New Dawn gives Far Cry fans more of what they love, for better or for worse.
Far Cry is one of Ubisoft’s premiere franchises. Since the third title back in 2012, the Far Cry franchise has consistently adhered to the same formula, only slightly deviating from entry to entry. Where the Far Cry team got to really try out new ideas was with the spin-offs. Blood Dragon completely transformed Far Cry 3 into a Tron-infused 80s romp, while Primal took Far Cry 4 back to the stone age. Now Far Cry 5’s spin-off, New Dawn, is here. So what new ideas does it bring to the table? And more importantly, how fun is it?
"Set seventeen years after the explosive events of Far Cry 5, the story of New Dawn focuses on survivors trying to scrape out a living in Hope County, Montana after nuclear fallout."
Set seventeen years after the explosive events of Far Cry 5, the story of New Dawn focuses on survivors trying to scrape out a living in Hope County, Montana after nuclear fallout. In the wake of such destruction, communities have popped up to bring back something close to civilization. However, a group known as the Highwaymen have also popped up, and are looking to prey on the weak in post-nuked Montana. You play as “Captain,” who gets ambushed on their way to bring supplies to Prosperity, a safe haven for the resident survivors. After escaping that sticky situation, you’re pretty much free to explore however you see fit.
Far Cry has always placed heavy emphasis on the villains, and New Dawn doesn’t disappoint. The twins Mickey and Lou serve as your antagonists for this outing. In classic Far Cry tradition, you’ll only be introduced long enough to see them posture about and kill someone briefly before you’re off figuring out how to thwart their plans. You don’t interact with them much through the story, but it’s interesting to see how their ideologies really come into their own over the course of the game. The two’s manic yet serene nature also reminded me a lot of past baddie Vaas. Mickey and Lou also seem to have gotten most of the effort put into their characters. Compared to them, the rest of the game’s entourage comes off pretty standard, or even flat out annoying. This doesn’t detract from the game much though, since story really isn’t the reason you’re playing New Dawn for.
The real attraction here is in the gameplay, and what’s here is pretty fun for a Far Cry title. New Dawn reuses a lot of assets and animations from Far Cry 5, and although it doesn’t push many boundaries, it’s still serviceable enough to be engaging. You’ll still be spending most of your time shooting, driving, and climbing all over irradiated Montana. Gunplay feels good, and you can access anything in your arsenal at a moment’s notice from a quick weapon wheel. You have a bunch of throwable weapons, like knives and molotovs, that you can craft on the fly as well. Do you approach a situation with some stealth, sneaking through tall grass and taking out guards quietly with throwable knives? Or do you barge in, guns blazing with a saw blade launcher and molotovs at the ready? The choice is yours: New Dawn is more than happy to give you options.
"The real attraction here is in the gameplay, and what’s here is pretty fun for a Far Cry title. New Dawn reuses a lot of assets and animations from Far Cry 5, and although it doesn’t push many boundaries, it’s still serviceable enough to be engaging."
Most of the gameplay in New Dawn is in the pursuit of materials. Whether this be from plants, wildlife, or just random junk lying around, all of the objects you pick up serve an important purpose. Materials can be used at workbenches to craft new and more powerful weapons. These weapons come in different tiers, with the higher tiers requiring more materials, which will be required to take down some of the higher tiered enemies later in the game.
If you explore the world, pick up the resources, and complete side missions, you’ll have more materials than you know what to do with. You essentially scavenge for materials, in order to make better weapons, in order to make finding materials easier. The gameplay loop is very clearly a grind, but it’s an enjoyable one at least.
Most of the missions you’ll be playing through will involve liberating an area from hostiles or retrieving an item for an NPC, although you’ll occasionally also be treated to a turret section or Exhibition missions where you have to grab a package and hold out against enemies. Additionally, emergent scenarios will always spring up while you’re exploring Montana. You can barely go five minutes without seeing a tanker of supplies barreling down the road, or a group of survivors fighting around a supply drop. The world of New Dawn feels alive with all the NPCs and wildlife around. And even though these random events repeat themselves far too often, there’s always something to do if you look for it.
You’ll be in charge of growing Prosperity throughout your time in Montana. Upgrading your home base can unlock things like more fast travel locations, increased health, and tougher vehicles. You can find companions in the game who will be happy to accompany you, and these companions can be made stronger at base as well. As you improve life at Prosperity, you’ll notice the residents also becoming more satisfied with their lives. Children will play around and people will start to paint your home base. Although it’s purely cosmetic, it really helps make it feel like you’re making a difference in the lives of these survivors.
"Small decisions make the world of New Dawn seem real, and the attention to detail on display is one of the game’s biggest strengths."
Another thing that New Dawn gets right is the way its look. Montana looks really beautiful, considering it’s a post-nuclear area. Instead of going for a gritty, washed-out apocalyptic vibe, New Dawn paints all the landscapes in neon colors, from the rolling hillsides to the man-made structures. Even the wildlife is affected, tinting the fur of wolves and mutating the whole look of cougars. It’s a pleasant shift, and it demonstrates that things are a lot different from the last time you were here in Montana. There are also other touches that bring the world to life- weapons look like they’re cobbled together and held together with duct tape. The Highwaymen aren’t decked out in military-grade body armor; they’re using beat-up motocross gear. Small decisions like these make the world of New Dawn seem real, and the attention to detail on display is one of the game’s biggest strengths.
If there’s one flaw that holds New Dawn back from being a truly great game, it’s the braindead AI. Although they can hold their own in a firefight, your companions have a lot of pathfinding issues. This can lead to frustrating issues where you get separated from a friendly and have to watch helplessly as they get gunned down from behind a wall. Enemies don’t fare much better. Your foes will constantly get stuck on geometry and will often disregard their own wellbeing in the middle of a firefight just to run out and revive a downed comrade. There was a turret section early on in the game, where I had to hold off enemies closing in on my vehicle. But once I saw my supposed assailants continue to crash into one another, I stopped shooting for the rest of the mission and emerged unscathed from the mission. It’s too bad, because otherwise great set-pieces can be ruined just by incompetent AI.
New Dawn also lets you play through the entire game in online co-op. Although I was not able to try this out, if any of the past games are anything to go by, this game will also be a blast to play with a friend. All of New Dawn’s content seems open enough for another player to fit in just as easily as your computer-controlled helpers do. The thought of running from irradiated bears together with a friend seems too good to pass up.
"Even though it doesn’t radically change the formula from Far Cry 5, New Dawn is still an enjoyable time."
Far Cry New Dawn is a fun time. It’s an enjoyable romp through a beautiful world filled with destruction. Even though it doesn’t radically change the formula from Far Cry 5, it’s still an enjoyable time. While some fans may be disappointed that there wasn’t more of a departure like in previous spin-offs Blood Dragon and Primal, it’s hard to be disappointed with the overall package when the gameplay that is here is so good.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Gorgeous art style; Responsive and fun combat; Great world-building.
Abysmal AI; Lacking characters and story.
Although it plays it a little safe, Far Cry New Dawn is an enjoyable entry into the franchise that should go over well with fans.