“It’s a long walk. That’s how these things always start.”- Nick Valentine
Here it is, the giant Fallout 4 expansion we’ve been promised. Far Harbor has been touted as the single biggest landmass ever added to a Bethesda game, bigger than the previous add-ons like Shivering Isles, Point Lookout, or anything else. It’s certainly big and you will certainly get to stretch your legs, but unfortunately it doesn’t really add anything to the experience.
It all starts, as do the best things, with a visit to everyone’s favorite hard-boiled (wired?) detective, Nick Valentine. Your synth buddy just got hired for a case by a couple that lives up on the coast, who needs your help to find their missing daughter, Kasumi. She’s vanished and the overbearing father is worried she won’t be able to make it in the world. Your investigation soon reveals that she isn’t in the Commonwealth at all - she’s fled all the way up to a Maine island called Far Harbor. Far Harbor isn’t known for many things besides fish, but it does have a colony of synths, and Kasumi has run off to find them because she believes she might not be human herself. Her parents insist that she’s as human as can be and, despite only receiving a few caps from the father, you decide to take this job a step further, riding his boat up there yourself to bring Kasumi back.
You’ve barely landed at the dock before meeting the boss of the place, one Captain Avery, who reveals that the island isn’t doing well right before a horde of sea monsters attack in a very convenient emphasis. You help them fend off the beasts (including some brand new enemies) and find out that this is now commonplace. A fog has settled over the island and with it, as any Stephen King fan can tell you, come monsters. You’ve got beasts like Anglers, giant biped anglerfish that wait in the water near similar glowing lights, and Gulpers, which hang from trees and drop onto unsuspecting passersby, as well as some even more massive creatures.
Thanks to some “Fog Condensers” which suck away the mist, they have been living relatively free of monster attacks, but there are some real tensions between the other inhabitants of the island as well. Besides the eponymous settlement on the docks, which is full of people who ran from their now fog-covered lands, there are a couple of other big settlements. Acadia is the synth colony, the only place like it in the world. They’re living openly and in peace with the other towns, even if no one really trusts them or their motives. The leader of Acadia, a synth named DiMA, has connections to many of the other people on the island, and is one of the main players in this expansion.
Another town is claimed by the Children of Atom. You probably ran across these weirdos back in the Commonwealth but this expansion offers by far the biggest look into their radiation-soaked beliefs. Everyone is worried about what this cult is up to, mostly because they built their town on top of a nuclear submarine which may or may not still have working nukes. Combine that with people who literally thrive on radiation and yeah, it’s impossible not to be jumpy as a neighbor.
Your mission, if you choose to download it, will be to navigate the politics of the island, hopefully leaving a couple of the settlements intact. Along the way you will question your humanity and the humanity of everyone else, and if you bring Valentine along he will learn more about his past. Whether that’s a good thing or not will be up to you - personally I was happy with the mystery behind his creation, but it can all be explained away here.
All this fog gives Far Harbor a distinctive look, but at a price. On PS4, at least, the atmosphere is hurt by the framerate, which chugs along when you get to more swampy areas. Then there’s the fact that walking through a foggy world doesn’t give you any kind of idea of its layout. Every foggy place looks the same as the last one, and although there are plenty of fun little areas to find (a crashed airplane, a quarry, more docks) this is hardly the most memorable environment. Fog is fog is fog.
That is broken up by one section that sees you doing some virtual reality hacking, where you try to connect nodes and fend off firewalls. It utilizes the workshop mode as you place blocks and figure out some puzzles. It’s a nice change of pace from the main game, even if it’s a one-time distraction.
“But this is an expansion!” you cry, “What about the new loot?”
Well there’s plenty of that. Expect new things like harpoon guns, boat hooks, bear traps, and by far the best super sledge in the game thus far. All the enemies wear thematic armor as well, so if you've ever wanted to wear a diver suit or a lobster trap for a helmet, this is your place.
Of course, all this new junk comes with a price. If you thought you were overburdened before, just wait until you get all this cool new stuff. If you’re like me even Power Armor won’t save you from becoming a horrible, horrible horder, walking at a snail’s pace while stubbornly refusing to give up the 36 legendary weapons on your person. (Listen, they’re worth a lot of caps! Who cares if money is worthless in this game and I’ve got more than I can spend already?)
You also get a new follower in Old Longfellow, who’s just as crusty and annoying as you’d expect from the name. I suggest sticking with Valentine as a companion on the island.
Another new addition is Vim! Thought Nuka-Cola was the only soda in the world of the future? You’re wrong! Vim is the RC Cola to Nuka’s Coca Cola, and you’ll come across their factory and see that they were fighting against a buyout. You’ll find bottles of it all over the place, as well as a few alternate flavors such as Captain's Blend, an experimental fish-flavored cola they were hesitant to release despite it tasting really well in Maine. (Keep an eye out for a Vim-branded Power Armor, which is maybe the best-looking in the game.
So yes, all the usual extras are included, and the game will give you 10-20 hours of additional gameplay depending on how much exploring you do. It’s just hard not to wish for a more exciting environment to do it in. Why would you want to wander around the world when it’s just cased in white fog and the framerate stutters? The missions themselves are fine and some give you the usual dumb videogame good/bad karma decisions to make (ie- do you want to make happy peace or KILL EVERYONE?) but the first add-on, Automatron, offered a far more memorable mission than anything in this.
If I’m sounding harsh on Far Harbor it’s just because I hoped for more, but please don’t get me wrong. I was more than happy to play 20 more hours of Fallout 4 and collect more junk I didn’t need. There are some fun new characters and some exciting secrets to find (hint: explore any buses you come across). It’s very, very easy to get sucked back into this world and I’m loving jumping back every few months to see the latest season pass release, but it’s hard not to wish for something new. There are more add-ons on the way, so maybe we’ll get our wish.
For now, we walk.