Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fallout 4: Far Harbor review


    All Hail Atom! Atom is life! For when he is split, he unleashes immense power in every direction for which has created this irradiated world! *Ahem* Sorry, I got the opportunity to join the Children of the Atom cult which I have always felt was one of the best elements of Fallout 3 (as well as criminally underused). I likened them to the Servants of the Mushroom Cloud from the original Wasteland and consider them quintessentially Fallout despite not having been incorporated into the setting until Bethesda got a hold of them.

A lovely little radioactive town on the coast.
    Honestly, the lack of Atom content was one of my biggest disappointments about Fallout 4 after its awful dialogue system plus the changes to the skill tree. Okay, it wasn't even in my top five biggest disappointments but it was in the top fifteen. Making the Children of the Atom one of the major factions of Far Harbor wins definite points with me and it is one of the reasons I'm playing this DLC at all.

    Disturbingly, after finishing Fallout 4, I discovered I didn't really have any desire to continue. The game was a 10/10 but it felt like it was finished after the Institute took over/was destroyed with no real reason for the Sole Survivor to continue his wandering. Unlike the Lone Wanderer, the Sole Survivor never really felt like a scourge of evil and struck me as the sort of guy who'd settle down. Maybe because the game encouraged me to buy a dozen houses for him and his polyamorous companions.

The fog is beautiful and deadly. Amazing effect.
    The premise of the DLC is Nick Valentine, your lovable noir detective robot buddy, has been contacted by an old friend whose daughter has gone missing. Kasumi has had vivid dreams of being experimented on and believes herself to be a Synth. Journeying to the real-life island of Bar Harbor, now known as Far Harbor due to the B-sign wearing away, the Sole Survivor discovers an island irradiated by a permanent fog. Worse, the island is divided between three hostile factions ready to tear each other apart.

    In a very real way, Far Harbor is miniature version of the main game with the options of trying to achieve peace between the three factions or eliminating those factions which you don't like. There's the Synth-populated Accadia, the aforementioned Children of Atom, and the Harbormen who are simple fishermen in an unclean world. The developers at Bethesda outdo themselves as all of these factions have a history not only of inhabiting the island but also interacting with one another.

Mirelurks really fit the setting.
The Harbormen have inhabited the island the longest but the radiation on the island has gotten to the point they can't survive there without specialized equipment from Accadia. The Children of the Atom, by contrast, thrive in radiation but are run by a power-mad religious cultist. Accadia just wants to be accepted by humans but the Harbormen (good) loathe androids while the Cult of Atom (evil) accepts them.

    As in Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4, you have the option of traveling to each of the factions and learning what they're about. Really, I'm actually kind of disappointed with how entertaining each faction is because I can't help but think this could have been made into a full-blown game. They could have done Fallout 4: Far Harbor and sold it in stores since it would have been pretty damn good. There's great NPCs, dialogue, writing, and some genuine moral dilemmas about the ends justifying the means.


     The island is also populated with a large number of new monsters, including walking carp and hermit crabs which carry buses on their back. There's a definite fishing theme to the monsters and that works well for Fallout.

     The scaling is akin to Point Lookout in that a lot of the monsters have ridiculous damage reduction designed solely to make it so end-game content users can have a challenge. It's not quite as bad where Swamp Folk and Punga Tribals were shrugging off things which would obliterate Super Mutants but it's still noticeable.

    The island is also populated with a large number of new monsters, including walking carp and hermit crabs which carry buses on their back. The scaling is akin to Point Lookout in that a lot of the monsters have ridiculous damage reduction designed solely to make it so end-game content users can have a challenge. It's not quite as bad where Swamp Folk and Punga Tribals were shrugging off things which would obliterate Super Mutants but it's still damn noticeable.

Can you find the secrets of the mist?
    Far Harbor Island is notably the largest landmass ever produced for an expansion pack, another reason why I wish they'd just made it into its own separate game. Much like The Witcher 3's Blood and Wine, there's a point where Expansions really should just be video games in their own right as sequels have a right to be released as is.

    The setting is beautiful with the radioactive fogs actually dangerous and the beautiful forests being spooky in a way which is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's writings. It is a Gothic New England island that is home to all manner of horrors and creatures which our hero may deal with. Indeed, the fogs invoke Stephen King's The Mist very well with every corner potentially holding some other sort of horror.
 
    Character-wise I think the Far Harbor residents and Dima are the most interesting. The Far Harbor folk really do invoke a fishing village in the future, trying to stubbornly cling to a life they long ago left behind. Dima, by contrast, is a prototype of the same model as Nick Valentine but re-envisioned as a kind of Synth messiah who rejects the Railroad's practice of brainwashing Synths into believing they're human. The interactions between Dima and Nick are quite good, which makes me glad I brought him to Far Harbor. I also love the Longshoreman, who is perhaps what happens when you have a player character who survives until old age--too badass to die.

A really fun little Vault.
    I'm also pleased to say Far Harbor does what no other expansion has done and includes a Vault. Vault 118 contains a parlor room mystery where the Sole Survivor must solve a murder committed by one of the 200-year-old robots living inside the luxury accommodations present.

     It's a hilarious and somewhat tragic story as Vault 118 is one of the few successful Vaults but it preserved a bunch of rich jerks. On the other hand, they're a bunch of entertaining narcissistic jerks and I think the entire thing is meant to make fun of the Sierra Madre adventure in Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money. All of the actors and drama are here but they stumble over each other trying to be terrifying.

     Overall, I think this is probably one of the best expansions Fallout has ever produced but there is one major flaw. In the middle of the game there's an extremely annoying puzzle which feels like something out of Minecraft rather than Fallout. You have to move blocks around and build little machines to fight off attacking robots rather than fight them yourself. It's incredibly boring, frustratingly irritating, and takes far too long. Worse, it's essential to the plot and can't be skipped. I have to remove a point from the game for it. Otherwise, this is an amazing little game and I recommend it to all Fallout 4 players.

9/10

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, that puzzle is quite weird. I mean, I actually ''liked'' it, but it felt strangely like something you'd find in Portal rather than Fallout.

    It especially doesn't make sense to me in Far Harbor. I mean, if this had heavier sci-fi themes in it, it'd make more sense to me. Actually, if it were its own DLC that'd be even better. But Far Harbor is "fishing themed" with some Lovecraftian tones in it.

    I'm trying to think of an analogy for it-it'd be like if Adam Jensen went to Florida swamps and protected hillbillies from gatormen. Problem is, that'd actually be kind of awesome.


    So a better, but slightly too literal analogy: it'd be like if the Think Tank showed up in-person in Dead Money.

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    1. Oh, also:

      It was too mechanically complicated, and also it doesn't use any RPG elements, which means that it's a complete genre shift. Usually, not a good thing.

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