By Tommy Robbins. This is LOAD FILE , where theme park getaways never pan out as we expect, especially when it’s contained inside a Bethesda RPG. This week, Tommy reviews ‘Fallout 4: Nuka-World’ for the PlayStation 4.
Seldom do we make memories that, in their reflection, allow us to travel back and relive an entire experience, to literally feel every interaction, smell every smell, hear every sound. For me, rare family vacations to theme parks are one of those instances. The funny thing about these memories, however, is that they always seem to come to abrupt end.
Playing through the recent DLC for Fallout 4, I found that Nuka-World parallels these memories in a way that was almost hilarious. Entering Nuka-World brought forth memories of vacations from the past, of barking carnival employees and brilliantly-lit attractions, but in the way that my childhood memories always seem to fade, so too did my experience in Nuka-World slip away.
See, I met a game breaking bug at what I imagine to be about halfway through my character’s story in Nuka-World. Entering the dazzling interiors of the theme park, I was promised a world of wonder the likes of which I had never seen, and witnessing that splendor fall victim to forces beyond my control felt similar to every vacation to every tourist trap I have ever embarked upon. I ran into something that stole away the illusion. Something that ruined the façade. Only this time, I was alone. At least I had ol’ Dick Hasenbuhler.
THE GRAND TOUR
In the Fallout universe, Nuka-Cola is the fizzy soft drink to end all soft drinks. So much so that it even has its own theme park. Nuka-World is basically Walt Disney World but with soda. It’s ridiculous, sure; no one would ever go to Coca-Cola World, but in the Fallout universe where the mentality of the 1950’s prevailed and consumerism was met with a strangely innate sense of pride, Nuka-Cola was marketed as healthy, nutritious, a staple of the family. To drink Nuka-Cola is to have made it. So, there’s a theme park.
When your traveler — named Dick Hasenbuhler, in my case — receives a radio signal regarding passage to the once great attraction, they simply must see what all the fuss is about. Traveling to the nearby station, trains await to shuttle you in. Hopping aboard, a sense of child-like excitement washed over me. It was a spark of the thrill that I remembered from my childhood. I would soon be at the front gates, anxiously awaiting every attraction.
Within a couple of hours, I had a knapsack full of cotton candy bites, had wondered into the glory of Fizztop Mountain, and even made some new friends, reluctant though they may have been. The feels you get when exploring a new place for the first time, when things begin to get nostalgic — that was happening too. All of this felt perfect. Dick Hasenbuhler had set aside his quest for family and justice. He had gone on vacation.
A WORLD OF REFRESHMENT
Fallout 4 is no stranger to bugs, glitches, and general open world mechanical breakdown. This should be nothing new to anyone who’s played the game, and Nuka-World is definitely no exception. While most bugs amount to humorous visuals of rag-dolled bodies launching towards the horizon after falling dead, or enemies standing passively while you smash them in the face, occasionally bugs can break quests, leaving one questioning existence or their ability to solve simple problems. Once you realize that you’ve encountered a broken quest, you can typically admit defeat and simply move on.
Though, once in a while, a bug so devious pops up that it halts all progression, essentially leaving that quest line, and potentially an entire section of content, unreachable. This is what happened to Mr. Hasenbuhler and me with a particular quest called “A World of Refreshment.”
After interacting with the DLC’s systems, it is established that the wanderer will essentially make friends with three raider groups that inhabit the park. The core of the storyline here being that they all moved in together, but don’t see eye-to-eye now that they’re here. (*tsk* Raiders.) This leaves the wanderer in an interesting spot reminiscent of the final moments of Fallout: New Vegas, wherein the protagonist had to choose which would become the new power in the land. You can safely assume (and some quick internet-ing proves these assumptions correct) that you will eventually do the same in Nuka-World, supremely pissing off one group of raiders and leaving the others to prosper.
Not me, though — this is the part of the game I will never see due to being locked out of one small facet of the larger questline. This is one of few times I feel justified in raising my fists angrily towards the sky and shouting, DAMN YOU, BETHESDA! Get your shit together! The game’s culmination seemed really cool, but I had unfortunately met a premature end.
The systems of play that I did have the pleasure of witnessing all felt great. Assigning gangs throughout the park brings life into the previously abandoned areas. These different areas are all unique, and the different factions all add their own flavors. It was only when Fallout was allowed to be Fallout that Nuka-World really started to feel alive.
DIAMOND CITY SHAKE DOWN
That feeling of wonder and spectacle a child feels when approaching their favorite theme park, clicking through the turnstiles, smelling the funnel cake, eager to get to every attraction ahead — Fallout 4: Nuka-World kind of provides that. There is just enough whimsy and playfulness in the park to obscure the typical bleak nature of a Fallout game. The thrill of blindly entering an area and being greeted by planets looming on the horizon or a castle tucked away behind a massive wall, it brought me back to seeing attractions from the highway as I approached theme parks as a child.
The magic is always the greatest from just outside the doors, though, and Nuka-World is no different. Once inside, it only takes one small issue to ruin the trip for everyone. In this case, a small bug collapsed the illusion, turning a fun getaway into a tedious chore with no end. At least I was spared the awkward ride home.
Developed by Bethesda Game Studios
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
7.5 out of 10