Fallout 4 got a lot of things right. It provided this massive world brimming with struggling life, interesting threats, and a constant sense of impending dread. Shooting received an overhaul over the previous entries in the series as well, providing more dynamic encounters with the various creatures, Raiders, and Mutants wandering the Wasteland. But one part of the game that didn’t exactly shine was melee combat.
Don’t get us wrong, the mechanic was serviceable, so if you wanted to build a melee focused character you could. But with a vast majority of the best weapons in the game being firearms, there wasn’t really much of a reason to get in close unless you had some sort of death wish. This was especially true for players new to Bethesda’s nuclear RPG series.
Yet the latest expansion, Far Harbor, was a chance for the developers to mix things up a bit. New weapons and enemy types were promised, so the team was no longer beholden to the status quo of Fallout 4. Automatron existed in the same realm as the base game, and while it could’ve done more in the new weapons department, it instead added a new companion mechanic and crafting opportunities. So the burden fell to the latest expansion.
And you know what? Far Harbor delivered.
Now, the way that melee works hasn’t changed. You still equip a weapon, get in close, and proceed to swing until your arm falls off (don’t worry, it never does). But there’s been more of an exotic touch to the weapons you receive. These aren’t just some side options for someone looking for a more challenging way to play, or as a backup for when you run out of ammunition. The weapons in Far Harbor are impressive pieces of wood, steel, and bone (and some radioactive canisters too, if you’re into that sort of thing).
For the first time in the game, melee weapons, especially the Unique ones, are a viable option over the plethora of ranged weapons. Just take a look at the Harvester above. It’s a Ripper that has been modified to stagger enemies. When used properly, you can keep a group of bad guys off balance as you tear them to shreds all while laughing maniacally (laughter is optional).
Another prime example is the Atom’s Judgement. This is a brand new weapon introduced to the game that is built for those who want nothing more than to roam the Wasteland as a tank. Its glowing head, which oozes radiation, lets you know that this is not your typical run-of-the-mill weapon. It’s a piece of art that crushes anything in its path.
That effort to create something special for a weapon type that many avoid is commendable. And it helps mold Far Harbor into something altogether different from Fallout 4’s original offerings.
With the game being set on an island and starting things off in a fishing town, hunting is built into the narrative. Seeking out predators who would do harm to the last bastion of humanity on the coast, and killing massive sea creatures just wouldn’t feel right using the same old firearms that players have been using. New threats require new weaponry. That’s not to say that there aren’t any awesome new guns in the DLC, but there’s something more visceral and fitting about badass melee weaponry.
It’s good to see an expansion actually expand on the game. Far Harbor does more than just increase the land you can cover, it provides new means of approaching threats, and a reason to put the guns down. Not for peace, but so you can bash in some skulls instead, and who wouldn’t enjoy that?