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Fallout 4 - Far Harbor Review

Fallout 4 - Far Harbor Review

From Point Lookout to Far Harbor, Bethesda's latest expansion floats us back to the virulent, fog endowed island cliché. Loaded with the nostalgia of Scooby Doo, and eerily reminiscent of the '80s horror movie The Fog. Fallout 4's newest addition is a nightmarish reinvention of the classic trope, that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “spine-tingling”.

The storyline plays along three factions: Acadia, The Church of the Children of Atom and the citizens of the island, with the former bringing in a heavier involvement of Synths. When placed against the radioactive fog worshiping religious group and the eerie residents of Far Harbor (and other settlements), the characters endow the story with a consistently contrasting creepiness; there is something to be said about the strange intimacy one finds in small, removed communities. Each character comes across as an intricately designed pawn in one grand scheme, and each can be moved to affect the outcome of the story by the player's choices. Ultimately, your initial search for one girl turns into a tumultuous quest to tie together or perhaps tear asunder the three divides of the island.

The unrest is centered around the most prominent characteristic of the game: the fog. The islanders cannot live with the threat of radiation, utilising fog condensers to alter its state, making the air breathable, yet this is taken as an affront to the religious “rights” of the Children of Atom. In the heart of all this exists Acadia, a struggling mediator begging the question: “can’t we all just get along?”. Due to the negative portrait of The Institute and by extension, Synths, it was enlightening to see the developers break away from black and white perspectives. Here, Bethesda have introduced a number of thought-provoking stories that create a dialogue between the events in the game and real world issues. Issues such as environmentalism, religion, the relationship between man and machine and man and the earth. For me, this was an important aspect to factor in, proving that once again, Bethesda go beyond providing mere entertainment.

An attribute I was keen to see was the implementation of cause and effect. Your choices seemed to actually manifest themselves in the events of the game. As I mentioned before, the characters are set up to be pawns, arguably controlled by the player. It involves a subtle form of strategy that you may only become wise to upon completion. For example, if you help one of the characters barricade their settlement against various attacks, the onslaught will be redirected to a town, causing mass destruction. This will inevitably prevent the player from completing or picking up certain quests, forever changing the sequential story.

One of the key advertisements of the new expansion boasted an enormous map. Said to be one of the largest, if not the largest DLC maps in the Fallout series so far, and Bethesda did not disappoint here. The gloom-ridden island sets itself up for adventure to scale with the base game wasteland; with plenty to uncover, the player may find themselves spoilt for choice between the Commonwealth and the island. Not only does the map's size dwarf the explorative opportunities of previous Fallout expansion titles, the design of the map itself provides enough intrigue to excite any avid videogame cartographers. So long as you can overcome the challenge of almost constant radiation. With the town Bar Harbor in Maine, USA, as the inspiration for the game’s location, the areas represent a kind of nuclear nautical aesthetic. Charting my way through the jet black and peaky green landscape, I became enraptured by the coastal charm and swamp like woodlands; there is an obscure sense of feeling drowned under the hazy, fog-lit glow that seems to have swallowed up the entire island.

As is to be expected with Bethesda, the graphics were practically superfluous. But it’s easy enough to commend the detail and definition of a next gen game, what really impressed me was the cinematography. With a fair dosage of the vignette effect in some areas and a spectacular score of colours from emerald to jade, from cerulean to navy, all blinking and wavering through fractured sunlight or under the ghostly moon. I found that it felt almost dream-like at times, or perhaps nightmarish with the addition of gulpers and giant, radioactive hermit crabs. Even the coastal theme, now I’m not normally fond of maritime style settings, but even I have to admit I was both charmed and enticed by the barnacle encrusted towns and shipwrecked bays.

Ultimately, this expansion plays seamlessly with the vanilla game. Unlike DLC types like Operation Anchorage, the setting doesn't remove itself, and there exists a notable connection with the island and the Commonwealth. As a player that values immersion and narrative, this latest addition to the sequence worked perfectly. For what it lacked in some technical gameplay aspects and thematic originality, it made up for in atmosphere and characteristic inspiration.

My final and most prominent critique is the touched upon issue of the cliché. Some may say that they are best left for the unimaginative, and in most cases that may be true. Yet at times, there exists a simple art in leaning on the classic motifs of fiction. With the limited resources for innovative themes in almost every form of media these days, it's unsurprising that Bethesda drew upon influence of both Point Lookout and old ghost story-esque theatrics. Personally, I felt that they could have pushed the boat out a little more on this one. With the debatable failure of an MMORPG (cough) Elder Scrolls Online (cough) and with their latest titles being the next instalment in a pre-existing series, as well as an addition to the bandwagon of fast-paced shooter games, I felt that this could have been their opportunity to do something completely different. But perhaps that just isn't in their wheelhouse, and that's not such a bad thing.

9.00/10 9

Fallout 4 Far Harbor (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

definitely lived up to the standards set by Bethesda and their post-apocalyptic saga; Far Harbor adds another shade to the spectrum of colour that is painted across Fallout's history. With excellent gameplay and atmospheric effects, tied together in a bundle of deeply intricate lore, fans of the series should not be disappointed.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Jennifer Rose Richards

Jennifer Rose Richards

Staff Writer

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