It is hard to believe that it was only two months ago that Ubisoft revealed a first for their self-described anecdote generator. That first would be to release a direct sequel to an entry in the Far Cry series, specifically Far Cry 5. So, how does New Dawn serve the franchise as a sequel? Can it stand on its own or would it have been better to leave the story in a pile of nuclear ash where Far Cry 5 left off?
Be warned, spoilers for Far Cry 5 are ahead. I will try not to spoil any significant plot points regarding Far Cry: New Dawn within this review, so I will warn you when plot points are about to be revealed.
In case you missed last year’s release, let me bring you up to speed on what you need to know. In Hope County, Montana, a cult called the Project at Eden’s Gate formed around a charismatic leader named Joseph Seed, or The Father to the devout. Seed prophesied that there would be a collapse of society, a great cataclysm would ravage humanity and he would be God’s instrument to usher them into a new world. Little did your character, a rookie sheriff’s deputy, know that the world was on the brink of nuclear war.
By the time you bring resolution to the issues that the Family Seed have sown, the bombs drop and the rookie finds themselves locked away in a bunker to wait out fallout with none other than The Father himself.
Seventeen years have passed and the events of Far Cry: New Dawn begin. Instead of the wastelands of most post-apocalypsia, Hope County sees a super-bloom, creating a vibrant, overgrown contrast to the landscape we saw in Far Cry 5. It is in this world that you take on the role of the captain of security for Thomas Rush. Rush is a man who has made it his life’s mission to gather specialists around him to rebuild wherever there is need. Unfortunately, in the vacuum of law and order, not everyone shares his altruism.
Enter the Highwaymen: a flashy group of violent survivors in motocross gear, lead by a pair of twins, Mickey and Lou, who seem to have been raised on “The Mad Max Guide to Dystopian Villainy” - if such a thing existed within the Far Cry universe. Mickey and Lou view power as a currency and they want to be the majority shareholders. This makes anyone not themselves or with a resistance to their ideals a problem-maker, which makes you, in their summation, a problem.
Along the way to assist a settlement in Hope County, the train that Rush and team were taking gets highjacked by the Highwaymen, giving you your first face-to-face encounter with the twins. After Rush pushes you over a waterfall to save you, you reconnect with Carmina Rye - daughter of Nick and Kim Rye from Far Cry 5 - and she takes you to Prosperity. Within this settlement, you will begin the work Thomas Rush and team set out to do.
Now that you know where things are starting, let’s dive into how you will go about doing this.
In order to build up Prosperity, you are going to need specialists. These are people scattered across the county who have skills which will help the settlement thrive. While there are some familiar faces, such as demolitionist and pyrophile “Sharky” Bowshaw, there are new-comers who survived the Collapse who are just as colorful and useful.
Usefulness and variety of character are not going to be the only thing that you need, however. You will need supplies and lots of them. As you rediscover Hope County, you will be able to scavenge for parts such as duct tape, springs, gears, and assorted components. There are also expeditions which take you to locations outside of the county to rob the Highwaymen. These missions provide basic resources in bulk along with a handful of more rare materials such as carbon fiber or titanium. These resources are used to construct weapons and vehicles, but there is one resource which is a bit more tricky to come by: ethanol.
It is important to note that packs of crafting materials can also be purchased through Ubisoft’s in game store. Ethanol is not included in any micro transaction bundle.
Ethanol is required to upgrade each segment of Prosperity and it is a preciously guarded resource. Scattered around the region, you will find Highwaymen Outposts. If you can secure an outpost, you can collect its supply of ethanol. After securing a settlement, you have the option to recycle it to collect a bit more. Once recycled, the Outpost will repopulate with more challenging guards. The rewards, however, for reacquiring one of these Outposts scale, yielding much better rewards. If recycling Outposts gets tiring, you can also highjack Highwaymen tankers and bring them back to a friendly Outpost or back to Prosperity to collect its onboard supply. Reclaiming these outposts will also give you a chance to unlock cosmetic outfits.
As you spend ethanol to upgrade the specialties of Prosperity, you will gain access to higher ranking items. For example, there are four tiers of weapons that you can craft. As you upgrade your weapon’s workbench, you will have access to crafting higher level weapons. After you meet specified requirements, you will then be able to upgrade the settlement as a whole. Upgrading Prosperity will be necessary to progress through the main storyline, so don’t be shy with upgrading.
On the note of progression, Far Cry: New Dawn brings back some of the RPG-like perks from Far Cry 5, streamlining some and adding a new line of perks once you have reached a specific point within the narrative. What those are, I will leave you to discover… let’s just say, they are divinely inspired in that weird Far Cry way. Perk points are awarded as you complete challenges, discover prepper caches, and rescue prisoners.
Guns For Hire make a return to Far Cry: New Dawn with some old friend joining you alongside some new comers. Fan favorites like Hurk, Jr. and Pastor Jerome make their return while Carmina takes up a rifle and joins the fight. As they get a few kills of their own, they also gain their own perks. For example, Pastor Jermone does more than deliver hot sermons, he brings the fiery wrath of God with Molotov cocktails at Rank 2 and incendiary bullets at Rank 3. The A.I. for the Guns For Hire is a bit more intelligent in New Dawn versus Far Cry 5 - allowing the animal companions to get into vehicles, but these helpers still end up being a bit more of a liability or distraction than any real assistance.
While the main tenants of combat have remained largely unchanged, there is a new ranking system for enemies and missions that provides helpful tooltips to know what level of weapon will be most effective against them. Using a tiered color system, your weapons will find themselves more effective against enemies that they outrank, but less effective against enemies on par or higher than the weapon equipped.
There are new weapons that join the arsenal of Far Cry: New Dawn, each with their own makeshift flare. While weapon customization does not exists in New Dawn, there are still different ammo types which can be accessed through your equipment tab. Among the usual assault rifles, pistols, and SMGs is the Saw Launcher. This brutal blade chucker functions as advertised, sending serrated blades hurling at lethal speeds toward unsuspecting foes. These blades can also ricochet off of metal surfaces.
With all of this considered, there is still a large, unanswered question: was a sequel what Far Cry 5 needed? If so, is Far Cry: New Dawn that sequel? If not, could the story of Far Cry: New Dawn stand on its own?
These are tricky questions to answer. In many respects, the story deviates enough from the original to create a separate world, but it leans heavily on the context that its predecessor provides. One could play Far Cry: New Dawn without playing Far Cry 5, but much of its nuance would be lost and the player would have a far shallower experience as a result. Let me explain.
One of the areas that Far Cry 5 excelled in was telling a very grounded story within a world not unlike our own. The cult was created through real world research and presented within the game with stunning realism. As crazy as he is, Joseph Seed is a man of conviction that truly believes he is doing the right thing. We see his humanity, revealed in his motivation amidst the insanity. Even outside of the Project at Eden’s Gate and the Seed family, we got a glimpse of communities of people who banded together with their neighbors, discovered shared fears, and worked together. You saw their joys and their fears on full display. It made them all very human.
Unfortunately, the narrative development of Far Cry: New Dawn just does not carry the same weight to it. There was not much time with Thomas Rush to understand who he is and how he became the leader he was. While we saw more of Kim Rye within this game, she is not developed much as a character other than showing her age and the maturity developed in the crucible of the Collapse. We end up having more face time with her daughter Carmina, but we do not gain much insight into her motivations other than having grown up in a bunker and her desire to help build up Prosperity.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t some very touching moments within New Dawn. There definitely are, but there are not really any new characters who draw you into their story too far. Even after finishing the main story, the motivation of Mickey and Lou is fuzzy at best in a franchise distinguished for creating memorable (and occasionally likable) villains. We see some back story within one of the vignettes between acts, but not enough to give us a whole lot of clarity.
With that in mind, from a narrative standpoint, it is difficult to see New Dawn as a stand-alone experience. Its story is so grounded in the events of Far Cry 5 that it assumes the player knows and cares enough about the world to revisit it. We do not get enough time with main characters to see them grow or gain enough insight into their past that we can see how they have progressed.
There is, however, one exception to all of this, but it requires a change of perspective. What if, this was never your story? If Far Cry 5 was The Father’s story, then New Dawn would be his epilogue.
Of all of the characters within Far Cry: New Dawn, it is Joseph Seed who has truly grown the most as a character. In the seventeen years between the events of Far Cry 5 and New Dawn, Joseph Seed has a major epiphany: he was wrong. This self-knowledge doesn’t preclude him from leadership, but makes him take responsibility for his actions. Instead of violent reclamation, he would lead his followers to forsake all that once was before the Collapse in order to walk secluded from society and technology. Even his countenance is different - not as a man defeated, but as a man humbled by circumstance, penitent. Where he was so sure of his favor in the eyes of God, age and reflection have revealed just how misguided he was all along and the terrible ramifications of his actions. Can such a monstrous man ever find forgiveness?
Far Cry: New Dawn brings players back to Hope Country, allowing us to revisit the gorgeous vistas that the fictitious county has to offer, but in full, post-irradiated super bloom. The vibrant landscape is breathtaking and nature is contrasted by the garish, neon paint scheme and pop art of the Highwaymen.
Gameplay mechanics feel slightly tuned from Far Cry 5 with the Guns for Hire receiving a progression system and the Perks getting a refresh. New guns and enemy indicators help combat fights feel a bit more in balance and the ability to reset specific Outposts is a nice option to help players progress how they see fit. Unfortunately, this tuning did not include inconsistent climbing mechanics found within the previous title.
While it is a stand alone experience, Far Cry: New Dawn serves as a continuation of the events of Far Cry 5, enhanced by previous time spent within that world. New characters join the roster while returning characters show the wear of their years. Unfortunately, you do not get much time to catch up with them to find out all that has happened in the interim, nor are new characters developed substantively. The main story takes around 12 hours to complete (longer if you complete all of the side quests) and offers you choices along the way which will impact the ending you receive.
Far Cry: New Dawn’s story felt like an interrupted reunion with old friends. However, sometimes those brief visits give you just a little bit more closure from the past than you had before. And for that, I am glad.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.
- Guns for Hire system gains progression
- Incredible fidelity to the world Far Cry 5 created
- Streamlined Perks system
Mission and enemy difficulty indicators help players prepare for the fights ahead of time
- Climbing mechanics are still inconsistent
- The main story felt very short without much character development