A mishmash of settlement upgrades and useless monsters.
I never cared all that much for building settlements in Fallout 4, but since installing the Wasteland Workshop DLC I’ve at least enjoyed turning them into the post-apocalyptic world’s worst zoos. It includes some fun ways to mess with the creatures and residents of the Commonwealth, though not much more than that.
It’s a bit disappointing that there are no stories or missions built around these new settlement options, but the new tools in the toolbox do make Fallout 4 a more creative game. It’s amusing to capture raiders and deathclaws, imprison them in your settlements, and then force them through gauntlets of elaborate traps. Plus, the aesthetic effect of a pack of deathclaws wandering serenely through the early morning fog in Sanctuary is pretty cool.
But the charm quickly wears off. A big reason why is that, considering capturing creatures doesn’t really make your character more powerful, some of it is just a hassle to use. Monster cages are the most interactive new element, but the process of creating and using them is unnecessarily cumbersome. They’re expensive to build, so expect to spend a lot of time foraging for materials (or just break down and cheat). And once you do build them, the act of trapping a monster isn’t interesting or quick – you just have to place them and wait until a monster appears in them. Plus, if you didn’t invest heavily in the charisma attribute, you’ll miss out on the essential creature-subduing device.
I suspect Wasteland Workshop’s designers intend for you to conduct capture operations between other adventures so you’ll have something waiting for you when you return. But that doesn’t really make sense for where Fallout 4 players are right now, more than six months after release. Having already done most of what Fallout 4 contains at this point and wanting to experience Wasteland Workshop as a way to refresh the experience, I would have appreciated a better way to accelerate my trapping than manually sleeping at a bed for several nights before a new beastie showed up.
Another issue is that due to the lack of story or missions, actually enjoying your captives is largely a matter of making your own fun with the tools provided. I was briefly amused sending captured beasts through gauntlets of automated defenses like hallways full of spinning blades, but there’s no challenge in it and nothing to gain from it. Likewise, there’s no real reason to use the new arena markers that let you pair teams of settlers, companions, and pets in staged battles. If you’ve messed with console commands to spawn enemies at all, you’ve already seen all of these fights. And it’s not like the arena does anything to compliment that, like keep track of Preston Garvy’s win/loss record or organizing monster tournaments.
…the fights are frankly unexciting to watch.
On top of not really contributing anything functional to your settlement, they can cause harm: turning settlers against one another in the arena means only one comes out alive, and that pretty much demands saving beforehand and reloading after to avoid permanent repercussions. I’d have appreciated a non-lethal option, or even better, a reason to risk the lives of our followers, like wagering on fights. Since there’s no way to really control them, the fights are frankly unexciting to watch.
It’s also a letdown that there are so few ways to use these creatures after you’ve captured and tamed them. After Automatron’s introduction of customizable robot servants, I wish Wasteland Workshop would have gone all-in and allowed me to enlist my domesticated Deathclaws as Dogmeat-style companions in my wanderings in the Wasteland, or at least give them names and tasks. Alas, they’re limited to mostly serving as settlement security, which was already pretty well covered by turrets. In that vein, we also get a handful of new traps and defenses with an Indiana Jones-inspired aesthetic to them, though the floor spikes and spinning blades aren’t particularly practical unless attackers can be funneled into narrow corridors.
Wasteland Workshop’s more positive qualities are for settlement builders, and include pragmatic additions like a full-scale Fusion Generator to power all the neat new toys you’ll be scrambling to build. The neon lighting looks really cool, and using some bug-exploitation trickery I learned how to make glowing letters float in midair. Creative experimentation is at the heart of Wasteland Workshop’s best stuff, but it’s also part of the problem: with so much emphasis on just providing materials, there aren’t a lot of accompanying systems granting measurable rewards to reap from the work you’re doing.