Far Cry 5 was one of my favorite games of 2018. Like many, I did not expect a sequel to be coming this month, and what’s more, is that I did not expect it to be so damned good. Refining on the systems of Far Cry 5, Far Cry New Dawn may be a smaller game, but it’s no less intriguing, and its narrative brings the somewhat nebulous ending of FC5 to its satisfying next stage. New Dawn could be an exciting new direction for the Far Cry series and is an excellent game in its own right.
Spoilers ahead for Far Cry 5, but I’ll try to keep the narrative of New Dawn mostly an empty canvas for you. If you haven’t finished Far Cry 5 yet, consider this your final warning!
Far Cry 5 ends, if you’ve done the right thing (in my book) with nuclear bombs going off presumably all over the world, and Joseph Seed’s vision and prediction coming true. You and some of your friends try to escape the blast for a bunker, but when the credits roll all that’s left of the Hope County as you knew it is yourself and the Father locked in a shelter to wait for the fallout to end.
Far Cry New Dawn begins roughly 18 years after the bombs dropped, and you’re not playing the Rook. You’re the security captain for a man named Thomas Rush – a sort of shining beacon in the post-bomb US, who seems to go about the country helping rebuild. But not everyone in the new America is a good guy. A Max Max-ian gang of bad hombres known as The Highwaymen believe that the only real currency in the new world is power, and obtaining it by any means possible.
In short, they blow up your train as you’re on your way to Hope County to help the people of a camp called Prosperity rebuild.
The Highwaymen are being led by the ruthless twins you see in all the trailers, and Joseph Seed and his New Eden are off to the north doing God knows what. So it’s up to you, Thomas Rush, and the remaining good people of Hope County (Herc, Sharky, Pastor Jerome, and a few other surprises) to rebuild and drive away the Highwaymen for good.
What impressed me most about New Dawn is that while it’s a sequel to the narrative of FC5, and you would gain a lot of insight to its characters and story by having played or watched the cinematics from that game, it works as standalone, just not as well. This isn’t a “numbered Far Cry,” but I sincerely hope this new world that came after the bombs dropped will see further exploration. Continuity would be welcomed, with what is a solid foundation for the series being set here by nuclear holocaust.
In true fiction form, the wasteland of Hope County isn’t barren or dusty – it’s lush and experiencing a super bloom of sorts – vibrant wildlife, slightly mutated deer, wild dogs, gorgeous fauna. This isn’t the dreary brown people have come to expect in their post-apoc gaming. It would be something to see what other parts of the country and the world were affected by the bombs, and how.
And while New Dawn is a sequel in story form, it does enough new things with its gameplay to make it feel like its own fresh experience. The Guns and Fangs for hire are back, though the Fangs – despite being so damned loveable – are more a liability than a help most of the time. It’s the newcomers like Nana and returning folks like Pastor Jerome that wind up being the most effective.
Enemies and allies alike in New Dawn are ranked into tiers which make them harder or stronger the higher their tier from one to four. All things are ranked this way – cars, boats, aircraft, and guns too. The progression in New Dawn is all about collecting materials to craft new items for use, and Ethanol to unlock higher tiers to craft in. But don’t worry – this isn’t a survival game. Everything gets unlocked reasonably quickly just by playing, and you’ll have more than enough resources to craft items if you’re collecting them as you go.
You can buy crafting packages from the microtransaction store, but you can’t buy ethanol to skip to the more powerful tiers. To get ethanol, you need to take outposts, capture caravans, and retake outposts when you salvage them and the Highwaymen then retake them. It’s an exciting way to do the economy, and the only real downside I’ve felt is that when you unlock new tiers of weapons and can craft them, you never really go back to the old ones you might have loved. I preferred Far Cry 5’s weapon modding, which could have been used here to help your favorite weapon “tier up” to a higher level if you wanted.
There are also damage numbers shown in New Dawn when you shoot someone, which looks and feels good, and further drives home the RPG-lite aspects that New Dawn is representing. There’s nothing more satisfying in the game than a well-placed sniper headshot, or a watching a handful of highwaymen go down to a barrage of blades from the saw launcher.
Another new feature for Far Cry New Dawn is the expeditions. These are repeatable side missions that take you off the main map to remote locations to collect supplies. They’re like heists in one of Ubisoft’s other games, and only it’s up to you and your co-op friend if you bring them, in a PVE mission rather than facing off against other players. If Far Cry wanted to bring this mode to a 2v2 match-up, or even 1v1, it could be a hit. Stealthing into a battleship repurposed for hoarding supplies, or scrambling along a crumbling steel overpass is an enjoyable way to break up the open world exploration of New Dawn while still getting tons of new materials to upgrade your home base in Prosperity.
Though New Dawn is a “smaller” game than usual Far Cries, don’t let it fool you. I’ve spent roughly 18 hours in the title so far, and have just passed the halfway mark on the primary story campaign. MMORPG.com’s Damien Gula reviewed it there, and he was able to complete the story in roughly 11 hours, just by powering through the critical path. So it depends on how you play New Dawn, but there are tens of hours of game to this one, and at the base price of $40, that ain’t too shabby.
There’s a ton to do, even if a lot of it is just “clearing” areas of their supplies to bring back to Prosperity. Still, there are tons of genuinely interesting treasure hunts to complete – places where a lot of gear or perk magazines are left behind, and you have to find some way to get to them. What’s more is that while the world is at peace more than the New Eden “Peggie” infested Far Cry 5, there’s still plenty of random encounters to keep long hikes and drives interesting.
Borrowing from games like PUBG of all things, supply drops come in and are quick ways to get loot and a fight with the Highwaymen. Borrowing from ARPGs like Diablo, Scavengers are Highwaymen that act like Loot Goblins in Diablo 3. You kill them as they try to flee you in a panic, and are rewarded with loads of supplies and loot if you manage the task.
And of course, fishing is back too. Only this time, it’s peaceful enough in most places to enjoy it. Heck, New Dawn even borrows from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by having “Monstrous” animals to hunt down and then sell their skins for resources.