Ubisoft’s Far Cry New Dawn is a standalone sequel to last year’s Far Cry 5 that is set 17 years after the nuclear bomb dropped in Hope County. New Dawn differs from other titles like the Metro and Fallout games in how it wants to portray the world following a nuclear explosion. Instead of adhering to the typical dystopian world that is brought on by a nuclear apocalypse, Ubisoft has decided to create a more colorful and insane world akin to previous Far Cry titles in which a nuclear winter has allowed for a super bloom to occur. The game provides plenty of call-backs to Far Cry 5, new challenges, and a major overhaul to its mechanics that provides for an interesting experience to say the least. That can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you experience it.
New Dawn‘s existence is still somewhat perplexing. Yes, the new RPG system is a welcome addition that has been desperately needed following the middling experience some felt that they were provided by the last four entries in the Far Cry series. It is not a colossal deviation from Far Cry 5, which itself was still conforming to the established formula from the last few games before that, but it still finds a way to “reboot” certain features or add on to them in such a way that increases player immersion and engagement. This revamp does work for the most part, but not as well as other formula overhauls in other Ubisoft titles. I wouldn’t go in hoping that it does to Far Cry what Assassin’s Creed Origins did for Assassin’s Creed. That would be setting oneself up for disappointment.
A lot of these innovations are indicative that the Far Cry franchise, despite being an interesting concept and an interesting world has no overarching identity like other Ubisoft franchises do. One minute it wants to be this full-on mature first person shooter with a story to match and the next it wants to serve primarily as some insane open-world RPG with all the bells and whistles. New Dawn unfortunately runs into that same problem just like its predecessors and I can’t help but ask how this happened. How did Ubisoft go from something so game-changing like Far Cry 3 to something as vanilla or safe as this
Narratively, New Dawn‘s story is problematic due to its connections to Far Cry 5 and invalidates the choices that players made at the end of that game. After countless hours of fighting to liberate Hope County from Eden’s Gate, players are treated to a multiple choice situation. They can either walk away and let the cult continue terrorizing the people of Hope County or arrest their charismatic leader, Joseph Seed. The latter ending contains a nuclear explosion, which you flee from and ends with your character being locked in the bunker where you started the game alongside Seed. Far Cry New Dawn’story is born from this decision, which robs the franchise of player agency. Something that Ubisoft has claimed they are committed to supporting.
17 years after the events of Far Cry 5 you re-enter Hope County as an entirely new character. The world has returned to some semblance of normalcy with people coming out of their bunkers and rebuilding their communities after a random nuclear bomb was decidedly dropped in Montana by some anonymous country. Of course that normalcy never lasts because this is a Far Cry game and it wouldn’t be one if there was no insanity in the mix. This time the chaos is brought on by a gang called the Highwaymen, who have a particular interest in pink, Die Antwoord, and motocross. The gang is lead by twin sisters, Mickey and Lou, who are your cliche mustache twirling villains that rant on about how obsessed they are with power and how they’ll do anything to keep it. They lack the complexity and charisma of fellow Far Cry rogues like Vaas Montenegro, Pagan Min, and Joseph Seed who had mostly well-thought out motives that went beyond your generic lusts for power. Those were antagonists that you could love to hate, which can often be a sign of a well-written antagonist. With the twins, you just hate them because they are as paper thin as their motives.
Anyways, these two power hungry twins have created an entire network of Highwaymen in which they have complete dominance over major states like Florida and California. When you have control over places like that which have more vital resources why exactly would you have an interest in terrorizing a small town of little importance like the game’s Prosperity? Your character obviously is dragged into this mess to liberate the people in Hope County from these Highwaymen, but why did the Highwaymen develop an interesting in a place that is nowhere near as interesting as San Francisco?
New Dawn makes it a point to say that they came to Hope County for a train with some loot on it, but when they finally get what they came for they still stay. There is nothing else in that region that is of strategic or economic importance. I’m not some infrastructural expert who would know exactly what to do after the world is decimated by a nuclear bomb, but I can’t imagine experts having an interest in a small community like Hope County. If I was the leader of this band of thugs I wouldn’t really stay somewhere that’s occupied by evangelical psychos, rednecks, and obsessive gun nuts.
If New Dawn‘s story was tweaked a little bit and had no narrative ties to Far Cry 5 I wouldn’t think so negatively about it. It has a lot of ideas thrown in that would make for a pretty solid post-apocalyptic entry in the franchise. This is a story that would have benefited from being completely separate from Far Cry 5′s continuity. More importantly, it should have embraced the gritty and morally grey realism that was present in Far Cry 2, but that isn’t what we got. You could have just wandered around this desolate wasteland as a lone scavenger who is going about their business looking for precious loot, occasionally align yourself with some morally questionable characters, and get into fights with people who are just trying to survive, just like you. There’s plenty of interesting narratives that could be spun just from that. We’ve seen it done countless times over the years with a variety of different games.
New Dawn‘s story wants to be a direct sequel that does its own thing while still wanting to revisit the narrative of Eden’s Gate and Joseph Seed, which takes place later on in the game. Once I got through to that part of the story I was a little confused because it was a little too off the wall, even by Far Cry standards. I put down my controller and had to really think about what direction this specific title went down, which as of this writing I am still unsure of.
Of course you could argue that this is something fresh and Ubisoft creating this deviant experience is a great thing, but I disagree. I disagree mainly because as previously stated Far Cry‘s identity issues prevent New Dawn from being the meta entry that it desperately fights to be. It teeters between being a realistic post-apocalyptic venture and a crazy outing into the unknown in such way that is beyond jarring. I think that Ubisoft hasn’t fully decided whether they want this franchise to be based on science fiction like Blood Dragon or grounded in the bleak world of Far Cry 2 or 3. Eventually, they will have to arrive at a conclusion and hopefully they come to it soon. Fans can only wait so long for a genuine response that may still end up upsetting them anyways. Either way they are left with two options: commit to a single overarching tone or scrap the franchise and call it a day.
Despite this though New Dawn isn’t necessarily an awful experience. On a technical level, I think it is the strongest entry in the series now with its minor and major quality of life changes that made this a refreshing return to the Far Cry world. That is saying quite a bit given how Far Cry 5 made some considerable changes and improvements to the Far Cry formula as well. For example, the game removed the need to climb towers to discover areas like in previous installments and instead favored a more organic form of discovery that primarily involved advancing through the story and participating in side-quests.
Comparatively, those changes are trivial compared to New Dawn‘s near total revamping. The biggest example of this is its tiered loot system, which is a lot more simplistic than you think when you hear that word. Unlike looter-shooters such as Destiny and The Division it does not have an overly complex system that takes time to study with over a million different levels of gearing being at the player’s disposal. Everything is divided up into four tiers, and it only applies to the weapons you unlock throughout your travels. That is a big difference compared to prior Far Cry entries and it impacts how you’re able to advance through the story. In previous entries you would just have venture through the world and easily get a hold of the weapon you want whenever you want it. In New Dawn, you have to earn that weapon.
Naturally, you can’t completely eradicate that safe way of playing and New Dawn does not do that at all, but it will take you a couple of hours before you can get to where you want to be. You start out with the lowest tier of guns, which is primarily a bunch of rusty weapons. These weapons have zero stability, deal limited damage, and other weaknesses that make you evaluate what sort of situations you should get into. You aren’t given any other choice but to upgrade your weapons to give yourself that edge in a fight against the Highwaymen so if you want to take on some Tier 2 enemies then you’d best have a Tier 2 weapon or higher.
To gain access to these higher tier weapons you’ll need to upgrade the weapons workshop at your base via acquiring ethanol. Ethanol is a rare resource in the game that you can acquire by taking over outposts. The more difficult the outpost the more ethanol you’ll acquire. You can also find ethanol by stealing trucks carrying it that are driving all over the map. Now because this is the nuclear apocalypse there is a caveat that comes with this requirement to craft better weapons. You have to explore the world to find other important resources like gears, springs, and other important items, but it’s not a hard thing to do. Every place you go or dead body that you loot has something that can help you with that, but it can still be taxing if you lack the patience for that kind of thing.
It’s a repetitive cycle as you eventually get to Tiers 3 and 4, each time causing you to inflict more damage on your enemies and unlock better attachments and overall weaponry. It is a bit of a grind like your average RPG, but it also teaches you to be more resourceful in how you approach a situation. New Dawn gets you into the habit of picking up and using weapons that you presumably would rather avoid like shotguns, which even at the lowest tier are quite effective in taking on enemies of a higher tier. While these typical RPG elements provide for a typical grind it also provides for a feeling of accomplishment when you finally hit that level you dreamed of being at.
Upgrades in New Dawn do not end at weapons either. Like in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, you’ll find yourself upgrading your own home base. Each upgrade gives you things like health bonuses, access to better vehicles, fast travel, and numerous others. Ethanol is required for these upgrades as well, which can be acquired by giving up old outposts that you’ve taken control to your enemies and then letting them re-occupy it with higher tiered enemies. These re-occupied outposts can be retaken three times, each with differing difficulty level and each providing special items for your character. It adds a lot more to an 10-15 hour game, which is standard for a Far Cry spin-off title.
The newest feature that I enjoyed most about New Dawn is the expeditions, which takes you out of Hope Country. Expedition are like outposts, but on steroids and are custom maps that are built around famous landmarks like Alcatraz and occupied by a lot of enemies. The objective of the expeditions is for players to get in, grab a package, and wait for a helicopter extraction while they fend off an endless onslaught of enemies whose goal is to stop you. It feels like the survival mode from The Division and it is the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced in the Far Cry franchise. It does a great job at painting how incredibly different the world is even outside of Hope County and makes for an immersive experience that makes me hope that Ubisoft decides to make it a permanent feature in future entries.
Overall, Far Cry New Dawn makes some impressive changes and once again creates an incredibly distinct world that is worth exploring. The loot system, weapons system, expeditions, and revised outpost system are some of the biggest highlights that make it worth playing. With this in mind I would say that New Dawn has set a high technical standard for Far Cry 6 whenever it comes out and provided a much stronger foundation for it.
However, it is still anchored down by a lackluster story and the ever-present identity problems that limit the franchise’s ability to reach its full potential. Instead of something that’s politically charged like Far Cry 5 or critical of human nature like Far Cry 3, Ubisoft created a generic, safe, and uninteresting story with New Dawn. There is no real sense of self or tonal cohesion like with other Ubisoft franchises that know exactly what they are trying to be. It feels like the writers took the stories of two different games and stitched them together in a Frankenstein-like fashion that just does not work as well as they probably hoped. Instead, the amount of investment I have in the storytelling is dramatically reduced or in more blunt terms, non-existent. It is a fault that gets more and more noticeable every time a new Far Cry title is released and something that always ends up in the discussion about why or how far this franchise has fallen. It feels as if this is one of the few IPs that Ubisoft has never put as much effort into like they do with Assassin’s Creed or Rainbow Six Siege, which is a tragedy because there’s clearly so much that you can do with the worlds you get to explore in the franchise.
What did you think of this review? Are you going to play Far Cry New Dawn? Let us know in the comments below!