A bit fishy.
The recent Fallout games have had an excellent DLC track record, with standouts including The Pitt, Point Lookout and Broken Steel of Fallout 3, and every damn expansion featured in New Vegas, which offered a masterclass on expanding the universe of Fallout in brilliantly imaginative ways. While I think the first two pieces of downloadable content for Fallout 4 (Automatron and Wasteland Workshop) felt somewhat disposable, the team are back on form with Far Harbor, the chunkiest piece of DLC for the game yet. But how does it hold up to the high standards set in previous games?
When Bethesda marketed Far Harbor as having the largest landmass out of all their expansions to date (yes, that includes the exceptional Shivering Isles) I was quite excited. In reality, this follows Bethesda’s trend of presenting “tons of content” in a very shallow way. It may be their biggest DLC map yet, but The Island feels strangely small, and a little, well, empty. There are few places of real interest besides the three new factions (more on those later), and with nothing but stretches of land in between it can feel pretty empty at times. Compare this to Shivering Isles, which crammed more interesting locations onto a smaller map, thus creating the illusion of a place larger than it was.
Far Harbor’s enemy variety also feels quite uninspired. The bulk of the nasties you’ll be fighting you’ve seen countless times before. Feral ghouls, mirelurks, super mutants and bandits (known here as Trappers) make up the majority of the ranks, with the new and much cooler enemies like the gulpers, anglers and the vicious fog crawlers seeming fairly uncommon by comparison. It’s a shame because the new set of enemy types vary up the combat a bit. The gulpers, for example, shuffle from side to side as they close in on the player, forcing you to pick your shots more carefully. They’re particularly harrowing on Survival mode where every shot counts.
The Long Walk
Apply the conflict between the main factions in the Commonwealth, but this time, strap a ticking time bomb that’s rigged to explode imminently. This sums up the story found in Far Harbor, and it’s genuinely gripping stuff. Our survivor is brought to The Island, off the coast of Maine, via the Valentine Detective Agency. It’s a missing person case that brings us to the seaside town of Far Harbor where we begin our search for Kasumi Nakano at the request of her parents.
The people of Far Harbor mean well, though are quite conservative and not trusting of “mainlanders.” We learn that the town faces threats by way of a mysterious radioactive fog that’s slowly consuming the island, as well as the Children of Atom, who are growing ever more vigilant in attempting to make the residents of Far Harbor vacate The Island. In the middle of it all lies the synth town of Acadia, run by DiMA, a centuries-old synth which is looking for a way to bring peace to everyone on The Island.
Far Harbor’s main questline won’t take you very long to beat. I clocked around 5-6 hours before witnessing all possible endings, but there was never a dull moment (besides an annoying and forced puzzle section halfway through). The stakes are continually raised as tension builds between the factions.
As I mentioned, the story is great, especially when you realise there’s a whole lot more going on than a simple missing person case, and the fact that Far Harbor features what is easily the greatest twist in the game thus far. It gives you food for thought, for sure.
While similar to the Commonwealth in some aspects, The Island is ultimately a different beast. It’s mostly rural, a far cry from the urban wastes of Boston. However, it’s inhabitants have indeed left their mark. Acadia’s fog condensers line The Island while oppressive pockets of radiation mark the Children of Atoms’ favourite spots.
I do wish the town of Far Harbor was a little bigger; its resort town aesthetic is actually quite striking, and I would have loved to have seen more of it. The Children of Atoms’ homebase, The Nucleus, is equally inspired and reminds me of an indoor Megaton, which I suppose is quite fitting.
Each piece of Fallout DLC typically brings with it a select chunk of notable loot, including new weapons, armours and various meds and combat aids to craft. Far Harbor is no exception, but I found myself being rather underwhelmed by the new items offered here. Aside from a fishing hook weapon that hits like a truck and power armour with a cool paint job, I found nothing with the “oooh” factor seen in older games (Remember the Man Opener from The Pitt? Or the talking suit from Old World Blues?). What I did find was a chest piece in the shape of a toilet seat (weird), a harpoon gun (predictable) and a radioactive sledgehammer (okay, that one is actually pretty sweet).
I won’t soon forget my adventures in Far Harbor. The story presented new questions I’m sure fans will be attempting to answer for years (or until future content gives us a straight answer), and that’s refreshing to see from a game that often had predictable plot turns and frequently stilted voice performances. While I do wish the loot was better and that there was a bit more in the way of things to do, if this is a sign of things to come for the grander narrative of Fallout 4, then colour me excited. And a little aroused.
Fallout 4 Far Harbour was reviewed on Xbox One.
While Far Harbor absolutely shines in the story department it’s let down in many other areas. From mobs we’ve seen hundreds of times before to a disappointing new pool of loot, it certainly has its issues. Thankfully the story and The Island itself are absolutely worth exploring and it will be a good amount of time before you’ve seen everything.