Well its finally time to take a trip to everyone’s favourite post-apocalyptic brand-targeted theme park NUKA-WORLD!

But is it a trip worth taking? Let’s find out!

DEVELOPER: Bethesda Game Studios

PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks

DIRECTOR: Todd Howard

WRITER: Emil Pagliarulo

INITIAL RELEASE: August 30, 2016

GENRE: First-Person Shooter/Role-Playing Game

Well, it’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it? We’ve constructed robots and defeated the Mechanist, we’ve built death arenas as an excuse to watch Deathclaws murder innocent settlers for our own depraved amusement, we’ve braved the unending horrors of coastal Maine, and we’ve even resurrected a vault from the dead of the old world. Yes, it’s been quite the ride, Fallout 4 DLC, but I think its time we come to the end.

And what better way to end it all than by burning everything to the ground?

Nuka-World sends players off to…well, Nuka-World, the Fallout universe’s blatant pastiche of Disney World that’s dedicated to everyone’s favorite fictional knock-off of Coca-Cola, Nuka-Cola. The small catch being that the once peaceful trading outpost of Nuka-World has been taken over by an alliance of vicious and dangerous raider gangs that are far different from any raiders you’ve previously encountered. Roped into becoming the raider’s new Overboss, it’s up to the player to bring these raider groups together, restore Nuka-World to its former glory, and strike out into the Commonwealth.

Yup, that’s right. Nuka-World finally allows players to live out all their twisted little raider fantasies, any way they see fit to; although before players can get to raiding the Commonwealth, they have to re-take the other sections of the park. Initially, the raider groups only control one of the parks in Nuka-World, Nuka-Town USA. This leaves you to having to re-take the other parks: Galactic Zone, Safari Adventure, Kiddie Kingdom, Nuka Bottling Plant, and Dry Rock Gulch, each one in turn themed after some kind of typical gaudy theme park trapping.

That said, once you claim these parks for your raiders, you have to choose which gangs get what territories. Nuka-World’s uneasy raider alliance is made up of three different gangs. First, there are the Disciples, who are vicious, merciless killers with a Mad Max fashion sense. Then, there are the Operators, who roll around in nice suits and tend to prefer a cleaner, subtler approach to raiding. Finally, there’s the Pack, who operate like wild pack animals and dress like someone power-bombed them all into a clown’s wardrobe of old costumes. And as Overboss, it’s down to you to decide who gets what territory in both Nuka-World and the Commonwealth, and how much of it they get. Give a gang more, and they will give you their loyalty; deny them, and they’ll get pissed off. Go too far cutting a gang out, and they’ll turn on you. The politics of dealing with three raider gangs constantly butting heads gives the whole business of running your raider operation an interesting power-brokering dynamic that goes beyond the often repetitive and mind-numbing simplicity of settlement management in the Fallout 4 base game.

You might have noticed I said “Nuka-World and the Commonwealth” back there. Well, that’s because for the first time in a Fallout game, you can actually lead and direct raids by your gangs in the Commonwealth, and take over settlements and turn them into raider outposts. How you go about this is entirely up to you. Do you want to just go in and wipe everyone off the face of the earth in a messy blood-bath, or would you rather take a cleaner approach and talk them off their land or intimidate them into leaving through force? Ultimately that decision, like most others in Nuka-World, is down to you.

For me personally, the best things of Nuka-World­ are in its details. I’m always a sucker for world building, and Nuka-World is loaded with it. Each of its different parks has a distinct feel and flavor to it, from its visual aesthetics, enemies, and even its sound track, with each park having its own background theme. It makes exploring each park in turn very exciting, knowing that each one promises to hold its own bevy of unique surprises that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. This also extends to a lot of the loot you can find, which is wildly varied and delightful: the weapons range of from squirt guns and paddle balls that can be weaponised into super-destructive forces of nature, to the more mundane-yet-cool-and-practical side of the equation, like the new AK-47 like rifle, to the insanely awesome, which I won’t spoil here.

But trust me, there’s some cool stuff.

The character customization options have also gotten a bunch of sweet new additions, including color-dyed hair with a few new styles to choose from, and additional face paint options, so you can morph your character into the raider you’ve always wanted them to be. On the whole, Nuka-World has not skimped on flooding Fallout 4 with a variety of new toys and gear to play with. It also has some nice little callbacks to the Fallouts of years past. Obviously, I won’t detail them here, but there are some delightful little cameos from some of Fallout’s weirder characters, including one that leads to a lengthy collect-a-thon quest that has one of the best pay-offs to any quest in Fallout 4 to date, and another one that goes waaaaaay back to when Fallout was in its top-down isometric days.

Of course, the meat of Nuka-World’s new additions is in the aforementioned ability to run your own raider gangs and conquer settlements in the Commonwealth. For the most part, the settlements you can convert into raider outposts function mostly like how the normal settlements do – you build stuff to keep raiders fed, watered, and happy etc. The key difference being is that raiders don’t like working to keep their settlements in check, so you have to rely on intimidating other surrounding settlements into sending supplies, or risk angering your raiders by putting them to work in the fields. On the whole, the whole raider outpost system doesn’t exactly differ greatly from how the existing settlements function. There’s some extra options in some regards to how you go about claiming the settlements depending on your preferred method, but once you have them under your thumb they’re essentially just settlements with a raider make-over.

It’s at this point that I need to talk about Nuka-World’s biggest caveat. As the flavor of the review might have already suggested, Nuka-World is built primarily around the player character being a raider, and I mean really built around it. Much like how the player’s character is roped into the Overboss job in Nuka-World’s plot, so too is the player also roped into having to adopt the raider lifestyle to get the most out of Nuka-World’s content, which is fine.

As long as you actually want to be a raider.

Unfortunately, Nuka-World doesn’t offer many alternative paths for players who don’t want their characters to become savage raiders. Sure, there is the arbitrary “kill everyone” option that serves as the alternative to running the raider gangs, but as is often the case with these kind of perfunctory “Plan B” quest, it’s a very unsatisfying way to engage with Nuka-World’s content, as it will lock you out of a fair few things, not to mention emptying out Nuka-World and making it a very lonely place. Look I get it, a lot of the intent with this DLC was to allow players to finally play as a raider, and of course I respect that intent. But, at the same time, as someone whose not exactly super-interested in twisting my character into a monstrous raider, it presents a frustrating roadblock to me getting the most out of my experience with this DLC, especially when adopting the raider lifestyle in its entirety can have some fairly significantly implications on the main game.

FINAL VERDICT

There’s a lot to like in Nuka-World. It’s fun, vibrant, and joy to explore; loaded with tons of fun little references and tasty loot and goodies that offer plenty of amusement in their own right, and its great to finally have a proper avenue for players to actually create a genuine raider character. At the same time, Nuka-World’s content hinges greatly on the player’s desire to actually commit to the whole raider things, which can be a frustrating proposition for any players who aren’t exactly interested in that.

So in short, if you’re keen as a bean to get to raidin’, then Nuka-World is absolutely for you. But if that’s not exactly your cup of tea, I can only say that’s there’s still a lot to enjoy, but you’ll have a significantly stilted experience with this DLC if you’re trying to avoid going full-blown raider.

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