It would be fair to say Far Cry: New Dawn needs no introduction. While it has enjoyed a sea spray in the ocean of marketing Far Cry 5 received – it’s a Far Cry game. For the most part we know what we are going to get. Like the Marvel movies of today, Far Cry has become a franchise that consistently offers dependable entertainment. That same addictive gameplay loop, doomed to come to a sudden end after so many dozens of hours of open world play is still here.
While New Dawn does not succeed in reinventing the Far Cry wheel, Ubisoft’s creative aptitude has seen to it that this game is no simple copy/paste/reskin job as many cynical online forum commenters would have you believe. It succeeds in doing all those other dependable entertainment things and it is worth bearing in mind that New Dawn is releasing today at $10 less than typical triple A asking price. From the get go, we’re looking at a product that already offers value to the customer. In this review, let’s get into the specifics of that value proposition, Ubisoft’s changes and whether those changes will be appealing to seasoned Far Cry gamers.
In the eyes of some, Far Cry: New Dawn is a game that has turned out a little like the Han Solo movie. It is a game that nobody particularly asked for but is there anyway. Like the Han Solo movie, New Dawn is a perfectly serviceable piece of entertainment. Well… it’s more than that. It’s great even. The driving reason for New Dawn’s intriguing gameplay elements that hint at the future of Far Cry is its premise. No doubt, in Ubisoft’s collective mind, there was an understanding of how Far Cry 5’s story ended rather… abruptly. Joseph Seed never got the comeuppance we were expecting and heck, the apocalypse happened to top it all off (I think we’re a bit past spoiler warnings at this point).
The efforts that New Dawn’s heroes and villains go to in order to survive the colourful and hostile new world are heavily reminiscent of The Walking Dead. An overarching theme of “everyone must pull together but they’re all trying to kill each other anyway” has always existed in Far Cry. Although, in the context of a post apocalyptic Hope County, all the conflict sits a little more comfortably in this setting.
The player begins the game escaping the wreckage of a train. That train carried a large troupe of post-apocalyptic Robin Hoods, if you will. Their mission was to explore America and set up self sufficient new communities to rebuild civilisation. Of course, it all comes crashing to a literal halt, once the new baddies get involved – the Highwaymen. A little odd that this massive band of organised thugs have all managed to find off road motocross trousers and menacingly customised helmets for themselves, but hey, it’s a videogame. This first scene, like any other Far Cry, is there to show the player the big bad. The twins, embodying brains and brawn respectively who must be dethroned. This clever story mechanic, like Far Cry 5 before it, means the player is incentivised to whoop wholesale ass for the greater good.
While the “feel like you want to riggety wreck these mofos” ethos is here and strong in Far Cry: New Dawn, its story still suffers from the same old jarring moments. The Highwaymen’s first siege on your HQ, Prosperity, is woefully underwhelming following its tense buildup. Some characters remain needlessly quirky in a world that really isn’t asking for them to be. Despite these moments of drab, Far Cry 5 fans will have older but familiar faces to return to. Nick Rye and his family return, alongside Grace Armstrong and Pastor Jerome bellowing holy sermons at his foes while gunning them down never gets old. There are plenty of new and interesting characters to accompany you on your journey of retribution, leading us nicely into gameplay.
These old familiar faces and the new ones too, return for the specialist system that debuted in Far Cry 5. This is a system that many of us are familiar with and there’s nothing new or groundbreaking here to report. The same level of applying tactics (if you are so inclined instead of running and gunning while enjoying a generous pool of health points) remains. Unfortunately what also remains after Far Cry 5 is the wonky A.I. Specialists as killing machines are generally better at their jobs when they’re not so insistent on faceplanting a tree or getting really fascinated with a trash can.
Where Ubisoft is liable to surprise Far Cry veterans (as it may be seen as a liability to some) is its new RPG-lite system. Far Cry has always dipped its toes into the pool of RPG mechanics and, to be clear, it’s not jumping right in this time either. So much as shoving a leg in. Enemies this time around will be tiered. Health bars display as either rank one, two or three and your effectiveness in battling these enemies will depend on whether your own gear matching in rank.
That patting down animation that has been around since Far Cry 3? It’s is no longer around and it’s just as well as the player will be doing a heck of a lot of looting. That looting produces a not so wide suite of crafting materials which not only allow you to improve Prosperity as a homebase that offers gameplay benefits, but also – your weapons. If the patting-down-dead-body-looting animation remained, that gear grind would be an enormous chore. So really, this was a smart move.
This new world of half-assed RPG mechanics can lead to bears that take dozens of flying circular saws to the face before dying. It could be all too easy to say Far Cry’s typical playground of destruction is now under an RPG stranglehold. It isn’t. Any gamer worth his salt loves a loot grind and making new things as a result of their efforts. As basic as that loot grind was in the case of New Dawn, I was well and truly hooked, hungry to transform Prosperity from a giant shack into a palace. Circular saw eating bears and all.
One wasted opportunity however, was the lack of imagination applied to weaponry. The brutal circular saw launcher seen in the trailers is the only whacky weapon available to craft, with everything else being a slap dash reskinned version of Far Cry 5’s existing weaponry. This has relegated the so called “weapon crafting system” to a mere shop where the currency is your loot. What a wasted opportunity on Ubisoft’s part. This could even be construed as lazy. BUT there’s no denying that Far Cry 5’s weaponry wasn’t broke before and it frankly didn’t need fixing now. Everything feels as mechanically tight as ever. It’s just a shame a little creativity wasn’t poured into imaginative weaponry as seen in the likes of Dead Rising.
Exploring the new wasteland version of Hope County is an utter delight as well. Even more so depending on how thoroughly you explored Far Cry 5’s world. Exploring the remains of the Peggies’ bunker, graffitis of sins dotted about the walls exactly where they used to be brings a flood of memories back and, by proxy, gives this world more believability through the strength of its past events alone. Old safe havens are now Highwaymen outposts and depending on which specialist you bring with you, dialogue will spring up about “what this place used to be”.
Speaking of outposts, New Dawn is still a checklist of things to do and places to liberate. Although, Ubisoft seems to be aware of that “doomed to come to a sudden end” problem Far Cry 5 suffered from. In New Dawn, we can opt to scrap a liberated outpost for instant resource gain. The Highwaymen will retake it, this time a lot tougher at a higher rank and the player can choose to take it back from them again, garnering more resources as a result of the added challenge. A very smart move on Ubisoft’s part, if a little uninspired.
Graphics and Sound
As I play through New Dawn, I am constantly reminded of those cynical social media forums I mentioned earlier. Already disillusioned with that ridiculous live action trailer, fans gathered in flocks to criticise New Dawn’s drastic new colour scheme. Why does everything have to be pink now? A question I can’t strictly answer except to say that the world has remade itself after nuclear apocalypse.
Why are irradiated areas in Fallout green and not brown or blue? It was a design choice and pink being a particularly loud colour, a smart one. Had New Dawn’s landscapes, filled as they are with dead trees, been a solid sheet of grey and brown, there would be next to no colour at all and the pink blossoms offset this beautifully. Had everything come back green, then the reskin complainers would be even more vehement. My point has been driven home here I think.
We all know how beautiful Far Cry 5 was, especially on PC, and New Dawn is of course no exception. The Dunia Engine, iterated upon since the arrival of Far Cry 2, is beginning to show its age but with careful application of volumetric lighting and one of the smoothest day to night transitions I have ever seen in gaming, my hat goes off to Ubisoft even if perhaps, most of the work was done in development of Far Cry 5.
New Dawn’s soundtrack occasionally creeps in to grace our ears from time to time with the highlight absolutely being the combat music. A subtle blend of slow bass beats with a techy vibe fits perfectly with the post apocalyptic theme of the game and more than does its job in building tension and seriousness. Again, that seriousness brings us full circle to the jarring nature of how stupid the A.I. is but we won’t go round in circles here.
The Highwaymen and their leaders, The Twins, seem to be big fans of the most obnoxious brand of hip hop as it bellows out of every vehicle and outpost. It was hard not to see this as Ubisoft trying to get in with the cool kids but somehow finding a way to spill their beer all over them instead. A little variation in the thugs’ taste in music would have gone a long way as I was newly incentivised to shoot their stupid boomboxes just for some peace and quiet. But hey, maybe you’re a fan of obnoxious hip hop?