For the most part, we are pretty used to travelling the wastelands, heading towards the end of the world in a variety of games. We’ve grown used to scavenging for machine parts, crafting supplies out pieces of tat and wearing some fashionable attire that you might otherwise find in the All Saints clothing summer collection.
We’ve got so used to it in fact that I think the gaming industry is preparing us for when everything goes a bit pear-shaped, letting us utilise our gaming skills to conquer the world.
That is the case here and now with the latest instalment in the Far Cry series – Far Cry New Dawn. But this time round everything is far removed from the usual post-apocalyptic dustbowl, with a beautiful Eden of a world that has healed itself in order to start again. But is Far Cry New Dawn the start of a magical brave new world or a horrific utopia that has gone belly up?
So first, a warning. If you haven’t played Far Cry 5 and don’t want the ending spoiled, then look away now and go for a long walk. Gone? Good. So, at the end of Ubisoft’s previous Far Cry offering Joseph Seed, the enigmatic cult leader who was the villain of the game, blows up the beautiful world of Montana with a series of nuclear explosions. It really was a surprise ending. This however sees New Dawn set 17 years later and the survivors of the attack have surfaced from their bunkers and tried to start a new life, in a beautiful, utterly colourful, world.
But, of course, there are problems… if there weren’t then this wouldn’t be a Far Cry game.
The world is controlled by a group of Mad Max type colourful neon highwaymen bandits who are led by some great scoundrels; a pair of female twins who are a delightful addition to the Far Cry villain roster. You play an aid worker who arrives by train to help out, and after an introductory incident you get to help the local people take back Montana and learn some secrets about what happened to the original cult.
You start Far Cry New Dawn by arriving at the main base of the rebels – Prosperity – from where you can set out to explore the world around you. From this moment on everything is typical Far Cry territory and full of the usual gameplay ideas that fans of the series will feel; memories will be found kicking in straight away.
You play in the first person and can shoot a whole range of tier one, two and three weapons, ranging from the lowly bow and arrow to the big old rocket launcher. You can collect bits of junk and items to craft your weapons at workstations, all of which can be upgraded as well. This rule of gameplay also applies to the throwable weapons, like grenades or dynamite, with multiple crafting availabilities open. There are also a number of vehicles – across land, sea, and air – which you can unlock with enough bits and bobs.
The main story of New Dawn will take you on a number of missions set across the entire map structure, seeing you meeting both villains and heroes. The story is the finest part of this journey and is the best thing to experience while playing the game. There is some excellent writing included, some really interesting characters and great references to the original Far Cry 5 without giving away any spoilers. But unfortunately, the side mission aren’t as strong as those found in any of its predecessors, leaving you to deal with some treasure hunts, animal hunts and the capturing of outposts in order to progress the tale.
It is when capturing the latter which you will find yourself gaining some valuable ethanol that can be used to upgrade all of the weapons and Prosperity itself. You also can scavenge the outpost for more ethanol, but that in turn risks it being overtaken by the enemy forces again; trying to re-capture will be much harder as the difficulty level rises.
It must be said that this is where Far Cry New Dawn lets itself down a little and I have found that the AI of those I was up against was occasionally a bit off. Once or twice I would be involved in a battle with a gang of them, with them not worrying too much about the action unfolding, staring off into the distance or moving in a strange way. Things like this that don’t matter an awful lot, and won’t ruin the overall experience, but it certainly unnerved me a bit, and, at times, New Dawn doesn’t feel quite right. But by golly, there is a lot of fun to be had still, and I just love being stuck in the whole Far Cry vibe so much, that the odd AI weirdness or lull in the midsection missions, fail to stop me from having a great time.
Now it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t bring up the elephant in the room: Far Cry New Dawn and Ubisoft have definitely had to take a lot of flak because of the decisions to reuse the same map from the previous game. But the clever thing they have done here is to completely redesign the architecture, fauna, and wildlife of the existing areas to reflect what has happened those 17 years later. In short, it’s a stunning re-imagining. The colours are wonderful, the mutated animals superb and the character design a joy to behold. With all these things coming together, I have really loved spending time in this world and even though I’ve been found stumbling across the ruins from the original Montana, it still feels like an entirely new world.
Sound wise and Far Cry New Dawn comes with a very strong original score that is underplayed throughout, with a brilliant collection of music and songs taking hold when need be. In fact, this is possibly one of my favourite playlists from the Far Cry franchise so far.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time spent back in this world with Far Cry New Dawn on Xbox One, and it’s great how the development team have managed to expand the landscape, the story and mythology from Far Cry 5. It does feel like a large piece of DLC at times, rather than a full game, some of the side missions can get a bit dull and the over-reliance of Outpost resource management doesn’t allow it to be as strong as I would like, but at the same time there are some new ideas – like the expedition – and of course some very strong new villains that really help push the story home.
If you love Far Cry then there is no reason for you not to want to involve yourself with Far Cry New Dawn, as it does everything you would expect and a little bit more.
Where do Ubisoft go next with the series? Wherever it is, I can’t wait.