I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for a good expansion pack. Whilst for some people, retail therapy involves trawling a shopping centre armed with grim determination and a credit card, for me, it has always consisted of plundering the PlayStation store for whatever downloadable goodies grabbed my attention. The Fallout series has always been the Harrods to my particular addiction, providing a vast expanse of DLC packs with which to burn through my student loan: Fallout 4 is no different, and my attention has been captivated for weeks by the promise of a March release for its first installment of extra content, Automatron. Of course, release day is upon us, and, after having spent the entirety of it exploring the new content, I think that a full review is in order: Automatron is something of a monstrosity.
Those treads look familiar…
Fallout 4‘s first DLC pack includes a new set of missions that revolve around a costumed antagonist called the Mechanist, who has decided that the elimination of whichever factions you chose was not enough to save the Commonwealth from spontaneous combustion. Armies of robots have begun causing havoc; it is your job to stop them, and confront their leader.
Alongside this primary story, the player gains the ability to loot destroyed robot enemies for parts, for use in the construction of a potentially endless number of companions – what is even more impressive, however, is the sheer depth of this customisation feature, allowing for complete control over which parts are used in conjunction with each-other. Have you ever seen the upper body and arms of a Sentry Bot welded onto the thruster of a Mr. Handy? No? Well, you will.
In addition, the pack also introduces new weapons, such as a Tesla Rifle and Assaultron Head, a new raider gang with a penchant for the automated, as well as a new settlement and even the schematics for some extra workshop objects, if you can find them. I will go no further, for the sake of not having to yell SPOILERS, but I think you get the idea: this is an add-on that provides a surprising amount of potential, even once you’ve conquered the Mechanist himself. I am personally building a robot army, for deployment in all of my major settlements: your constructed robots have all of the same abilities as your settlers, and so can be exploited and enslaved to your heart’s content.
The story begins just as the many, many other add-ons for the Fallout series do: with a radio transmission. This one is a distress call from a caravan that is under attack by a group of robots, to which you must of course respond; upon your arrival, and the removal of any threats, you meet Ada, your companion for the duration of the story, and the hunt for the Mechanist begins.
The trail revisits several locations across Boston, each with a new addition, and although blasting your way through endless floating ‘Swarmbots’ does get slightly tiring, the finale provides proof that the studio writers haven’t entirely exhausted their supply of plot twists. I was pleased to discover that the locations used were all previously somewhat lacking in traversable interiors, and that whilst the central story was over fairly quickly I can see no end to the possibilities – and indeed the side quests – for the pack in the near future.
Automatron showcases some neat design ideas from the Bethesda team, particularly with regards to the new raider gang, whose abuse of the mechanized inhabitants of the Commonwealth has made way for some surprisingly grotesque robotic creations; I’m a big fan of the way that they mount the remains of defeated robots on spikes, in particular. Another point of interest is the Mechanist’s lair itself, as it reveals the history of one familiar Fallout robot in typically grim fashion, offering a dark and rust-eaten environment through which the player must travel. I have only one complaint: such is the extent of the effects used – cryo blasts, tesla sparks, and so forth – that my PS4 did suffer slight frame rate drops when I was faced with substantial robot opposition. But then again, I am a fussy gamer.
Sit back, relax, and let the metal do the work.
Of course, the expansion does have a few noticeable bugs – the mapping capabilities of the larger robots, for example, leave something to be desired – but I am confident that these will be wiped out in one swift update. Aside from this, Automatron is a remarkably expansive DLC pack, offering a limitless range of mechanical companions with an even broader range of terrifying weaponry options to make even the most vicious of deathclaws tremble in fear. And whilst I’m a little sad that the New Vegas Securitron didn’t make the final cut, those of you hoping for a nostalgia trip will not be disappointed.
Oh, and a word to the wise: the Mechanist is a villain from a series of Fallout comic books whose protagonist you assume the identity of during a particular mission. Make of that what you will.