|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal|
|Release: February 15, 2019|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Strong Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Blood, Use of Alcohol, Intense Violence|
by Lucas White
When we last left Far Cry, we were all confused. A global meltdown was apparently taking place during our battle with the Eden cult, and it came to a head just as the “Deputy” was set to take down “The Father.” A nuke went off, and we saw that Joseph Seed, rambling pseudo-right wing evangelist, was right all along about “The Collapse.” Whatever. Nobody plays Far Cry for the story, as we saw through the post-release discourse of Far Cry 5. Besides, the next game will be off to some other setting, some other larger than life situation, some other Big Bad to chase after. Right?
Wrong. Well, sort of.
Far Cry: New Dawn takes the ostensible spot of a Blood Dragon or a Primal, an apparent spinoff released at a sub-$60 price point with a modified version of the numbered game’s map. This time, most of that is true, except for the story part. New Dawn is a direct sequel to the ending of Far Cry 5, following the events of one of the two endings in which America (and perhaps the rest of the world) was lost to nuclear warfare. Several years have passed, with some people left over from before “The Collapse” and a totally new generation who has only known the post-apocalypse world. What follows is certainly a Far Cry game, but one that both wants to have fun with its new setting, as well as do more with the idea of being connected to the previous title. Does it actually accomplish anything interesting? Not really. This is pretty much just a video game-ass video game. But it gets weird sometimes, and we like weird.
It's hard to really get in on what New Dawn does and doesn’t accomplish, because that’s capital-S Spoiler territory. We can’t have that in the launch review. But what I will say is that there are plenty of revelatory moments as you make your way through the story, moments that significantly alter the state of the game in many ways. These are meant to illicit surprise in the player and get those brain gears turning. That’s especially true if you played Far Cry 5 and enjoyed the story, which may not be likely. Ultimately, while the twists and turns are fun in the moment, it’s hard by the end to determine what the goal is with all the direct sequel connections, other than narrative justifying some gameplay elements. Frankly, I think it undermines the more forward-facing story, causing that to fizzle out so it can make room for the “bigger picture.”
What I do what to talk about is New Dawn’s vision of what a Far Cry apocalypse looks like. The thing about this modern Far Cry is that the series is all about establishing mood via its setting. From the exoticism of Far Cry 3 to the haunting, wide open spaces of Far Cry 5, the location often serves as part of the story just by its presence. The same can be said of New Dawn’s transformed version of Hope County. This isn’t the usual dreary, dead wasteland you often see in the more survival porn sect of post-apoc genre work. Instead, this world has a renewed lease on life and a quiet optimism that is initially striking before all the video game shooty-bang kicks in. It’s impressively thoughtful and almost tricks you into thinking there might be more going on here than what I described above.
With that out of the way, while I came away from the storytelling frustrated, I still played New Dawn through to the end without getting tired of it. This is a fun game with a compelling gameplay loop, thanks to the addition of some new RPG elements. This may sound like marketing, but it manifests in the game quite literally. This time, as you loot, loot, and loot some more, you gain access to weapon crafting in progressing, color-coded tiers. It’s necessary, if you make it through the story and all the late challenges, to get to the yellow tier at a bare minimum. Since enemies also come with that color-coding, you’re going to have a bad time as the difficulty ramps up if you neglect to make better things.
To feed into this new tier system, there are some changes to what you do on the map besides the usual Far Cry formula. For example, instead of just capturing a bunch of outposts and moving on, you can actually “scavenge” a captured outpost, then leave it vulnerable for the roving Highwaymen bandits to recapture. The difficulty goes up a tier, and you can recapture it for further bonuses. These bonuses are then fed into your home base, which returns passive bonuses and more crafting options. It’s a satisfying loop, and it is only enhanced with a new type of mission called Expeditions.
Expeditions are a blast. Essentially, they’re “instanced” missions that take you away from the post-apocalyptic Hope County map. Each Expedition is essentially the same, as your goal doesn’t change. Find the hidden package, run to the extraction point, and last long enough for the helicopter to arrive and get you out. However, there is a surprisingly large list of stages, and each one is a different kind of map. Sometimes, you’re just rummaging through wreckage. Other times, you’re busting locks in a makeshift prison or running across a swamp caused by a massive airplane crash. Completing these give you crafting resources you’ll struggle to get elsewhere, making the effort worth it. Just like the outposts, retrying them bumps up the difficulty and reward potential.
As you make your way through the story, you are running around a constant loop of mission-reward-progress-repeat that, while microtransaction-adjacent, doesn’t feel terribly grindy. If it wasn’t for that usual Far Cry gameplay jank, such as horrible first-person driving sequences, spotty aim, glitches, omniscient enemy AI, and the occasional disproportionately bullet-sponge enemy, it would almost feel like a really well-balanced experience. That is, in terms of those RPG trimmings. Complicating that balance is your roster of guns for hire, which often ping-pong between being super useful and bumbling around to face-tank bullets. That said, it is fun to order them around and be rewarded with new passive abilities as they rack up kills. If you resign yourself to not caring about stealth, even better.
From a big picture perspective, Far Cry: New Dawn is fine. It hits a lot of checkboxes that have come to define what Far Cry is and manages to wring some newness and intrigue out of its reused map. While the storytelling is even more unfocused than the previous game (though much less disappointing, due to a noticeable walkback on pretense), new gameplay additions like breezy RPG progression and the Expedition missions make it a fun ride all the way through. Far Cry: New Dawn still has a lot of familiar snags, but the overall experience makes for a solid weekend or two of Hollywood-style gaming.
Writing Team Lead