Far Cry New Dawn suckered me in. Like a charismatic preacher, it went on and on about tying up loose ends. It promised a return to a different Hope County with a story that continued from Far Cry 5's controversial ending. Then, once they had me, they took me on a whirlwind tour of Ubisoft's version of Fallout. Returning characters fight for screentime with lesser new additions, all in a rushed story that never really gets an opportunity to get going. Far Cry is still an exceptional shooter at its core, but each entry since 3 has strayed further and further away from greatness. New Dawn has not learned Vaas' lessons, repeating the same mistakes and adding a few new ones along the way.
It's been seventeen years since the bombs fell. Hope County is an oasis in a nuclear wasteland, its survivors grouping together in a place called Prosperity. A group of raiders called Highwaymen scour the countryside, as they often do in post-nuclear situations. Led by twins Mickey and Lou, these murderous bikers force all the remaining denizens of this small town to stand together and ward off the attack. After arriving on a doomed train ride, you join up, organize the resistance, and set your sights on the twins.
This is all very familiar if you've played any modern Far Cry game. You wouldn't expect a secondary entry in the franchise to change things up too much. Even so, this is possibly the sixth time some players have gone through this song and dance. Hope County's map hasn't changed much, which is both a blessing and a curse. If you enjoyed your time with Far Cry 5, then there's fun in revisiting old strongholds and bunkers. The gameplay is as fun as ever too, just tempered slightly by some of New Dawn's more curious choices.
For one, it seems like everything in Hope County goes for a higher price than it used to. It's the apocalypse, so you might expect that to happen. Still, realism isn't a great excuse for pushing players towards microtransactions. There are at least four currency grinds built into the basic progression, maybe more. Of course, each one of these materials is fully available for real money. You need springs to craft cars, circuit boards to create high tier weapons, and several types of plant to heal and revive others. You even need healing plants to revive your downed Guns For Hire, a process that was on a simple cooldown in Far Cry 5. If you're interested in skipping the grind, there's yet another real money coin currency that can get you high tier everything, including a bunch of cosmetic suits.
It's a downright mess. There were several times during my ten-or-so hours where I felt compelled to grind out certain activities just to keep the fun going. Before the final few fights, I reloaded into my home base's healing garden to grab certain plants over and over until I was fully stocked. This is a choice to spend time over money, and it's just not fun to make these choices while playing a video game. For the record, I did not spend real money at any point while playing, but the temptation was palpable. Monetization appears so often that it throws a shadow over the whole campaign.
Of course, my healing garden didn't start off providing an endless source of weeds. I had to upgrade it using the much-touted "RPG mechanics," which amounts to a second perk menu. Sure, you can visit your base whenever you want and listen to some fun side conversations. However, when you boil it down, the whole thing just isn't that special. Half of the perks from the base game hide alongside certain base upgrades, paid for with yet another currency. At least this one (Ethanol) can be fun to procure since you get it from taking over outposts from the evil bikers.
Far Cry's best open-world mission type gets several upgrades in New Dawn. You could repopulate bases in past games, but they generally played the same. Now, not only can you get tougher challenges across the map, but you get repeatable Ethanol rewards. You probably won't be able to take on later levels without investing a lot into upgrades, but it's still fun to try. These sequences are where Far Cry's gameplay shines best. Unleashing wild animals and a stack of explosives and watching the chaos play out is just as thrilling now as it was back in the day.
Another smart addition is Expeditions, an optional series of oversized outposts that offer high rewards. They take place outside the open world in custom maps that have some of the smartest designs in the franchise to date. On the hardest difficulties, you'll need to bring all your ammo to bear. Or, you can bring in a co-op partner to even the odds. Honestly, there's enough content in this category alone to make New Dawn worth it if you're just looking for a shooting gallery.
If only the narrative beats could impress as much as the shooting. I'm fine with the general formula, and I was even on board for 95% of Far Cry 5's tale, but this sequel feels misguided. All the surviving characters show up once or twice and then silently fade into the background. New characters feel like Cousin Oliver-level additions, ginned up for story reasons that seem obvious if you're paying attention. Even your player character from the first game can't avoid this, becoming a sad shell of their former self.
Anyone hoping that New Dawn would justify 5's audacious ending will be sorely disappointed. However, the game does live up to expectations by following up one stunningly strange finale with another. It's not something that I want to spoil, mostly due to the context you'd need to fully appreciate its stupidity. I will say that New Dawn's final moments give Bioshock a run for their money, and I'm not talking about the Andrew Ryan stuff. After presenting some of the most stereotypical video game nonsense I've seen in quite some time, the game just ends. Your character shares a drink with a companion while they stare into the sunset. The abruptness almost calls out to the player, shrugging its shoulders in a bold proclamation that it just doesn't know what to do next.
That's how I feel about Far Cry after playing New Dawn. It's a franchise that's just stumbling along, coasting on old glories and mumbling "this time it will be different." There are still flashes of brilliance, but they're few and far between. In the middle of it all, I did end up finding some fun revisiting Hope County. Clearing outposts and exploring a vividly detailed world still feels great. It's just everything surrounding it bringing it down. Far Cry really needs its Assassin's Creed Origins moment. Renewed mechanics, new types of missions and a complete rejection of the old. Anything short of that just ends up as water under the bridge.
TechRaptor reviewed Far Cry New Dawn on Xbox One X with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Outposts Still Rock
- Hope County's Charm
- Plentiful Expeditions
- Minimal Hurk
- Slapdash Storytelling
- Overwhelming Push for Microtransactions
- Video Game Nonsense Finale