I want to get this out of the way immediately. Far Cry New Dawn is a damn fun game. Judged by its own merits, not comparing it to other titles in the franchise or its immediate predecessor, Far Cry New Dawn is a rollicking good time in an impressive and dynamic open world.
Far Cry New Dawn’s Story Is Standard – Until It Isn’t
Newcomers to the series shouldn’t hesitate to jump in feet first, as they will have a blast wandering around Hope County and experiencing the wild amusement park Ubisoft has created. Far Cry long-timers, well, they might have a bit more skepticism. But I would encourage them to set aside these reservations and get on board. There’s a lot of fun to be had here for those that are willing.
What impresses me the most about the Far Cry series in general is Ubisoft’s willingness to take the franchise in wild new directions. These games aren’t cheap to make, but from all outward appearances, the folks in charge of the Far Cry franchise eat a bunch of shrooms and then invest millions and millions of dollars into whatever wild-ass idea makes them giggle the most. Far Cry New Dawn is just the latest in a long stream of crazy left turns.
Comic book fans are probably familiar with Marvel’s beloved “What If” series. This series provided a forum for Marvel’s writers and artists to go nuts, taking the characters in lunatic directions with no repercussions to the canon Marvel story-line. What if Gwen Stacy had lived? What if Foggy got blinded instead of Matt? What if Wolverine never got his adamantium skeleton? At this point, the entire Far Cry series – particularly the DLC and expansions – feels like one big “What If” story.
Spoiler-sensitive readers might want to tap out here, with the recommendation that they go pick up this game and play it this weekend. I’m about to do a bit of spoiling.
This time the “What If” question being asked is this: What if Joseph Seed – The Father from Far Cry 5 – wasn’t an insane cult leader, but was actually a prophet of the Lord? What if he really was touched by God? Far Cry 5 toyed slightly with the implications of this thought, but Far Cry New Dawn takes the idea and runs with it, never looking back.
It should be no surprise to fans that Joseph makes an appearance in Far Cry New Dawn. And while he doesn’t show up until about the story’s halfway point, The Father’s presence hangs heavily over the entire experience. His eventual appearance is welcome indeed, as the storyline up until that point is a bit sketchy. But when Joseph does appear, and Far Cry New Dawn reveals that it is indeed jumping off the cliff into full-on mysticism, the game gains new life.
How so? Well, for starters, Joseph grants the player super powers. Halfway through the game’s storyline, players get a new mini-library of perks to buy, each of which offers game-changing (possibly game-breaking) new abilities. In a game where you can already power up to the point where you can wander into an outpost and let your dog run around clearing it out, these powers turn you into an absolute wrecking ball. Over-powered? Maybe. Fun? Hell yes.
When he appears in New Dawn, it is quickly obvious that Joseph has mellowed in his old age. Sure, he is still blathering on about the Lord and such, and his motivations are questionable due to our knowledge of his violent history, but players might be surprised when New Dawn steers them to seek Joseph out as a possible ally against Mickey and Lou – this game’s twin iterations of the big bad. It is this arc about aging and our relationship with our past that gives Far Cry New Dawn some dramatic heft.
Mickey and Lou are easily the least interesting villains in Far Cry’s recent history. While their character designs are fun and impressive, and the performances that bring them to life chew the appropriate amount of scenery, they simply aren’t in the game very much. Outside of their initial appearance, Mickey and Lou disappear from the story for hours on end, only appearing occasionally to yell about how angry they are at the player’s actions over the radio.
It is clear that this is Joseph Seed’s show, and that Mickey and Lou are only present as a story device to allow the game’s writers to further explore The Father. And that’s fine, really. Outside of establishing an evil force to fight against, the game doesn’t need them very much.
The storyline is pretty basic. After the bombs fell, survivors huddled in bunkers for a while before eventually emerging to try to rebuild. In the meantime, the Earth (and Hope County) rebounded admirably, with plant and wildlife adapting to the lack of humans just fine, thank you very much.
Far Cry New Dawn – Welcome To Prosperity
In Hope County, a group of like-minded peaceful citizens have formed Prosperity, a community that is simply trying to survive and rebuild. Into this small society burst The Highwaymen – Mickey and Lou’s gang. They don’t like Prosperity, because they are mean. Seriously, that’s about the best reason I can think of. They make a few comments about how they want to take supplies from Prosperity, but mostly they seem to attack because they are sour people that don’t play will with others.
The player is recruited to help bolster Prosperity against the Highwaymen’s constant badgering and attacks. By foraging for crafting components and ethanol (the primary currency of advancement), players are able to develop Prosperity’s central base. Most of the game’s advancement is tied to this base-building, so wise players will quickly prioritize Prosperity’s development.
This is accomplished in a number of ways. While the story demands that the player recruit “specialists” to help run the base, they are mainly excuses to run through some fun and varied quest missions. The real meat of advancement is done by the acquisition of ethanol – gained primarily from taking over outposts.
Outpost Missions Are Fun And Profitable
Unlike previous Far Cry games, taking over outposts is not the mechanic that allows the player to gain control over territory. Simply wandering through the map and clearing the fog of war will open up fast travel destinations. These outpost battles are strictly for fun and profit.
Outposts raids are very fun – and not surprisingly – designed to allow the player to attack them in a variety of ways. After a bit of experimentation, I fell in love with taking a stealth approach, silently taking out the base’s alarm system and then picking everyone off with a bow and arrow. Of course, for the lower-level outposts, I can just let my epic-level dog roll in and murder everyone while I sit back and watch, which brings its own weird and slightly disturbing satisfaction.
Once conquered, outposts can be surrendered to The Highwaymen for a payment of precious ethanol, and then retaken on a higher difficulty. There are only three difficulty levels, and once you are powerful enough to clear the highest, you are able to farm these outposts until Prosperity is cranking out epic weaponry and high end vehicles. In terms of the story, this mechanic makes little sense. But for gathering resources, its a winner. Some might find repeating the same missions to be a grind, but I enjoyed getting to know these levels inside and out, and finding new approaches and strategies.
Far Cry New Dawn Offers A Ton Of Side Content
The entire world of Far Cry New Dawn is littered with crafting materials. Even the skins that are taken from hunting and fishing are traded for things like copper and duct tape with the press of a button.
Crafting is all handled by mini-shops in Prosperity, and the process is smooth and polished to a shine. It is only when you get into crafting things like epic level weapons that you will have to worry about seeking specific materials. Up until that point, you will grab enough stuff just wandering around the world.
Expeditions are a way to earn materials for higher-end weapons, and while players could easily ignore them (you get to a point where you’re strong enough, and advancement just becomes overkill), they are well worth a look. Located in other areas of the United States outside of Hope County, Expeditions are basically glorified outpost raids, but they do offer a nice change of scenery. Players are dropped outside of various bases, and must infiltrate, grab a McGuffin, and get out alive. Whether you sneak or go in guns blazing is entirely up to you.
Treasure Hunts are yet another option, with players solving riddles, puzzles and challenges in order to gain some sweet loot and perk points. Like all of the quests and activities in New Dawn, Treasure Hunts are rife with personality and provide some fun and varied optional side content.
While much is being made about the RPG elements in Far Cry: New Dawn, the game doesn’t feel all that different from previous entries. Sure, some of the later content will be too difficult for beginners, so you might be gently gated off from wandering too far until you have powered up a bit. But progression is so easy to accomplish that I can’t imagine that this will frustrate too many players. And after a certain power level, you will be semi-godlike, so further advancement is entirely at your own discretion.
Guns and Fangs for hire are back again, and much like in Far Cry 5 their skills are highly useful. Also much like Far Cry 5 is the fact that after unlocking various assistants, I tended to completely ignore them in favor of the dog. Timber the dog is just so useful, I couldn’t give up his scouting abilities no matter how tempting some of the other characters were.
Everything About New Dawn Screams Attention To Detail
Watching Timber in action, in fact, is part of what impressed me so much about Far Cry New Dawn. Sure, just like Joseph Seed, the open world of Hope County seems a bit more mellow post-war. And yeah, the post-apocalypse feels a lot like the pre-apocalypse, but a lot pinker. But the production value and detail that Ubisoft packs into these games does so much to elevate them beyond any complaints that I might have that I find it difficult to nitpick.
No one does AAA gaming like Ubisoft. These games just look and play so damn well that they make everyone else look bad. The animation on display is frankly stunning. I parked my character in Prosperity for a few minutes to take notes, and while I was sitting idle, I noticed Timber sniffing around camp with his dog buddy. This was no simple animation loop – there was AI guiding these dogs and the way they behaved while gallivanting around this camp. The fact that a $40 video game took the time and care to build things like this is frankly stunning.
The dogs play together (and dog-paddle in water). The jokes from specialists and Guns for Hire actually land. The world interacts in unexpected ways. I saw a fuel tanker accidentally run down an enemy with a flame thrower, and the resulting explosion was glorious. A wolverine jumped on a guy I was talking to and started eating his face. This is a finely-honed yet unpredictable game, and the fact that engine is so refined that everything just works is a wonder, especially when compared to some other recent releases.
Like I said, Far Cry New Dawn is a damn fun game. Whether you dig the gonzo direction the story takes or not, it is still massively fun to wander the world getting in and out of scrapes. As far as I’m concerned, Ubisoft can continue creating super-high-budget “What If” stories as long as they want. I’ll keep playing them, because they are wildly entertaining. And what am I gaming for, if not to be entertained?