By far one of the strangest things about writing in a second language is choosing between the little spelling nuances within the dialects. For the purpose of this review (and for SEO efficiency) we will use the official Far Harbor title throughout this piece even though I’m partial to the English spelling “harbour”. ANYWAY. After a DLC season start that left most of us lukewarm or adequately satisfied, comes the much-awaited, much-hyped massive expansion: Far Harbor.
Far Harbor (Fallout 4 DLC): Windows PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 19 May 2016
Price: 24,99€ [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
Far Harbor, Close Enough
So we’ve all had some issues with how vanilla Fallout 4 handled some of its storytelling and its monotonous one-note questing: go to area, kill everything, repeat. Far Harbor promises a fresh start, moving the action to a new landmass north of the Commonwealth to a remote island off the coast of Maine. It boasts the largest landmass in any Fallout DLC to date and it’s very densely populated. There are no level requirements for jumping in but you are required to have progressed the main storyline of the base game until after you’ve met Nick Valentine. This triggers a new quest regarding a missing person on the aforementioned island.
Arriving at Far Harbor what you’re most likely to notice is the amped up eeriness of the place. It’s set in New England which was a favorite location for horror writers Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Stephen King. There are old buildings, a gloomy environment and an omnipresent radioactive fog that sets the mood just right. Taking two steps outside the safety of the settlements you’ll find an entire menagerie of creepy crawly creatures including giant lizards, deathclaws, huge mirelurks, enormous praying mantes and a hermit crab that uses a truck for a shell.
This is, however, the full extent of all things lovecraftian, as the plot of Far Harbor hinges much more on morality and the nuances thereof. Among the factions present on the island are the local townspeople and fishermen, a passive refuge for synths that has to deal with prejudice from the rest of the inhabitants, the Brotherhood of Steel also has a foothold there, of course and on top of all that the fanatical Children of the Atom would like nothing more than to see the radioactive fog take over and kill everyone and everything.
That would prove a tall order, seeing how the fog is never anything more than just a minor inconvenience and nothing that a little RadAway can’t fix. Maybe it’s tougher on Survival difficulty, but I don’t necessarily like what Bethesda has done with that so I could never really get into it. It would also help with immersion for it to be more threatening considering how the only companion introduced in the expansion is a boring grizzled man whose initial role is to show you the way through what is presented as deadly but is instead just mildly irritating.
What I loved, however, was how evolved the quests were from what we’ve seen in the base game. While there is your fair share of fetch and genocide, a lot of quests this time around offer diplomatic solutions and some even have you solve a puzzle or three instead of just shoot at enemies until they are dead. The factions also have convincing points of view and fall into moral categories far less neatly with the endgame offering a pretty varied set of outcomes depending on your choices and sympathies. It’s not exactly New Vegas but it does seem that Bethesda really did take the criticisms against the base game to heart. It’s encouraging in some ways, but disheartening in others as now we know how much more the vanilla game could have been.
Far Harbor is a solid ending to the DLC season and it definitely shows some improvements from the base game. You have a lot more freedom in play style and feel like you’re actively participating in a conflict with no clear good and bad side. It’s atmospheric, engaging and offers a good 12-20 hours of additional exploration and play time depending on how much you like to faff about doing side objectives. It’s a step in the right direction for Fallout 4 and I’m now definitely looking forward for more.