Even though the game sold bucketloads, and got a pretty positive critical reception, Bethesda didn’t get quite the rapturous applause it might have expected from the general public when it came to Fallout 4. Detractors at the time loudly exclaimed wherever they could that they found the post-apocalyptic RPG too boring/shooty/open/short/buggy/etc—and that of course means anyone who says different is wrong (because law of the Internet). So, for the ‘wrong’ section of the Fallout 4-buying population, rejoice! The first chunk of DLC for Fallout 4 is here! Is it a good start though? Read on good Sir/Madam.
Bethesda’s RPGs are synonymous with their expansions. Oblivion’s Shivering Isles pack, Skyrim’s Dawnguard and Fallout New Vegas’ Old World Blues come to mind as some of the best chunks of DLC around in the past decade. Yet for all the good bits, the DLC selection for Fallout 3 was a tad hit and miss. Mothership Zeta was just far too out of place with its world, and The Pitt, while great in terms of size and concept, just dragged on far too long. The rest were better, though divisive, but above all they were all at least interesting departures from the core game. Fallout 4’s first DLC pack, Automatron, utilizes the existing Commonwealth, but adds some great new features and a new story to tie in with them to make it worthy enough to just about stand out from the main game.
Automaton begins with a distress call that leads you to a massacre of a trading caravan being performed by a new set of heavily-modded robots. It’s here, after dispatching with said robots, that you encounter lone survivor Ada, herself a modded Assaultron guard for the caravaners, who informs you of a new antagonist in the Commonwealth known as The Mechanist. This Mechanist character (who you may have already heard of if you know a fair bit about the Fallout universe) is responsible for an outbreak of killer robots, and it’s your job to stop then, mainly by shooting them into bolts—no change there then.
After you tag along with Ada to find a piece of equipment important to your search, you begin to see what Automatron truly offers. Robots, so many robots. More importantly, your very own robots! You see, a new workstation has been added that allows you to create your own autonomous companions, and modify them in a similar manner to the way you modify Armor, with your relevant skill levels and parts available determining what kind of metal mates you can can build. It’s the sort of feature that’s designed to draw you in and tinker with it for longer than you would expect, consuming many hours of your time in the search for the ultimate robotic buddy.
Like with the base-building, it’s going to garner different mileage depending on just how much you care, or don’t care, about the mechanics of it. Though it’s easier to get to grips with than the base-building, it is as nonessential as that was beyond a certain amount of scope. Some will see it as another fun layer to the world, others will call it busywork, and there’s truth in both sides to be fair, but chances are, you already know which side you fall on. The important thing to remember is that if robots aren’t your bag, there’s very little new here that you’ll enjoy for the price.
This whole robot-building shebang brings in a new scrap type specifically for robot parts, mined mainly from other robots found around the Commonwealth. This helps to return the item-juggling pressures of the early game as you often find quite hefty parts. That might be an annoyance to you if you weren’t keen on the junk-picking before, but it’s added variety that fits the design of the existing game, which is always a good thing with DLC. To make it more likely to find the murderous machines, not only do The Mechanist’s creations roam Boston, you will also encounter a brand new faction known as the Rust Raiders. This group has a penchant for constructing armor from robot parts, and build their own freakish mechanical monstrosities quite unlike the usual sort you see in Fallout 4. It’s refreshing to have multiple new bad guys to fight, if only to vary it from the last 80-100+ hours you already spent shooting the other things already found in Fallout 4.
While these are all lovely additions to Fallout 4 that fit the game perfectly, it’s fair to say that Automatron is unsatisfyingly short-lived at a couple of hours tops in story terms, and overly unmemorable too. Ada, and a couple of later NPC’s are great characters, and you do want to find out what The Mechanist is up to, but the payoff is shallow, brief and disappointing for the most part. As with the base game, the finer, and ultimately more interesting story points are to be found in computer terminals and the environment, not the people and automatons you encounter.
If you aren’t digging the idea of reading, then much like with the base game, you’ll be left with a very hollow shell of a narrative that doesn’t do anything more special than anything you’ve seen before. Automatron does feel very much like Bethesda testing the waters in the build up to May’s significantly larger slice of DLC. It’s hard to be truly upset by the relatively meagre content in Automatron when you consider that—and the whole robot army kick is compelling stuff—but it does feel like a sampler for greater things; things that aren’t too far away thankfully. Still, if you want to spend a bit more time with Fallout 4, Automatron isn’t the worst way to spend a few quid by any stretch.