I’ve been working on a blog post for quite some time about my disappointment with Fallout 4 winning the BAFTA for best game this year because quite simply the game does not hold up when compared to something like The Witcher 3. However, I did enjoy Fallout enough to purchase the season pass before it’s price hike, and have started to play its first full DLC – Far Harbour.
To my absolute delight, I’ve found myself enjoying a great deal. I’m approximately two hours into the new storyline, but it already seems to be a departure from all of the flaws of the base game. There’s already been an stand-out moment in a very early side quest – “Brain Dead”. (Note: what follows will contain full spoilers for a very delightful quest, if you have any intention of playing the DLC I suggest you do the mission before reading on).
The most memorable mission within Fallout 4 is, in my opinion, is “The Last Voyage of the U.S.S Constitution”. It epitomises Fallout at it’s very best; it’s brilliantly weird, the navy/pirate robots have some of the best dialogue of the game and the set pieces of the mission are laugh-out-loud funny. Bethesda are clearly aware of the success of this quest, because “Brain Dead” is such a loving call back to it.
Very soon after you land at the harbour a Mr. Handy, Pearl, approaches you and asks for your help in solving a murder back at the hotel she works at. She leads you through the radioactive fog to a run down establishment with very strong Overlook Hotel vibes. After fighting off a handful of ghouls, Pearl takes you to the wing where all the esteemed (read: rich) guests live which turns out to be a Vault! The residents of vault 118, having all turned themselves into robots to definitely survive the war, find themselves in a bit of a pickle: the overseer has had his brain stem smashed in, and the head of staff has no clue who the murderer could be. It’s up to the player to solve this murder.
What’s brilliant about this quest, is that it barely forces you to go down any set path in solving the murder. It suggests you search the crime scene, talk to characters, find what you can and decide who you think the killer is. What’s more, this quest is essentially the return of skill checks to Fallout 4. Every single character you speak to has a series of speech checks to pass; finally my charisma stat actually means something! A series of conversations revealed that both the superstar actor robot and the wildly successful painter (both suspects at this point) are madly in love with the same woman – Gilda. So naturally I went to talk to this Gilda to see if she could point me in the right direction going forward, but to my absolute delight I found a speech check for “flirt”. So I pressed it. I then got the option to “flirt more”. So I pressed that. I found myself going down a path of increasingly hard skill checks, laughing at every bit of dialogue, until the action suddenly froze. The next thing I know it’s the next morning, me and Gilda are leaving her bed and I have the “lovers embrace” perk. This is what I feel like Fallout 4 was missing, it’s weird, out-there humour. I appreciate that this is a nuclear wasteland, but I felt this incarnation of the game was far too focused on the harrowing aspect; it was nice to see a return to something a bit “wackier”
What’s more, the storyline of this quest is actually really in-depth for a small throw away quest. On investigation it turns out Ezra (the overseer) had an argument with another resident, Julianna, the day before he was murdered. Julianna’s husband tells me he didn’t hear the argument, but he knows his wife was angry about something she found in the overseers office. So I went to investigate and it turns out Ezra was embezzling money from all of his rich guests, is this what Julianna found? I questioned her, and she denied all knowledge, even flat out denied that Ezra was capable of embezzling. Bingo – I know that’s a lie, I have my suspect. But I wanted to question her husband one last time, to be certain. After another series of speech checks of increasing difficulty (seriously, I’ve missed these so much) it turns out his wife has been acting strange, and he even suspects that she may have been replaced with an imposter. Oh shit. In the end it turns out that Ezra didn’t die, Julianna did and then Ezra replaced her perfectly – after all they’re all identical robots, it was easy to adopt her identity.
I still have my issues with Fallout 4, but I’m so happy that “Far Harbor” seems to be taking the game in the direction it deserved to be going in from the start. “Brain Dead” has such a wonderfully complex narrative for a quest that took me about 40 minutes to complete. Like every good Fallout quest, “Brain Dead” finds absolute delight in its weirdness, presents a sense of humour unlike that found in any other game and crucially allowed me to approach it however I wanted to. At the start of this week I was very nonplussed about “Far Harbor” being released; I only downloaded it as a time-killer before Overwatch comes out next week. But the DLC very quickly establishes that it doesn’t have the problems of the main game, and is just content with being “fun”. As a result, I cannot wait to throw myself back into the world of post-apocalyptic Maine and see what else the new, improved game holds in store for me.