Against all odds, I really enjoyed Fallout 4‘s latest batch of DLC, “Far Harbor”. It definitely had a hard job of trying to win me over, given my mindset going in. Honestly? I really wish this was the only piece of DLC available for Fallout 4 — or at least the only one so far — because tangling it up in the season pass has been a disaster. The seas are about to get rough, but to explain why I’m so surprised not to loath Far Harbor, you’ll need to ride out the storm.
Lets start in the obvious place: DLC pack number two. There is basically nothing to Fallout 4‘s “Wasteland Workshop” content. I’d rather not dignify its existence by explaining it so I’ll just give a short description: you can catch enemies in your settlements. Yep, it’s a mod disguised as DLC and doesn’t even do a good job at that. “Wasteland Workshop” is proficient at merely one thing: outlining the scam that is Bethesda’s “Season Pass”.
Even if you got the “Season Pass” before its price hike, you’re likely being ripped off. This depends, of course, on your opinion. Do you think the first DLC pack, “Automatron”, is worth $14.95 AUD? I think it’s worth closer to the $7.55 AUD price tag of “Wasteland Workshop”, which itself is worth either nothing or whatever the cost of downloading the content takes up on your internet plan. I hope you’re downloads are unmetered, because it’s quite likely that you’ve download that update and haven’t even bothered playing it.
“Automatron” is like a drug dealer giving a prospective client a little hit for free. The idea is that the buyer will become addicted and continue to purchase the dealer’s questionable product… until their inevitable death. This analogy would work a little better but apparently illicit substances can be free in this world; DLC isn’t. There really isn’t anything wrong with “Automatron” other than its price. I enjoyed it when I played through it, but looking back I was really just enjoying playing Fallout 4 again.
Both “Automatron” and “Wasteland Worthless” (sic) together make up a smokescreen. A pricey distraction until real DLC comes along; that’s exactly what “Far Harbor” is. Not only is its price point en pointe, but it’s a real reason to start playing Fallout 4 again. Really, that’s all I ever wanted.
The new island area is huge and full of new factions, monsters, characters, mysteries and just about anything else you can think of. It feels like Fallout 4.5. The characters and story are fantastic and even make the vanilla narrative in Fallout 4 look like dog shit. There isn’t any way to predict the entire plot; like the original story, it uses each of the factions characters in a way to weave them all together. You will, as usual, have the power of a god by the end of “Far Harbor”. That means you can really do some damage if you choose to, and with some really cool twists along the way.
Thematically, the setting of Maine is better used than Boston or maybe even the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3. The aquatic theme works so well with its terrifying new creatures, based on angler fish and lobsters. The residents are gruff fisherfolk, resistant to outsiders, scared of change and surrounded by an impending doom. The thing writes itself.
The best new thing about “Far Harbor” is easily its fog. It’s full of radiation and blankets the island, spreading nasty monsters about. Most importantly, it changes the whole vibe of Fallout 4. Things feel more like horror than adventure, and you’ll enjoy Maine’s mysteries. This is all flawlessly supported by the music. I usually have the radio playing while I play Fallout 4, but as soon as I got to the dock I wanted the ambient music driving my game to increase the tension.
“Far Harbor” ticks every box; on its own, it’s really hard to fault. That said, it hasn’t been presented on its own — the way it should have been. The DLC for Fallout 3 was not only incredible, it set the benchmark for DLC and created the model to follow. Bethesda has fallen a long way down to get to this point, even if “Far Harbor” is a shimmering lighthouse through the fog. Unfortunately, winning a Nobel Prize wont change the fact there’s a war criminal in your family.
Rating “Far Harbor” and the “Season Pass” on the whole is like chalk and cheese. Skip the pass and just grab this latest piece of DLC. You’ll be glad you did.