Fallout 4's Contraption Workshop DLC lets you build useful and abusive machines

I'm building a machine that will fill an enormous cannon with steel balls and bowling pins which I then plan to fire point blank into the face of Blake Abernathy, the kindhearted owner of a small farm in Fallout 4.

Why am I doing this? I don't rightly know. Probably because the Contraption Workshop DLC has just been released, and it allows for the building of automated factories that can process materials and craft items, and conveyor belts that can carry resources and products around to the various machines and dump the resulting goods into cannons which can then be fired into nice people's faces. Sometimes you do things just because you can.

It's not exactly Factorio, but it works.

It's not exactly Factorio, but it works.

Before I attempt to execute Mr. Abernathy with an enormous cannon, here's what the DLC gives you. Most of it revolves around being able to build factories on your settlements: a machine that can suck junk out of a container, plop it piece-by-piece onto a conveyor belt, feed it into another machine that can combine those parts into items, drop the items on another conveyor belt, and feed them into another container. It's like having a little bit of Factorio in your Fallout. There are a number of new logic switches and ramps for those who want to build complex Rube Goldbergian contraptions as well.

You probably don't need to build factories on your settlements. Fallout 4 is already so filled with goods I can't really imagine needing to mass-produce anything. Just for fun, though? Yeah, the Contraption Workshop is pretty fun to play with. Even the simple factory I build, though it barely does anything, is quite satisfying. Just seeing units of wood or metal or plastic begin to travel along the conveyor belts is cool.

I am sending wood to be turned into bowling pins. For murder.

I am sending wood to be turned into bowling pins. For murder.

There's other stuff too: buildings like warehouses and greenhouses and elevators that can reach four floors high. There are armor and weapon racks and display cases that are long overdue. And there are plenty more decorations, lights, and other items for your settlements. Also, fireworks! They're kinda cool. You can craft them on your chemistry table, stuff 'em in a mortar, and fire them off. Most are just colorful fun, but there's also a flare that can bring reinforcements to your settlement. There are even fireworks that can change the weather, creating rain, clearing the clouds, or bringing on a radiation storm. Why? I dunno. Why the hell not?

Back to killing Mr. Abernathy, whose only crime was being the closest person to me when I built the pillory that is also included in the DLC. I direct Abernathy to get into the pillory, and he does. He seems okay with it. I head down the hill to build my murder machine.

I start with a factory floor, then build a box and fill it with junk. Next, a machine that removes items from adjacent containers, then some conveyor belts to carry them into another machine that I can program to craft items using an attached terminal. I decide on producing steel balls (because I have a lot of steel) and bowling pins (I have a lot of wood).

From there I use an elevated conveyor belt to dump the balls and pins into my junk mortar, which will fire anything you put inside it. When I've produced as many steel balls and pins as I can (which turns out to be not that many), I use the terminal to lower the mortar until it's pointing up at the farmhouse and the pilloried Mr. Abernathy.

Then I hit the switch.

Hm. Well, that was a bit disappointing. Half of my shot didn't even make it off my factory floor, and Abernathy is well out of its range. I use the terminal to crank up the amount of propulsion to the maximum, and try again.

That's better—several of the steel balls actually make it up the hill and bounce next to Abernathy. None hit him, however. And most of the balls didn't go anywhere near that far.

I have a solution. I release Abernathy from the stocks, move them roughly 10 feet in front of the cannon, then direct the agreeable farmer to get back into them. Nick Valentine, who has been joining me at the switch, chooses to remain directly in front of the cannon this time. Well, it's your cyberfuneral, Nick.

Or not! Nick is fine. A couple balls hit Abernathy, or at least the pillory he's in, but he's fine. I almost hit a traveling robot hovering up the hill, but he's fine, too. Everyone is fine! I'm clearly a failure at being a menace.

While this DLC is pretty cool and cheap ($5 if you don't have a season pass), it is of course hampered by the same clunky and awkward first-person building system that has been hampering every settlement you build. Finding new items in menus is a pain and placing items is as wonky as it ever was. Still, if you're going to struggle with a crummy building utility, it might as well be one that lets you build factories, elevators, and attempted-murder cannons. I expect we'll be seeing lots of fun creations in the coming days from players with a bit more imagination than I.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.