Fallout 4: Far Harbor DLC Review

After the disappointment that was the majority of Fallout 4’s base game, Far Harbor is absolutely refreshing. With rich, interwoven quest design that marks renewed focus on player choice-making, and an incredible environment to uncover, deciding the fate of Far Harbor is easily the most interesting adventure in Fallout 4 to date.

Far Harbor is a DLC teeming with mystery. While a fairly routine opening quest — a missing girl report submitted to Valentine’s Detective Agency — is the premise for arriving on Far Harbor’s fog-laden shores, the story quickly develops into a far more interesting plot that manages to pull out just enough twists and turns to keep you interested for the duration of your stay. A quarrel for the ownership of Far Harbor has three factions pitted against one another: Acadia, a refuge of synths simply looking to live in safety; The Children of Atom, a zealous cult who worship radiation; and the weathered citizens of Far Harbor, pushed in desperation to the island’s edge by the ever-encroaching, deadly fog that envelops this unfortunate isle.

The characterisation of each group is notably strong, with writing that presents arguments for and against their suitability as the island’s rightful inheritor. Combined with commendable voice acting, several characters stand out as memorable figureheads with which the player might be inclined to align.

I’m ecstatic to report that Bethesda has made a concerted effort here to re-insert the “RP” into their “RPG”. The three factions present a wealth of quests that routinely involve several optional objectives and interesting ways in which they may be completed — or failed. It’s finally possible to pick a stance on the situation at hand and fully embrace your chosen cause, deciding the fate of Far Harbor and even asserting your choice via dialogue in ways that resonate, rather than simply ringing hollow.

Deciding to align myself with the fervid Children of Atom — easily Bethesda’s greatest contribution to Fallout, and well-deserving of the spotlight they finally receive here — it was possible for me to plan out strategies which ensured the downfall of the harbor’s residents, as well as the synths hiding further inland. The result was a decisive victory in Atom’s name — leaving the Harbor utterly decimated, and the synth’s hideout exposed. It’s easy to see that, had I made different choices, the history of Far Harbor would tell another story entirely. As it was, my ending was my own, informed continuously by the choices I had made. It can’t be overstated how much this felt like a fantastic return to the rich, responsive storytelling that made previous Fallouts so irresistible to play.

Far Harbor itself is gorgeous, densely forested and pierced by pale, watery sunlight. Thick mist and fog saunters across severe, craggy outcrops adorned with bio-luminescent flora. New music totes haunting, sombre melodies replete with wistful vocals that hark back to a time when the island was a choice and scenic location. Nestled deep inland, an abandoned drive-in theatre loops trailers for Creature Features, a nod to the chintzy sci-fi thrillers that have long informed Fallout’s overall tone.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that Far Harbor features an incredible vault. Boasting a well-written, funny quest in the shape of a classic murder mystery, the contents of Vault 118 are far too good to spoil here. The vault itself is neatly microcosmic of Far Harbor as a whole: content to let the player explore, allowing firm consequence to follow decision-making, and unerringly interesting no matter which course the player decides to embark on.

Completing all of the quests on offer only had me visiting a fraction of the island’s seemingly appreciable landmass. It feels as though there is plenty left to explore once the questing dries up. With such laudable world-building on offer here, it seems well worth it to invest the time to do so.

Fallout 4 was, for me, a deeply flawed game that seemed to forget its own legacy. Far Harbor is a timely reminder that Bethesda absolutely has the chops to produce intelligently written stories that have you captivated until their final moments. While, in some respects, the quality of this DLC serves to further cast the core game in a bad light, it also brings great hope for any future DLC Bethesda might deliver. Contrary to my expectations, Far Harbor sheds Bethesda’s circumspect trajectory. More of this new-found confidence can only be a terrific thing.

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