|Exploring Fallout 4’s Far Harbor|
Far Harbor is not a friendly place. The town’s inhabitants don’t trust you. Monstrous creatures lay in wait around every corner. Even the island itself can kill you. “It’s not like walking around the Commonwealth and maybe encountering some pockets of radiation,” warns Lead Producer Phil Nelson. “The island is radiation.”
But you’ll find much more than just hostile denizens and radiation in Fallout 4’s latest add-on. In addition to being Bethesda Game Studios’ largest landmass that they have ever created for an add-on, the island is host to a wealth of mysteries for you to uncover. Discover new creatures, arm yourself with new gear and seek out the truth behind the ongoing conflict between factions on the island. Along the way you’ll face some of the most complex and nuanced choices in Fallout.
Welcome to Far Harbor
The humans who have made their home in the coastal fishing town of Far Harbor are a more rugged, withdrawn group than any you’ve met to this point. “Maine has this very rocky, rough terrain and a dramatic coastline,” says Art Director Matt Carofano. “We thought the rugged setting should inform how the characters are up there. They need to be more survivalist to live in the colder north, with its harsh environment.”
With the raging sea in front of them and radioactive fog covering the rest of the island – plus an ongoing war with the Children of Atom – the people of Far Harbor don’t have much cause to be joyful. They have found their safe haven thanks to a special device that keeps the fog at bay, but they are looking to expand to new settlements. (Yes, you can build settlements on the island – but first you have to gain their trust.)
The Children of Atom have made their home further inland. Their mission to convert everyone and destroy anyone who refuses to follow has brought them into direct conflict with the citizens of Far Harbor, and the only group who seem interested in keeping the peace on the island are the Synths, who are tucked away, high in the mountains.
The Choices You Make
Your journey through the add-on will lead you to all three groups, and the choices you make will decide their fates. “Everyone you meet has their own agendas and goals they try to drag the player into,” explains Lead Designer William Shen. “Everyone has a sympathetic side, and a side that’s not-so-sympathetic, and you have to decide where you’re going to land. We wanted to include a ton of different options. Is it possible to go through with no one dying? Can you just decide to destroy everyone? Can you bring certain people to justice and drag out certain truths? Is it worth exposing this person if it means all these other people are going to be hurt? We give you a lot of tools and information that affects all groups, and then you have the ability to decide what you’re going to do with it.”
You may find yourself going down one path, and changing your mind once you have more information. There are very few hard-stop decisions, unless you choose to start killing folks. (Death is a pretty final choice, after all.) But even within the huge decision moments, there are lots of ways to handle a situation – some more peaceful than others.
“It’s fun to present the player with choices that will make them pause for a minute and think, ‘Is this really what I want? Can I live with the consequences or the cost?’” Shen says. “We really wanted to introduce a lot more conflict, but we also wanted to make sure there were a lot of ways to end the conflict.”
“There are many different ways to do everything with many different potential endings. There’s a lot of player freedom in this one,” Nelson adds.
Go Big or Go Home
This is the largest landmass Bethesda Game Studios has ever created for a piece of add-on content, and the team had some very specific reasons for deciding to go big.
“Early on I did a test of a smaller island, and the scale just felt off,” Carofano explains. “When I looked at the scope of Bar Harbor, Maine, in the real world, and the rugged terrain it has with the coast and the mountains, it doesn’t fit in a small-scale environment. We wanted to make the island as big as we could to fit the geographical features and make it an awesome place to explore.”
The island’s diverse environments wouldn’t allow for anything less than a massive space. Replacing the dense urban setting of the Commonwealth is a much more feral, mysterious wilderness that could have come straight from a horror novel set in the American northeast. Inspired by the real-life town of Bar Harbor, Maine, Far Harbor is a small fishing town, surrounded by what was once a beautiful national park. It would have been a rather idyllic little tourist spot before the war.
“What happened here after the war?” asks Carofano. “All the trees in the national park are dead. Everything is dead and covered in radioactive fog. Basically the whole landscape is destroyed. The ocean is on fire in places where ships have wrecked. You’ll see lots of whale skeletons because they couldn’t survive. They all died out and washed against the shore. Maine already has a certain spooky atmosphere. You think about Stephen King. There’s a bit of a horror element that we’re excited about.”
“It’s a different kind of atmosphere in terms of discovery,” adds Shen. “You’re wandering around much larger spaces. The trees and the fog on the island really lend an eerie vibe. You don’t really know what’s around the next bend.”
New, New, New
The new setting brings a variety of distinct environments – from the rocky shores to the forests of dead trees, even up to the mountains. And a new location demands new and different everything. Bethesda Game Studios wasn’t content to simply rest on everything the base game has to offer. They wanted new creatures, new weapons, new armor, new puzzles, new perks and even new crafting options. Everything was designed with the feral island and the roiling sea in mind.
“We looked at our base creatures and made some new ones inspired by the new location that are higher level and even more messed up because of all the radiation,” says Carofano.
When concepting the new creatures, the team drew their inspiration from the waters surrounding the island. You’ve got the Fog Crawler – a huge creature, standing just taller than a Deathclaw – with two large pincers. There’s the Angler, an amphibious monster that lurks under the surface of the water and has a lure disguised as a flower common to the island. There’s also the Gulper, a salamander-like creature of varying sizes.
With new animals to combat, you’ll want some new equipment. In Far Harbor you’ll find a lever-action rifle, a whaling-inspired harpoon gun, new fishhook and meat hook melee weapons, and the radium rifle, a submachine gun favored by the Children of Atom that spews radioactive bullets.
You’ll also gain access to the Marine Armor, which is even stronger than the combat armor. “It’s the new highest tier armor in the game, and it has some great variants,” says Nelson. “The Children of Atom even have a variant version of it with their markings inscribed on it.” (It’s also a great option for players who haven’t invested in Power Armor but still want heavy protection.)
While you’re wandering around Far Harbor, you can even meet up with a new companion, though fans of Nick may want to continue the journey with the intrepid Synth detective. “If you love Nick,” says Nelson, “you’ll get some insight into his backstory, especially if you bring him with your while you’re talking to people.”
Your new companion, Longfellow, can be found in a local bar and, like everyone else in Far Harbor, he’s not very friendly. “Longfellow is sort of your Quint from Jaws,” Nelson tells us. “You show up on the island and you’re pointed to him because no one knows the island better than Longfellow. He’s this seriously grizzled old salty-type. The first thing he does is flat-out tell you that you’re unprepared for the island.”
Prepared or not, once you arrive in Far Harbor you’ll encounter a Fallout setting unlike any other. From a feral setting full of danger to a hostile populace that will force you to make many tough choices, Far Harbor will take you on a journey that’s a far cry from the Commonwealth.
“There’s still a ton we haven’t even talked about yet,” adds Shen. “There are definitely some very cool surprises as you progress through Far Harbor.”