HIGH Repeatable outposts.
LOW Forgettable villians in a series known for memorable ones.
WTF The Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country?
Pink is the new brown when it comes the to apocalypse. At least, that seems to be the idea that Far Cry New Dawn is fully embracing with its borderline-cartoonish palette. This open world, first-person shooter is the sequel to last year’s Far Cry 5, and it certainly embraces the recent trend of offering a colorful armageddon. Once past the colors, it’s disheartening to see that New Dawn retains all of 5‘s pre-existing problems while being both smaller and shorter, leaving me to wonder why this was released as a standalone title and not as DLC.
Narratively, it’s been 17 years since the nuclear end of Far Cry 5 and the residents of Hope County are rebuilding their lives as best they can. Gathered together in Prosperity, a small fort built upon what was previously a ranch controlled by a villainous cult, the survivors try to rebuild from the fallout. Things are relatively peaceful until the Highwaymen come along. The Highwaymen travel the remains of civilization and pillage communities they find, so in their desperation, Prosperity reaches out to a would-be militia to help rebuild and fight back. If everything went smoothly there wouldn’t be much of a game, so of course those plans get up-ended and it falls to the player to push back against the raiders.
The crux of FCND revolves around rebuilding and upgrading Prosperity to defend against the Highwaymen and their overly violent twin sister leaders. This means going out into the remains of Hope County and scavenging materials wherever they can be found, which are then be invested in improving various facilities.
Upgrades generally allow for the crafting of better weaponry, stronger vehicles, or expanding resources like a garden which will produce explosives or salves for the injured, and so on. Plot advancement is gated by how many improvements to Prosperity have been made, but some of these upgrades are far more critical than others — for example, it’s nice to have the Training Grounds improve the strength of NPC companion characters who can help fight, but it’s outright mandatory to unlock the weapon station due to how combat works in New Dawn.
Unlike Far Cry 5, enemies in New Dawn have health bars and various ranks of toughness. Weapons also have an equivalent system, with higher quality gear doing more damage. Being within one rank is usually fine, but a gap greater than one level means it will take a ludicrous amount of shots to take them down. These elite soldiers often show up while trying to take over one of the many Outposts peppered throughout Hope County.
Enemy outposts are the main source of Ethanol, the key resource used to improve Prosperity. Conquering them is the most enjoyable part of nearly every Far Cry game, that holds true here. However, outposts were previously one-shot ordeals — Wipe everyone out, receive a reward, and move on. In New Dawn, taking control of an outpost gives two options. One, claim a small bit of Ethanol as a reward and move in to set up shop. Two, raid the entire area, suck up significantly more Ethanol, and leave the outpost empty. However, picking the second option means the Highwaymen will come back and in greater numbers, which translates into greater rewards for knocking it back down again. Every Far Cry game from here on out needs a similar setup.
If the outposts start to overstay their welcome, New Dawn also introduces a type of mission called an Expedition. These are supply raids deep inside Highwayman territory in places like an abandoned aircraft carrier, a theme park, or even Alcatraz. They’re quick little snippets of action where the goal is to infiltrate a well protected area, grab a cache of resources that will alert the entire zone, and get the hell out with your cargo.
Unfortunately, the Outposts and Expeditions are the only high points of New Dawn because the rest is absolutely forgettable. None of it is bad, per se, but there’s nothing that makes it stand out.
Let’s take Hope County itself, for example. For being a post-apocalyptic world, everything here sure looks pretty well off. Sure, everything is splashed in a coat of neon paint and the occasional mutated animal pops up, but for the most part, the entire valley looks like it was abandoned twenty years ago rather than getting nuked. Some the the buildings themselves look appropriately Mad Max-ish, but if New Dawn didn’t tell me explicitly what had happened, I’d just assume I was exploring some abandoned boomtown.
Another lost opportunity is that the upper third of a map is off-limits until the end, but when I was finally allowed to explore that zone, there was nothing there — no puzzle-like treasure hunts, no additional outposts to raid, nor any locations to find outside of the critical path. It was nothing but an empty area that feels like it exists simply to make the world seem bigger than it is.
With a smaller area to play around in, I expected what was present to be more refined and polished, but my issues with the AI in Far Cry 5 are here. Cars will keep running into each other, companions refuse to follow basic pathing, and NPCs will often run off in the middle of a conversation to fight a hostile down the road, forcing me to replay all of their dialogue once they get back. These were annoying in the previous game, but seeing them again a year after the previous entry, they’re downright infuriating.
However, the biggest sin that New Dawn commits is that its villains are boring. Far Cry as a series is supposed to have standout antagonists. It’s one of hallmarks, and the cover art for the boxes generally features the antagonists instead of the player’s hero. The twin sisters who lead the Highwaymen, Mickey and Lou, only have one setting, and it’s ‘violent as possible at all times‘. This one-dimensional tone makes them just as faceless and forgettable, and by the time these two start to show any sort of trait beyond murdering everyone, the credits are rolling.
The replayable Outposts and Expeditions are a blast (even moreso in co-op) and the mild RPG mechanics of base building is a great start, even if it needs to be expanded upon. However, in a larger sense, the adventure is brought down by a comparatively small size and cookie-cutter bad guys. New Dawn isn’t a terrible experience, but it would have been better served by being delivered as DLC material, not passed off as a full game.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Ubisoft. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode with another 2 hours in co-op, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Surfer Rock, Intense Violence, Extras From The 1986 Classic RAD!, Mild Sexual Themes, Albino Deer, Strong Language, Strange Fruit, and Use of Alcohol. This one is a hard M. There are scenes of people getting shot in the head, a first person view of being handcuffed and tortured, and hard cussing throughout the entire game.
Colorblind Modes: There is one colorblind mode.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles which can be resized and customized to include background noises as well. The subtitles also include the speaker’s name at the start of the conversation. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls are remappable.