Game: Far Cry New Dawn
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: February 15, 2019
The last two Far Cry releases have left me rather burnt out with the series. It had come to the point where when I bought a Far Cry game I already knew what I was going to be doing and what will most likely happen. I don’t think that I have been truly blown away by Far Cry since Far Cry 3 – I just couldn’t put that game down.
But with each addition to the series, I find myself hoping that Ubisoft could, once again, give me those feelings of awe and feeling like a true hero. When Far Cry New Dawn was announced as a new standalone entry that took place in the same Hope County as in Far Cry 5, it looked like nothing more than a cash grab. The $40 price point didn’t do much to instill confidence in me, and it made it clear that Ubisoft was just pushing another product using recycled assets just to squeeze a few more bucks out of something that they had already created.
The result is New Dawn, a mixed bag that recycles a lot, sure – but also brings some new, interesting ideas to the franchise.
One of those elements is the implementation of some light RPG elements. These consist of enemies and animals now having health bars above their heads, an upgradable base known as Prosperity, and the categorization of weapons and enemies, which are now put into the standard RPG categories of Tier 1 (white), Tier 2 (blue), Tier 3 (purple), and Tier 4 (yellow). Outposts have also received a slight facelift this time around, as once an outpost has been captured, the player now has the choice of either keeping the outpost as a base/fast travel point or “squeezing” the outpost and ransoming it back to the Highwaymen.
Once the outpost has been squeezed, the highwaymen return and the outpost will now be more heavily guarded and enemies will be more aware. This means that outposts are now repeatable with increasing difficulty. Naturally, with increasing difficulty comes increasing rewards. Ethanol is the main resource that is needed for all of Prosperity’s upgrades and it’s the lifeblood of New Dawn. Completing these outposts is the fastest way to gain ethanol, so this places an importance on capturing.
The final new addition in New Dawn – and arguably the most intriguing – are Expeditions. Expeditions are separate missions that take place outside of Hope County, and once they’re completed, you’re rewarded with resources.
With the new weapon and enemy class system, gone are the days of buying a silenced AK-47 and sniper rifle as quickly as you can acquire them and picking off every enemy from a distance. I felt that this was a welcome and needed change that adds a higher level of difficulty to the early moments of the game. In prior Far Cry installments, silenced weapons would have you shredding through enemies and completing outposts without breaking a sweat. In New Dawn, you’ve got to work slightly harder.
Weapons are now obtainable by crafting them at a workbench within Prosperity or captured outposts and no longer allow you to add attachments. If you’re looking for your ‘ole trusty silenced weapon, you’re now going to have to wait a while to craft a rifle that uses a paint can as a silencer to quietly pick off your adversaries. To unlock the next tier of craftable weapons, the workbench must be upgraded back at your base, which requires a significant amount of Ethanol each time upgrade. This is a simple premise, sure, but it takes a surprising amount of time to accrue the necessary amount of ethanol required, leaving me stuck with the blue tier weapons for more time than I would’ve liked.
With this class system also categorizing enemies, I found that enemies were much more difficult if you didn’t have the same or better tier weapon as the enemy you were fighting. Not even God can save you if you run into an epic mutated bison or mountain lion while traveling around with just blue weapons – you might as well just tuck your head and kiss your sweet ass goodbye. There were moments in New Dawn where my heart was pounding as I tried to dodge around trees to avoid encounters. Running from mutated charging grizzly bears was thrilling and can best be compared to that rush you get from a jump scare in a survival horror game. It’s one of the new elements that worked really well in New Dawn.
Expeditions are a welcomed addition, too, tasking you with infiltrating Highwaymen strongholds to retrieve a package. Once you fight or sneak your way through the stronghold and actually grab the package, you have roughly 20 seconds before the GPS tracker on the package activates as you scramble to the extraction point. But your way out won’t arrive right away, and you’ll find yourself fighting off hordes of enemies as you wait for your precious extraction. The first expedition becomes available pretty early on in my New Dawn, and it will definitely take you a few tries. After getting discovered and quickly murdered on my first few attempts, I finally grabbed the package and made it to the extraction point…only to get completely and utterly melted by the assaulting horde. I quickly realized that I would have to invest some time into my guns and perks before I could retrieve the package successfully.
One of New Dawn’s biggest issues is that the first few hours in Hope County have a much slower pace and feel much more familiar than the game does in the later hours. It starts off with one of the same opening scene disasters that we are used to, and you soon find yourself at rock bottom with few weapons, chasing missions, stash houses, and outposts with little variation from the Far Cry’s of the past.
It’s incredibly hard to get into, at first; I just couldn’t help feeling like this was just more of the same, and what’s the point of continuing on? You’ll find yourself revisiting some iconic locations from Far Cry 5 – which didn’t come out too long ago, so it felt more repetitive than anything else.
Though the more I played New Dawn the more I wanted to keep playing, in the end, I’m still questioning if New Dawn was enough to warrant jumping back into Hope County for a second time. While the small changes and additions to the franchise kept me mildly interested, they are by no means entirely unique.
I wasn’t blown away by New Dawn’s story or its characters, either, but the story was, at least, serviceable, and there are a couple of new takes on old characters that shed new light on them.
One small issue that was ultimately a bit jarring was that I couldn’t help but feel that, graphically, Ubisoft spent a lot more time detailing certain characters than others. It bothered me that no one else in the game looked as good as Joseph Seed. I felt like I could see every pore on his face, while others looked as if they were half sculpted from clay and the artist gave up halfway through. While communicating with characters, many of them appeared to move their teeth with their lips in a really odd manner. It’s a small issue, sure, but it really stuck out — and once I noticed it, I couldn’t stop staring at their mouths. It’s like when your friend has a huge chunk of food dangling in their teeth and you can’t hear a word they’re saying because all you can focus on is that chunk of food. To put it simply, we deserve better in 2019.
One thing I’ll commend is that the difficulty continued to rise as I progressed, instead of becoming easier. After squeezing a few outposts and leveling them up, I found them to be much more difficult and completing them actually gave me a sense of accomplishment. If alerted, an upgraded outpost would call in an epic shielded captain to come put an immediate end to my conquest. That was a true surprise the first time that it happened, and I don’t think my ego has yet recovered.
When it comes down to it, Far Cry New Dawn is a familiar yet fun experience that introduces some much-needed tweaks to Ubisoft’s stale formula. The problem, however, is that it’s too familiar and not doing enough to really warrant a playthrough if you’ve already played Far Cry 5. The RPG elements are a welcome addition to the franchise, and if Ubisoft expands on that concept in whatever Far Cry 6 ends up being, we could see a second life for the Far Cry franchise. Even at a reduced price of $40, it’s hard to say if players will get their money’s worth out of New Dawn. But if you’re okay with New Dawn not reinventing the wheel completely and you’re cool with more of the same with slight tweaks, I New Dawn might be for you. But if you played Far Cry 5 and thought, “yeah, that’s enough Far Cry for now,” you’ll likely feel shorted with its newest release.