Warning: there are some minor spoilers ahead; I summarize the very beginning of the main quest and give (mostly) vague hints about what’s in the middle of the story. I don’t give away any major plot points, though.
This DLC gave me mixed feelings.
When this DLC was announced, I was pretty excited. I’ve always been a fan of Bethesda’s expansion packs, especially Shivering Isles for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. So when I heard that Far Harbor was going to be even bigger than Shivering Isles… well, dang. I needed it.
And sure, when I got to play the DLC, it had its good moments, which I will explain in detail. However, the expansion was also very frustrating for a number of reasons, which I will also explain.
To be fair, there was a lot that I liked about Far Harbor. The entire worldspace was filled with intrigue and danger, with a freshened-up color palette to distinguish it from the main game. The soundtrack was brilliant; I turned off my Pip-Boy’s radio (somehow, I was still getting Diamond City Radio in Maine) and just listened to the environment and the game’s score. Everywhere I went, the music set the mood for the area I was in. It was like being in a perfectly-composed movie. There were plenty of distinguishable characters and personalities present, too, and the overarching faction tension between the Children of Atom, Far Harbor, and a synth group housed in a bunker called Acadia were very prevalent.
On top of that, the expansion sets you up for success right from the beginning; immediately after the opening battle, you can head to a nearby shop and pick up some powerful loot. In the beginning portion of the main quest, you gain a companion named Longfellow, who is one of my favorite companions in the game, and you get access to a workshop. All in all, it’s a pretty decent starter pack for a new adventure.
However, the main quest itself is easily the biggest trouble point in the entire expansion. There were some good parts in it, such as meeting DiMA and the Acadian synths, as well as getting to explore areas inhabited by the Children of Atom (those gave off a very creepy vibe). But most of it felt like it was trying too hard, or copying too much of previous content.
I’m not going to cover much story-wise because I hate spoilers, but I will say that Far Harbor starts with you being assigned to find a missing girl. Your character meets up with her parents and investigates their shore property; they end up finding some holotapes that describe where she went. As it turns out, she headed toward Far Harbor because she thinks she may be a synth. Understandably, the parents don’t believe that’s possible. Nevertheless, you’re sent away to the faraway island in hopes of finding her.
While you’re on the island, you’re swept into a tale of danger, intrigue, and adventure. For the most part, the main quest is solid. There are plenty of choices that you can make to affect the ending of the story. Also, the different tasks you can perform inside the Children of Atom base add some insight into how the cult thinks and acts. It was cool seeing the world from their perspective (briefly). However, there are a few points that I hated about the main quest as well.
For example, part of the plot line brings back the “synth rights” theme from parts of the base game. It was exhausting having previous story content reiterated. Sure, it was presented in an entirely different fashion, but I would have preferred to see more original content. And sadly, this isn’t the only place where it feels like Bethesda recycled plot points; for example, there’s a certain cult initiation quest in Fallout 3’s Point Lookout DLC that feels similar to another main story quest.
And then there was the puzzle segment. Essentially, your character has to go inside a computer and retrieve some data. You would think this is an easy task, and you’d be very wrong. The computer portion involves solving five (increasingly difficult) puzzles to retrieve the data. I hated this more than anything else I hated in the entire game. It was very anti-Fallout, incredibly frustrating, and extremely time-consuming. This one puzzle sequence almost ruined the entire DLC’s experience for me. Thankfully, though, I never had to perform similar tasks after completing that segment.
Finally, the main quest was short. However, at the very end of the main quest, you will receive some miscellaneous objectives that you can investigate; those help bring some closure to the story. Besides, the main quest’s length isn’t too much of an issue as there are plenty of side quests throughout the island (with every faction) that you can complete… and some that are just out there for you to complete. (I recommend finding the robot named Pearl outside of Far Harbor; she starts a fun side quest.)
Other complaints/small things to point out: I know it was advertised as being bigger than Shivering Isles, but I’m very skeptical about that. Walking through Far Harbor’s island landscape was much faster than the Madgod’s realm (and this article makes it seem like Shivering Isles’ landmass is bigger), and it felt like Shivering Isles was more densely packed with things to do. Also, this isn’t a particularly important complaint, but… I wish the DLC locked you into Far Harbor’s worldspace until the main quest was complete. Bethesda has done that pretty effectively in the past, so it theoretically could have worked here. Then again, considering how much I regretted the main quest, maybe it’s for the better that we’re not locked in?
All of that aside, there were other good parts about Far Harbor. The new companion Longfellow is friendly and easy enough to get along with (and he doesn’t complain when you scavenge junk). Most of the loot you can collect is worth carrying or selling, and the endgame equipment you can receive is very helpful.
All in all, Far Harbor isn’t a terrible DLC. It’s got some problems, but if you can look past them there’s a decent gem hiding in there for you. Is it worth the $25 price tag? On its own, I can’t recommend it as there isn’t enough content to justify the price. As part of the Season Pass, though, it’s a decent value. Take time to enjoy the side quests, and you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of it than someone who only focuses on the main quest.
Price: $25, or $50 if you get the Season Pass
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4