There was a bit of a problem that was developing with Fallout 4‘s additional content: while Automatron added a fun quest line and huge functionality in the form of building and modifying a robot companion and Wasteland Workshop added a bunch of functionality around settlements and monster taming, they were starting to feel very… same-y. I don’t mind this quite so much and I half expected it as this was their approach with past games in the franchise but I do know that it got bland after a while and caused me to be in kind of a position where I just played the game to experience the content and then put it back down again afterwards. I know that there’s probably a lot that I’m missing by playing it this way – though, honestly, I’m not sure how much I’m missing, I am fairly thorough with my Fallout playthroughs – but that’s how I feel. It’s for this reason that I placed a lot of hope in Far Harbor because there was a lot of hype behind what this could bring to the game and how it could change things up. I feel that it did just enough the same to still feel very much like a Fallout 4 experience but did enough differently to breathe new life into the game.
I’m kind of a fickle guy – I love thorough and complete experiences, it can only keep me coming back for so long if it stays the same. Fallout 4 was great in that it was expansive but also gave the player a wealth of customization and modification options that, at the very least, kept me coming back. This was about as full as a game could get without trying too hard to do too much; a lot of games fail to meet expectations when their ambitions outgrow what is really possible. This is where Fallout 4 succeeded and this is exactly where Far Harbor succeeds: it feels like Fallout but it’s a brand new experience. Bethesda could have easily expanded on this a little and used the location for a separate Fallout game and I think, with the same price tag, I would have been happy to buy into it.
What brought me to adventure there is kind of a by-the-books proceeding but once I got there it was like night and day, quite literally, in terms of how different everything appeared and felt: people didn’t care that I was a Vault survivor; a constant radioactive fog – which seems pretty legitimate and not so fantastical as the residents might have you think, considering all the rivers and lakes are radioactive, as well – permeates the landscape; there are few roads and typical inner-city amenities; it was like you were left to start all over again in the eyes, hearts, and minds of the people living there. From top to bottom, it’s very clear that the place was a fishing community and thematically, Far Harbor screams it, which is vastly different from the feel you get from the Commonwealth.
The main premise behind the package, narrative-wise, is fairly standard – go and find these things, kill some stuff, make some morale choices along the way; the side quests aren’t unlike anything you’ve seen before, either, honestly. There are a few completely out-of-left-field quests available but aside from that, everything’s pretty standard. Where the quests really shine is how well they’re written and presented: everybody kind of hates you, initially, for even showing up and there’s really no redeeming yourself until you start doing people loads of favors and you slowly start to see the island open up to you and even start to celebrate you in their own weird way. It feels less like it did in the Commonwealth where everyone was kind of afraid and opened up to you once you showed them your Pip-Boy and more like everyone on the island discriminates with extreme prejudice for reasons really unknown, initially. I felt pretty invested in getting things done on the island pretty quickly but I also found myself sputtering out on wanting to do them favors pretty quickly, as well, until the residents started opening up and by then I’d already cut my swath through the island. It was definitely a Fallout experience in that it made me feel something and it wasn’t always good feelings.
As for the gameplay aspect of things, the addition of the fog causes you to tread carefully if you’re not equipped with some radiation protection of some sort as things can get hairy fairly quickly. I started out needing to wear power armor nearly everywhere I went but quickly found one of the best things about this content package: the Recon Marine Armor Set. While you can pick it up legitimately through locations scattered around the map, I was confronted strongly by some already wearing the armor and having killed them, I snatched it for myself. One of my biggest complaints – which is just a pet peeve, honestly, because I’m sure this was done for realism’s sake – about Fallout 4 is that the armor all looks stupid and if you want to look bad ass you need to be wearing power armor, preferably the X-01 suit that I use on the regular. This suit of armor is not only the best-looking but also the best protective suit you can get in the game thus far. When upgraded, the radioactive, energy, and protective capabilities are insane: there’s also a Legendary helmet you can get at one of the merchants on the island that goes perfect with it, too. Making me look bad ass in a video game like this is almost as important as being bad ass.
One of the things that I’ve felt extremely polarized on, though, is the weapons and monster selections that have been added to the game with this content pack: while unique enemies are few and far between, here, they’re almost all awe-inspiring, much like the hermit crab pictured above. I was not expecting to see this thing, when I did, and I nearly crapped myself trying to take it down. There was one more that was memorable but as it’s tied to a side quest I won’t talk about it much but it was truly a kind of “what the actual fuck” kind of moment. Aside from that, though, it just feels like the same kind of enemies were only marginally expanded on with an obvious nautical theme and then they were made to hit harder. I often found myself using the same tactics as I did in the Commonwealth but pouring way more ammo into enemies and taking way more damage. I’m not asking for a brand new set of enemies entirely but if you’re going to ramp up the difficulty in terms of how much damage they can take and dish out, there should be some stark difference between them and their Commonwealth counterparts.
I feel the same way about the new weapons, as well – I mean, I get why people really like the lever action rifle and the harpoon gun; there was some history with the former and the latter has been rumored about and talked about since this content pack was announced. I don’t get that from the weapons, though: I could care less about history or the rumor mill if the weapons are just plain and uninspired and that’s what I feel these weapons are. Outside of pipe weapons, in the game, there was a great deal of variety in weapon types and customization and there was almost always a Legendary dropping of all types, especially if you were playing on harder difficulties but… I’ve yet to find a Legendary lever action rifle and the only Legendary harpoon gun I’ve found was through a quest. Neither of them really stand out against my arsenal, already, and customizing them, especially the harpoon guns, are kind of a joke. I’m still waiting to find some kind of super weapon or something that really blows me away, or something, but I have a feeling that’s just not coming. The automatic rifle that does radioactive and ballistic damage, though, is really kind of neat, though; only problem with that is that it’s really only effective against enemies that are damaged by radioactivity and one of the enemy types is the Children of Atom so… I mean… kind of cool, but not very effective. Taking it back to the Commonwealth might be worth it, though.
At the end of the day, though, Far Harbor is a wonderful example of downloadable content done right and is well worth the price of admission, whether you buy it on its own or through the season pass. I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth with the season pass and I only expect things to get better from here.