Fallout 4’s DLC releases have been one of two things: either story heavy, or crafting heavy. The newest (and final) DLC titled “Nuka World” is somewhere in the middle, and finds varying degrees of success because of it.
To understand Nuka World’s success and shortcomings, you need to understand what I believe makes a good DLC. When looking back on previous Bethesda expansion efforts, there’s some shining examples of perfection. Looking back at expansions like “Point Lookout” for Fallout 3, and “The Shivering Isles” for The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion shows true mastery of both world building and cohesive narrative. “Nuka World” stumbles in some places, but does an excellent job at world building. Before I critique the flaws though, let’s talk about what the DLC offers.
“Nuka World” is the last DLC to be released for Fallout 4. This gives it a sense of weight, an expectancy for excellence. The expansion gives us access to the new map of the titular “Nuka World”, a Disney World clone that has been taken over by raiders. In the lore of Fallout 4, Nuka-Cola was a household name before the nuclear fallout took place. It’s easy to compare things like Pepsi and Coke to this fictional business. With that context, imagine a multi-layered theme park built off the ideals of a giant soda company. That is Nuka-World, and that is what you will be experiencing.
From the start, you pick up Nuka-World’s radio transmission. It’s a simple advertisement put on the airwaves before nuclear disaster. Following the instructions of the goofy sounding mascot, you soon arrive at Nuka-World proper. After the opening minutes, you’re thrusted into Nuka-World’s vast landscape, but with little reason. This is where Nuka-World falters.
The actual landscape, tone, and overall feel of the entire DLC is good. When it comes to realizing a theme park, Bethesda has nailed it. There’s something inherently fun about shooting ghouls in a twisting fun house, or blowing up mutated alligators in the Safari Zone. The reasons you are doing these activities, however, are not backed by solid narrative. Without spoiling anything, your main objective of the expansion is to secure the different zones of the park, all while managing the gangs of raiders who have put up shop. The act of exploring the many attractions and getting the park up and running is undoubtedly enjoyable. However, it seems like the whole entire raider mechanic is there for filler. It makes sense when you deal with the crafting elements of this expansion, but for a narrative arc it falls flat.
The crafting and settlement options that Nuka-World gives you vary from uninteresting to entertaining. There’s a slew of new settlement decorations, structures, and items to set up. A favorite of mine is a set of old time shackles: the kind you put your head and hands through only to be locked around your neck. It’s fun to take an NPC you have disdain for and throwing them in there, only to leave and never come back. Beyond slightly deranged additions, you can now take over settlements for your own raider group, rather than the Minutemen from the main game. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of new settlement options opened, so this means going back to previously unlocked settlements and murdering those whom you helped in the first place. It’s hard to enjoy these kinds of additions when they force you to play in a certain way. Most of the raider settlement building and additions all make you feel (as a player) crappy. There’s fun to be had (aforementioned shackling), but when you’re forced between the options of murdering an entire settlement (that you helped found), or driving them out, it makes you feel like a bad person. This is okay if you play a character that is evil or chaotic, but for those players who enjoy a more heroic protagonist, you will find Nuka-World’s settlement additions lackluster.
Additionally, to complete the main quest line you are essentially forced to be a scumbag. At a certain point, the narrative turns from exploration of the park to overtaking the Commonwealth for raiders. If you’re uninterested in retaking settlements, or maintaining your character’s positivity, this is a glaring road block. In order to complete quests, gain experience, and further the narrative, you’re forced to act a certain way. This goes against what makes open world Bethesda games fun and exciting. The freedom given to the player is what drives exploration and personal relationship: being forced to be a bad guy takes that away.
Beyond the gripes with the forced raider work, the actual content of Nuka-World is great. There’s a handful of major park additions, featuring things such as “Kiddie Kingdom”, the “Safari Zone”, and “Galactic Zone”. These mini-parks all feel fresh and fun to play. There’s tons of cool and interesting things to play around with here, there’s just nothing pushing your hand to do it. That speaks for the entire expansion as a whole.
Nuka-World is by no means a bad finale for Fallout 4. In fact, it’s refreshing and incredibly unique. However, I would’ve greatly appreciated a bit more narrative drive and freedom within the settlement building. When all is said and done, there’s definitely enough content here to warrant the purchase of the DLC. That being said, your enjoyment will vary depending on how much you like different aspects of the original Fallout 4. Quest lovers will feel a tiny bit shafted, and settlement creators will feel a bit forced. Nothing here is quite as good as the expansions mentioned at the top of the article, but there are moments where the individuality and uniqueness of the expansion shine very bright. I recommend purchasing Nuka-World at a discounted price, or at full price if you’re big fan of the original game.