Far Cry: New Dawn is Ubisoft’s follow up to Far Cry 5. Just like its predecessor, it’s an open-world first person shooter with some light RPG elements.
If you have not played Far Cry 5 I suggest you do so before reading this review.
As a follow up, it is like those that came before it. It is smaller in scale than its accompanying numbered entry, but it is also crazier in a lot of respects.
However, unlike the previous entries, Blood Dragon & Primal; New Dawn is a direct sequel to Far Cry 5. This is a good thing in a lot of ways, but in some ways the game suffered because of it.
Now, I played straight through both games without really taking the time to blink in between.
So, one moment I was exploding cultists in and around Hope County, and the next I was exploding road warriors in and around a post-apocalyptic Hope County.
If it sounds like there wasn’t much difference between the two, that’s because the two games were very similar.
I’d like to take the time to get into the differences, because that’s where New Dawn excels. Of course, nothing is perfect, so we’ll also get into where this game went off the rails. Which is to say, right off the bat, because it starts with a train wreck. Like, a literal one… so it went off the rails, but not in a bad way… at least not at the beginning…
You know what? I’m just going to move on.
Hope, Risen From the Ashes
SPOILERS. Seriously. Go play Far Cry 5 if you haven’t yet.
At the end of the previous game’s canon ending, the world was destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse. Which is generally considered, you know, bad, for a myriad of reasons, one of which is that after the bombs drop, everything becomes a desaturated hellscape of burnt trees and collapsed buildings.
Fortunately for the residents of Hope County (at least the ones that managed to get to their bunkers in time), the exact opposite happened. It wasn’t overnight, but several years after the collapse of society, to quote the great chaotician Ian Malcom…
The trees are lush and verdant. Flowers blanket the valley in a color scheme so bright that it can be hard to look at, and the animals have returned—and not as two headed monstrosities.
It’s practically a paradise.
This is by far New Dawn’s greatest strength.
Ubisoft went way out of their way to create one of the most unique post-apocalyptic landscapes I’ve ever seen. Sure, there are the obligatory abandoned buildings and the occasional area consumed by radiation, but these were few and far between, leaving everything else to stun and amaze you as you make your way across the valley.
One Man’s Trash
New Dawn tries so hard to lean into its genre. It has road warriors, makeshift guns, and it even has its own thunderdome. Unfortunately, it never leaves the comfort zone of its predecessor and stays, somewhat unremarkably, a Far Cry game.
What I mean to say is that there were a lot of elements of the game that could have been amazing if New Dawn had just dove in head first instead of tentatively dipping a toe into the water.
In the game, you can find materials around the map, like duct tape or springs, that you can use to create weapons or upgrade your settlement. This sounds, at face value, really freaking awesome, especially since you immediately use this mechanic to build the game’s signature weapon. So, early on, I got my hopes up, thinking that at some point I might be building the Far Cry equivalent of a Power Fist or a Super Sledge.
What I ended up getting was a bunch of regular guns that had a post-apocalyptic aesthetic and nothing more.
I spent so much time wandering around to each point of interest on the map so I would have enough resources to make the guns I wanted… and then I immediately made those guns. After, I was left with more components than I could reasonably use.
Even upgrading the settlement was a banal affair that, after a couple of hours, left me shrugging. I mean, sure, it was helpful, but it was more like upgrading your character than actually upgrading the camp.
Precisely One Third of the Original
While you could consider New Dawn to be it’s own game, it is essentially a large DLC for Far Cry 5.
This impacted the game in numerous ways.
I felt like I never really got to know the villains beyond “they’re bad, so you should stop them.” There are a couple of good scenes with them, but they never really got a chance to stand out.
The same could be said for all of the good guys you encounter as well.
I feel like the developers were trying to use the fact that it was a sequel to their advantage, and it kind of made the game fall flat on its face instead.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing what became of the characters from 5, but most of it was just pandering to the old instead of building something new.
The game’s small size, and its failure to fully embrace its genre, lead to a point in my game where I didn’t care anymore.
At first, I explored everywhere and took the time to find everything. I was super pumped because of how amazing the scenery looked, and I wanted to see it all. I was also determined to upgrade Prosperity, the home base, and lay waste to everyone who got in my way.
A few hours in, I looked at the remaining points of interest across the map and felt numb to the idea of visiting them all.
It turns out that I need a reason beyond “this place looks cool” to keep exploring, and New Dawn never gave me one. There were several treasure hunts—little puzzles, or challenges, that hid perk-points and resources—which would have been enough for me to keep exploring, but there were only a handful, and once they were gone, that just left the character missions and story beats to keep me engaged.
Get to the Choppa!!
There was one breath of fresh air in what had become a stagnant game.
Expeditions were basically little challenge maps that had nothing to do with the main game, save for the fact that they let you acquire the resources you needed to build top tier loot. Basically, you would get on a helicopter and travel to a location where the bad guys had set up a base. Once there, you were tasked with picking up a package and then staying alive until someone could pick you up.
There were a few things that I liked about these excursions:
- They let you see more of post-apocalyptic America
- They had multiple difficulty levels
- You could approach them any way you wanted
- There was an immense sense of satisfaction as you fly away on your helicopter while the enemies still fired everything they had at you.
Unfortunately, there were few expeditions, and once you’d completed them on every available difficulty, they sort of lost their luster. They were, however, an interesting departure from the main game, and could have been used to greater effect.
Swing and a Bunt
Overall, Far Cry: New Dawn was a perfectly serviceable game. It was absolutely beautiful, but relied too heavily on the game that came before it. Without the willingness to come out from under its parents’ wings, this fledgling game couldn’t seem to fly on its own. This means that we got a bunch of partially-realized ideas attached to a standard Far Cry frame. Which isn’t so bad, but it’s a shame to see so much wasted potential.
I’m giving Far Cry: New Dawn an adequate 6/10. It didn’t ruffle any feathers, and at the end of the day it was still fun to play, even if it only lasted a little while.
Here’s hoping that Ubisoft has the stones to try some off-the-wall things with Far Cry 6‘s inevitable follow-up game.