Fallout 4: Wasteland Workshop Review
From the moment Bethesda lifted the curtain on their DLC plans for Fallout 4, Wasteland Workshop is the one that felt the short straw of the group. The previously-reviewed Automatron was to add a new story sequence and a major new mechanic, while the third DLC is supposedly much larger in size and scope than a typical downloadable add-on. Wasteland Workshop is the smallest and in-line with that the cheapest - but one also has to admit that it's more than a little bland.
The primary feeling coming off several hours with Wasteland Workshop isn't that it's bad - it isn't - but rather that what the game has on offer feels quite a bit like the sort of thing mods would've offered on PC free of charge in time anyway. As the name suggests, it's an add-on around the game's excellent settlement building mechanic, adding new items to build with... and that's about it.
The new items are solid additions, with my personal favourite neon lighting that can be used to spell out whatever you want, lewd or otherwise. There's some great new floor and wall options and even some gameplay-useful items such as a machine that'll remove rads from anyone who steps into it.
Alone the new items would seem incredibly stingy, but they're mercifully padded out with Wasteland Workshop's big tentpole feature: the ability to place new trap items in order to capture the creatures of the wasteland. All of this is incredibly easy to do - each trap is unique to a specific creature and requires slightly different things to attract that creature. For example, you may have to head out in the wasteland to gather the necessary meat that'll act as bait. Once the trap is placed, a few hours of in-game sleep later it'll hold your prize - simple.
While there's a bunch of new creature taxidermy options for those looking to go further with settlement decoration, the purpose of catching creatures is to have a sort of nuclear Pokemon moment - beasts can be tamed to be your friends or faced off against each other in a typical post-apocalyptic death arena. Pleasingly, the new settlement items include the necessary parts to build a decent-looking arena.
I have to say that there's something to this - it's incredibly satisfying to build the necessary items to tame usually-hostile creatures into becoming settlement defense for you, for instance. I personally found this side of things more interesting than the arena death matches.
Even though there is absolutely something satisfying about pitting raiders or even just a settler you don't much like against a dangerous creature, Fallout 4's combat is best when you're in it. The animation lacks the nuance to sell the arena combat as exciting, and that's of course a problem when a major point is setting up and then watching these matches. That's a restriction of the engine, and while it can't be helped, it makes this add-on's execution leaving something to be desired.
It's in these problems that Wasteland Workshop begins to feel more like a mod than a fully-fledged DLC add-on, no matter the price. There's really smart and intriguing ideas for new features here, but the restrictions of Fallout 4's core gameplay mean it can't reach its full potential; it feels hamstrung.
The new items are very welcome if you enjoyed the settlement building, but much like Automatron, this is a DLC that's difficult to recommend unless you already have a Fallout 4 game in progress. If you do, it'll enhance that game for a reasonable price so long as you're into settlement building - but alone, this add-on is vastly underwhelming. In terms of Fallout 4 DLC, we're still in search of a killer app that'll actually drag you back to the Wasteland.