Fallout 4: Far Harbor on PS4
After Fallout 4 released to much praise, it was followed by a stellar piece of downloadable content that raised the bar. Automatron introduced Ada, a companion that continued to drive home the humanity of Fallout 4, and some robot building. On top of its solid, well-paced story, it was an improvement in many ways over the base game. Far Harbor looks to follow suit and bring the game to an altogether new level.
This drive to be something more begins with an entirely new area that players must travel to. Far Harbor is a fishing town located on an irradiated island off of the coast of Maine. Changing locations in an RPG is not always something that’s easy to pull off. A balance must be struck between what players have come to know and appreciate, and something new and exciting. Too different and you run the risk of alienating your fans, too similar and it’s a potential rip-off. Far Harbor manages to find that balance thanks to it’s dark, otherwordly atmosphere, and grim mutated denizens.
Radiation is nothing new to Fallout 4, or the series in general, but the way it’s utilized in this new expansion adds to the overlying danger of living in this newest Wasteland. In Far Harbor, radiation exists in this fog that settles over the land. It slowly creeps over water, and through buildings as it takes hold of everything it touches. It does more than just twist creatures and humans into horrible visages of evil, however. It warps the minds of those who breathe it in, making them visually hallucinate or turn into dark shades of their former selves. Where the Boston Wasteland displays a clear threat through enemies and random storms, Maine hides its malice beneath the fog.
Stepping into the fog is a deadly endeavor in itself, but what lies in the densest areas of this ever-creeping cloud is even more terrifying. Instead of just moving all of the monstrosities from the base game or the mechanical menaces of Automatron to this new area, Bethesda continued with the fishing town theme. Mirelurks are something to be embraced with open arms now thanks to the inclusion of Fog Crawlers, gigantic hermit crabs, and Anglers ripped straight from my worst sea nightmares.
There is a much larger dose of horror this time around. The world is darker, enemies are less funny Super Mutants, and more large, will-eat-your-face sea monsters. Those things that proved to be huge challenges beforehand are now light excursions as the newer beasts show what true despair really is. Safety is much less guaranteed and it helps to lift the whole of Far Harbor up higher than what has come before it.
This darkness is something that lends itself to the story pretty well. Automatron was an amazing piece of content, but the fact that it existed in the same world where players had already poured hours into the base campaign limited its scope. The fog, and the threats it contains, become a major part of the narrative in Far Harbor, as it is tied to choices you need to make moving forward, bending the story to your whim.
You initially head to the new land in search of a missing person, but what you find there is much deeper than the contract you’ve accepted. Factions are at war. Synths have found a refuge from the hatred of humankind, and have made friends in the process. But there are those who would rather see the world undone by the power of nature.
Far Harbor also pushes the question that Ada had been trying to figure out in Automatron. What is it to be human? What is it to be a part of this world, one that is struggling to rebuild life after such a catastrophic event. Coming across the “antagonists” in this expansion had me questioning my place on the island. I was there to help, that much was clear. But was I really helping, or was I just stunting progress by adhering to the opinions of those who acquired my assistance? It continued the deep tone introduced by the first expansion, but magnified it by placing me into a feud that had been going on for far longer than I could’ve imagined.
Nick Valentine’s involvement in the story also helped to bring the storytelling to the forefront. We won’t spoil his place in Far Harbor, but suffice it to say that he is a serious cause for thought. His existence in the world is not one of mere chance, and it ties all the themes carried throughout into one neat little bow. It was cool to see such an interesting character get the spotlight rather than someone brand new enter the fray.