What I love most about Minecraft is that it doesn’t very visibly display how much time I’ve spent in it like a Steam game does. I’m sure I’d have a bit of an existential crisis if I knew that number. Fallout 4, however, displays my 186 hours like some sort of badge of honour, of which an inordinate amount of time has been spent working on my settlements. Contraptions Workshop seems set on piling on. It’s not even that I dislike wanton destruction that much, in fact, I love a bit of the old ultraviolence. Nor do I find the settlement building to be particularly compelling, though I do seem to have fewer functional problems with it than most people. It’s just that whenever presented with a choice between entertaining, yet repetitive destruction and any sort of building, I seem to naturally gravitate toward the latter. On paper, Contraptions Workshop should be right up my alley.
Contraptions Workshop (Fallout 4 DLC): Windows PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 21 Jun 2016
Price: 4,99€ [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
Utility or Mischief
Most prominently, Contraptions Workshop features the possibility of constructing complex machinery with the aid of the new ramps, cannons, switches and logic circuits. Do you want to create an elaborate Deathclaw trap? You can do that. Put Preston Garvey in the stocks, shoot a sniper rifle at a target which sets a pool-bowl down a chute which activates a switch which fires tatos at his face and sets of fireworks? Sure. But the really cool stuff, in my opinion, lies with the possibility to build your very own wasteland factory.
You can create pretty much any item with a system of scrap containers, huge funnels that extract the scrap and spit out manufactured items on a conveyor belt like a proper industrialist. While it does require a lot of investment on the raw material front, it can remove the need for scrounging for ammunition, food and even armour. One of my earliest problems with Fallout 4 on launch was how scarce ammunition was and I ended up carrying multiple weapons just to be able to switch out between them according to availability. This tended to cut into my ability to carry garbage back to my settlements and craft stuff.
I can see how making most items essentially renewable resources without the luck element of farming for them can make something like Survival Mode more desirable (which I didn’t find particularly attractive because of this problem) and being able to craft your own food beyond the scope of the cooking station can enable you to plan for some better expeditions. Additionally, being able to craft armour makes it far easier to equip your settlers however you want which adds to the role play angle if you’re into that.
The weapon racks and armour stands add to this as well, as you can display your most prized unique weapons in your arsenal room, ready to be equipped at a moment’s notice without having to scroll through whatever container you left it in. My high-powered, high-caliber legendary sniper rifle Headseeker now rests upon a mantle in my quarters near the top floor of a concrete tower I built in Sanctuary. Now whenever super mutants attack, I can just pick it up on on may way to the roof and start dealing some critical hits within seconds of the alarm being sounded. Alternatively, I could simply go to the terminal I set up which controls some defensive measures and activate them whereas in the past you couldn’t do much except change colours on light panels using terminals.
I know I’ve been laconic in my covering of the Contraptions Workshop features, but that’s only because it’s just a set of settlement crafting novelties and your imagination is what drives the content. But rest assured I do have opinions on it. In short, I like Contraptions Workshop but it also worries me. As I’ve stated before, I like this kind of content a lot. I love building and I love sandbox experiences, but at the same time, I never played Fallout for something like this. I can understand building in a multiplayer environment with people to marvel at, or sabotage your creations. I understand sharing your creation with others or bragging about them. But in a single player experience, like Fallout 4, I don’t see who exactly this kind of content is for, outside of a narrow niche of players. Is this a DLC for YouTubers? Is it worth for Bethesda to put all their eggs in that basket?
On top of that, I could fully understand if people who bought the season pass would feel betrayed at the sight of the second crafting-only DLC and the third crafting-gimmick one. Of course, you should never really buy season passes, but that’s a whole other discussion for a whole other time.