Far Cry: New Dawn
Seventeen years have passed since the nuclear bombs were detonated, one of the potential endings of Far Cry 5. In the wake of the apocalypse, the survivors of Hope County emerged from their bunkers and began to resettle and rebuild their quaint, mid-western township in the midst of a super bloom. The road to recovery was well underway until a roaming band of marauders known as the Highwaymen, led by twin sisters Mickey and Lou, descended upon the region to pillage, plunder and…paint everything pink! It’s up to you, “Cap,” to aid the residents, eliminate the Highwaymen and restore hope back to Hope County.
In the same vein as Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Far Cry: Primal, New Dawn sits somewhere between a full game and a major expansion; smaller than the former but larger than the latter. A standalone, post-apocalyptic sequel, New Dawn continues and ultimately concludes the narrative of Far Cry 5. It reuses the same map, or at least what remains of Hope County, presenting a transformed yet familiar environment overgrown by nature, animals and vibrant color. Many of Hope County’s landmarks lay in ruins, while others have been converted into Highwaymen outposts or, in the case of Silver Lake Trailer Park, a fight club called Bonecrusher Pit where the first rule is: You can talk about Fight Club. Yes, for better or worse, New Dawn is just as tone-deaf as Far Cry 5.
A number of Hope County’s finest make a return appearance in New Dawn, including Nick and Kim Rye and their daughter Carmina, who was born during Far Cry 5’s campaign, Pastor Jerome, sharpshooter Grace Armstrong and the “Pyrotechnics Phenom” himself, Sharky Boshaw. And what would a Far Cry game be without the presence of Hank Drubman Jr.? Sadly, fangs for hire Boomer, Cheeseburger and Peaches have long since passed, but they’re replaced by Timber the dog and Horatio the giant boar with equally effective results. The specialist system returns with one key difference: guns and fangs for hire now earn new abilities as they rack up kills.
That’s not the only new detail, as New Dawn makes some rather significant alterations to the Far Cry 5 gameplay loop. It all centers around Prosperity, a homebase that you build up and recruit to as you progress through the campaign. There are several facilities within Prosperity that you’ll need to upgrade by gathering Ethanol, a precious resource in this post-apocalyptic world. There’s a workbench, which unlocks weapon crafting; a garage, which unlocks vehicle crafting; the infirmary improves max health while the healing garden improves medkit efficiency; a training ground improves guns for hire health and damage; and so on. From the ground up, all of the facilities can be upgraded three times – up to level 3 – unlocking new benefits each time.
As you upgrade the workbench, for example, you’ll gain the ability to craft Rank 2 weapons, then Rank 3 weapons, and finally Elite weapons. Prior to that, you’ll be limited to crafting Rank 1 weapons. Crafting has always been a part of the Far Cry experience, but it plays an even bigger role in New Dawn, and so in addition to Ethanol you’ll need to scavenge Hope County for materials like duct tape, gears, springs and titanium to craft weapons and vehicles; copper to craft ammunitions; blasting caps, black powder and solvents to craft throwables; and various plants and animals to craft medkits and bait.
New Dawn also introduces a light RPG approach to combat based on the aforementioned ranks. Rankings applied to weapons are also applied to enemies, as well as vehicles and specialists. If you engage a Rank 2 enemy with a Rank 1 weapon, you’ll have a tougher time killing them than if you were carrying a Rank 3 weapon, which would mow them down very quickly. In short, enemies who are two ranks higher than you’re equipped weapon will feel like bullet sponges. Luckily, there aren’t many Rank 3 or Elite Highwaymen located around Hope County until you reach the third act of the campaign, but it is quite possible to encounter Rank 3 or Elite animals in the wild, so you’ll want to be wary of them early on. Enemies have health bars now and when you shoot them, damage numbers pop up. Bullet sponge, floating damage, I feel like I’m playing The Division. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Division, but I’m not sure I want Far Cry to feel like The Division; Far Cry’s signature combat style is what makes it stand out.
On the topic of weapons, New Dawn does away with attachments in favor of signature weapons. When you choose to craft a new weapon, it will either come with a spray-paint-can-for-a-suppressor or it won’t; the sniper rifle will already have a telescope duct taped to it; and that assault rifle might already have a screwdriver clamped to the end of it for melee encounters. There are some really clever makeshift weapon designs, but ultimately a handgun feels like it did in Far Cry 5, as do SMGs, shotguns, LMGs; you name it. The only truly unique weapon is the Saw Launcher, which launches saws that ricochet on everything, and when upgraded to higher ranks can fire guided and boomerang saws. The Saw Launcher was the only weapon I kept in my arsenal throughout the game and I think New Dawn’s combat, especially in this post-apocalyptic setting, would have benefited nicely from a few more weapons like it.
New Dawn would have also benefited greatly from a more intriguing villain. As irredeemably evil as they are, Mickey and Lou just aren’t given enough screen time. Despite feeling rushed at times, the story does tie up the loose ends following the cliffhanger ending of Far Cry 5 in a satisfying way. The narrative is broken into three parts and though I spent more time than I likely should have at the start grinding for crafting materials, I was still greeted with a message at the end of the second act that I needed to upgrade Prosperity before I could move on to the final act. Problem was, I had already liberated all of the outposts; the primary source of Ethanol. New Dawn’s solution to this dilemma: to allow me to scavenge the outposts for a small amount of Ethanol, at which point the Highwaymen would retake control of the outpost, escalating it with a crew of higher-ranked enemies, and then I could liberate it again for an even bigger reward of Ethanol. So I spent an hour or two scavenging and re-liberating the same outposts over and over. Not ideal game design, in my opinion, at least not within a story-based campaign.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Expeditions, arguably the best new feature in New Dawn. When you supply Prosperity’s resident pilot with Ethanol, he’ll fly you to missions outside the boundaries of rural Montana, including an abandoned theme park, a crash landed space station and Alcatraz Island, just to name a few. These maps are one square kilometer in size, offering a good amount of real estate to explore, and task players with retrieving a package and then reaching an extraction point while endless enemies hunt you down. These co-op centric crusades can get quite intense, especially when escalated to Rank 3 as tougher enemies and randomized gameplay elements are introduced. I only wish Ethanol was part of the material rewards of Expeditions; I would have rather spent time replaying these missions than re-liberating outposts.
I feel like I’m being overcritical of Far Cry: New Dawn, but I had high expectations on the heels of the excellent Far Cry 5. The villains weren’t that intriguing in New Dawn, the heightened focus on resource gathering and crafting led to some grinding stretches of gameplay, and I’m not quite sure how to feel about bullet sponge and floating damage in a Far Cry game. Happily, combat is just as chaotic and explosive as ever, especially with a co-op buddy, and so I would still recommend the game to Far Cry fans. Just temper your expectations and maybe wait for a sale.
Reviewed By: Stephen Riach
This review is based on a digital copy of Far Cry: New Dawn for the Xbox One provided by Ubisoft.