vicious raiders who like to watch people fight gorillas, the Disciples are your basic torturers and sadists covering the walls of their bases with limbs, and the Operators are just hipster hackers who want all the money in the world.  While the gear you can get from the different factions can be pretty good, they don’t offer many other incentives to keep them around or go back to visit them. Even the new follower, Gage, is pretty bland. All he amounts to is your average right-hand raider.

Overall, the whole expansion offers about 5-9 hours of game-play depending upon how vigorous you are with completing the side-quests. It took me roughly 6 hours to finish the main story of cleaning out the park along with a few faction side-quests. A decent bit of new content, but nothing as engrossing as what was offered in the previous Far Harbor expansion.

Gameplay

The overall game-play in Nuka-World is where the expansion truly loses its luster. The expansion does add a few new enemy types and variants such as the Blood Worm, Gatorclaw, Cave Crickets, and Nukalurks, but none add too much flavor to the Fallout 4 experience. The majority of the new enemies are purely variants such as the Nukalurks which are Nuka Cola infused Mirelurks. The buggy nature of some of the newer enemies also doesn’t help when trying to remain immersed in the park’s various settings. The Gatorclaws and Blood Worms would feel much more dynamic if they didn’t constantly freeze mid-action or just flop on the ground waiting for death. The Gatorclaws were particular buggy, often falling over frozen mid-charge or while trying to attack. I captured one of my bugger Gatorclaw encounters in a segment I like to call “Go Home Gatorclaw, You Drunk.” Enjoy!

Buggy fights such as this are littered throughout all of Nuka-World and, while they can add some humor, it would have be nice to see more consistency and polish, but then again it is Bethesda. The expansion does add a couple surprising boss encounters that add a little freshness to the experience. Fights with characters such as the Overboss and the Wizard definitely kept me on my toes. The Overboss utilizes a special power armor that has an electrified shield which can be brought down by a squirt gun. The tanky boss serves as your introduction to the park. The Wizard is the trickster ghoul who rules over all of Kiddie Kingdom and he uses teleportation powers and smoke to take you off-guard. Add in some waves of creepy painted ghouls and this fight definitely gets the adrenaline pumping. These moments serve as challenging accent notes to a couple of generic quests. Other than those occurrences, the rest of the game-play experience is pretty standard Fallout 4.

In terms of prepping for the Nuka-World experience, I would recommend going in at around level 35. I went in at level 30 which is the minimum requirement to access the park and found myself in a few sticky situations given that all the enemies are around level 40. And if you are considering doing the Open Season quest, you are going to need to level up to level 40 or above since all of the raider faction members are level 50. Seriously, these factions will wipe you out if you are under-leveled. You will also need plenty, I mean plenty, of ammo and have a durable power armor set since you will be doing a significant amount of shooting. Don’t even get me started on the World of Refreshment…

 Conclusion

The last Fallout 4 expansion definitely adds an engrossing new location to the Fallout universe, but a lackluster plot and average game-play keep all the fun and games to a minimum. While the setting of Nuka-World may take the breathe away at first, it cannot completely obscure the shallow experience. Fallout 4 fans will absolutely get a little kick out of the park and backstory of the Wasteland’s favorite soft drink, but not much else. The main quest, characters, and buggy game-play will keep most fans around for maybe ten hours, but unfortunately Nuka-World isn’t the exhilarating finale we were hoping for.

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