Ever wonder how much scarier an angler fish would be if radiation made it huge and land-bound? No, neither have we. But that’s precisely what the folks at Bethesda seem to spend their spare time doing; and that’s exactly the kind of important research and innovation that we’ll be thoroughly applauding in this Fallout 4 Far Harbour review.
The first big DLC for the post-apocalyptic RPG adds a huge amount of new content to the game, not least the giant radioactive critters that the devs are so good at dreaming up. I don’t want to give too much of what the DLC contains away, so we’ll leave it at the ghastly anglers; but suffice to say, there’s lots of things to be killed by in Far Harbour.
But let’s back up a bit. The expansion starts with you being summoned to take on a new case at Nick Valentine’s detective agency. As one of the game’s strongest companions, Nick was a good choice for quest initiator, and works well as a companion throughout the DLC.
Your called on to investigate a missing person case, in the remote far north of the game’s map. You eventually take a boat through choppy waters to the miserable fishing port of Far Harbour itself, which is somewhat reminiscent of Innsmouth. The Lovecraft link could be deliberate, considering the fictional town of Innsmouth is also set in Massachusetts, and Lovecraft seems to be enjoying a bit of a video game resurgence.
Naturally, things aren’t as they should be the soggy, foggy town, and there’s a fantastic pulpy mystery at the heart of the expansion that sits so well within the world of Fallout. It’s often the case that the Fallout games shine strongest in their DLCs, particuarly New Vegas’ brilliant Dead Money. The self contained chunks of quirky, 1950s sci-fi pulp match the game’s offbeat retro-futurism, and often sit more comfortably within the setting that parts of the main offering.
This is certainly true of Far Harbour, which does an exceptional job of addressing many of the criticisms that fans and reviewers had of the main game. Firstly, the atmosphere is utterly tangible. Some complained that parts of the Boston wastes felt samey and drab (to be fair, there has been a nuclear apocalypse); this DLC offers a moody, chokingly wet and windy island shrouded in dense fog. The player is up against the elements as much as those nasty creatures, with radiation across the island, reduced visibility and treacherous terrain.
However, Far Harbour also excels at the quirky absurdity that Fallout fans also love about the franchise. There are some wonderful and hilarious side quests that are reminiscent of another great New Vegas DLC, Old World Blues. Crucially, players are also given more choice about how they undertake each quest, and there are ways to reconcile different factions and make peace if you desire. This was seriously lacking in the main game, with limited choices in completing missions which often amounted to killing your way through a building to obtain X item. Wasteland negotiators will be pleased.
So the story lovers and peaceniks are pacified – but what about architects? Far Harbour adds at least four new settlements, and a wide range of new building features to keep creative minds busy. The map is fairly huge for an expansion area, giving lone wanderers the chance to get lost in the rugged landscape – however ill-advised that may be.
The only real let down is, surprise surprise, a technical one. The frame rate dips so low in the fog on PS4 that it actually makes real time combat difficult. It’s a shame that the DLC was released like this, but there is supposedly a patch on the way to remedy the problem.
Overall, Far Harbour is a superb and essential addition to the main game that is well worth the price tag. Season Pass holders who got their pass early at the lower price point should be feeling pretty chuffed. The question is, how much more is there to come?