One of the largest complaints with Fallout 4, for better and for worse, was that there wasn’t enough of the moral ambiguity that players expect from this franchise. Granted, anyone who spent a great deal of time exploring The Commonwealth knows that there are oodles of hidden quests that satisfy this need, with a certain quest inside of a meat-packing facility standing out for its final decision. Still, the main narrative was more focused around pitting factions against one another, essentially forcing players to pick a side before the final credits roll. Far Harbor, Fallout 4‘s major landmass expansion akin to Fallout 3‘s Point Lookout add-on, not only succeeds in placing players firmly inside of that ever-so-powerful moral grey area, but it builds upon the best parts of Bethesda Game Studios’ biggest game to date. With the exception of a frustrating puzzle section in the middle of the main quest, Far Harbor not only lives up to the lofty expectations placed upon it, but proves itself as an essential piece of Fallout 4 as a whole.
Far Harbor begins by guiding you over to Valentine’s Detective Agency, where Ellie lets you know that Kasumi Nakano, a teenage girl living with her parents in The Commonwealth’s northeastern corner, has gone missing. The Nakano family tasks you with finding Kasumi, whose holotapes scattered about the house let you know that she has traveled by boat to Far Harbor, a not-so-subtle allusion to the real-world location of Bar Harbor, Maine. Upon arriving, you discover that there’s a multi-pronged conflict between the ragtag villagers living in Far Harbor and the always comically insane Children of Atom, with the synth refugees of a small facility known as Acadia dipping their hands into both sides. What makes this conflict far more engaging than the war between the Institute, the Brotherhood of Steel, the Minutemen and the Railroad is that there doesn’t really seem to be a “correct” side to pick. Whereas the Brotherhood of Steel feels like a rebellious group of racists, as well as the most boring vanilla Fallout 4 faction, each of Far Harbor‘s three factions is crazy in its own way. Still, having kooky groups of characters isn’t enough to make for an interesting narrative, which is why Far Harbor‘s branching moral decisions take its narrative to that next level.
Without diving too deep into spoiler territory, Far Harbor is absolutely loaded with both big and small decision moments, with each playing a role in how this mysterious island’s inhabitants move forward. On a macro level, you’re going to wind up making decisions that play a role in the mortality of some of the major characters that you meet, and you’ll also stumble into fascinating moral conundrums on a micro level. For instance, one side quests tasks you with obtaining a set of high quality tools for a member of the Far Harbor community. The end of this quest gives you a chance to make some extra money, but it will clearly damage your relationship with this particular villager. On its own, this wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal, but every Far Harbor side quest presents an opportunity to stray from the moral straight and narrow, and everyone winds up remembering what you did during the three-headed conflicts ultimate conclusion. None of this would work without some of the best performances seen in Fallout 4, with DiMA, the leader of Acadia, standing out as one of the most fascinating characters found anywhere in Todd Howard’s latest masterpiece. There’s always something haunting when a character’s calm demeanor potentially contradicts his past actions, and Bethesda absolutely nails this sense of dread with DiMA.
Speaking of DiMA, his inclusion simultaneously presents one of Far Harbor‘s greatest strengths and a minor flaw in terms of player quality of life. If you’ve read any content about Far Harbor leading up to its release, you know that using Nick Valentine as your companion dramatically adds to the experience. Not only are there some major revelations to be had about Fallout 4‘s strongest character, but the sense of tension that results from bringing him to meet DiMA presents some of the most intriguing interactions found in this piece of DLC. Still, Fallout 4 isn’t particularly great about letting you know that Nick is a crucial piece to the puzzle here, as it’s entirely possible to play through the entirety of Far Harbor without him. Not only is there a new companion present to throw you off of the scent in Longfellow, a largely bland drunk of a character, but Fallout 4 doesn’t make it simple to find your companions if you’ve strayed away from them. If you’re not playing on PC, where you can utilize console commands, then it’s entirely possible that you’ll never be able to find Nick if you’ve spent too much time away from your settlements. As a whole, the inclusion of revelations about Nick Valentine’s past make this a can’t-miss piece of downloadable content, but it is a bit of a shame that some players won’t realize this until it’s too late.
Far Harbor‘s single biggest flaw is the Minecraft-style puzzle sequence that appears about halfway through the main questline. In order to recover a series of DiMA’s memories that unlock the most important aspects of Far Harbor’s history, your character has to tap into a computer hidden deep within the Child of Atom facility. The resulting mini-game lasts anywhere from one to three hours, and tasks players with rerouting a laser from a starting point on the ceiling to and end goal by both placing path-making blocks and light-directing blocks through the use of the crafting menu. After the laser reaches its end goal, it becomes a light tower-defense sequence, where the goal is to use turrets to protect small data bugs as they travel from one point to another. Not only does this five puzzle sequence last far too long, but it’s also not the type of content that should be in a Fallout game. Millions of gamers have spent time with Fallout 4, and it’s a pretty safe bet that none of them are looking for extended puzzle gameplay. Thankfully there is around twenty-five hours of content to enjoy in the Far Harbor expansion, so this detour doesn’t derail the entire experience. Still, the inclusion of the memory-hacking mini-game is questionable at best and infuriating at worst.
If you’re looking for eerie atmosphere and uncompromising charm from your Fallout expansions, you’ll be happy to know that Far Harbor has this in droves. From the irradiated fog that envelops massive swaths of the environment to all of the bizarre creatures that arise from the ether, you’re definitely going to be seeing things that feel completely different from anything else in Fallout 4. While there has been a slight backlash against the fog, anyone who has built their character to avoid hardcore radiation will find that it really isn’t a nuisance whatsoever. Easily the best enemies found in the woods of Far Harbor are giant hermit crabs whose shells are made up of lobster retail trailers. Though they aren’t particularly difficult to defeat, assuming your character’s weapons are well-crafted, it’s hard to deny how striking and iconic these beasts are. On top of all of this, Far Harbor plays host to arguably the most charming quest in all of Fallout 4. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of murder mysteries, vaults, dinky robots and mechanical coitus, you’re going to want to explore Cliff’s Edge Hotel as soon as possible.
While saying that Far Harbor is Fallout 4‘s best piece of add-on content to date isn’t the highest piece of praise in the world, it’s an absolute must-download for anyone who enjoyed the sprawling post-apocalyptic role-playing game. The main questline is outstanding, as its focus on moral ambiguity and tough choices builds up a great deal of that wonderful, immersive stress that Fallout fans are seeking. Aside from a puzzle sequence that completely breaks up the flow of the entire expansion, every inch of Far Harbor is oozing with the detail and love that make Fallout 4 such an impressive feat. Of course, if you forget to bring Nick Valentine along for the ride, you’ll miss out on some of the greatest dialogue the entire title has to offer, so make sure that everyone’s favorite synth prototype detective is by your side throughout the entire expansion. Bethesda has promised more DLC going forward, and if it’s anything like Far Harbor, then uninstalling Fallout 4 is going to seem like an absolutely foolish decision.