Fallout 4’s final piece of DLC, Nuka-World, is a puzzling thing to talk about. While it certainly brings a lot to the table in terms of new environments and gameplay systems, it fumbles in regard to its mission design, which ranges from interesting to absolutely tedious. This last hurrah felt like Bethesda trying to give players everything they could have wanted to round out the package—yet by the end of the main quest line, I only felt like the game was more cluttered.
As with other Fallout DLC quest lines, Nuka World begins with players finding (and following) a radio signal to kick off the quest. Said signal brings players to a Nuka World transportation hub, which will ferry them to the famous theme park. Upon arriving, however, players are thrust into the position of ruling over the three distinct groups of Raiders living in the park, through a series of events I won’t spoil. From here, it is a mostly fun ride that allows players to show off their bad side for once, even if the story never reaches the levels of intrigue found in Far Harbor. Each of the raider factions is distinctive and interesting, offering their own weapons and loot for players to find and scavenge for. There is even an entirely new settlement system linked to them, whereby players retake old settlements they’ve cleared and give it to one of the Raider groups, a steady flow of caps and loot your reward. Unfortunately, the main campaign is plagued by some questionable mission design that is at best uninteresting, and at worst tedious.
But if there’s a shining light in this DLC, it’s absolutely Nuka World itself. During the course of the campaign, players are tasked with reclaiming the five zones of Nuka World, including Safari and Western-themed zones. If you’ve ever been to any major theme park, you will probably be able to tell where the design team pulled their influences from. The attention to detail is really striking, with each of these environments offering stories that unfold as you traverse them. Some of the lore in these areas are genuinely some of the best things Fallout 4 has done yet, and had me thoroughly searching every corner for tapes and notes to fully flesh out the story.
Even after clearing out all the zones and finishing the campaign, Nuka World still has plenty to do. Arcades full of games took up a decent amount of my time, mostly because I was taken aback by how much fun they were. You can also revisit each zone and roam around for anything you may have missed before. Of course, there is also a bevy of treacherous new creatures to encounter, loot, cook, and eat. Of these, however, the Gatorclaw might be my favorite—second only to the deadly Nukalurk. It’s things like the enemy designs and loot that really give the impression that Bethesda wanted to make everything as fun and goofy as possible, and for the most part, it works. After all is said and done, the raider leaders also can serve as quest givers for menial work in the Commonwealth. They’re pretty much the same as the standard Minutemen missions, except instead of helping people, you’re usually murdering them, or forcing them into slave labor.
As I played through Nuka World, I couldn’t help but think about how much each DLC has been tied into the main game. My partner was from the Automatron DLC, while most of my armor and weapons were from Far Harbor. I even dabbled with the Contraptions and Wasteland Workshop DLC additions when building my raider settlements. But at some point, all of these systems just begin to feel a little cluttered, especially when Fallout 4‘s base game already had plenty of spinning plates. Between the four factions, settlement building, and trying to create commerce through those settlements, there was a lot to consider and remember. But with Nuka World, there are now three different types of settlements to keep track of, as well as three raider groups who are now quest givers. By the end of Nuka World, I genuinely wanted to play more, but I just didn’t want to put up with so much of it at once.
In that way, I guess Nuka World is a good representation of Fallout 4‘s problems. While I enjoy the combat, looting, exploration and role-playing—too often the mission design and pervasive systems get in the way of my enjoyment. But if you were able to put up with that in the main game, Nuka World is definitely worth a look. Buried under some questionable design choices lies some of the most fun I’ve had in Fallout since the third game. It’s a fun time for fans, but like any trip to the theme park, by the end, I was left exhausted and ready to move on.