*This post was originally published on The Game Bolt in September, 2016*
Once again, Bethesda has given us a reason to grab our hazmat suits and head back out into the irradiated wastes with their newest DLC for Fallout 4 – Nuka World. I was a bit skeptical of Nuka World when they first announced it as a settlement based DLC and was wondering how they were going to fill out a solid 20+ hours of gameplay for the price they were putting on the expansion. Also, as someone who never really hopped aboard the lore for Nuka Cola I shrugged off the idea of a DLC centered entirely on the product. After playing through the main storyline and doing quite a bit of exploring I came to thoroughly enjoy my time spent in the various parks of Nuka World. Its overall tone manages to maintain the bleakness of an irradiated wasteland but still adding tons of humorous and goofy surprises to be found.
Nuka World starts off strong as you’re thrown into a Mad Max style gauntlet set up by the raiders of Nuka World to trap and kill unsuspecting wastelanders. The Overboss of the three factions is waiting for you at the end of the gauntlet for a round of open combat. After felling him you take his place thanks to the laws of the Nuka World raiders and the campaign begins. From here you are tasked with taking back the five different theme parks and allotting them as you see fit to the different raider groups. This brings about the two driving factors of Nuka World, the parks themselves and the raider settlement system.
There are six parks in Nuka World. One of which you already control by default, Nuka Town. Nuka Town USA is the starting area that is still under raider control which features the main headquarters for the three gangs, an old style arcade with actual games and prizes to be had, the market place, and your own private quarters as the Overboss. Kiddie Kingdom serves as a crossbreed of various nostalgic influences like rides inspired by Candyland or a large medieval castle that reminds one of gallant knights.
The World of Refreshment is a fully equipped bottling plant that was built to show off the Nuka Cola brewing process and Nuka Cola Quantum, Nuka Cola’s newest product before the bombs fell. Let’s just say that the brewing process had some adverse effects on the local crustacean population!
The Safari Adventure has some new denizens that have a nefarious origin that makes you wonder where Nuka Cola’s intentions were at before the war. Dry Rock Gulch sports an old west theme complete with a runaway minecart roller coaster and even a quick draw competition with a local loudmouthed Protectron. Lastly is the Galactic Zone which is modelled after the 1950’s interpretation of space with rocket ships, flying saucers, and little green men wielding ray guns.
Each park has a different theme and different set of challenges to overcome which helps keep what are basically glorified dungeon crawls fresh. In the case of Kiddie Kingdom you have to fight through a park filled to the brim with high level ghouls while constantly suffering radiation damage, it makes for some tense survival situations. The Galactic Zone has you fighting through an army of Nuka Cola themed robots in an attempt to collect power cores and gain control over the advancing mechanical horde. There are even areas to explore as well, and the variances between each of the parks kept gameplay fresh and helped keep my interest all the way through the DLC itself.
The other big addition to Nuka World is an entirely new mechanic involving Fallout 4’s settlement system. As the Overboss of Nuka World you are tasked with divvying up the parks whenever you take a new one back. The Pack are a group of loud and flamboyant raiders that have an affinity for animals. The Operators work much like a mafia style gang that places emphasis on class. The Disciples are masochists with a pension for gore that even Super Mutants would be humbled by. But having the parks of Nuka World just aren’t enough for the conglomerate of gangs, so they set their sights on the Commonwealth next.
Once you reach the point where you move into the Commonwealth you are tasked with deciding which settlements your raider gangs are going to inhabit and which gang gets which settlement. It doesn’t stop there though. Any traditional raider gang asserts their dominance by requiring tribute from the local populace. You have to also decide which other nearby settlements are going to pay tribute to your newly established gangs. This creates a whole new dynamic of actually having your settlements interact with each other rather than being their own separate entities. Plus, you can finally live out your dreams of an actual raider settlement in your world!
Nuka World doesn’t feel like a vain attempt at shoveling out more content for a game. In fact, it takes everything Fallout 4 has set up thus far and improves upon it. Enemy encounters take beloved monsters from the base game and turn them on their head making you approach them differently. The challenges you face differ from park to park so you’re never really burned out on doing the same quests over and over again.
The overall tone and aesthetic ranges anywhere from whacky to grim and somber scenes. Even the settlement system gets a different take after going through Nuka World. It might not be as big a DLC in terms of space as Far Harbor, but Nuka World’s effects exist long after you finish the main story which makes its staying power quite a bit more influential. Nuka World is a must buy for any Fallout enthusiast looking for some background into the iconic symbol of Nuka Cola.
Nuka World is Fallout 4 at its best in terms of tone, gameplay, and world building. It adds quite a bit to a formula that’s almost a year old and thusly is a must for anyone wanting to expand their view of the Commonwealth.