Fallout 4: Nuka-World (Video Game DLC)
Developed by Bethesda Game Studios
Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
Well, here we are folks. After the long lonely road that was Fallout 4, we’ve finally come to the end of the content. Announced as the final piece of DLC at E3 2016, Nuka-World is the last stop in the Commonwealth. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Fallout 4 was a grand endeavor, met with equal parts praise and criticism. When I first played, I was quite impressed with the scope and scale of the content. In the months after I submitted my review, I’ve come to a much more nuanced opinion. For how wonderfully presented the Commonwealth is, it’s ultimately hollow. No matter how many settlements you build, there will still always be raiders willing to raid them. It’s a fun sandbox, but real meaningful change is always just out of reach.
That being said, I still think that it’s a great game. I’m okay knowing that my dialogue choices are three different versions of “yes” and a “maybe,” as long as it helps me paint my character. The four different factions were all compelling, and I could really see why each of them might be the best option. I didn’t understand why the Minutemen and Railroad couldn’t get along, but whatever. Ultimately though, those choices were all different shades of “good.” What the game hasn’t let me be yet is a total fucking scumbag.
Thank’s to Nuka-World, you can now live your dream of being a selfish bastard. Nothing was stopping you really from shooting all the traders before, but no one was going to pat your back for it. Now, you have an entire faction of murdering psychopaths to not only cheer you on, but help you do it. What an unexpected twist for a DLC about bringing the Fallout equivalent of Disneyland back to life.
Unlike Far Harbor, actually getting to the DLC is easy. Hear the radio broadcast, travel to a reasonably accessible part of the map, kill some gunners, and you’re on your way. Once you get there, the real struggle begins. You find yourself plopped into “The Gauntlet,” a series of traps designed to kill poor travelers for the entertainment of Nuka-World’s raider gangs. As if the flame throwers and grenade bouquets weren’t bad enough, at the end of the track waits Overboss Colter. Encased in a suit of impenetrable power armor, it’s up to you and your squirt gun to defeat him. Yes, really.
After this harrowing ordeal, you walk out from the arena to meet your new companion, Porter Gage. He explains to you that by the laws of Nuka-World, you are the new Overboss. Sick! Show me to my arsenal and wench room! Well, not so fast. You see, Nuka-World is actually held by a confederation of three gangs. Everything was all rosy when the plunder was plentiful and murder unending, but over the past year Colter got lazy. While the uneasy alliance holds for now, it teeters on the brink of collapse. In order to restore order, you must prove yourself as Overboss by conquering the remaining five parks in Nuka-World. After triumphing over each, you will assign it to one of the three gangs, increasing your standing and power.
This is easily the best part of the DLC. Each of the five parks is wildly different, with its own theme and unique challenges. The Galactic Zone is guarded by an army of Nuka-themed robots, and requires you to collect a number of “Star Cores” to use in a central mainframe to shut the security system down. Dry Rock Gulch is wild west themed, complete with quick draw, pony corralling, and an infestation of Tremors-esque Bloodworms. Kiddie Land is straight out of a horror movie, as wizard ghoul Oswald the Outrageous bathes the streets in a constant radioactive mist as an army of feral ghouls pursues you. Safari Adventure is more of a joke than anything, as you help Cito and his family of Ghoulrillas fight off the murderous Gatorclaws. The lamest one is probably the World of Refreshment, which is basically “It’s a Small World” with Mirelurks and robots. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense how an army of robots and giant gator monsters never crossed paths, but whatever. Just strap in and enjoy the ride.
The three different raider gangs also have unique flavors that makes picking between them more than a question of statistics. The Operators are the sanest of the bunch, treating banditry as a business rather than a passion. They’re cooler and more collected, but lack a distinct identity other than “having sniper rifles.” The Pack are savages, nameless aside from their “Alpha” Mason. They are brutal and unrestrained, but there’s honor among the pack. You can’t kill another member of The Pack, only disgrace them. So while they might leave a lot of blood in their wake, the worst a Pack member can expect is tarring and feathering. The Disciples are fucking nuts, but sneaky about it. Their lair in Fizzletop Mountain is littered with flayed corpses and decapitated heads. There are whole wheelbarrows full of severed limbs. I did not spend much time around The Disciples.
For a while it was all well and good. I took over the parks, handed them out to The Operators and Pack (because fuck The Disciples), and felt good while doing it. The gangs were happy, paid me some loot, and I finished up all of the side quests. Then came the critical juncture: heading out into the Commonwealth. Gage explains that what the gangs really need is a constant stream of action. Oh that’s cool, the DLC actually influences the main game! All right, so what do I do? Clear out some raider camp and let the gangs move in? Take some newly implemented “gang province?” Perhaps even build one from scratch!
Oh, if only. Turns out you have to take over one of seven previously designated locations. You can either kill everyone there or convince them to leave, at which point the settlement now belongs to whichever of the three gangs you decided should take over. Slight wrinkle in the plan, I already own all these settlements. Well, in that case, your only option is to give it away to the raiders. I’m sorry… what? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what I’ve spent the entire game doing? Even if I own the settlement, I can’t just say “move on in, land’s mine anyways.” Nope, still have to either murder everyone or convince them to leave. At which point, it loses trade with your other non-raider settlements, and Preston automatically hates you.
If I were starting a new game with the entire purpose of playing as a raider, this option would be sick. To date, out of my entire group of friends, I can name three people that choose to play this way. But hey, they deserve to play this way, so kudos. I however have styled myself as the savior of the Commonwealth. This was the point that broke me. I said, “no, fuck that,” and shot Gage straight in the face. Early on, you are given a quest by one of the slaves named Mackenzie to eliminate all of the raider gangs. I had chosen to keep that in my back pocket for a particularly loathsome mission, and now was the time. I walked from camp to camp, murdering all of the raiders I found until every last one of them was dead. It was a bloodbath. It was glorious.
I returned to Mackenzie with my head held high. I wondered what new adventures might await me with my newly liberated trader friends. Perhaps they would build a bigger, even better park. Hell, maybe even that grumpy shopkeeper will be my new companion! I informed her of my success, and she almost burst into tears. She was so happy to be free, she had been dreaming of this day! She will always be in my debt. K thnx, bai.
Wait… what?! That’s it?! No repopulating the park with the traders? No special weapons? No perks? Just a miscellaneous quest marker to turn the power back on and a “good job?” Wow Nuka-World, thanks for giving me the worst fucking choice since sucking a dick in Beyond: Two Souls. If you follow through with the raider plan, you get a new companion, get new town types, legendary weapons, and some of the best perks in the game. If you go the good guy path, you get to leave the DLC early. Hurray.
I really appreciate the new choice that Nuka-World brings to the table, but this is unacceptable. This is probably one of the most robust, tightly packed, and enjoyable areas of the game. It’s great DLC that’s ultimately only accessible to people playing as raiders. That cuts off easily 80% of the player base. They don’t even become a main ending faction! You still have to choose between the Railroad/Space Marines/Good Guys/Illuminati. So ultimately, you’re shooting yourself in the dick no matter what you do.
It’s infuriating enough on its own, but what’s heartbreaking is that I can see how this could have worked. Each zone has an element that could have been part of a larger quest to overthrow the gangs. Galactic Zone has a robot army that could be reprogrammed. Kiddie Land has an army of ghouls led by a wizard that hates raiders. Dry Rock Gulch was supposed to be the last holdout of the traders. Cito and his family of Ghoulrillas can pitch in. Even the World of Refreshment could have been reprogrammed to make psychotic Mirelurks or something!
It would have all added up to an epic New Vegas ending, which is what this DLC felt like from the start. A bunch of gangs kept in tow by a single boss and the promise of wealth in a place of leisure? Huh, wonder where I’ve seen that before. The DLC sets up a conflict between the gangs, and on one front it delivers. It just fails for anyone that decides they don’t want to murder people for a living.
Though I’m personally pissed, I have to describe my feelings as mixed. As the final piece of DLC, I was hoping for something more robust than this. The areas are all fun and interesting, but the shallowness of choice greatly hamstrings your enjoyment. As a final $20 piece of DLC, it’s more difficult to take issue with. It does add a massive new area full of fun stuff, and a new way to play that wasn’t there before. It spills over to the main game, which is what you want from a sandbox like this. Ultimately, this could have been an amazing piece of content. It’s such a shame they stopped so far short of the finish line.