While Far Cry 5 was generally well received, I never finished it. I enjoyed the setting and the exploration, but I felt like the gunplay felt a little loose and the villain was cut from the same cloth as the ones in the last few iterations. My biggest problem with the franchise since Far Cry 3 was the similarity of all the villains. Crazy people inhabit these large worlds with only minute differences setting them apart. Vaas from Far Cry 3 was a breath of fresh air for the franchise, and no villain since then has been able to meet that bar, the twin sisters Mickey and Lou in Far Cry New Dawn included.
Far Cry New Dawn plays almost identically to Far Cry 5, but things feel much tighter. The stealth mechanics in particular stand out to me as feeling better than 5, but that’s probably because I didn’t go into the last outing expecting them to be different. The great thing that the Far Cry series has given players is choice, and there’s plenty of that here too. Every encounter can be handled however the player wants, guns blazing or stealth, and there are enough gadgets and perks to be found and earned that even replaying outposts feels different every time.
I had fun exploring the world of Hope, Montana the first time, but in a world that large, other than the side missions, I didn’t enjoy the activities on hand. Most of them involved blowing stuff up, but in this slightly modified version of Hope, the world isn’t as large. This made exploring and actually doing the tasks available feel more important, and Far Cry New Dawn as a whole felt more focused. Granted, players are never required to take on the additional tasks in open world games, but why fill such a huge world with uninteresting things to do?
Far Cry New Dawn takes place almost two decades after the events of Far Cry 5. I’m not going to spoil the ending of 5, but for those who haven’t played it (and want to) should start there before jumping into New Dawn. The map is more confined from the story elements of the last seventeen years, and is the first time Far Cry has gone into the post-apocalyptic territory. Despite being smaller, it was interesting to run around the map and stumble upon areas I remembered from Far Cry 5. However, it’s nice to see Far Cry go into uncharted territory. Ubisoft has never been shy to try new things, like Blood Dragon and Primal, even if the formula doesn’t change much anymore.
Far Cry New Dawn gives players a home base filled with upgrades they can choose to purchase. Supplies can be scavenged through a handful of in game activities like stealing ethanol tankers or taking down outposts, but ethanol is the main resource players need to upgrade. There are more than a handful of various aspects to upgrades, like the weapon arsenal or the new recruit training area. Each of these areas have important buffs or items that can significantly affect how a player goes about a task, but by the end of my playthrough I had unlocked everything, so it didn’t really matter what I chose at any one point.
The weapon arsenal, which requires a ton of ethanol to upgrade, quickly became a go to point for me, with tons of weapons to unlock. Focusing on this as an upgrade early quickly provides weapons much stronger than my enemies. Scavenging outposts at this point provided more ethanol to use, but more powerful and armored enemies patrolled them, giving me a good chance to use my upgraded weapons on appropriate enemies. Since Far Cry New Dawn is set in a post-apocalyptic setting, there was a missed opportunity in wacky weapons. The saw launcher is a unique standout, but there should have been more of these in the way of apocalypse innovation. Much like a recent tweet by The Division 2 twitter account, Ubisoft has a subtle political message in Far Cry New Dawn that I found amusing. A submachine gun included (a Vector SMG), gets dubbed “the official gun of Space Force. A small nod I though was really funny, and shows that Ubisoft doesn’t mind getting a little political, even if indirectly.
A lot of the side missions in Far Cry New Dawn revolve around recruiting new guns for hire. There are eight characters players can recruit, and they provide some of the most entertaining story content in the game. The enemies in the game eat dog meat, and obliterating highwaymen farming dogs to find Timber was insanely satisfying as an animal lover, and recruiting Horatio, the giant boar is great fun. Each gun for hire comes into battle with a unique weapon or ability, and as players utilize each one more and more to take down enemies, they earn additional perks. All of these are passive, and don’t require any player input, and generally are pretty useful.
To add on to the list of fun and interesting side activities are the treasure hunts. Treasure hunts are often hinted at or given by NPC’s wandering the area or notes strewn about the world. These are puzzles that are often challenging without the right perk or weapon to figure out where to go. One standout was a late game one that tasked me with dumping dead sacrificial figures in a burn pit in order to unlock where to go. These are a ton of fun, and reward players with lots of supplies and perk points.
Perk points in Far Cry New Dawn can unlock passive abilities and other useful perks that affect how players engage with the world. Some perks give players takedown chains, while others allow for double jumps. Double jumps feel out of place in a relatively grounded game, but make exploring the world quicker with the added agility.
My favorite all new aspect of New Dawn was easily the expeditions. Expeditions are self-contained stages that task players with finding a package and then extracting with it, taking down waves of enemies while waiting for a helicopter extraction. All of Far Cry New Dawn can be played with a friend in co-op, but the expeditions were the most interesting with a friend. Since these are self-contained, I found the actual stages for these more interesting than Hope, Montana. Exploring the I.S.S crash site, or finding Sam Fischer’s body suit in an airplane crash was really fun, and something I’m still doing with friends, well after the credits rolled.
While I think the Far Cry formula hasn’t really changed since exploring that exotic island in 3, the basic gameplay loop is as addictive as ever. There are some missed opportunities of unique weapons, and unique hunting opportunities in this post-apocalyptic world, but exploring Hope, Montana feels better than it did in Far Cry 5. Maybe it’s because of the more focused world building in a smaller open area, but whatever the cause, Far Cry New Dawn is a great addition to the Far Cry portfolio, especially at the $39.99 price point.
Far Cry New Dawn is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.