Wot I Think – Fallout 4: Automatron

It’s the first Fallout 4 [official site] DLC, in which you get to build your own robot army and turn another Wastelander’s into just so much scrap metal. But is it worth checking out, on its own or as the initial taste of the Season Pass? Here’s Wot I Think…

The stranger scratched a radioactive welt on his arm. It oozed pleasantly in the Commonwealth sun. He sat back with his newly scavenged comic, content to just let the scorching heat bounce off him. But then, a sound. A slow, meaningful, scraping sound. Immediately, he was ready, pistol in hand, staring into the distance at the traveller, naked save for some unflattering underpants, wincing as he dragged a large bag of crap across the wasteland and back towards that new town out by the old vault. The stranger gestured to the bag, full of ceramic and rubber and heavy plate.

“Buildin’ robots?” he asked. “Robots,” confirmed the traveller.

As far as I’m concerned, the definition of good DLC is that it doesn’t simply add more, but adds something special. It’s a chance for the developer to experiment a little, to put more focus into an area, knowing that players are going to see it in a way that isn’t necessarily true for some dungeon out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a chance to mess around with new systems and cast new light on the world. At least, ideally. Horses do still need their armour, even in this rather more cynical age.

Automatron is an underwhelming start for Fallout 4’s DLC, but in fairness, it was always intended as a taster rather than the full meal. As part of the Season Pass, it’s fine – a cute addition that offers new features and new content that’s not essential, but fills an obvious gap in the crafting line-up while we wait for the Far Harbor expansion. As an £8 piece of standalone DLC though, this first new content drop should probably be finding some rubber to craft a catheter so that it can literally take the piss. It’s much closer in scale to the more reasonable-sounding Wasteland Workshop that’s coming soon for £4, with the extra content on offer nowhere near notable enough to stand out in a game that already offers so much that you’ve probably yet to go see.

The key addition is a robot manufacturing station to place in settlements, which makes it possible to upgrade robots or create them from scratch. It’s a similar system to upgrading your Power Suit; as you explore, cannibalise other robots and discover new bits and pieces, you can plug together new and ever more dangerous robots, as well as give them a name, a voice and a paint job, but sadly not better pathfinding AI than the stock characters. There’s a fair amount of freedom to create what you want from the existing parts though, as well as a repeatable Radiant quest to hunt down more malfunctioning robots and pinch their parts too, if you’re not finding anything of interest on your regular travels. This means you can create the robot of your dreams from scratch, or simply turn Codsworth into… oh dear god what have you done?!

On top of that comes a roughly two-hour long new questline, depending on how much robot-killing ordinance you’re packing. It’s for Level 15+ and triggered by a radio signal from a caravan under attack by a new breed of killer robots. Getting there and helping out, you find just one survivor – a somewhat dull robot called Ada, who explains that these new upgraded threats are the work of a new villain called the Mechanist (A familiar name? Perhaps!) and requests help kicking a little metallic arse.

This is not a particularly gripping story, and that’s a shame because I actually like what happens in the last five or so minutes. There are three dungeons on offer, plus a bit of overland travel to find rogue robots, and all of them are extremely linear treks through more very samey terrain, killing robots and the occasional new bandits who like to dress up as robots – Mr Handy et all now joined by the likes of Mr Stabby, Mr Tanky and Mr Explodey. That’s not what they’re called of course, that would be too interesting. The only points of vague interest on this metal murder-spree are in the occasional terminal, filling in the backstory of how Robobrains are made, again showing how quickly the Fallout world goes from seeming 50s utopia to horror show even without the bombs reducing it to a nuclear cinder, and the encounter with the Mechanist to figure out what the hell is going on. While underused, this is a character who could have been a lot more fun if the whole thing had been in one location, allowing them to have more presence in the story than a couple of radio tapes set to repeat.

Generally though, this is just Fallout at its flattest, with Ada a completely forgettable companion and another, Jezebel, nowhere near as much fun as her snarky introduction suggests she’s going to be. The final fight is particularly tedious, coming down to how fast you can kill robots, and more pressingly, whether you can kill them fast enough., in a series of waves at the end of an entirely too long dungeon with only the occasional point of creepy interest in underground labs and on monitors.

The feeling I couldn’t get away from – though it is just that – was that this was meant to just be the Automatron building mode with a very quick quest bolted on to explain its addition, with the bump in Season Pass cost demanding it hastily be re-written as a full adventure in its own right. That means we get more, but most of it just going through the motions instead of offering anything that feels notably different, and certainly nothing as memorable as heading to Big MT in New Vegas or even the spaceship abduction or recreated war of Fallout 3. Depressingly, by far the best moment is a glorified Easter Egg – facing the Iron Man style Mechanist in the Silver Shroud outfit turning the final fight into a glorious hero vs. villain ham-off.

But, in fairness, the meat of this one was always promised to be the robot building, and if that’s something you missed in Fallout 4 proper, this is exactly what the radioactive doctor ordered. Like settlements, it starts off pretty bland if you don’t have many pieces or the skills to create interesting things. With the right ones though, dragged in bulk across the Wasteland, turning regular robot companions into personal battle-tanks is just the start. It also means lots more variety in robot encounters. There’s also a few new toys to track down for the Sole Survivor, including a Tesla Rifle, Tesla Suit and a Mechanist themed PIPBoy game and armour set. Any of it essential? Not particularly, especially if you’re already tooled up. Still, who can say no to shiny loot?

Well, again, for £7.99, most people probably should. As part of the Season Pass though, it’s not a bad start for the DLC if you enjoy the crafting side of the game, especially if you got the cheaper version of the Season Pass. On its own though, it’d certainly be easier to recommend if it was the £4 or so of the next planned pack, Wasteland Workshop, or if the new dungeons it added felt just a little bit less than the radioactive road we’re already travelled so much here and in the previous games.

Fallout 4: Automatron is out now.

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25 Comments

  1. Infinitron says:

    The full review is visible on the front page.

    • Ejia says:

      I was wondering about that. In this wild world of [official site], appearing-and-disappearing infinite scroll, and edit button famine, I had supposed RPS simply chose to display the first article in full on the main page.

    • Le blaireau says:

      So when’s the Codex Fallout 4 review coming Infinitron?

  2. Sinjun says:

    I got the season pass for $24, so I’m happy with this. Hopefully Far Harbor is good and whatever they have lined up after that.

  3. RegisteredUser says:

    Since RPS took a stance against preordering I was wondering: Aren’t season passes effectively causing the same misery of up-front donations for lord-knows-what?

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      Yes, season passes are exactly the same kind of BS as pre-ordering. Even worse, in fact, seeing as they offer the season pass at the same time as a pre-order, meaning you might have to wait a year or more to get what you paid for (never mind if it was actually worth it).

      • malkav11 says:

        Well, no, they aren’t. Because the season pass doesn’t stop being sold when the DLC in it is released. So, barring bullshit like Bethesda and Techland have pulled for Fallout 4 and Dying Light respectively, and assuming that the season pass isn’t weirdly price inelastic compared to the base game or even other pieces of DLC (as was the case for, say, Borderlands 2), it can be a convenient, slightly cheaper way to nab all or most of the DLC for a game down the road when it’s all out and on sale. That’s how I’ve used season passes for almost every game I’ve bought one for. Sometimes they include stuff I wouldn’t otherwise particularly care about (like this Automatron DLC, although at least it has SOME story/quest content, even if it’s not enough to justify the price tag per Cobbett’s review), but usually it’s enough cheaper when on sale to feel like that sort of thing is a bonus rather than a waste of money.

        Preordering a season pass, on the other hand, is madness.

        • carewolf says:

          Aren’t most season passes more expensive than buying all the DLC separately? It atleast seems that way for many games, especially a year after the game came out and all the DLC except the most recent is on sale.

          • malkav11 says:

            They’re generally cheaper than buying all the individual DLC at base prices. But it’s not uncommon for companies to be shitty about discounting and discount the season pass less than the DLC. (Or have no discount on pass or DLC, but a huge one on the base game or sometimes even the edition that includes the season pass.)

  4. Slinkusss says:

    A “…particularly tedious… series of waves at the end of an entirely too long dungeon with only the occasional point of creepy interest…”

    That pretty much sums up my entire Fallout 4 experience. I can’t believe how quickly I became bored with it. I don’t think any DLC is going to help me with that problem, and there doesn’t seem to be the same modding fervor as their was for Skyrim, but perhaps we have to wait for the creation kit to release…

    • poisonborz says:

      This. I’ve played Fallout 3 to 100%, along with the DLCs. It was great, while a bit tiring. I began New Vegas, but stopped mid-game out of feeling playing the same game over. I was surprised they make Fallout 4 so soon (even though 6 years have passed) but hoped they stir up the formula a bit. Then the trailers disappointed. And the game that followed likewise. I mean its a good game in itself, looks fantastic and all, but – along with some bells and whistles – it’s the same friggin game as Fallout 3.

      • Wednesday says:

        This is sadly true.

        If they had doubled down on the main character, giving you tons of options in dialogue and ways to shape the character it really could have been great. My character should be a heartbroken, grim bastard given what’s happened to him, but he’s still so bloody chipper.

      • djplotfellow says:

        It isn’t just Fallout that’s the same; Elder Scrolls games have been treading water for a while as well. Bethesda games as a whole haven’t really changed since Oblivion, minus graphical improvements and slight mechanical updates. Their refusal to do something to breathe life into their games, to take any real risks, has made their games wear increasingly thin.

        That said, I’m enjoying Fallout 4 quite a lot. The quests are lacking, NPCs and voice acting are “I Feel Fantastic” levels of non-human, all the usual issues. But it’s fun as a weird third cousin to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. Going through ruins and downtown areas, silenced pistol and sniper on enemies, picking up all the loot I can find. Set carry weight to 2,000 and enjoy.

      • animal says:

        I’m with you. I played Fallout 3 to pieces, but had some issues getting NV to not crash the whole time. Fallout 4 I’m sitting on probably 6 hours played…I just can’t be bothered to start it up.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      Totally agreed. I’m really hoping survival mode and the modding kit improve it.

    • oldmangamer says:

      I’m sorry you were disappointed; I’m not. Fallout 4 swept me away in a way Fallout:LV never did. This DLC is just fun with new companions, new crafting (not really my thing)and new ways to cause mayhem. I never follow the story line, so I just wander the landscape, looking for trouble. Here, I ignored the caravan, sided with the robots and had a fine time.

    • dontnormally says:

      I think it’s total shit that the first two DLCs are all about crafting.

      I don’t want to make shit. I was to experience shit. Make more shit for me to experience.

  5. thedosbox says:

    Julian Assange as Indy is going to haunt my dreams.

  6. Stevostin says:

    thx for spoiler :(((

    • dontnormally says:

      I’d have to agree, this was pretty disrespectful.

      “The best part of this whole DLC is the surprise of seeing [SPOILER]! But now it’s spoiled. Have fun!”

  7. wombat191 says:

    personally i enjoyed it and the silver shroud easter egg was brilliant, cant get enough of that.

    building robots im finding is fun and gives me more reason to salvage things and they make great, guards, etc

  8. vargata says:

    well, this is your opinion. if the dlc would only be the possibility to build robot with the robot manufacturing station i would agree, it wouldnt be worth more than £4 though im sure creating all those mods for the robots took some time. with the mission though i think its more than fair, rather cheap for £8. for me it was one of the greatest fallout experience as a side quest, bethesda overdone itself… i hope the other dlc-s will be just as cool as this one

  9. Haldurson says:

    I’ve already finished the game a couple of times and so I haven’t played for a while. But I do have the season pass (fortunately, I bought it before the price increase). I really want to play with this new DLC, but I’ve also been anxiously waiting for the creation kit.

    What I’ll probably end up doing is waiting until the next DLC and the Creation Kit to be released. Then I’ll start doing some modding of my own. I also expect that the CK will result in a big modding boom. As great as some of those pre-CK mods are, I’m hoping for the CK to give us even more and better mods, and to give me even more of a reason to play the game again.

  10. michelle174 says:

    3″Once I saw the draft of 6258 bucks,,, I admit that my friend’s brother was like really generating cash in his free time with his PC. His uncle’s neighbor has done this for only 8 months and by now repaid the loan on their home and bought a new Car …JW36

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