Ubisoft have really settled into a groove with their Far Cry series, with every numbered entry followed by a named game with a more unusual setting and plot. After Far Cry 3, there was the 80s sci-fi schlock of Blood Dragon, after 4 there was the neanderthal adventures of Primal, and now 5 is being followed by New Dawn. Outside of splashing the world with post-apocalyptic pink flowers, New Dawn actually makes some rather intriguing changes to the series while still being the open world shooter that we all know.
Please note: Far Cry series spoilers lie below the following video.
Where the other spin offs were set in their own bubbles, Far Cry New Dawn is a pretty direct follow-on from Far Cry 5. Far Cry Primal also reused and adapted the world map from Far Cry 4, but New Dawn continues on the story from the main doomsday ending of Far Cry 5. Joseph Seed was right about the impending apocalypse, and this game picks up seventeen years later, as nature and mankind have started to bounce back. The world has become overgrown with foliage, lightly mutated animals like deer with glowing red horns have emerged, and little settlements of survivors have sprung up.
With that comes new good guys and new bad guys. From bomb shelters of Hope County, the town of Prosperity sprouted and created an almost idyllic world, until the Highwaymen and the twins Mickey and Lou appeared to disrupt that peacefulness. You don’t play as one of those who’s been living in the bunkers, but rather one of Thomas Rush’s lieutenants, who’s been travelling across the country looking to help and reunite the many isolated communities of the United States. That mission goes a bit sideways, leaving you, once again, as the only one who can really fight back.
Venturing out from Prosperity, the world has clearly been transformed on a number of levels. You can see the scars of the old world as you head out and revisit some of the landmarks from Far Cry 5 – in fact, New Dawn gives you in-game photos of these landmarks to hunt down to get a visual comparison – and it provides a great background for the game’s narrative to work through.
It goes beyond just being a new story though, with what Ubisoft call ‘light’ RPG levelling. Your character doesn’t actually change as you play, but rather the town, your weapons and the enemies can grow and evolve. For the town, you’re heading out and fighting the Highwaymen in order to get the ethanol and other requirements to upgrade the various parts of the town, which in turn open up new gear and gameplay possibilities.
Enemies also now come in several different forms, gaining armour and more powerful weaponry as they level up. They also get a good chunk of extra health, which is signified by the split health bars above their heads. The biggest and baddest of them are a serious challenge to take on, even if you’re well equipped for the situation and have levelled up your guns!
Speaking of which, a new saw gun is a whole lot of fun, as it silently fires saw-blades at enemies. It feels like a great option for stealth, but the way they can ricochet is a bit of a double-edged… saw if you’re trying to approach without raising the alarm. The main problem is that you might have got a perfect headshot off on a guard, only for the saw blade to seemingly find itself magnetically attracted to the nearest explosive barrel. There goes your attempt at tackling the outpost unnoticed!
One major new feature from previous Far Cry games is that the Highwaymen can come and reclaim land and outposts from you, but instead of having this as a dynamic war that shifts battle lines back and forth, it’s more scripted to player desires. In order to get the Highwaymen to return, you have to decide to scavenge an outpost for resources and hand it back to them. They then roll in with more powerful troops to guard it and you can retake it for higher rewards. On the one hand it’s a shame that this isn’t more fluid and natural feeling, but it avoids the frustration of having outposts you captured being overrun and having to respond to calls for help from the other side of the map every few minutes.
It’s all about giving more option and choice to the player, and that’s made even broader when you consider the Expeditions. These let you head off to other parts of the country in a chopper to take on smaller contained scenarios, with the sole objective being to get into a Highwaymen base, steal their supplies and then get out and survive until you can be picked up. They range from the Navajo desert to a reclaimed aircraft carrier with Highwaymen racing around the runway. I found the first of these to be really rather challenging, as I snuck onto an old aircraft carrier, grabbed the package and then inevitably died on the beaches.
One thing that could have helped would have been to tap into the returning Guns for Hire and Fans for Hire systems, so that I could have some backup. You’ve got new ones like Timber the dog and Horatio the wild boar, as well as some rather unique humans, but it’s also good to see some returning faces here, such as Grace, even if she’s now blind and much less use as a sniper! Alternatively, the whole game can still be played in co-op, and that can really help to disrupt the higher levelled enemies at certain outposts. I had my buddy leading one of the highest level gold tier enemies around while I tried to drop mortar shells on its head, for example, and it actually worked a treat!
Stepping out from the ashes of the old world, there’s a lot that’s familiar in Far Cry New Dawn, but there’s also some quite deep changes to the balance and difficulty as well. The minimalist enemy and weapon levelling adds a lot of challenge to the game, if you want it, while the flyaway Expeditions are interesting sandbox missions that add variety to what is a clearly reused, but transformed Hope County.