Although it is over a little too quickly, Automatron is still a promising start for Fallout 4's DLC.
With a price tag of £7.99, Fallout 4’s ‘Automatron’ DLC is neither a small throwaway add on, nor a full-blown expansion. The former will be available in the upcoming ‘Wasteland Workshop’, whilst the latter will arrive in the form of ‘Far Harbour’ in just a few months time. Until then, ‘Automatron’ is a surprisingly substantial addition to the Fallout experience, one that adds new weapons, armour, locations, companions, and enemies.
The narrative has you intercept a new distress signal out in the commonwealth. Upon arriving at the origin of the broadcast, the player discovers a caravan under attack by a legion of robots, all of whom are spouting messages from a mysterious antagonist. Said villain is none other than The Mechanist, an unstable fan disguised as an old pre-war comic-book character, intent on ‘saving the commonwealth’ with their army of customised robots. The 2-3 hour questline (depending on what level your character is) has you hunt down The Mechanist, encountering new characters along the way.
However, the biggest draw here isn’t the new story, or even the new items, it’s the new gameplay mechanic. Following an interaction with one of the characters, players learn to customise their own robotic companion, personalising everything from their appearance and fighting style, right down to their voice. Just like with weapon modification and settlement building, this requires scavenging for materials and schematics. As someone who usually greets these crafting mechanics with a deep disdain, it’s a pleasure to report that here they are just as intuitive and accessible as the systems already in place in Fallout 4. I was never overwhelmed by elaborate menus or complex statistics, everything was coherent and easy to grasp. More importantly, depth is not sacrificed in favour of this simplicity, as there are plenty of unique combinations to make. I myself went for a levitating Robobrain model, with a flamer for one hand and an automatic laser for the other, complete with R2-D2 style beeps in place of speech.
Of course, the central quests are still as engaging as ever, if a little lacking in the moral-choice department. One highlight takes you to a raider settlement populated by the Rust Devils, a formidable gang who re-purpose machine parts as armour and cover their own robot slaves in typical raider attire (Deathclaw skulls and all). It’s a nice little expansion of the lore and also provides you with plenty of new items, including a dismembered Assaultron head which can be used as an energy weapon. This particular mission also includes the DLC’s standout character, a GLaDOS esque Robobrain who provides some of Fallout 4’s best dialogue. Just to go off on a minor tangent for a minute, is it just me, or do the robots almost invariably get the best lines and character traits in this game?
The Mechanist’s minions are also brilliantly designed, and make for a nice change of pace for players who are sick of encountering the same enemies in the main game. If I had any reservations, they would mainly come down to the fact that it all takes place in the old map. The majority of Fallout 3’s similarly priced add-ons offered entirely new locations with their own distinct visual identity (Space! Snow! Swampland!) . Meanwhile, the few new locations in this offering are just more of the same, with numerous derelict factories and abandoned workplaces.
Moreover, there is the old question of value-for-money. Whilst the expansion was far more enjoyable than I envisioned (I cannot overstate how much fun it is to watch a robot of your own creation go toe-to-toe with other machines), it is still over rather quickly. Assuming you take the time to properly explore and create your new metallic companions, this could probably stretch out to maybe five hours maxium. But realistically it takes less time than that. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the quality of what is here, after all, I’d prefer a small slice of actual content over hours and hours of MMO style padding.
As far as setting the standard for future Fallout DLC goes, this is pretty impressive stuff. If ‘Far Harbour’ can maintain this level of quality and also improve the quantity at the same time, then fans will be in for one hell of a treat.
Automatron is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.