A Far Cry from Hope
Far Cry 5 was a satisfying adventure, from its vast open-world journey across the rural landscape of Hope County, Montana to its central conflict against maniacal cult leader Joseph Seed. However, its conclusion left the game with dangling plot threads. Ubisoft has seized the opportunity for resolution with a direct sequel Far Cry New Dawn.
Far Cry New Dawn is a standalone expansion. Playing Far Cry 5 is not a prerequisite, but familiarity with its core events enhances understanding and appreciation of New Dawn’s plot. The setting is once again the fictional Hope County, Montana. Seventeen years have passed, and a nuclear explosion has left the land in a post-apocalyptic state. A small group of survivors have set up base in an area dubbed Prosperity, but their safety has been threatened by a lawless band called the Highwaymen, led by tough sisters known as the Twins. You play as a silent, customizable male or female captain of security whose superior Thomas Rush gets captured by the Highwaymen.
Compared to Far Cry’s compelling story about facing a cult who believes they’re on the good side, Far Cry New Dawn’s good vs. evil plot feels relatively cut-and-dry. I really wanted to like the Twins, but the narrative didn’t provide enough characterization for me to care one way or the other about them. This lack of development was an issue throughout, not giving the individual characters the focus they deserved. I wanted to learn more about Carmina Rye, the young woman who didn’t know what life was like before the apocalypse, or Thomas Rush, my superior, whom I’m supposed to save. Thankfully, the previous villain Joseph Seed does get proper limelight. Joseph’s role in the current state of affairs is the most fascinating story thread, and his actor once again knocks this cult leader’s performance out of the park. There are other returning characters that Far Cry 5 players can catch up with, but witnessing what became of Seed will be one of the biggest attractors for veterans.
If you’ve played Far Cry 5, the gameplay is nearly identical. You run around a large open-world completing missions while engaging with the heinous Highwaymen in first-person shooter combat. The explorable map is the same as in Far Cry 5, but a bit trimmed down. Likewise, the mission count is scanter with only 22 required story missions and a couple dozen more side quests. It’s quality over quantity; the missions involve multi-step objectives that run the gamut from vehicle escort to sniper challenges. You’re free to explore however you want and are not forced against your will to start a story quest until you’re ready. You’ll likely complete everything at a faster rate than in previous games in the series, but Far Cry New Dawn is still a hefty 20+ hour experience with a fair amount of content for two-thirds of the price.
The apocalypse has left the world emptier, but the environment isn’t as barren as you might think. Instead of the typical ghost town wastelands in other post-apocalyptic games, Hope County is strangely even more radiant and colorful than before. The creators have implemented the superbloom phenomenon, in which a multitude of flowers covers the ground, resulting in a beautiful blossoming land untouched by humans. The fanciful floral landscape rivals Hope County’s original breathtaking rural domain. The area isn’t as empty as you might expect either. Indeed, buildings are abandoned, and several areas are devoid of humanity, but there is usually a new quest or a Highwaymen-controlled outpost in need of liberation within a short running distance. There were certainly moments when I felt like an area looked familiar to its Far Cry 5 version, but the drastically different aesthetics made them almost unrecognizable. Although the more techno-based soundtrack isn’t as stellar as Far Cry 5’s music, there remain some soothing violin tracks and appropriately used licensed music.
Far Cry New Dawn’s new light RPG elements freshen up gameplay. Completing achievement challenges to gain perks that upgrade your character’s abilities return. A set of five special superpowers that bestow otherworldly abilities embody the coolest new perks. The biggest RPG-like addition is Prosperity, your home base that you can upgrade using the resource ethanol. The easiest way to obtain ethanol is through liberating outposts from Highwaymen. Eventually, you begin to upgrade facilities such as fast travel options, your maximum health and healing capabilities, and your crafting proficiency. Normal currency no longer exists in this world, and you’re instead dependent on resources to craft weapons and vehicles. There is a good variety of weapons, whether you prefer machine guns, assault rifles, rocket launchers – or my favorite – the unique Saw Launcher that fires circular saw blades. The practical weapon wheel made switching between firearms efficient, and as someone who isn’t a master of first-person shooters, I felt comfortable with the helpful aim. Weapons have four ranks, from standard rank 1 to elite, and your ability to craft better guns depends on your home base progress and resource collection.
Consequently, the game is on the grindier side. There are only ten outposts that offer a limited amount of ethanol. To get more, you must scavenge the outposts, allowing the Highwaymen to reclaim it, and take it back all over again. The enemies are higher-ranked each time. But liberating outposts simply to get stronger weapons and upgrades, then utilizing that newfound strength to fight the same ten outposts for more resources, is a loop that easily grows tiresome. As a plus, this adds a lot of replay value for those itching for increasingly difficult tasks. Also, it can be fun to devise different strategies for each run, like stealthily killing every enemy using well-executed knife takedowns, but I felt ready to move on after my first encounter with each outpost.
Expeditions are the most engaging missions, transporting players into a completely different area, such as a ship in Florida, the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River, or a theme park. These original locations are much smaller self-contained maps, and the missions for each expedition are all the same: find a package and extract it. Regardless, the new environments offer a nice change of pace. There are seven expeditions, but the game encourages you to play them again in higher-ranked difficulties. As with the outposts, more variety would have been preferable to repeated missions, especially since obtaining those resources and upgrading your base are part of the story requirements.
There isn’t much of a postgame beyond finishing up the sidequests, the most intricate being a hunt for locations corresponding to photos showing what Hope County looked like in the past. The other quests involve seeking guns-for-hire, eight people (and animals, including a dog and boar) who fight alongside you. As an alternative, you can play the entire game in online co-op, with story progression linked to the host. Last but not least, hunting, fishing, and treasure hunting are fun, but skippable, digressions that can help you progress.
Far Cry New Dawn may be a smaller game with a shorter shelf life by the series’ standards, but that still amounts to a meaty 20+ hour campaign. Much of that time is spent grinding for resources, but in spite of that, it’s engaging to make progress, upgrade the home base, and craft better gear. Although the game is technically a standalone expansion, newcomers will want to play Far Cry 5 first for a more fulfilling experience that properly introduces Hope County. In a similar vein, this direct sequel may not appeal to those who want to see something novel from the series. But for fans of the predecessor who were left wanting more resolution, a new dawn awaits you back in Hope County.
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on DarkStation.