Far Harbor, Fallout 4‘s first proper content expansion and one that reportedly rivals Oblivion’s Shivering Isles in terms of scale, is finally here and doubts about the value of the Season Pass can be put to rest. Honestly, value is as subjective as the price you’re willing to put on it. In terms of story-telling and writing, Far Harbor is a stronger tale than the base game, even if the narrative tools powering it are skill-checks mixed with the old exploration and questing. Again though, from our perspective, is Far Harbor worth your time? Should Fallout 4 fans return to the game for it? Well, yes.
"It may not represent the most morally traumatic experiences in gaming but it does offer a good amount of variety, especially in how you choose to handle some objectives."
Interestingly, you’re on a quest to search for a missing woman – Kasumi Nakano, who suddenly up and travelled to Far Harbor to rendezvous with a colony of Synths in a place called Acadia. Upon arriving in Far Harbor, you’ll find plenty of trouble plaguing the island. The citizens of the dock-town are busy fighting back the horrors of the mutated wildlife while also combating a radioactive fog that’s slowly consuming everything. If that weren’t enough, the Children of Atom are on the prowl, praising the fog as the will of the Atom and looking to convert all non-believers in the process.
But wait, there’s more. Traveling to Acadia puts you face to face with an old Synth named DiMA. What are his plans? How do the other factions factor into it all? More importantly, which side will you choose and what consequences will you bear?
Many felt that Fallout 4 didn’t really do consequences all that well, especially when it came to the ending. Far Harbor remedies that by quite a bit – the Children of Atom and Far Harbor‘s folk are directly in contention with each other but even Acadia has stakes in who could potentially win. You can take on quests for each faction and try to improve life for the folks in each town. However, you’ll also come across instances where your direct decision influences how things can ultimately play out. Do you ultimately travel to the Children of Atom’s submarine base and retrieve those valuable memory banks? Do you sell of those tools that the Mariner in Far Harbor asked you to retrieve for the sake of Caps?
It may not represent the most morally traumatic experiences in gaming but it does offer a good amount of variety, especially in how you choose to handle some objectives. For example, you can choose whether to hack into Faraday’s computer or simply eavesdrop on a meeting by unlocking a door (failing to do so prompts the hunt for a key, which again requires a skill check with regards to your Charisma) to discover DiMA’s plans. How about when you track down that missing Synth into a den of Trappers who’ve cannibalized his body and use your own cannibal perk to appeal to them? It’s a nice change of pace from the base story.
"From the noble Captain Avery, the no-nonsense Mariner and the sardonic Cassie in Far Harbor alone to Acadia’s DiMA who poses perhaps one of the more solidly written moral dilemmas in the series, there’s no shortage of interesting people to meet."
Far Harbor itself is an intriguing location, smothered in fog – constantly nagging at your radiation meter but never really plunging you into danger at a moment’s notice. The fisherman culture pervades every aspect of the island, from ruins of ships to nets and discarded tools lying around. Its uniqueness is further enhanced by the enemies roaming about. For the traditional foes like Ghouls and Wolves (essentially the wild dogs from the Commonwealth), you’ll come across Anglers who fire incendiary blobs at you by condensing the radioactive fog around them. The most frightening enemy has to be the Fog Crawler, a mantis-like creature with heavy armour and who are best dispatched with heavy weaponry.
While combat isn’t any more tactical than the base game, there’s a decent balance between the traditional enemies you’ve fought before and these new monstrosities. It also offers ample opportunity to try out some of the new weapons. Go for the Harpoon Gun first as it launches a massive harpoon into your foes, annihilating them quickly, as opposed to the lever action rifles which suffer from an odd glitch whereupon you reload all bullets individually (even if you only fired one).
Of course, it wouldn’t be Bethesda DLC without your routine “go here, do this, collect that” variety of side quests. To be fair though, such quests aren’t usually a problem if they’re backed by solid writing and interesting characters, something which Far Harbor has in spades. From the noble Captain Avery, the no-nonsense Mariner and the sardonic Cassie in Far Harbor alone to Acadia’s DiMA who poses perhaps one of the more solidly written moral dilemmas in the series, there’s no shortage of interesting people to meet.
It certainly helps when you’re directed to a place to simply murder a target or collect some missing tools. You may still find yourself annoyed with the standard cookie-cutter nature of many side quests but there’s enough unique content here to keep you coming back. That being said, for all the interesting characters, the newest companion – Old Longfellow – is kind of boring. Maybe it’s just the monotone speaking pattern or the triteness of his personality but suffice to say that you won’t be using him for much more than learning about the island’s history.
"Fallout 4 has needed something like Far Harbor for a long time. It’s needed a fresh injection of fun content in a new area with new things to do."
Also, for the interesting mechanics that Bethesda does introduce into the game, there’s one puzzle sequence that will doubtlessly annoy many a player. It’s not game-breakingly stupid but it really does make you ponder as to why it was included.
Far Harbor is a beautiful place and unique in its layout but the fog itself may begin to wear on players after a while. I know, I know, it lends a unique atmosphere that you won’t find in the rest of the game and not every area is a slave to it. Regardless, the fog’s main appeal is to nag you with radiation throughout. The radiation itself isn’t enough to overwhelm you and honestly, I’m wondering what impact it could have in Survival Mode. For now, it simply feels like a means to add something special to the area rather than having any real impact on gameplay.
Fallout 4 has needed something like Far Harbor for a long time. It’s needed a fresh injection of fun content in a new area with new things to do. Far Harbor accomplishes this task for the most part even if it faces a few issues along the way like animation glitches (fortunately, I haven’t encountered the case of missing face textures just yet). I’m loathe to tell Fallout fans if this game is really “for” them though. Will Far Harbor get you into Fallout 4 if you didn’t enjoy the base game? Is it a “true” role-playing experience like Fallout 4 apparently wasn’t with the freedom it offers? Has it “fixed” Fallout 4?
Honestly, those are completely different questions. If you enjoy an open world RPG/FPS with a good story and writing, decent characters and some fun quests to complete, then Far Harbor will probably be up your alley. It may not be the shining beacon in Bethesda’s long-running collection of awesome DLC packs but it’s still a pretty entertaining and wholesome voyage to embark on.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
New features like skill-checks coincide with decision making that actually feels impactful. Wide expansive region littered with side-quests and interesting characters to meet. New enemies offer new challenges with mostly awesome new loot and weapons to use.
Animation glitches and other bugs tend to break immersion. Side-quests still fairly routine. New companion is perhaps the weakest and most uninteresting of the lot. Radioactive fog doesn't have any significant impact on gameplay. That one annoying puzzle sequence.
Far Harbor doesn't reinvent the wheel but it does add some compelling gameplay and a good story to Fallout 4. Take the trip up north - you may find a reason or two to hang around.
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