I visited a coast town once when I was a kid, Cape Cod, if memory serves. Nice place, a bit cloudy, a salty breeze in the air. Lots of seafood restaurants, but when you live near the ocean, that’s to be expected. But y’know, while I was there, there was a question running through my mind: what would this place look like with a lethal dose of radiation in the air and soil? Okay, that’s a lie, I never wondered that, but it’s a valid question. As we all know, the most evil things spawned by nature come from the depths of the ocean (looking at you, anglerfish), but how much more evil and gross could a couple of nukes worth of rads make them? Turns out the answer is a lot, as I discovered in Fallout 4’s new DLC, Far Harbor.
Once again, my feelings on Fallout 4 are more or less the same, so go read my review for the vanilla game if you’re curious. Unlike the previous DLC packs, however, Far Harbor is getting a score at the end of this on the amount of new content and how interesting it is, because it’s a grown-up DLC with grown-up responsibilities.
One fine day, while scouring the Commonwealth for fun new things to shoot, the Sole Survivor (that’s you) receives a radio transmission from Ellie Perkins, the secretary of the synth detective, Nick Valentine, requesting assistance with a tough case. After picking up Nick and getting the details, you meet Kenji and Rei Nakano, whose daughter Kasumi has gone missing (you don’t actually have to bring Nick with you, but I’d heavily recommend doing so, as he has a somewhat significant role in the DLC’s plot). After a cursory investigation, you discover that Kasumi has fled to a synth colony on an island in what was once Maine, believing herself to be one. Borrowing a boat from the Nakanos, you head north into the foggy waters of Far Harbor.
Though smaller than the Commonwealth, the island has its own factions and politics going on. A feud has been building between the citizens of the eponymous Far Harbor, a fishing settlement constantly besieged by waterlogged horrors from the irradiated fog, and the Children of Atom, a… well, let’s call it what it is, a cult that worships radiation in all of its forms and believes denying the fog is sacrilegious. Caught in the middle is the aforementioned synth colony, Acadia, led by DiMA, a mysterious prototype synth of nearly the same make as our favorite metal detective. All three sides could lash out at any moment, and a stranger from the mainland is just the thing to metaphorically set the bomb off (or, perhaps, literally set the bomb off).
During Far Harbor’s development, it was promised that the new game area would be even bigger than Oblivion’s Shivering Isles, which were pretty damn big. Just for giggles, here’s a map of the Shivering Isles.
And now for comparison, here’s a map of the real-life Mount Desert Island, which Far Harbor’s island is based on.
I’m no topographer, but the second one looks bigger to me, so hey, mission accomplished, devs. It definitely feels pretty big. Even after exploring for an hour, I only found a handful of locations, and that was just the northern slice of the island. What I found was pretty interesting in itself. Aside from the main settlements, I also stumbled upon a brand new Vault, Vault 118, built into a luxury hotel with posh accommodations to match (also, all of the residents transplanted their brains into Robobrains, so that’s a thing). Inside, I was wrapped up in a textbook murder mystery, and got to do some good old fashioned sleuthing to hunt down a crafty killer, who faced my usual barrage of gunfire upon their reveal.
Later on, while infiltrating the Children of the Atom on DiMA’s behalf, I drank from an irradiated spring that prompted a major drug trip, complete with spooky fog ghost lady.
Later still, while trying to retrieve DiMA’s memories from an old terminal, I was drawn into a virtual realty game of Lemmings, in which I utilized the settlement interface to solve puzzles and build paths for my hacker drones to swipe the data.
As I had hoped, there’s lots of neat junk to salvage around the island, my favorite being new weapons. There’s lever-action rifles, which earn brownie points from me for the classic coolness factor, harpoon guns, which make great sniping weapons (though they take a bloody fortnight to reload), meathooks, fishhooks (lot of hooks, really), and a special rifle that shoots radioactive bullets. There’s even a modified Fat Man that launches bowling balls.
You can also recruit a new follower to your aid, a salty old codger named Old Longfellow, who kind of looks like the Gorton’s fisherman without the hat.
With fun new weapons also come fun new things to shoot at. While the irradiated fog brings no shortage of Ghouls and Super Mutants, the local aquatic wildlife have adapted in new, weird ways. As I said earlier, the anglerfish is one of the most evil things to ever come out of the ocean, so naturally the only way to make it even worse is to give it legs. Anglers hide in the marshy spots of the island around shiny weeds, which I’ve made a habit of lobbing grenades into.
And if you’ve ever seen a mantis shrimp (y’know, those ones that punch things), get ready for the Fog Crawlers, their bigger, pissed off descendants.
There’s also a new raider gang called the Trappers, weird folk who’ve spent too long in the fog and now think wearing a lobster trap as a helmet is a good idea (not that that stops me from taking it from them and wearing it myself).
Far Harbor is, at the end of it all, a damn good DLC. Lots of new content and places to explore and a surprisingly compelling set of stories and circumstances. My only real complaints are that the lever-action rifle isn’t as powerful as I’d like, and the virtual Lemmings bit dragged on a bit longer than it needed to, but these are minor nitpicks in the face of a solid addition to Fallout 4. I’ve already plunked in about six hours myself, and I’m nowhere near done with it. It’s a little steep at $24.99, but if you didn’t get the season pass, I’d say it’s a worthwhile solo investment (I’ve paid more for shorter vanilla games, frankly). Just make sure you bring a buttload of Rad-X. You’re gonna need all of it.