Fallout 4’s final expansion undermines its enticing premise with disempowering dialogue and incessant fast travel.
Nuka World is essentially a New Vegas redux with god rays and castrated decision-making. From parlay at noon with a hick robot to the arid wastes that cut up the park grounds, Bethesda have gone out of their way to recapture the messy magic of Obsidian’s Nevadan dystopia. Unfortunately, they fly far and wide of the mark.
Fallout 4’s final buildout shirks everything that Far Harbor did so well in favour of blatant padding and asinine fetch quests. Howard and team manage to make Disneyland dull; the park is a blunge of old assets and re-skins and fronts like it didn’t have a budget, even though it’s a videogame and the only limitation is effort. Ludicrously padded quests have you fast-travelling back and forth between Nuka World and the Commonwealth, which means a loading screen to switch maps and a loading screen to get where you actually want to go. Quest givers always seem to be shut up inside unloaded interiors, even when it makes absolutely no sense for them to be there. The most glaring example is Fritsch for the first Amoral Combat radiant quest. Fritsch, who you don’t and never know, is stood around inside the Nukacade for no apparent reason, and all he does is tell you what you already know and send you to where you were already going. It’s one of many transparent and empty attempts to lengthen the stunted main quest, which is easily the worst out of the expansions and the game proper.
You can’t really make an antagonist out of anyone. Mutant crustaceans, ferals and robots on the fritz have zero motivation, just instinct and programming, so it’s impossible to invest in fighting them for what is the sad majority of the DLC. You would think then, that one or all of the gangs would pick up the slack and be your big, big bad(s); after all, The Pack are depraved, The Disciples are sadistic and The Operators only care about caps. For a good character, there are enemies everywhere. But they never get to be your villains because no matter how you feel about them, you still end up doing their bitchwork regardless, unless you slaughter them all straight away, emancipate their slaves and forfeit the rest of the questline. One will inevitably end up turning on you during the final act of the main quest, but who it is is completely arbitrary. You get the same cut-and-paste ending whichever way you decide to go, so it’s not really a decision at all.
The most grievous issue with the story content is the dialogue. What you can do and what you can say completely undermines your position as lynch-pin of the desert triad: you don’t give the orders, Gage does. The gangs don’t work for you – you work for them. Sure, you can send them around and kill whoever you want in the end, but beyond some shallow settlement mechanics that controvert your every effort in the main game to rebuild and resettle the Commonwealth, and a deposit chest that generates a few hundred caps every couple of in-game days, for all intents and purposes you’re the apocalyptic janitor you always have been. You do the bitchwork. For what had the potential to be a gluttonous Lord Humongous power-trip, everything ends up going limp; a sense of total impotence pervades everything you do and say, and the structure of main and radiant quests.
It’s not all bad, though. There are some great side locations, and the new weapons, especially the paint-splattered Problem Solver and the Commie Whacker, are pretty awesome. The rapacious Pack add a bit of flavor to the brown/gray mix as well. It’s also quite challenging- at least, it was on very hard. Some of the bugs, especially the cave crickets on the outskirts of the map, are a real nuisance.
Overall, Nuka World is another missed opportunity by Bethesda. They started strong and peaked with Far Harbor, but after this and the piss-poor Vault-Tec Workshop, I don’t feel content to let the game go. We need one more high note. Here’s hoping.