Fallout 4: Wasteland Workshop review impressions

April 19, 2016 by Heather Alexandra

This wasteland needs more than a workshop.

In all my hundreds of hours in Fallout 4’s Commonwealth wasteland, I don’t think more than a handfull of them were spent with the game’s settlement building system. While there was definitely potential to be had and I did build a meager few settlements to a suitable condition, it was never a major concern of mine.

I’m a fervent believer that a Fallout game works best when you embrace the role of a wanderer. Hiking through twisted New England forests before pressing into Boston and scavenging raider-infested territory, only to press on to whatever new adventure might be down the road held my interest far more than managing supply routes or tending to the happiness of a handful of settlers. Wasteland Workshop does nothing to change my mind. It makes a good effort to expand settlement development but the excitement of new toys only last so long.

The DLC offers plenty of new gadgets, decorations, building types, and special goodies for any intrepid vault dweller. You’ll be able to build tents, add more ambiance to settlements with small touches like campfires and candles, diversify your buildings, and place plenty of clever defensive traps. These additional tweaks and devilish affectations allow you to give your settlements some serious personality. It’s an appreciated improvement. A major complaint I had with Fallout 4’s settlement building was that everything was a bit too homogeneous. With Wasteland Workshop, there’s a lot more opportunity to make settlements that have distinct styles and quirks.

The most dramatic feature in Wasteland Workshop is the ability to capture and domesticate animals from across the Commonwealth. From lowly molerats to deadly deathclaws, you’ll be able to populate your settlements with all kinds of creatures and radioactive monstrosities. The ability to collect monsters and build your own menagerie feels like a natural addition after Automatron granted players the ability to create robotic companions, which makes it disappointing that the process is less involved here. Build a cage to lure beasts in, build a ‘beta wave emitter’ in order to pacify them, and rest for a while; eventually, you’ll have a brand new creature tromping about.

The domestication process is curious and the implementation runs counter to what the game has taught players previously. You’ll need a lot of points in your Charisma stat, which has been undervalued greatly by the game until now. I have a sneaking suspicion that plenty of players eager to experiment with Wasteland Workshop’s most exciting feature will have to grind a few levels before they’re able to partake.

Even then, it’s not all that great. You’re not able to do much with the monsters. They patrol your settlements but can’t be commanded. Whatever excitement might be had with a tamed deathclaw comes crashing down very quickly as it becomes clear that you can’t do much other than look at your new pet. Automatron gave players the opportunity to build loyal robots that could join them on adventures. Wasteland Workshop holds all the promise of something greater with its animal capture process but shies away from doing anything particularly impressive.

Everything here feels perfunctory. There’s no story in Wasteland Workshop. You’re not even told that new goodies have arrived at your settlements. You’re left to figure out how everything works without much guidance. Sometimes, means little more than some slight annoyance as you dig through menus for a new item. Sometimes, this means telling your settlers to fight in an arena without any indication that the fights will be fatal until there’s bits of skull and brain on the ground. While this might encourage some players to experiment, as I suspect is the intention, Wasteland Workshop is also likely to frustrate players looking for a more curated, in-depth experience.

I had a fair bit of fun playing with Wasteland Workshop’s new additions, but the returns start to diminish quickly. Automatron was a surprisingly charismatic and robust addition to the core experience. Wasteland Workshop adds some variety to settlement creation and management but ultimately feels too bare bones. It might provide a few welcome distractions, but after you’ve seen what it has to offer, you’re just as likely to never touch any of the content again. In theory, the sky is the limit so long as you use your imagination. In practice, Wasteland Workshop is so average that I doubt it will offer the inspiration needed. I don’t see myself returning to the workshop anytime soon.