Fallout 4 DLC Review

Contraptions Workshop

The Contraptions Workshop DLC like the Wasteland Workshop DLC before it contains an odd assortment of items for you to build at your settlements.  Some of these are useful theming objects.  For example, instead of having to build generic wood, metal, or concrete buildings, the DLC allows you to construct greenhouses, warehouses, and scaffolding.  It also adds elevators (which are more space-efficient than staircases), display cases (so you can show off weapons and armor that you're not using), and lighted marquee signs (so you can label buildings, so long as you don't mind that the lettering is really small).

But the heart of the DLC is the contraptions.  The DLC allows you to build different machines that can produce food, armor, weapons, ammunition, explosives, or even fireworks.  This is great, especially since the perk requirements for most of the machines are minimal.  That means you can build an armor forge, for example, near the beginning of the game and gain access to heavy armors much earlier than otherwise.  Unfortunately, the machines have some odd gaps -- the armor forge can't build synth armor, the ammunition plant can't create cartridges for energy weapons, and things like that -- and the machines are also more complicated and inconvenient that they should be.

Consider the original crafting stations.  They didn't require electricity or a lot of space, they automatically pulled components from your inventory or your settlement's workshop, and they placed the result in your inventory.  Easy.  But with machines, you have to build the machine, attach it to a terminal so you can select what the machine builds, and power both the machine and the terminal.  And then if you want to automate the process (which is almost the whole point of the DLC), you have to attach conveyor belts to the machine so components are drawn out of a container (including a workshop), sent to the machine, and then placed into a container (not including a workshop) at the end.

In other words, the new machines take way more space, require way more electricity (to the point where you're almost forced to use a special DLC generator), and are way slower (since you have to wait for components to move along conveyor belts and the machines to complete their building animations).  So there you go -- a trifecta of inconvenience!  Woohoo!  The only upside is that the machines look cooler, which might be a plus if you're creating a settlement with a mechanical theme.

The other addition in the DLC is the ball track.  If you're old like me then you might remember wooden toys with ramps and helixes where marbles would roll from the top to the bottom.  Well, ball tracks do the same thing for your settlements, just at a much larger scale.  The problem with this addition -- other than it being completely pointless -- is that you can't really see the ball as it rolls along the track.  Bethesda should have made the ball glow (or at least have a brighter color) or given the track some transparency so you could actually watch the ball as it rolls around.  As it is, you can play around with the tracks and have balls set off electrical pulses (for example, to shoot off fireworks), and set up conveyor belts to take the balls from the bottom back to the top so they can roll down again, but at best it's just an extremely odd theming element.

And so the Contraptions Workshop DLC doesn't add much in the way of functionality to your settlements.  The included machines allow you to build things, but they're things the game world provides for you anyway.  And so the machines aren't really necessary, which means the DLC is mostly about theming.  If that's something you care about, then the DLC has potential.  Otherwise, not so much.

Vault-Tec Workshop

The Vault-Tec Workshop DLC begins in a familiar fashion, with you receiving a distress call over your radio.  When you investigate, you find that raiders are trying to break into Vault 88, apparently thinking that Fragmentation Grenades and Molotov Cocktails will get them through the front door.  After defeating the raiders, you discover that Vault 88 was under construction when the bombs fell.  Only the front part of the vault was completed, and while the work crews eventually turned into feral ghouls, the overseer managed to survive as a sentient ghoul -- who still wants the job completed.

This introduction starts you on a short campaign involving Vault 88.  You first have to clear away the ghouls and other creatures living in the caverns excavated for the vault, and then you have to start putting the vault together.  You also learn that Vault 88 was designed with experiments in mind -- which isn't surprising given Bethesda's contention that all vaults were planned that way -- and you can run some of the experiments yourself.  The experiments are silly endeavors to take advantage of "wasted" time, like hooking up exercise bikes to help power the vault, but they're also short and amusing.  My character took the nicest approach possible, and the overseer got so fed up with me that she eventually left in a huff.

The nicest thing about the DLC is that it allows you to build a vault.  Only Vault 88 gives you space to build underground, but you can also build aboveground "vaults" at your other settlements.  Constructing vaults requires some trial and error.  Everything snaps together, and electricity flows through floors and walls -- if you build them correctly -- but there aren't any tutorials or instructions of any sort, and sometimes figuring out what's correct and what isn't takes some time.  For example, the vault starts with a reactor, and it looks like it's set up correctly, but it isn't actually connected to anything, and so it doesn't do anything, which is confusing.  And when you do hook up a reactor correctly, for some reason you still need to place conduits on the walls to get lights to turn on, which is also confusing.  It took me a while, and I had to consult the game's forums a few times, but eventually I ended up with a vanilla but functional vault.