Another in a long line of strange Far Cry spin-offs, New Dawn actually takes place after Far Cry 5. About 26 years after, to be precise, which takes the open-ended people-shooter into the post-apocalypse. Naturally, to explain why this is, there will be spoilers for the previous game in this review.
Consider yourselves warned…
So, Far Cry 5’s ending was the bomb. Literally. It ends with a nuclear bomb going off and, in a twisted way, vindicating Joseph Seed’s messianic predictions of doom. Then again all the murdering that his Project Eden’s Gate cult perpetrated throughout the game was still morally bad. Instead of taking up the mantle of the Deputy two decades later, New Dawn has you playing as a new character. This character is the Captain of Security for a man named Thomas Rush, who’s travelling across the USA, trying to reunite the survivors and restore law and order.
The game begins with you heading to Hope County on a train full of resources and people that, as is common for transports at the beginning of Far Cry games, quickly finds itself under attack. After a brief introduction to the Twins, the leaders of the Highwaymen, you find yourself at the town of Prosperity. This town will be your man base that you will be upgrading throughout the game using, for some reason, ethanol.
When capturing outposts in New Dawn, you earn ethanol to upgrade weapon/explosives/vehicle crafting facilities, gardens to grow herbs and increase maximum health or medkit efficacy, that kind of thing. When you capture an outpost you immediately have the option to scavenge the area to gain additional ethanol, handing it back to better equipped HIghwaymen that, if you defeat them again, award you with even more ethanol. It’s important to keep upgrading things as the important ones, namely the weapons/explosives crafting and improved health, can’t be upgraded fully without upgrading Prosperity as a whole, which is dependent on upgrading its constituent parts.
The hunt for ethanol can now take you on flyaway missions (once you’ve upgraded the Expeditions part of Prosperity), where you hop in a helicopter and fly off to different parts of the US, attacking Highwaymen bases and stealing their resources. With the game based on a transformed, edited version of Hope County from Far Cry 5, these offer some truly new scenery, from bridges crossing canyons to repurposed aircraft carriers. The mission is to get in, grab a cache of resources and escape to the chopper pick up zone with Highwaymen following the bag’s GPS tracking.
Instead of saving up your cash and buying them, weapon crafting if your path to new guns in New Dawn, pushing you to diversify in your hunt for resources. At least, that’s the idea, but in practise it doesn’t really make much difference until you get the highest level of weapons, which require resources that you can’t find until later in the game. Before then, you’ll be finding so much of everything that you will rarely even think about them as you’re crafting your weapons.
If you don’t have enough resources or simply can’t be bothered to wait, some of them can be bought with Far Cry coins before you’ve unlocked that tier of weaponry. Yup, microtransactions are here again, but they still don’t really seem to affect the game. They’re there as progress skips, but given the prevalence of resources they feel almost superfluous. That’s much better than feeling necessary, at least, and you can find coins in game.
The push for upgrading weapons comes from the increasingly difficult enemies, which symbolically gain extra bars of health and start to look more visually imposing. It’s another part of New Dawn’s light-as-anything RPG progression, but it does bump the difficulty up quite noticeably as you work through the increasingly difficult outposts. Come with level 2 guns to a level 3 fight and you’ll be pushed to come out on top as your stealth takedowns are off the table and silenced weapons ping off their armour.
Where a post-apocalyptic setting brings the expectation of survival mechanics, that’s not really the case and any introduction is skin deep at best, such as with upgrading Prosperity. The only actual differences to gameplay are picking up resources instead of piles of cash, that the world is even more overgrown, and your weapons say “makeshift” before their actual names. Except that “makeshift” weapons are the name given to the second tier of weaponry, which also includes named weaponry like “Hurk’s Wrath”, an LMG which certainly doesn’t look makeshift in the slightest.
The post-apocalyptic conceit seems to fray and tear a little where it was draped over the skeleton of a Far Cry game. Other than these changes mentioned above, there isn’t much that really feels different in New Dawn. If anything, there are things missing. For example, the roster of NPC support returns allowing you to take any one of eight support characters into combat, but Far Cry 5 allowed you to take two of them at a time, and none of these characters are flying helicopters or planes, though one of them is a wild boar.
The biggest difference between this and Far Cry 5, however, comes with its twin antagonists. The Twins are a bit Mad Max in appearance, but that’s sadly their most interesting feature. After Joseph Seed and his gaggle of unhinged lieutenants delivering dark, charismatic, often disturbing performances, the Twins are underwhelming. Thankfully, Joseph is still knocking around Hope County, where he has built a reserve with his remaining Peggies that the Highwaymen leave alone for some reason. New Dawn is at its most interesting when it is revealing what happened to Joseph and the rather unexpected turns his story has taken. It feels like the only place where the game really has a story to tell, as the rest of the time you’re just fighting some relatively uninteresting, but very numerous bandits.
This isn’t to say that the game isn’t fun, however. It’s still Far Cry, and if capturing outposts and completing quirky missions for quirky characters is your thing, then this game will be fun and it’ll look stunning whilst doing it. Sneaking through or blowing up enemy camps never ceases to be entertaining and the option to recapture them with harder opposition is a welcome addition. It’s just that, Far Cry 5 felt like a very well realised package; every menu, every mechanic, every building, and every scene all look specifically like Far Cry 5. New Dawn is lacking that quality, it feels looser, the plot isn’t as interesting, and many of the changes feel superfluous, but it’s still pretty fun.