NOTE: This piece only reflects my views of the game as of Sept. 4th, 2016. Any gameplay time accrued after this date is not addressed. Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead.
One of the staples of the Fallout series is a fictitious soft drink called Nuka-Cola. You cannot play any of the games in the series without finding a bottle of it sooner or later. The more recent games have even added variants of the popular beverage. For instance, Fallout: New Vegas offered a drink called Rum & Nuka, while Fallout 3 introduced a more potent caffeinated drink called Nuka-Cola Quantum. In addition, Fallout 3 has an enthusiastic collector of Nuka-Cola memorabilia, Sierra Petrovita, who assigns you a quest to track down long-lost collectibles for a museum she’s building. It would only make sense that there’d be something much bigger associated with the beverage.
From the first time I heard about a Fallout 4 expansion pack that was set in a rundown amusement park called Nuka World, I was ecstatic. This was a first for the Fallout series, though Fallout 3: Point Lookout did feature a boardwalk setting with a Ferris wheel. The idea of exploring an enormous post-apocalyptic theme park that bears some resemblance to Walt Disney World couldn’t have been more exciting for me. Nuka World exists as the pinnacle of the drink’s popularity before the world was destroyed by nuclear war. The now derelict theme park that’s been claimed by a gang of Raiders seems to be a hotspot for finding bottles of the beverage in higher quantity. The expansion pack even allows you to mix drinks together to create brand new flavors that give the player unique benefits in battle, such as greater endurance or better health regeneration.
Between all the new never-before-seen creatures to combat, the largest expansion pack area to date to roam around in, the theme park aesthetic, and the possibility to ally with the Raider faction for the first time in the series, it seemed there would be enough to keep me entertained for days.
But before I could enjoy exploring the park’s every nook and cranny, I first had to get there. That in itself was a challenge and literally took me around six hours of gameplay.
Immediately after downloading the new content, I booted up Fallout 4 to begin my adventure. I loaded my last savepoint and began heading toward a new area on the western edge of the map, a tram station that would take me to the park. My character was so loaded down with weapons, armor, and health items that I could only run for short bursts. I’ve never had any problem walking from one area to another, so I chose not to drop anything. It only took me a half hour to reach the tram station, where I was forced to engage a group of bad guys in battle before I could board the shuttle. After another half hour of total gameplay to reach this point, I was on my way to the entrance of Nuka World, ready to enjoy my first view of the main fairway.
Or so I thought…
Upon exiting the tram, I found that the sadistic leader of the Raiders had set up a gauntlet for any and all new arrivals. I was forced to traverse a lengthy, heavily booby-trapped path leading through part of the maintenance tunnels and ending at an indoor bumper car ride. The part I had the most trouble with was a collapsible walkway. Before I figured out I needed to run across it to get to the other side, I wasted a good amount of time trying to walk across the sturdy boards left behind.
After making my way through sectioned off areas of the tunnel that were loaded with tripwires, explosives, dangerous radiation levels, and monster nests, I found that I would have to fight the Raider boss who set all this up. This proved to be a challenge since he was decked out in an electrified battle suit built to withstand damage. Fortunately, one of his close associates is also looking to take him out. This associate provides the player with a squirt gun that can temporarily short out the suit. After several tries at winning the fight, I found that I didn’t have enough healing items to get through it in one piece. Sadly, after three and a half hours of my best efforts, I was forced to go back to my original savepoint and stock up on supplies before making this journey for the second time.
My second run through the gauntlet went a lot quicker since I now knew what to expect. Oddly, I did also find stuff I’d missed on the first playthrough, such as tickets or tokens to use at the fairway arcade. The boss fight also went much better now that I was well equipped, but overall, I spent a lot of time trying to get into the theme park itself.
After the fight, I was greeted by Gage, the associate who’d helped me out by giving me the squirt gun. My character was then offered the chance to assume the mantle as leader of the Raiders present in Nuka World. Gage explains this by saying he hopes an outside party who was tough enough to survive the gauntlet might have what it takes to clear out the various monster-infested branched-off areas of the park and make them habitable.
All the effort I put into fighting my way into Nuka World paid off when I finally began winding my way through the environment. One of the first people I encountered when I finally reached the fairway was Sierra from Fallout 3, who has come to the park in search of more memorabilia. She assigns you a quest to find hidden images around Nuka World that contain codes needed to access a locked office. She gives you a pair of special glasses needed to spot these images.
So far, I’ve explored almost all of the fairway, most of the Sci-Fi themed area called Galactic Zone, and part of Kiddie Kingdom. I have yet to find any of the hidden images, but am aiming to find them without looking at any spoilers online. Clearing the more dangerous areas is proving to be just as challenging; there were points where I felt like I was playing a survival horror game. For me, it only adds to the appeal.
The one downside is that healing items seem to be scarce. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places. Unless something changes, it’s looking like I may need to take a trip back to the primary location in Boston to stock up again. Since some Raider characters give you quests that demand you venture outside the theme park, I’m not as bothered by this need for a detour.
It seems the same rule applies to this fictional theme park as much as it does to the real ones: The fun lasts only as long as your resources do.