I was so excited for Fallout 4’s new Far Harbor DLC, with all its promise of a new, big storyline, a new case for the Valentine Detective Agency, and an entirely new environment to explore. To be honest, I was so underwhelmed with the previous DLCs that I didn’t really have anything, nor the inclination to write about them, but Far Harbor did seem to offer what I wanted from new content. The trailer looked particularly great, and I love anything that involves Nick Valentine, so I faithfully downloaded it on Thursday morning and set aside the day for playing.
Far Harbor’s official trailer, Bethesda.
But, my initial reactions are not entirely positive.
(Yes, there will be spoilers)
1. The more I play, the more Fallout 4 feels like a sequel to Skyrim, not Fallout 3. Start quest for x faction, complete quest for x faction, then continue to do quests for x number of people in this faction, which are the same quests over and over again (find something/kill something/help someone. Repeat). At what point did engaging story get replaced by ‘hours in which you can technically keep playing the game, even if you’re just repeating the same thing over and over again’; which, while I adore Skyrim, was also one of the impressions I was left with after playing it for too many hours. The Far Harbor DLC is admittedly not as bad at this as the main storyline of Fallout 4 (I dare you to ask me to track down another missing synth, Dr. Carrington. Need I even mention Preston Garvey?), but as soon as I met the three factions of The Island and activated their quests, there was a whiff of this same repetitiveness:
‘Help the citizens of Far Harbor’/‘Help the Mariner’/‘Help Cassie Dalton’/‘Help Captain Avery’.
‘Help the Children of Atom’/‘Assist the Grand Zealot’/‘Help the High Confessor’/‘Help Zealot Ware’/‘Help Sister Mai’.
‘Help the Synths of Acadia’/‘Help Faraday’/‘Help Chase’.
2. DiMA and Nick. The revelations about everyone’s favourite detective Nick Valentine had great potential. From the first time they spoke, and DiMA began to tell Nick about their past—that they were brothers who escaped The Institute together— I was complete behind it. But after the initial reveal, two conversations with Nick asking him how he feels, and the odd moment of cute brotherly bonding moments over the trials of being an old, decrepit prototype, their story sort of fell flat for me: as do, in my opinions, so many in Fallout’s DLC, let alone it’s main story arc. It feels like a lot of wasted potential for characters that are so interesting, who have really great back stories, and will gladly tell you so much about their own lives and histories. Not that this is really any different from previous iterations of Fallout, but something feels off in FO4, as though I’m just more aware as a player that the entire point of the person’s back story is a quest, and the entire point of that quest is a perk, and then I’ll never interact with them again. For me, Nick Valentine was the exception: probably the most well developed companion/character, with an interesting and enjoyably playable loyalty quest. To see the potential of this new discovery about his origins squandered was all the more disappointing as a result.
3. You can’t just hint at the fact I might be a synth and then never touch on the topic again. Seriously? I agree this could have been game changing information, but the fact that it was essentially dropped into one short conversation by DiMA and then totally left feels, again, like a completely missed opportunity. Sure, I appreciate nuance and ambiguity, but doesn’t this feel a bit lazy? And to only mention it now, and not, I don’t know, before The Institute/your son is (potentially) wiped from the map? Maybe this is something that can be more fully explored if you chose The Institute ending.
4. Does anything more actually happen than in the Automaton DLC? So, Far Harbor was in my mind the DLC I was waiting for: huge in scale, story-based, interesting characters, and, finally, an explanation for the always-hostile Children of Atom. But really, was there any more story to uncover than in Automaton? I don’t really think that completing Far Harbor’s narrative would have taken me much longer if it weren’t for…
5. Unlocking DiMA’s memories. The worst part of the entire DLC for me. Was so annoying that it probably made me feel much more annoyed about Far Harbor than I would have if it hadn’t been included (This coming from a person who doesn’t particularly enjoy puzzle games, and is awful at Portal and Minecraft, so take from that what you will).
Admittedly I’m yet to fully explore The Island, but I don’t imagine that, now I’ve finished the main storyline, I’m going to find much else to convince me that this DLC wasn’t a great concept, but just a bit disappointing. I wanted more story, less doing missions that, in the end, seem utterly pointless other than to increase gameplay hours. The biggest indication for me was that I actually didn’t mind turning it off before I’d finished it. I’m starting to realise that maybe the reason why I loved Fallout 3 so much is because, actually, it was comparatively more simple. More does not always equal more.