To be honest, I struggled with this review, mostly because of my newly realized opinions about Fallout 4. I didn’t want to go into it with a bad attitude and truly wanted to let it surprise me; however, even as a fairly large-sized expansion, Far Harbor bears so many of the same problems of Fallout 4 base game that more often than not, I was having a bad time. While it’s not completely devoid of good ideas, they’re so poorly executed that the DLC never sees it’s full potential.
The hook starts with taking on a missing persons case through Valentine’s Detective Agency to track down a runaway girl who thinks she’s a synth. This leads to player to discover Far Harbor, a small island off of (I think) Maine, which is shrouded in radioactive fog. The quest to bring her home will tangle the player in the politics of the people of Far Harbor, a radical sect of The Children of Atom, and a synth refugee camp caught in the middle. It’s not a bad story, but it suffers (much like vanilla Fallout 4) from being fairly cut-and-dry, and not offering much in the way of creative thinking. It’s the same problem of being restricted to four dialogue options, and things can only be one way or the other (except sarcasm, which always makes you sound like the biggest prick). So many times I wanted to offer alternative methods that I felt previous iterations in the franchise would’ve allowed me.
One noteworthy quest was a murder/mystery that took place in a Vault filled with Robobrains, where I was forced to confront the killer with one piece of evidence and a vague motive. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more we could use to build a firmer case. And then, once it was over, the Robobrains just mulled around spouting the same lines of dialogue as if to say “you’re done here. Don’t ever come back.”
And almost ever story element felt like that. No matter how much the game wanted me to believe some grand moral quandaries were involved in the beliefs of the Far Harbormen and the Children of Atom, it always felt like you were never seeing two equal sides. The Far Harbormen are flawed but essentially good, and the Children of Atom are cartoonishly evil, and neither of them are very compelling.
So much of it just feels like more of the same. Aside from three new monsters, you’re still fighting the same rabid humans, ghouls, and Super Mutants. Many of the quests are still “go here, kill a bunch of ghouls, find a thing,” with the exception of the aforementioned murder/mystery. And like every game that’s out of ideas, they even worked in a Tower Defence minigame by way of the Crafting System, and it’s terrible.
Far Harbor looks ugly as well. Aside from a handful of interesting locations, the majority of the island is forest and bogs. Textures pop in and out at notably close range (I’m talking one or two-pixel difference) and it’s so dreary and dull. The Commonwealth didn’t look much better, but it was at least bright and colourful. It’s not even like they run with the dreary, semi-horror motif; there’s all this talk that the radioactive fog causes hallucinations if you stay in it to long, but they never try spooky things like silhouettes disappearing, or little noises that could’ve made the whole island a more frightening place. Instead, the fog just makes the obscured vison and constant decrease of health a pain in the butt.
And it wouldn’t be a Bethesda add-on without its share of bugs, and I’m really getting sick of this somehow being expected, and for whatever reason accepted. Far Harbor performs pathetically. I’ve read that, for the most part, performance issues are a PS4 exclusive, and it’s totally unacceptable. During my time with it, Far Harbor frequently fluctuated in frame-rate, crashed a couple times, and came with glitches galore.
Some of the glitches include: Fighting a headless enemy, wailing on a Super Mutant who had zero interest in actually fighting, an enemy becoming frozen in the default T-pose upon death, a horrible moment where, in conversation, the environment dropped out and my character was just a torso on legs, a character just plain walking away during dialogue, which resulted in me waiting a couple minutes before I could initiate the dialogue again from the start, the Pip-Boy background disappearing, weapon previews appearing on other Pip-Boy screens, the thick clouds of pitch-black pixel smoke that appears after you throw Pulse Grenades that’s been there from the start and it still hasn’t been fixed; and so on.
Overall, I’ll at least commend Far Harbor for actually having content. It offers a decent sized extension of land to the main game, and it does at least offer new quests and a handful of new weapons. It does try to shoehorn the crafting elements into it, but they’re minimal at best. Although, at 35 dollars, I can’t really say it’s worth it, not when so much of the same busy-work, and attempts at an engaging narrative exists in the main game.