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nickhead

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Far Harbor Review

My feelings on Fallout 4 are mixed. While I loved my time with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, I was hoping for a little more innovation with the most recent iteration. But what we got was ultimately more of the same. Did that stop me from spending about 100 hours wandering the Commonwealth? Nope, and I was definitely looking forward to the first big expansion: Far Harbor.

After receiving a new case from Nick Valentine's detective agency, the player sets out in search of a missing girl, Kasumi. Fast forward a bit, we learn that Kasumi believes she might be a synth, causing her to flee to Far Harbor where there is apparently a haven for Synths. Immediately, this was a more interesting plot than most of the base game. I felt that the Institute's motivations were never fully explained and I was constantly wanting more from the idea of Synths in general.

Imagine waking up one day thinking you're no longer human. Were you ever human, or were you replaced? Does it ultimately matter? While a different approach, with different subject matter, Soma was a great example of a game that posed all of the right questions about what it means to be human and conscious. I kept thinking Fallout 4 was leading the player in this direction with the Institute and synths - it was the right hook I needed to be excited to travel to Far Harbor.

The High Confessor is insane.
The High Confessor is insane.

Upon arrival, the player is met by the citizens of the titular town about to be attacked by some creatures from "The Fog". After surviving the onslaught from fish men, Far Harbor opens up for the player to explore, presenting a new decently sized map littered with plenty of new locations to sift through. The player can take on new sidequests from the citizens of Far Harbor, the synth refugees of Acadia, as well as the mysterious bomb-worshipping fanatics, the Children of Atom. Getting embedded with The Children of Atom was an enlightening experience because previously, they were just another enemy to kill.

Far Harbor manages to wrap a nice little story within these factions that feels localized in a realistic way. This little island is torn in a few directions, with each group facing their own struggles as well as conflict with each other. There's definitely history here that made me feel more attached to each faction.

As far as gameplay, it's very much more Fallout 4. There's a few new enemy types focused around marine life, such as a giant hermit crabs living in trailers, giant lobsters, giant fish people, etc. Far Harbor also adds a new "raider-esque" enemy with the Trappers, driven mad by the radioactive Fog, who are only concerned with hunting the island's wild life (and people). The Trappers don't really bring anything new to the table other than a harpoon gun, which is actually a lot of fun to use and can be upgraded in a few different directions. Settlements are still present as well, with a few new spots sprinkled around the island to dump all of your junk and toss together some shoddy buildings. It's also possible to establish a supply line between commonwealth settlements and Far Harbor, so you don't have to start from scratch, which was a nice touch.

In the Commonwealth, locations were tightly packed, without much traveling in open terrain before stumbling across something of interest. This was an aspect I really enjoyed versus the semi-boring wastelands of Fallout 3 and New Vegas. In Far Harbor, points of interest are spread out once again. I didn't even fight many enemies as I was traveling around. The Island feels a little...lifeless and traveling to undiscovered locations was mostly uneventful. The Fog that I mentioned earlier is constantly talked about almost as if it has a life of its own, choking the island and spawning monsters. But really it just seemed like a crutch to mask otherwise same-y landscape you'd see in the Commonwealth.

Moments with light shining through trees shrouded in Fog occur often but always look cool.
Moments with light shining through trees shrouded in Fog occur often but always look cool.

Contrasting Far Harbor with Fallout 3's excellent Point Lookout, which felt like a very realized swampy, backwoods locale, just shows how similar Far Harbor looks to the base game. There isn't much to set it apart from the Commonwealth, visually, other than the oppressive fog and the occasional harbor town. I don't really know what I was expecting, and I can't knock it too much for this, but it would have been nice to see some different scenery somehow. That said, the ever-present fog would occasionally result in some beautifully eerie lighting situations that made me hesitant to press on - in a good way.

Far Harbor is 24.99 alone, which feels like a fair asking price for the content available - assuming you're looking for more Fallout 4. Throughout the localized quests, the player will encounter a majority of the island's locations, though there were still plenty that I did not pillage in my 10 hours of playtime. All told, I enjoyed the story quite a bit. Once again, the player will be given a choice between the factions, allowing for multiple endings - but this time I actually felt connected to each faction, versus the paper thin relations built in the base game with the Minutemen, Railroad or Brotherhood of Steel. My issues with the main game aside - Far Harbor was a fun ride, with an interesting and diverse cast of new characters that manage to bring the desolate landscape to life.

You can see some more of the environments and enemies in my video review - it's mostly a repeat of what I wrote here.

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