Controversial is probably one of the words people use to describe Ubisoft’s latest entry in the Far Cry universe. Is it an expansion to Far Cry 5? Is it a sequel? The actual answer is – much like previous Far Cry spin-offs such as Primal and Blood Dragon, it’s basically Far Cry 5.5. But it’s ACTUALLY Far Cry 5.5 and not an unrelated spin-off like the previous games I mentioned, as it directly follows the events of Far Cry 5’s conclusion.
This means, it takes place in the same map as Far Cry 5, has some of the same characters, and as you’ll eventually find out playing it, it concludes the storyline introduced in 5. As a disclaimer – I will admit to not being familiar with the more recent Far Cry entries especially 5, but that also gives me a different perspective of not having to compare it with 5 doesn’t it? So take a deep breath and let’s dive into post-apocalyptic Hope County.
In New Dawn, you play as the nameless “Captain” of a refugee train lead by Thomas Rush. The group goes around helping survivors recover from the “Collapse” – a nuclear apocalypse caused by the ending of Far Cry 5. The game begins with you travelling to Hope County in an attempt to help the survivors of Prosperity – setting the stage for a group of bandits called the Highwaymen to derail everyone’s dreams and hopes.
Post apocalyptic Hope County is lush and lively, with a colorful candy-colored bloom that gives it a unique look compared to other post-apocalyptic game settings. As the game takes place 17 years after the ending of 5, plants and greenery have started to grow, and animals have started to repopulate Hope County.
It’s not the best looking game out there but the visuals are solid on the base PS4, with character models and guns being quite a bit more detailed compared to the environment itself. There are some objects rendered with a low poly count (minor objects on desks for example) but these are rarely a distraction to New Dawn’s open world.
Voice acting is competent with some of the lines being hit or miss in terms of scripting. The captain that you play as is a silent protagonist, so it’s really up to the rest of the cast to liven up the world you play in. It just feels like the game is in this weird mix of deep philosophical preaching and campy characters who don’t really take things too seriously. I just feel that while the voices are acted well, there’s no real weight to any of them, and it never really kept me invested.
The music selection on the other hand is pretty good, there are tracks from Die Antwood, Steve Aoki, Run the Jewels, The Black Keys and even The Turtles amongst the multitudes of tracks. While I like the music featured in general, I find it weird that this would be the kind of playlist they have in the post apocalypse. Also one major gripe I have is that while the music is great, there’s no real mention of what the tracklist is outside of the credits roll, nor is there a mention of what current track is playing – which I feel is a big waste of the music licensing. There’s also no real way of selecting the music, and it doesn’t even tell you which station you’re listening to when you’re riding in a vehicle.
One last thing I have to point out is that while the licensed music is good, the general instrumental OST is also great, particularly the main “New Dawn” theme and the music during battles. Something that can get annoying though is that the “New Dawn” theme just loops endlessly in every menu, including the pause menu so you’ll be sick of the song in no time.
Mechanics (4 / 5)
New Dawn is what happens if you take all of the previously established open world game tropes and roll them into one. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jacking cars? Check, Stealth Takedowns? Check, Random Bear Attacks? Check, Enemy Encounters every few minutes? Check. It doesn’t push the envelope, but what it does, it does solidly.
While the Far Cry series has always happened in first person, it’s not necessarily a First Person Shooter. It plays like a First Person Shooter during battle of course, and it does that part well. Gunplay is satisfying, the weapon wheel is there for on the fly switching of ammo types or guns, and half of the fun of it is trying out new weapons with crafting materials you collect while exploring the world. There’s handguns, shotguns, sniper rifles, submachine guns, light machine guns, mounted guns, chainsaw launchers, throwable explosives, molotovs and a satisfying melee attack. The action can be very chaotic so go wild, you can even attack every allied NPC!
In New Dawn, enemies, vehicles and weapons have 4 different levels. So enemies get tougher and harder to take down, and they kill you faster as you progress. Higher level weapons can only be crafted on a workbench so looting enemies for weapons is only useful in the early game. You will definitely need to invest your materials into upgrading your weapons and your base later on.
Speaking of materials, there are some of them that are particularly more difficult to acquire and will require you to loot an enemy outpost for the most important resource in the game – Ethanol. You will also need to crack safes for Titanium and other rare materials. This collect-a-thon may or may not sit well for you, but to get the best of the best weapons in the game you’ll have to grind for these materials.
Another aspect of material gathering is hunting animals – which can range from harmless rabbits, to annoying turkeys and eagles, to monstrous elite grizzly bear attacks who can maul you to death, amongst others. While it’s a Far Cry tradition to have animal attacks and hunting, they can particularly be obnoxious when they show up randomly during a mission and attack you or your companion, disrupting the natural flow of gameplay and forcing you to have a much rougher time completing it.
Far Cry New Dawn was partly created for Coop play and it shows in the game design. When you die, you just lie on the floor and you have a choice to wait for your AI companion or human companion revive (unless they die too). If you’re playing alone, you’re going to be with an AI companion for most of the game.
You can pick from 8 companions – some of them from Far Cry 5, and some are new characters. Some of the interesting ones are a Grandma Sniper who gives enemies a lecture as she frags them, and even a Boar companion. My personal favorite companion is Timber, a dog that joins you early on in the game, and he’s just so adorable and has very useful skills. He rides with you with his tongue out, he tackles enemies and bites them dead, and he scouts materials for you. He was the one companion that made me invested in reviving him when he falls as I couldn’t bear the thought of him dying.
Another big system in the game is the Perk system. You gain skills and it makes it easier for you take down the tougher enemies later on in the game. Later on in the game you pick up some special powers. I would like to avoid spoilers on the nature of these powers – but let me tell you that while these aren’t over the top superhero powers like in Saints Row, they are quite necessary to spend Perk points on if you want to finish the game without it being too frustrating.
Far Cry New Dawn is a jack of all trades and it’s not ashamed of being one. The game mechanics are well thought out and play well.
Content (3.5 /5)
The story content in New Dawn is not that long. It took me approximately 15 hours to finish the story including a few side quests, and it wasn’t really a particularly engaging story for me.
I never cared that much for Thomas Rush or any of my other allies that have carried over from Far Cry 5, they’re just kind of “there”. The main antagonists in the game are the 2 leaders of the Highwaymen – Mickey and Lou, who are featured in the cover, and I will say that they were not particularly interesting as well. Mickey and Lou are quite cookie cutter antagonists who broadcast a cliched radio message after each mission. We’ve seen this a thousand times and it feels like hearing a Saturday morning cartoon villain at the end of each episode.
During my playthrough, the only character I really cared for outside of the dog AI companion was Joseph Seed (The main antagonist of Far Cry 5). He was the only character with some semblance of depth and he’s an interesting and charismatic cult leader. It was worth seeing what has become of him, as well the conclusion of his story.
The more interesting quests in the story involve a stealth assassination/prison break, defending the base from waves and waves of highwaymen, and a coliseum death fight. There’s a good variety of mission types to keep you on your toes.
The game does add some padding at some points, where you have to collect materials and upgrade your base in order to proceed and it’s quite annoying even if it doesn’t take that long.
Outside of the main story, there’s several side quests such as Treasure Hunts in several locations, Taking over Outposts for Ethanol, Random Supply Drops, and Expeditions which are probably the most interesting side content in New Dawn.
In Expeditions you get shipped off to different locations in America such as a cruise ship taken over by Highwaymen, A theme park, and even Alcatraz Island. Each of them has you sneak into the location to retrieve, defend and escape with a GPS-enabled Package – which means enemies will be swarming all over you as soon as you grab the package and attempt to escape. It’s a very fun diversion and nets you a lot of crafting materials such as the rare circuit boards; and it’s a great distraction from Hope County.
It’s not as big in content compared to other open world games but there’s a good amount of it in New Dawn to make it worth exploring.
Features (3.3 / 5)
Character customization is one of the more interesting parts of New Dawn. You can customize your character when you start a game, recreate your favorite WWE wrestler if you feel like it, or just go with a wacky female character with a moustache. There are default outfit sets as well as unlockable ones when you do Expeditions and Outposts.
As mentioned earlier in this review, one of the main pulls of the game is in online coop. While I haven’t had the chance to try it, it does require you and another friend to own the game and subscribe to your console’s online service if you’re not doing the PC route.
If you decide to play single player, the companion AI isn’t very good. While it’s not the worst AI, often times you’ll find your companion stuck standing around and doing nothing during a battle, or running in the line of fire trying to revive you only to die themselves, which forces you to reload the checkpoint. To mitigate this, the game gives you a few commands for your partner, but it doesn’t work perfectly in my experience.
Another feature, for better or for worse is the Ubisoft Store in game. The game does feature a lot of grinding (probably intentionally) for the best vehicles and weapons in the game and if you feel like taking a shortcut, they sell you Ubisoft credits for actual money to unlock them outright. This is of course entirely optional but it’s quite distracting to see this inside a mostly single-player game and I’m sure it will turn quite a lot of people off. It’s sad that this is what the search for profits has turned games into.
Far Cry New Dawn is pretty much an a standalone add-on game to Far Cry 5. I would compare it to something like Rockstar’s Single Player DLC for GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption 1. It plays well and is generally a fun, short romp in Hope County, but the storyline and characters leave much to be desired.
It has its shining moments but on a whole, I would say it’s quite a decent game that doesn’t reach its full potential. Who is this game for? It’s a game for fans of Far Cry 5 who to see how everything ends, and for fans of open world action games looking for something to spend $40 on. You could do a lot worse than New Dawn for the entertainment value you can get for that money. I think $40 is a fair price for the game but $30 would be the sweet spot for it. It’s a pretty good stopgap before the next big entry in the series.
Far Cry New Dawn scores an overall 3.6 / 5 and is available for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Thank you to Ubisoft for providing us with a review copy.
Article by Franz Francisco Chan