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Building a killer robot BFF in Fallout 4’s first add-on is a ton of fun

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When Bethesda first announced its plans for Fallout 4 downloadable content, it seemed like players would have to wait until May for the first meaty addition, a new storyline called "Far Harbor" that introduces a new location and a new case for synthetic detective Nick Valentine. The first add-on, "Automatron," which launched yesterday, sounded much more slight in comparison. It had a bit of a story, but the main hook was the ability to customize your own robots.

But while I went into "Automatron" with suitably lowered expectations, it turns out that it's a great and substantial addition, even with its short length. There's an engaging story and some cool new characters — but more importantly, building killer robots is one of the most entertaining things you can do in the Wasteland.

Fallout 4 Automatron

The quest structure doesn't differ from the base game

Getting into the new quest line is simple: once the "Automatron" DLC has been downloaded, a new quest will be added to your Pip-Boy menu. Find its location on the map, and head to that battle to get things started. After destroying a half dozen robotic enemies, you'll befriend a bot named Ada, who informs you that this robotic scrimmage was not an isolated incident. Ada explains that a mysterious man known only as "The Mechanist" has been creating these killing machines for the express purpose of keeping the Wasteland safe; problem is, they're attacking pretty much everyone, not just Super Mutants and Raiders. With Ada's help, you must pinpoint the Mechanist's location, find him, and kill him.

The quest structure doesn't differ from the base game, which means that for the most part you'll be jumping from place to place, shooting lots of enemies. It'll likely feel monotonous if you're still neck deep in Fallout 4's campaign, but if, like me, you've stepped away from the game, it's a nice return to something very familiar. The most substantial tweak to the original game is the addition of new and more dangerous robots. Both the Mechanist and a new faction known as the Rust Devils have the ability to customize robots, turning everything from simple guards and even Mister Handy utility bots into straight-up killers, with spinning blades, flamethrowers, and more.

Destroying all of those machines has a purpose, though. Not long into the quest you'll get access to a new type of workbench that lets you customize bots as well. It's pretty robust; you can swap out virtually every robo-part, and just like with gun mods, you can then improve those parts by crafting supplemental weapons and armor. For a big chunk of the quest I swapped out Ada's humanoid legs with a Mister Handy thruster, just because I thought it was funny. You're able to customize any robot companion, so it's even possible to turn the charming Codsworth into an unrecognizable mechanical monster. And you'll get most of the necessary parts by stripping them from the robots you destroy in battle.

Turn Codsworth into an unrecognizable monster

The hitch is that most of the cool customization options need both a good amount of resources — it's surprising how much glue you need to mod a bot — and affinity for technical skills like science. If you avoided those perks during your initial playthrough, you may need to grind a bit to get access to the best upgrades. Even if you have the right part — like, say, some treads you pulled off a robo-tank — you can't install them without the requisite resources and skills. If you do have the skills and resources, building your own robot is not only fun but practical. I have a hard time imagining going back to fleshy companions like Piper or Dogmeat when I can build a tank to stay by my side.

The quest will only take you a few hours to complete, with a few satisfying dungeons to dig through. But the real meat of "Automatron" comes from the sheer joy of creating a completely customized robot. The add-on has sparked my enthusiasm for the rest of the DLC coming to Fallout 4. Especially if I get to bring a tricked out version of Ada along with me.

Automatron is available now for all versions of Fallout 4 for $9.99.