May 24, 2016

Fallout 4 Far Harbor - Review

Bethesda have been on a roll of late with the content for Fallout 4, but with Far Harbor, it is their biggest addition to the series, but does that make it worth the trip out of the commonwealth.

Like most additional ventures in the Fallout world, starting the journey to Far Harbor has you picking up a simple quest, this time it is to return to the Valentine Detective Agency in Diamond City. Before I hit the road, I went back to Sanctuary and picked Nick up to be my companion and then I headed for the agency and upon arriving, I was given the details about a missing girl up the coast, with more details to be given when I spoke to her parents and with all that I was off. The place in question was just off the map to the north east, so finding it was an adventure on its own, but when I got there, some very upset parents both had different ideas as to what happened and with that my first detective case in a while was on.

As I started to look for clues as to what was going on, there was a note that detailed how she left and went north after speaking with someone who told her of a safe place for Synths, yes the missing daughter believed she was a Synth, so with that news and a boat borrowed from her father, I went north as well. It was here that I found the island, cloaked in a mysterious fog and some inhabitants, which ranged from scared, but helpful to murderous and cannibalistic and then there were the creatures, which ranged from creepy to what in the world. Perhaps what set the world apart, was not the new creatures, or the people living there, but the island itself, it has this eeriness to it, with the fog the comes and goes, making it hard to see what is happening out there.

In terms of bringing new gameplay elements to the table, there is perhaps only one new gameplay hook and that is when you enter the memories of a Synth named DiMA, who looks a lot like Nick. In the memories, you actually venture into a virtual reality space, where you need to create a path for neon green bugs to access the memory and bring the pieces back to the starting portal, it’s a puzzle game and tower defence in one. You need to create a path for the bugs, which at first is easy, but as you progress onwards, you will need to unblock the path with lots of light redirection and more, of course, that is only half the battle. All computers have defences built in to stop bugs from causing havoc to the system and once the bugs start getting close to the memories, the system starts to fight back, so you have to place turrets, in order to provide the best cover, to allow your bugs to get back. It is something that stands out a lot for any Fallout game, the brightness of the locations for one, but also because it’s something very different to anything else in the series.

The rest of the adventure up north is a pretty by the numbers affair, the quests are the same as the ones on the mainland, but with the island as their backdrop, they feel a little more threatening. I have mentioned the island a few times now and for good reason, the island is a constant threat, if you think of it like the glowing sea on the mainland, you get the idea. Like the glowing sea though, radiation is a constant threat to deal with here, when the Fog recedes, you can take a breath, but those moments are rare, you will need to manage your radiation levels a lot, while you explore the island. In terms of what you can do, the island has a few settlement locations and of course the town of Far Harbor, but the place I liked, in terms of its design was the Nucleus, home to the Children of Atom, who like the glowing sea, founded a base of worship here, with lots of different levels of believers here, it feels more alive than the glowing sea location, but also has the distinct awesomeness of being based on top of a nuclear submarine, with an active nuclear bomb. Acadia is the other location and home to the Synth refuge, but sadly, there is very little outside of the place that DiMA lives that is special, on the inside it just looks like another bunker and even worse, the people inside of it are not that interesting, outside of Jules.

Far Harbor does not look any better than the Commonwealth, but with the addition of the fog, it has this really distinct look, that even when the sun is out, the island can still look threating, at night it is even more so. The location of Far Harbor itself, the docks is pretty cool, you can hear the water splash against the support pillars, the buildings creak and the dock itself creaks and groans under all the extra weight. The residents there are very mistrustful towards you when you arrive, but soon start to warm up to you, which lets their personalities shine through, well for most, there is one who does not really change, no matter how much you save or help the town. The voices are different enough from the mainland as well, which helps, with some distinctive accents for characters who have lived in the region their entire life.

All that being said, I do wish that Far Harbor had more to offer in terms of exploration, things like the additional settlement locations are fine, but with a heap on the mainland, I did not need to start more here and once you have cleared out the few major locations, there is very little else to explore. There are plenty of ruined houses and such, but they don’t offer a lot to see or do, though there are quite a number of trappers, which is the island name for scavengers, that lie about in ambush for prey to come their way, the problem is that there are way too many of them for the size of the island. Finally, there is no new music or such added to the game, a local station would have gone on to sell things better, but the radio stations make no mention of Far Harbor, nor the events that happen there, which means they still talk about events from early on in the game.

Far Harbor is touted as Bethesda’s biggest land mass through DLC ever, but the problem is quite simply, there is no reason for it to be as big as it is. The lack of things to do on the island, outside of the main quests is sorely lacking and while I still enjoyed my time there, Far Harbor is only worthy of a single visit.

Thanks to Bethesda Australia for supplying the game for review.

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