In Fallout 4, the Settlement mechanic allows players to establish their own settlements and populate them with dwellers. The goal is to give the audience a sense of creativity in the wasteland, but it’s something that hasn’t quite panned out.
I love making settlements in Fallout 4. During my time with the game, I crafted what felt like hundreds of buildings and made sure to assign my dwellers to specific duties. I even went so far as to give them custom equipment load-outs based on their roles. It eventually got to a point where I had to force myself to play the story just because I couldn’t stop making new cities for my people. But as time went on, and I kept establishing new areas, the mechanic started getting stale – and the wasteland workshop DLC additions weren’t doing much to help.
When Fallout 4 first unveiled its plans for downloadable content, many gamers were looking forward to checking out new stories, characters, and game mechanics. We had the return of the Mechanist to look forward to, the idea of pit fights from Wasteland Workshop add-on, and the mysterious allure of Far Harbor. Automatron and Far Harbor certainly delivered – but Wasteland Workshop started a horrible trend that both upset and confused me based on the way the team typically tackled downloadable content.
Developer Bethesda, as a whole, is well-known for its attention to detail with storytelling and continuing the narrative of each game past launch. With both Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Todd Howard and his team delivered excellent narratives for players to explore, alongside a plethora of new mechanics and toys to play around with.
Take Fallout 3 for example, which focused on extending the main narrative of the game through Broken Steel and introducing complex stories for players to experience in Operation Anchorage, The Pitt, Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta. Each section of the DLC provided for Fallout 3 had context within the larger universe while also holding narrative value of its own. However, the downloadable content for Fallout 4 doesn’t feel the same.
While both Automatron and Far Harbor certainly hold value from a narrative standpoint, the various Wasteland Workshop additions feel like a cop-out. Each of these DLC chunks add various contraptions and features to the settlement building mechanic that was originally advertised as ‘completely optional’ – making half of the DLC feel inconsequential.
Throughout my experience with the original wasteland workshop DLC, contraptions, and the newest vault building addition I couldn’t help but think about what could have been provided Bethesda opted to work on adding a narrative structure alongside them.
Take the newest DLC, for example, Vault-Tec Workshop. Throughout it, you’ll be working to build up your own vault and have the opportunity to perform experiments on your dwellers. But, there’s no narrative or dialogue exploring the truly messed up nature of vault experiments, or the twisted goals of the Vault-Tec Corporation. Each of these are valuable and interesting pieces of the Fallout universe we so rarely get to explore in-game.
It’s this complete lack of narrative within wasteland workshop DLCs that make them feel so unrewarding and uninteresting to players, namely because they just feel tacked on instead of engineered to fit into the game in a meaningful way. Combine that with the fact Bethesda has yet to fix many issues still plaguing players regarding the settlement mode in general and you just can’t help but wonder what’s been going on during the whiteboard phase of each project.
We expect better from Bethesda based on their history with the Fallout franchise and RPG design in general. For years they’ve created worlds that are regarded as some of the most respected in the industry. Unfortunately, Fallout 4 seems to have taken a step back from that creativity– which will hopefully be remedied with the upcoming release of Nuka World this fall.
Photos via Nicholas Bashore