With the release of Far Cry 5 a little under a year ago, Ubisoft pulled off what many thought was going to be impossible. They managed to make Far Cry interesting again. Since the sudden and early demise of Far Cry 3‘s Vaas, players have been jonesing for another great bad guy. The kind of antagonist that makes you want to cheer them on as their over-the-top antics keep you glued to the cutscenes they appeared in.
Unfortunately for Far Cry as a series, the developers tried and failed more than once to give us another cool baddie. When your open-world shooter is releasing to a buffet of open world shooters, you need an edge, and selling gamers on more characters like Vaas was Far Cry‘s. Finally, with last year’s release, Ubisoft hit the target almost perfectly with Far Cry 5‘s doomsday cult preacher Father Joseph Seed and his crazed family. The Seed clan elevated the – admittedly already rather good – fifth instalment of the series to a level of excellence not seen since 2012’s Far Cry 3.
Realising they’ve hit pay dirt with this world and its main bad guy, 11 months later Ubisoft have brought us Far Cry New Dawn.
17 years after “The Collapse” (the events that ended Far Cry 5. I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers) survivors are working to rebuild their lives in the ruined countryside that used to be Hope County. But it’s a tough old world and as hard as you can work there will always be someone who is willing to take it all from you. Those that survived the hardships that The Collapse brought are about to find this out when Prosperity – the settlement these survivors have built from scratch – becomes the latest target for The Highwaymen, a gang of murderous marauders led by twin sisters Mickey and Lou.
Desperate for help, Prosperity turns to a group known for travelling the now desolate country helping survivors rebuild. The Twins, however, have different plans. Ambushing the group and leaving all but two alive – the group’s leader, Rush, and Cap, the team’s captain of security – it is now a race against time to rebuild and fortify Prosperity while fighting off the Highwaymen and the maniacal Twins.
Let’s get this out of the way nice and quick. Far Cry New Dawn outside of a gameplay tweak or two is more Far Cry 5. If that’s what you’re looking for, continue reading. If the most recent numbered instalment of this long-running franchise did nothing for you, I’m not sure that New Dawn will change your mind. Now that’s out of the way…
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New Dawn follows the same roadmap as almost every Far Cry game before it. You take brief control of your character – here you’ll get to choose Cap’s gender first, not that it matters as far as story goes, but it’s a nice touch – before meeting the game’s main bad guys in an introduction that wouldn’t be out of place in a late 90’s comic book movie. Eccentric and over-the-top are the words that Far Cry writers live by for antagonists and here is no different. The Twins come across as selfish, unforgiving and flat out ruthless in their pursuits. You’re somehow able to escape and you make your way to a home-base where you are tasked with rescuing survivors, securing the compound you’re now living in and fighting off the neon splattered invaders determined to kill you all and take what you have. It is a very well-worn path. What makes New Dawn unique is how it has adapted the world of Far Cry 5 into something akin to the post-apocalypse.
Neon Pink seems to be the order of the day for 2019 – with Rage 2‘s aesthetic looking more than just a little similar to New Dawn‘s – the ruined Hope County doesn’t have the dusty wild lands you maybe would have expected in a ravaged world in a game from just a few years ago. Instead, it’s a vibrant, colourful world filled with wildlife (that WILL try and kill you) and beautiful wild growth everywhere. Say what you like about this series, it never skimps on the details in its worlds. Outposts and areas controlled by The Highwaymen are splattered in detailed graffiti – also in unsubtle neon pink – and uninhabited areas are filled with the remnants of the world left behind almost two decades ago. For those of us that spent far more hours in the fields and compounds of Far Cry 5 than was healthy, players are treated to moments of realisation that you’ve been there before – and holy hell look at the state of the place! The instant players realise that they were so deep in the game that they didn’t spot right away that they were in the dilapidated ruins of a water treatment plant that was the scene of a cool set piece a year ago is the point you realise that Far Cry New Dawn is as much a game standing on its own merits as it is the first true sequel in the Far Cry universe.
Unfortunately, the Twins are wasted in this world that they run. The pair have a fun dynamic and are written… ok, but there’s something missing that Vaas and Joseph both brought with them. They aren’t really that interesting. Mickey (the brains) and Lou (the muscle) bounce off of each other well and are maniacal enough to convince you that their intentions are nothing but pure evil. But when they aren’t on the screen, you can almost forget they are a part of the world you’re running around in – unlike the game’s predecessor that left players feeling like they were never away from Joseph Seed’s grasp. Their interactions with each other and you make for compelling viewing, but they don’t bring anything of value to the narrative.
Father Joseph, however, does. Hiding up north with a band of survivors who haven’t seen him for an age, the once bloodthirsty cult leader is beaten and broken and awaiting salvation from a god that has forsaken him and his people. While his screen time in this second part of his story is brief, it is mesmerising. The fanatic in him is still there, but his purpose has changed, it’s a transformation that fans of his, and Far Cry 5 will surely appreciate and wish for more.
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Gameplay stays the same as it has for the series. You walk/run/drive/fly to an area, kill everyone, collect something, move on. It’s a staple of the open-world FPS that won’t and doesn’t really need to change. Investment in the story is what makes or breaks this style of game. Tweaks towards the more Role Playing Game (RPG) style of play have been increased slightly from previous series entries. Weapons are no longer unlocked and upgraded as you like, they are crafted and locked behind a level system. Crafting requires the upgrading of Prosperity and its areas – such as weaponry, transport, ally training, etc – and has a heavy reliance on scavenging resources from the world. Weapon ranks (rising from I to III with an “Elite” level to top it off) match the difficulty of missions and the enemies you will face during them. It’s not an absolute requirement that you follow these upgrade paths, but you’ll have one hell of a hard time if you get to the latter stage of the game without at least one Elite branded weapon. This sadly is where the complaints really begin. Resources are given so sparingly and the drudgery of collecting them breaks from the fun of the game, turning New Dawn into such a monotonous chore that the conveniently placed, constantly flashing button for the in-game store becomes very, very tempting. It’s a system that has benefitted Ubisoft well over the years; in-game micro-transactions are suggested at every turn and it can be a tough ask to avoid them as the latter stages of the game ramp up the difficulty.
Players suffer with an inability to upgrade weapons they have, too. Previous entries in the franchise would allow you to add to and tweak your rifles as you pleased. You picked a rubbish one? No problem. Add a new mag, a decent scope and you’ll MAKE it good. But in the post-apocalypse, your makeshift weapons can’t be MORE makeshift? I don’t buy it, and the flashing button to buy Far Cry Credits to buy newer and better stuff confirms my fears that these choices have been made purposely and somewhat maliciously.
But it’s not all bad. Not by a long shot. Slight changes to gameplay and mechanics can be a good thing. A long-time staple of Far Cry is the Outpost system. You (and sometimes your co-op buddy) will clear out an area filled with bad guys, taking it over for yourself. That area becomes a fast travel point, a supply area, everything. New Dawn adds the ability to scavenge these areas for extra resources. Doing this will hand it back to The Highwaymen and if you want it, you need to take it back. But the biker-obsessed bad guys won’t make it easy for you. Every time you scavenge the outpost, higher level, and significantly more, enemies will arrive to fortify their position. It’s a fun challenge that adds a little something to the game for those that want to up their skills (and gain more resources for upgrades), You’ll NEED to do it on a couple of occasions to help progress story missions, but other than that you are free to liberate these areas and keep your fast travel points if you want them.
It is slightly lazy to say that “If you liked Far Cry 5, you’ll like this”. But it’s a statement that rings truer than any Far Cry follow on yet. New Dawn is the first direct sequel to one of these numbered entries and as such, slight gameplay adjustments aside, feels exactly like a follow-on. At this point, seven years since the last formula re-jig with Far Cry 3, the mechanics are well worn in and solid enough for most players to pick up and have a bash with. It won’t win any awards and it won’t offer you much more than the 12-14 hours the campaign will last you, but it does what it does very well and gives fans a little more of what they enjoyed of the Far Cry 5 experience.