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Fallout 4: Far Harbor Review

Fisherman's friend, foe, and foreboding fog

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Fishing requires patience, just like Fallout 4’s season pass, and we finally caught a big one. Far Harbor is the third DLC pack for Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic RPG and one of their best expansions. At the standalone price of $25, it provides good value for explorers and plenty of intrigue for those looking for an adventure. Far Harbor includes a new atmospheric island to explore, with many items to collect and varied quests to complete. Like a microcosm of the main game, it even has faction alliances and settlements to protect.

The DLC begins with a new case from Valentine’s detective agency—a young woman named Kasumi has vanished from her family home. Various personal audio recordings scattered around the house expose a technical prodigy that has discovered something unsettling. Kasumi has travelled to an island around the coastal town of Far Harbor in search of answers. What she finds requires some help from the Sole Survivor who will sail to the gloomy port to solve the mystery and, ultimately, decide her fate.

Fallout 4: Far Harbor
What happens to the people of Far Harbor will depend on your actions

The town of Far Harbor, and the island on which it resides, has a darker atmosphere than the Commonwealth mainland. The island is shrouded in a radioactive fog that encroaches upon human settlements, with special fog condensers preventing it from consuming the remaining survivors. The Children of Atom, worshippers of radiation, live on the opposite side of the island and hope that Far Harbor residents embrace the fog. An uneasy alliance between these two groups was forged by the non-human leader of a third faction and his group of Synth runaways. They reside in an astronomical observatory perched atop the island’s highest point. The Sole Survivor is able to befriend all three factions, completing their unique missions at leisure. Players are encouraged to learn about each group and this is supported by a sizable amount of new voiced dialogue. You can decide if these factions deserve a permanent place on the island after the fog settles.

Quests across the island are similar to Fallout 4 with the usual variety of fetch tasks and elimination missions; fortunately there are surprises to both the formula and characters. One particular character, the underappreciated Mariner of Far Harbor, fortifies the town gradually with ship hulls and carapaces; players discover later that she has good reason for her grouchy demeanour. The Children of Atom are more upbeat about their self-inflicted radiation poisoning, and players will need to withstand near-lethal doses of radiation and witness bizarre visions to join their ranks. The biggest change to the formula comes when the game practically transforms into a puzzler for a short time. Players retrieve digital memories by moving cubes (ala Minecraft) in a 3D world and use special prisms to redirect energy beams. The puzzles are almost good enough to be part of a separate game, if only the tower-defence component wasn’t as poor. It is still an interesting use of the settlement construction mechanics and part of the reason why Far Harbor’s quests are memorable. Although quests can usually be finished in any order, it is easy to miss those requiring the completion of other side tasks. If the main story is followed too aggressively, it may not be possible to complete the less important quests.

Fallout 4: Far Harbor
Anglers are just one of the many new creatures in Far Harbor

Danger is frequent across the eerie island, with humans and a variety of fishy creatures that will keep players on edge. Trappers are the island’s version of Raiders, occasionally wielding a harpoon gun or wearing humorous lobster trap helmets. But humans are generally less of a threat compared to the mutated marine life, with beasts like the Anglers that use their glowing antenna to lure victims in shallow water. Gulpers move like Deathclaws, but they also slide across the surface and hang from trees. There are several more fish-themed creatures, and a few altered designs from those you have seen previously. They all provide a good challenge across the island. Suitably, these diverse foes set the tone for the DLC and keep the adventure distinct from that on the mainland.

Exploring the haunting island and finding new stories is the most satisfying part of the expansion. There is a large ground area to move across, packed with places of interest. Location density is nearly perfect, although not all places are marked on the map so it can appear sparser than the mainland. Campgrounds, radioactive shrines and fishing huts are only found by stumbling into them through the dense fog. There are places to explore off-shore too, both underwater and on nearby sandbanks. Memorable stories are everywhere too, like the one found inside a luxury hotel overrun with ghouls; delving into the hotel’s large interior uncovered one of the island’s best kept secrets, and led to something quite different from most Fallout 4 quests.

Fallout 4: Far Harbor
The persistent fog conceals points of interest across the mysterious island

Exploration without reward might not be enough for some, fortunately there are many new items that prove useful. The Harpoon gun might be the most iconic in the expansion, but its criminally slow rate of fire makes it a bit clumsy in battle. New rifles that eject radioactive bullets are certainly useful against human targets and ammo is plentiful. Many of the new creatures provide ingredients for new recipes that might provide night-vision or brief invisibility. There are even recipes for a local drink and matching paintjobs for Power Armor that look rather stylish.

If you are still crazy about settlements, then Far Harbor provides large areas to build more substantial outposts—once you complete a chain of quests. There are a whole new set of Barn structure pieces (walls, floors etc) and numerous faction-themed items to place for decoration. In general, the island has several items that make it worth revisiting after completing the 10-20 hour adventure.

Fallout 4: Far Harbor
Bring plenty of anti-radiation medication

Far Harbor is nearly the perfect expansion for Fallout 4, building on the best aspects of the main game. It offers a good balance of exploration, adventure and mystery. The gloomy island is distinct from the main game with new sea creatures to conquer and many items to collect. Exploration is rewarded with many locations to visit and quite a few interiors to clear. It provides unique stories, so long as you take the time to find them hidden in the radioactive fog. Even the story offers surprises and moral quandaries equal to those found in the original title. Far Harbor is not just a big fish in a sea of mediocrity; it is also a tasty one.

Comments
Fallout 4
Fallout 4 box art Platform:
PC
Our Review of Fallout 4
80%
Great
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Fallout 4 is ranked #488 out of 1982 total reviewed games. It is ranked #31 out of 111 games reviewed in 2015.
488. Fallout 4
489. Horizon Zero Dawn
PlayStation 4
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