Far Cry: New Dawn takes on a difficult task. Releasing less than a year after 2018’s Far Cry 5, the newest non-numbered addition to the series needs to satisfy the appetite of hardcore fans while offering new players a jumping on point. In this regard, developer Ubisoft Montreal has succeeded. The studio has built on a narrative returning players will want to see to its end, while giving newcomers a discounted title that demonstrates the addictive gameplay loop of the franchise.
To be entirely transparent, Far Cry: New Dawn is the first game in the series I dedicated any significant time into. The reputation of the franchise precedes itself as you fight man and beast in a quest to vanquish a psychopathic villain, except for this time it is a pair of twins. You start from humble beginnings, weaponless and powerless. But before long, the Rambo-like fantasy is fulfilled as you build your abilities and arsenal. The gunplay is exceptional whether playing solo or with a co-op partner, and the array of vehicles are equally fun.
The story is a direct narrative sequel to Far Cry 5. The game does not shy away from spoiling the ending of that game, so neither will I. You’ve been warned. In the ending of the 2018 numbered release, the bad guy wins. Joseph Seed successfully fulfills his prophecy of “the Collapse” and nuclear war ravages America. But instead of your typical post-apocalyptic wasteland, nature was able to thrive in the absence of society and the world has become more lush. This narrative device explains the reuse of the same Hope County map from Far Cry 5, but now the rural Montana area is basically just covered in pink flowers. A group of survivors emerged from their underground shelters and built up a community known as Prosperity. All is well until a group known as the Highwaymen disturb the peace. You play a customizable hero nicknamed “The Captain” who is part of a group that travels the country helping those in need and are thrust into the conflict.
The story feels as if it is a mix of Mad Max and Walking Dead sans-zombies. The first scene that introduces the main antagonists Mickey and Lou even feels as if it was ripped from the latter, inspired by the introduction of the popular villain Negan. The game does a great job of catching new players up to this point, but it is later in the game when returning characters are weaved in to the story that veterans will appreciate more. That being said, I was never confused about what was going on having not played the previous game.
As much as I enjoyed my 10-hour journey to the end of the narrative, the story missions were some of my least favourite in the game. While I was intrigued to discover what happened next, too often these missions would temporarily strip you of your weapons. The best parts of New Dawn are when you feel like a superhero. All the work you put into upgrading your guns feels diminished when you are forced to “stash your gear” into the magical yellow duffel bag that conveniently waits at the start of these missions.
New Dawn promised RPG elements new to the series. Instead of simple experience point progression, this new twist is realized in the scavenging of resources needed to upgrade your camp and build better weapons. The most critical resource is ethanol, and it is acquired primarily through liberating outposts. These skirmishes are easily the highlight of the game. They can be tackled either guns blazing or through stealth with extra rewards for being undetected. New to the series is the ability to scavenge the outpost, getting an extra heaping of ethanol in exchange for giving the outpost back to the Highwaymen. Enemies are tougher, more plentiful, and extra alarms are added to increase the difficulty. But with the added difficulty comes better rewards. This loop is as addicting as it is rewarding and adds significant replay value to the game.
New Dawn introduces RPG elements for enemies as well, with floating health bars and levels for every threat. Taking down a level three enemy with a level one weapon is possible, but incredibly difficult. So the player needs to take down outposts to get ethanol, use it to upgrade their camp, then use resources acquired in the world to build better guns. Rinse and repeat. And while there is no inventory limit to carrying resources, it is essential to progress. This is a blessing and a curse. The game succeeds in rewarding players who take the extra few minutes to full scavenge each location, but it is also easily the least fun experience of the game. Thankfully, the game makes it clear as to where you can find each resource if you are looking for those final few scraps to craft a new gun.
Weapons are just one of many different systems in the game. Perks that range from carrying extra weapons to double jumping can be earned by completing challenges. Challenges range from clearing a specific number of outposts to getting enough kills with a particular gun type. “Guns for Hire” act as AI companions, each with unique abilities that they can be earned by racking up kills. Exotic animals can be hunted for pelts that can be exchanged for resources, or animals can be followed to their dens for even more rewards. Random Highwaymen trucks carrying hostages or ethanol can be taken down while travelling between locations. The beauty of the game, is how all the systems work in harmony. Ignoring one completely could be detrimental only if you don’t make up for it by extra dedication into another.
If the new RPG elements are not enough to bring returning players back, “Expeditions” might be the games biggest selling point. In lieu of a new map, New Dawn offers players the chance to travel to exotic locales in a new mission type that offers the greatest rewards. Instead of simply liberating an outpost, the player must retrieve a special package and bring it back to an extraction point with all the enemies on your tail. The seven locations range from an abandoned amusement park to the famous prison Alcatraz. The change of scenery is much appreciated even for a new player, so I can only imagine that those who experienced Hope County in Far Cry 5 will be extra incentivized to see the new areas. With each expedition having three difficult levels similar to the outposts, there is a sizable amount of content to be enjoyed.
It is only fair to view Far Cry: New Dawn in the context surrounding its release. At only $50 CAD ($40 USD), New Dawn is actually cheaper then its predecessor which is still listed at its full $80 CAD ($60 USD) a week after the sequel’s release. This raises the question as to where new players should start. Though New Dawn’s narrative is deeply connected to Far Cry 5, I will not remember it for the story. What I will remember is that nagging “just one more outpost” feeling that kept me up late into the night. Because of that, New Dawn is aptly named and a welcoming entry for new players. Though fans of the series are fair to criticize the lack of new content, it is undoubtedly more of the same great formula.
Far Cry: New Dawn is now available across Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms. Ubisoft provided Okay, Cool with a code for the game on Xbox One for review purposes.
You can find Mark on Twitter at @MarkStaniusz if you ever want to chat about games or sports. The dude likes sports.