We’ve been pumped for Far Cry: New Dawn since its announcement, an impression that didn’t change through our hand-ons preview time with the game last month. A direct sequel to Far Cry 5 (a new occurrence for the series), New Dawn puts players into a nuclear war-ravaged Hope County, Montana, and asks them to rebuild things. Using bullets and blood, for the most part.
That’s fine with us, it sounds like every other post-apocalyptic game we’ve ever encountered — even if Fallout 3 lets you talk to people instead of blowing them away. But that’s not Ubisoft’s style, even if there is evidence of a large number of RPG mechanics present here. Players go up against the Twins, Mickey and Lou. The pair are the leaders of the Highwaymen, a group that wanders from place to place and take what they want. When they want to. Until you turn up, that is.
This story has character(s)
We’re not going to delve too deeply into the game’s story. It’s enough that players know that they are out to rebuild civilisation in Hope County. It’s also because there isn’t a whole lot of depth to the tale — just enough to keep missions ticking over. The previous game explored central themes and New Dawn… doesn’t really have the capacity for that, but it does have space for a collection of neat little mini-tales.
These tales revolve around your Guns For Hire, NPC characters that take the place of a co-op player if you’re playing solo. There’s Nana, an old woman and crackshot, who joins you when you beat her target practice challenge. Or the Judge, a mysterious figure that you might already know… But there are also some familiar faces, like Pastor Jerome, Sharkey, or Hurk Drubman Jr. Each character has a little story mission (as do various specialists at the upgradeable home base) that have to be cleared before they’ll join you in cancelling the apocalypse.
While those story notes are great — bringing back people you may know — there’s not much to learn beyond those short missions. New Dawn could have explored character interactions a whole lot more than they did. Instead it chooses to do just enough to get your roster filled. The stories are good enough, but we wanted more. At least we got Horatio, a huge pig with a taste for taking out enemies carrying shields. Horatio is the best piggo.
A brand-new feature of Far Cry is Expeditions, heist missions that players can tackle for high-end supplies that can’t easily be harvested in Hope County. Players are dropped in several places around the States and have to nick a package. On pickup, players have 30 seconds to bail for the pickup zone before a GPS tracker kicks in and enemies swarm their position. The objective becomes waiting out (and taking out) waves of foes while you’re awaiting chopper extraction.
These missions are a very welcome breath of fresh air in a game that covers a lot of old ground (even if that old ground is a playground). Drop-off locations vary, pickup locations vary, and the objective moves around a bit, while redoing the mission on tougher difficulties ups the challenge and the reward. You’re going to wind up hitting the handful of missions several times while playing New Dawn, because… well, knocking over a grounded aircraft carrier for some supplies can be mighty good fun. Plus, we need circuit boards dammit. The available maps wouldn’t be out of place in a multiplayer objective-based game either, so if Ubisoft’s thinking about a Call of Duty competitor, we’d pay attention to that.
Practise makes perfect
Remember we mentioned New Dawn retracing its steps. That’s literal, in a couple of ways. The map is comprised of the lower section of Far Cry 5‘s playing area, suitably ravaged by time, animals, and nuclear winter. Familiar locations are buried, half-excavated, or just wrecked, but odds are you’ve been there before. Enough has changed for it to feel fresh, while still being almost haunting. Then there are Outposts.
Players need ethanol for upgrades around their home base (plus, cars run on it. Kinda). And ethanol comes from capturing Outposts from Highwaymen. Except capturing every single outpost won’t give you enough ethanol and scavenging from Supply Drops takes far too damn long. What players have to do is scavenge their Outposts, which returns the location to the Highwaymen (in return for a little extra ethanol). Then, you get to take it away again, but the enemies stationed there? They get a lot tougher.
This is a variation of Far Cry‘s Outpost Master mode, which operated in a similar manner. Here, you’re tackling the same location but with greater threats. Tier 3 and Elite enemies are your eventual foes, weapon and ammo selection become rather important and you have to plan your approach — as opposed to marching in and shotgunning down enemies with aplomb the first time you take over the location. It’s surprisingly fun redoing these locations, a testament to just how amusing combat in general is. Whether you’re picking off sentries from a distance, tossing in bait in the hopes of summoning some beasties to do your dirty work or running-and-gunning, redoing Outposts is worth the effort. Even if you don’t really need the ethanol top-up.
But you will need the ethanol, for a while at least. There are workbenches and garages around Hope County but you’ll only be able to craft better weapons once you’ve upgraded their equivalent at your home base. Want Tier 3 and Elite weapons? You’re going to need them, and you’ll need a bunch of ethanol to get them. Just like everything else in the game. Which means that if you want better vehicles, boats, or even helicopters (which don’t see much use in New Dawn), you’re going to have to invest in your people. Many player upgrades are tied up in your little sanctuary as well, rather than using a perk unlock.
Perks are still in place, though, with a few bunkers playing host to perk magazines. Players also get perks for completing certain objectives (another reason to max out Outposts), during the story, and by completing weapon and world challenges. There are upgrades aplenty to be had, and players can also stack certain perks. If you’re after more sniper rifle ammo and don’t really use melee weapons, for instance, you can keep stacking ammunition upgrades until your character becomes a walking armoury. The same goes for melee attacks, medkits, or sprinting, or… well, all the other types of ammo as well.
But most of your damage improvement comes from better weaponry, so it’s in your best interest to upgrade and craft items. The best thing about weapons and vehicles is that they only need to be made once. Then, you’ll only be crafting consumables, like pipe bombs, smoke grenades, proximity bombs and remote detonator bombs. You know, the tools of the apocalypse.
Needing an extension
This may make Far Cry: New Dawn sound like a walk in the park and that… isn’t far off the mark. The game itself is shorter than your average Far Cry, which could be an issue for some. But the reduced length makes for tighter, more focused gameplay. It also means that the story isn’t fleshed out the way it could have been. The colourful characters are not shown to their best advantage — Ubi could have extended their stories a whole lot more.
Some sacrifices were made for this game. The story suffers but gameplay is a blast, there’s a lot of repetition but Ubisoft’s made it fun. Loads of fun. The upgrade system isn’t as detailed as the one that’s about to be dropped into The Division 2 but it’s got the same basic DNA. As a sequel to Far Cry 5, New Dawn is a worthy successor but we’d have preferred a little more to go with it. More what? Just a little more of everything.
Far Cry: New Dawn Verdict
Far Cry: New Dawn could have just been a throwaway game, banged out in a few months to capitalise on the assets from Far Cry 5. In a way, that is what’s happened, but Ubisoft has put a lot of thought into New Dawn. They’ve made redoing Outposts actually entertaining, as well as giving players a reason to do it. Ubi’s done far better with character development in the past and it feels like they’ve skimped here. They’ve also made the game shorter than usual, though that could just be us exploiting inherent mechanics to fast track things.
Nah, the game really is shorter, but it’s also less of a grind than Far Cry 5 was. If they’d married the game mechanics found here with FC 5, the result would have been a far better game than we got in 2018. But hey, we got to check in on some old friends — and a couple of enemies — and we had a blast doing it. If you’re a fan of the series’ gameplay, absolutely check in here. It’s highly entertaining, as long as you’re not expecting characters like Ajay Ghale, Vas, Pagan Min or even Jason Brody. You’re going to have to make your own fun.
There's a shorter tale and lighter character development than we're used to from the series, but there's nonetheless great fun to be had from causing mayhem.