Fallout 4: Wasteland Workshop Brings A Lot Of Fluff For A Little Money
Things were looking pretty positive for Fallout 4's DLC lineup after the release of its first DLC, Automatron, which was a laid-back balance between the dark mystery and lighthearted humor that makes Fallout titles so enticing. Sadly, Wasteland Workshop is mostly filler, with little bits of crunchy Radroach spread liberally throughout a somewhat bland Mirelurk cake.
Of course, it's hard to say that Wasteland Workshop is a big disappointment, because I really didn't go into the DLC with very high hopes. From the onset, it looked like a fairly straightforward upgrade to the settlement system, throwing in a variety of new items, a few intriguing mechanics, and a nice pile of time wasting for end game characters that are searching for something to spend their resources on before Far Harbor rolls out next month. Digging into the meat of the content, I would love to say that it's a book misjudged by its cover, but it really isn't anything more than advertised.
That isn't to say that it can't also be fun, but you really have to do some digging to find that meaty center, and it's definitely not the DLC for every intrepid Vault Boy looking for a good time.
Feeling The Good Rads
Wasteland Workshop has a special focus on building your own arena, trapping the Commonwealth's numerous creatures, and pitting any number of friends, creatures, and enemies alike against each other in your stylized pit of death. So I set about building a death trap to call my own, and largely this was the most enjoyable experience of the entire DLC. Something about finally having a purpose and a specific goal, besides feeding and watering my settlers, made the whole experience of building and decorating my arena a heck of a good time.
I started with a basic 5x5 foundation and before I knew it I was hip deep in wires, turrets, and creature traps, all while humming quietly along with the Commonwealth radio's latest jingle.
For someone that largely stuck to the basics of building in Fallout 4, I was surprised with how much I enjoyed myself. I even ended up running dry of wood and steel toward the end of my build, and ran radiant quests for upwards of two hours just trying to stock up on everything I needed. Adding extra direction to Fallout 4's settlement system is definitely a good thing, and largely is where I could see the end-game going in future updates or mods.
Wasteland Workshop does deliver on adding a large number of items to the settlement system, including an extremely useful fusion reactor and a small arch that cleanses your radiation. Welcome changes, and only the beginning of the fun to be had with the large number of new items on the roster.
Unfortunately, when I reached the end of my build phase and started messing with the creature mechanics, I found my biggest gripe with the DLC in general.
A Lack Of Control
Trapping creatures in Wasteland Workshop is done by building massive, baited holding cells that the appropriate creatures magically appear inside after a random amount of in-game time. The creatures can then be released from their cages and will proceed to maim and murder, as they tend to do best, or, with the aide of a fancy beta wave emitter, they can be pacified and allowed to wander around aimlessly, defending and boosting your settlement's happiness rating.
My original build assumed that, once pacified, a creature could be commanded or otherwise given direction and purpose like every other settler on your homestead. Within reason, that is – I didn't expect to use a mole rat to dig crops or run an adorable little hamster wheel generator…although, that definitely should have been a feature in hindsight.
Either way, I expected that I would have some level of control, some ability to tell the creatures I captured what to do. It certainly isn't a new concept in the Fallout universe, Deathclaws could be controlled in Fallout 3 via a handy dandy head mounted mind control doodad, and it doesn't seem like a far stretch of the imagination to apply that tech to the creatures in Fallout 4. Heck, even a mechanic involving a fishing pole and a haunch of meat could have made sense.
What Bethesda felt was a better idea was either a blatantly hostile creature, or a creature that lumbers about your settlement like a mindless zombie with no mechanic to give it commands or even to ask it to kindly step out of your way. I expected to at least be able to assign it to an arena team, considering they went through the trouble of making that mechanic at all. Instead, my army of Synth Gorillas just walked around aimlessly like big, useless Brahmin.
Assuming something must be wrong, I then went through a long troubleshooting checklist, leveling up perks in Animal Friend and Wasteland Whisperer assuming that a creature under the sway of beta waves could be commanded or otherwise influenced using these perks. What I found was that attempting to further pacify a pacified creature makes them hostile, and even after a successful pacification check my turrets, settlers, and companions would attack the pacified creature and further unpacify it. That made me question Bethesda's definition of pacification altogether.
My suspicions about Bethesda's interpretation of this word were confirmed when I decided to move my cages and create a long chute that the creatures could travel down to enter my arena. My plan was to release the creatures, fire a few shots to get them moving my way, and then exit the arena to let them duke it out with my team of settlers. Only to find that passive creatures of different species are apparently not passive to each other, and my long awaited Deathclaw was merrily swatted into oblivion by a glowing Yao Guai far from the grandstands.
All in all, Bethesda created an interesting concept, but implemented it extremely poorly, ignoring the obvious rules of its own world, and seemingly ignoring the lore and mechanics available to make creating battles in the arena really fun.
Is It Worth The Caps?
At the end of the day, for a mere $5 Wasteland Workshop does add in some nice features, but it's not beyond what the modding community has already created for free. The arena mechanics can be a fun time-sink if you're really deep into the late game of Fallout 4 and need something to mess around with until Far Harbor hits store shelves. But ultimately, Wasteland Workshop is just a lot of fluff adding relatively little to the experience besides a few convenient settlement items and a whole lot of headache.
Bethesda could have made Wasteland Workshop into something really special by giving players even some small element of control over the creatures and enemies they capture, and a quick brainstorm could have thought up a hundred different ways for it all to make sense, but instead they went with a very bulky approach to the whole thing that Just Barely Works.