Far Cry 5’s ending was ballsy to say the least. It’s very rare for a AAA game to have an ending that subverts expectations. Which makes the release of Far Cry New Dawn all the more of a whimper due to how it takes all the tension from the shocking ending. Not to mention being released only 11 months after Far Cry 5. It makes feel like New Dawn more of an expansion pack than a full fledged game. While it does recycle the map of Hope County from the last guy, New Dawn still does a few things to make the journey back worthwhile.
Seventeen years after the events of Far Cry 5, a group of survivors emerge after the last game’s cataclysm. However, despite the optimistic outlook in this dystopian future, there is the looming threat of the highwaymen, led by the sadistic twins Mickey and Lou. Carmina, the daughter of the survivors’ leader, goes off to recruit Thomas Rush, a man that can help them rebuild their stronghold “Prosperity”. Rush is also accompanied by “The Captain”, who is the player’s character. The Captain must help the people of Prosperity to fend off the twins, and find out the mysteries behind the now desolate Hope County, Montana.
The premise, while interesting, suffers mostly from the characters themselves. Carmina is a typical good girl who has to become a warrior, Rush is a nobleman, and the rest of the Prosperity crew is as generic as they come. Even the more colorful characters that show up feel rather cartoonish and gimmicky than real people. The saving grace are the two twins. Both command a lot of charisma and they have the savagery to boot. They may not be on the same level of Vaas from Far Cry 3, but at least they stand out in a cast of bland and forgettable faces. However, there are a few callbacks to Far Cry 5, including ones that fans of that game might enjoy.
New Dawn gives players the entirety of the new Hope County to explore. The area is teeming with missions to accomplish, resources to gather and of course, enemies to shoot. While a lot of the story missions are entertaining, resource gathering becomes a key element this time around. Due to the lack of resources, many factions were forced to scrounge any scraps they could find for makeshift weapons. Thus a lot of the weaponry in New Dawn looks amateurish in design, but has a similar punch.
While the game features the traditional selection of guns like handguns, sniper rifles and so forth, the scene stealer is the Saw Launcher. This hulking piece of weaponry launches razor sharp metal disc at unsuspecting opponents at blistering speeds. It’s so effective, in fact, that it far surpasses all the other weapons. While close ranged weapons like shotguns do a good job dispatching foes, long range weapons like sniper rifles never felt right. Maybe it’s because you have to hold your breath for accuracy, but even so it feels finicky. One of the most cardinal sins of a shooting game is if the shooting itself doesn’t feel right.
That being said, at least shooting is functional, unlike driving. There are a myriad of different vehicles in New Dawn; from ATVs, cars and trucks. While each vehicle performs differently, they all share a similar problem, the controls. Moving the right analog stick while controlling the vehicle with the left can be disorienting to say the least. It doesn’t help that the map is fraught with so many objects like rocks or trees. They were a bit too easy to bump into, stopping the momentum. This becomes so tedious that I found myself preferring to jump from one mission point to another just to avoid having to use a vehicle. Unless of course it is absolutely necessary since swimming long distances is daunting and a boat definitely saves precious time.
Despite the traversal being annoying, there are still a lot of good things splattered throughout New Dawn. One of the main goals is to improve Prosperity by investing resources into specific quadrants. For example, investing in the explosives department will make better explosives. There is something addicting of performing various tasks and seeing how the effort into improving the facility actually makes progression more meaningful.
That being said, the game borrows the lite-RPG mechanics from the recent Assassin Creed titles. Enemies will have their own respective levels. This means that even a weapon that would theoretically level a house like an RPG (at level 1), it barely dents an elite soldier. In theory it makes sense that players would want to upgrade their gear to become better. Sadly, this feature feels rather forced. It’s especially ridiculous when an elite handgun can eliminate a soldier faster than the aforementioned level 1 RPG.
Thankfully the perk system does alleviate some of the
frustrations. By performing challenges such as getting a certain amount of
kills with a weapon or taking over outposts, players are granted with perk
points. Those can be used to upgrade skills like better lung capacity for
swimming and sniping, picking locks, and the ever necessary ability to carry an
But it wouldn’t be a Far Cry game without its fantastical elements. Halfway through the game, some new perks can be activated that grant more supernatural abilities such as a double jump or super strength. Having a crazy array of superpowers is perhaps the biggest draw of New Dawn. It’s incredibly exhilarating taking on a group of armed thugs with just bare knuckles.
The game can also be played with a friend, and while it is a
welcomed feature, solo players can use guns for hire to help them out. Each of
the eight guns for hire have their own unique characteristic, like an older
lady who is a precise sniper or a pastor with a shutgun. While they sound
great, at the end of the day they don’t inflict enough damage to warrant their
usefulness as the player does most of the work.
More than often the best perk of having them around is the instance in which death happens and they swoop in to revive you. This is also a double edge sword since guns for hire also die a lot and they need to be revived or else they can’t help in the mission until they are properly revived. At times it feels more like an escort mission than it does having an AI companion that helps out.
New Dawn has a unique take on the dystopian future. On one hand it takes inspiration from Mad Max with its grungy vehicles and the highwaymen’s gear, but on the other hand all the structures have a bright neon pink flair to them. In addition there are many pink flowers that bloom which contrasts the greenery of the trees and valleys. It makes the environment stand out despite the reuse of previous assets.
Unfortunately character models suffer greatly in comparison. While some cutscenes look good, especially the ones featuring the twins, during gameplay both NPCs and AI companions have stiff movements to them without much finesse. There isn’t much in the ways of music due to the choice of mostly sticking to ambience, but there are some licensed tracks during key missions. Those moments are rare, and as a whole the score isn’t anything to write home about.
While there’s plenty of fun to have in the game, especially with a friend, Far Cry New Dawn feels even more derivative and clunky than the last game. There’s some great mechanics such as the perks system, unique mission variety, hunting for animals and even some of the weapons can be fun to use. But the mangled progression system, dull storytelling, finicky shooting and the abysmal vehicle controls damper the fun overall. Fans of the franchise will find plenty to enjoy, but New Dawn is a far cry from the series’ best.