Swarmbots, Servomechs, Junkbots and a nifty customized robot-building system highlight a solid but unspectacular release.
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Released: March 22nd, 2016
NOTE: This was played on the PlayStation 4
Fallout 4, released last year, was one of the most anticipated games of 2015, and its add-on/downloadable content (DLC) has been just as eagerly awaited. When it was finally released, the game was lauded for its scope and improvements but criticized for its lack of depth in the role-playing mechanics that fans of the series grew accustomed to. At the time of this review, three pieces of DLC will be released for Fallout 4 including one that will take players to a post-apocalyptic Maine ($24.99). The first foot forward of the Fallout 4 DLC adds a bevy of new features and a new story line, but isn’t a Season Pass seller.
The DLC begins with you receiving a distress call from a traveling caravan under attack by new robots called Swarmbots, Servomechs and Junkbots. They all go down the same and you’re introduced to a robot named Ada. When you speak with her, she laments the loss of her friends and recruits you for her quest of vengeance against the Mechanist. What follows is a fast-travel quest around the wasteland to find a way into the Mechanist’s base to end its reign of terror. Or is it you who is terrorizing the wasteland and the Mechanist the hero? The story hints at many of these themes and messages but never really does anything with them. It’s all surface-level and never goes more in-depth than the Mechanist being an antagonist with a theme and a gimmick – in more ways than one.
The main feature of Automatron DLC is the ability to build your own companions/friends that accompany you in the Commonwealth. The feature’s core is bizarre given how many companions Fallout 4 throws at you, but it’s an interesting addition and adds another layer to the crafting and building capability. If you have the necessary parts, you can build a robot equipped with any measure of weapon, faster or slower mobility or more storage capacity. You acquire most of the parts from the robots you’ve destroyed. Customizable heads and paint jobs have already led the Fallout 4 community to recreate famous robots from films and television such as Bender from Futurama and Wall-E.
I built a robot named Steve who floats around with a permanent happy expression in an attempt to lift up my spirits as I traveled the bleak wasteland.
In addition to the Mechanist’s robots, the DLC adds a sub-folder faction called the Rust Devils, which are essentially pre-existing Wasteland raiders that have captured robots and re-programmed them for their own purposes, or adopted robot armor to be more resistant to damage. When you journey into a Rust Devil lair, you witness a particularly striking set of robot imagery complete with human skulls. But, soon you’ve run through the level and it’s over. Again, the DLC would have benefitted from longer stretches of time to allow better understanding of this cultish Raider side-faction, to learn how they think and act. But, it’s merely touched upon and then forgotten.
There are new Tesla weapons and armor that can chain lightning to other foes, but they end up being weaker than many of the other weapons you’ve acquired (depending on when you’re playing Automatron – minimum level 15). One of the more interesting weapons is the head of an Assaultron that you can charge and fire. Each use irradiates you, so it’s more of a novelty than a practical weapon. For level 45+ players, the DLC is a cake walk until you reach the final encounter with the Mechanist boss. The Mechanist unleashes waves of robots -- the only result is player frustration. All you can do is painstakingly destroy the robots, which are sponges to any incoming fire. They charge towards you and force you to backpedal into a wall or get stuck on a piece of the geometry in the cramped arena. Earlier boss fights, from the main storyline, were nowhere near this irritating.
Fallout 4 is still plagued with performance issues and framerate drops. The aforementioned boss fight slows down to a crawl due to the sheer volume of enemies tossed your way. There is a laundry list of bugs that too many players are experiencing. One bug encountered during the playthrough was that, after a mid-story boss fight, my X01 Power Armor looked like it had been forged/colored on the Sun. Upon exiting the suit, it turned out that my character’s head was comparable to Johnny Storm from Fantastic Four. Humorous at first, this persisted until it eventually went away for some reason when I came back to the DLC the next day.
Fallout 4: Automatron feels like an appetizer that is serviceable but not strong enough to stand on its own. The story is over too quickly, though you do get the amusing build-a-robot mechanic offering the ability to craft a new partner from scratch. The new weapons you can wield and enemies you can fight are little more than light additions to a vast and expansive world like Fallout 4’s. Compared to Season Passes and DLC released in other video games, Automatron does the job but never pushes far enough to become highly recommended like its predecessors Broken Steel in Fallout 3 or Old World Blues in Fallout: New Vegas.