Far Cry: New Dawn is the latest in the line of stop gap sequels in the Far Cry series. Like Far Cry: Blood Dragon and Far Cry: Primal, New Dawn makes use of the last Far Cry game that came before it as a basis of a whole new set of missions and a story. In New Dawn’s case, it makes use of Far Cry 5’s Hope County in a post-apocalyptic setting, taking place seventeen years after the bombs fell, just like cult leader and controversially toothless villain Joseph Seed had predicted. But instead of a desert wasteland that’s usually associated with nuclear armageddon, we’re dealt a very colorful backdrop where nature has taken over, and instead of fighting over territory with a religious cult, it’s a gang of thugs named the Highwaymen, who taken a liking to painting everything pink.
The game opens with you riding into town along with your boss, Thomas Rush, an entrepreneur who’s become very good at helping settlements rebuild all over the United States following the chaos that ensued from the bombs. Unfortunately, word’s got out of his skills, and the train ends up getting derailed by the Highwaymen and their leaders, twin sisters Lou and Mickey, the main baddies for Far Cry: New Dawn. Slowly, but surely, you help build a huge network of bases, and eventually help thwart their plans to squeeze everyone out of their resources, which in New Dawn’s case the most valuable is ethanol.
In that regard, this game plays pretty much like all the Far Crys that have come out since Far Cry 3. You gather resources, craft new items, and get stronger over time, thanks to perks you can buy by completing challenges and engaging with open-world activities such as rescuing hostages, taking over bases, and stealing cargo. Far Cry: New Dawn plays it extremely safe, and if you have touched any of the other games, you’ll know how it’ll go. Still, there are some things that help sort it apart from the rest, aside from the saturation of color and having to scrounge up materials to buy makeshift weapons.
The gameplay has taken a slight shift towards less of a material grind and more of actually having to do activities and use different support characters in order to progress through the skill tree, and guns are level-based, so if you decide to take out, say, a level 2 enemy with a level 1 pistol, it’ll be one hell of a fight. Granted, things don’t get as bad as Assassin’s Creed level disparity, you eventually get to craft stronger weapons as you upgrade your crafting table, and it only goes to level 4. As for skills, along with your perks, which unlock the set of skills you should be used to by now if you play Far Cry — more space for guns, hangliding, climbing, stronger stealth kills, the works — you also get to level up your followers.
For instance, if you decide to take Nana aboard (and why wouldn’t you, she’s an awesome grandma who just happens to be a crack shot with a sniper rifle), you can gradually level her up the more kills she gets, eventually unlocking new, deadly skills along the way, like being able to shoot from behind cover. That makes for a good excuse to switch partners around and take different approaches in missions and side quests. The archetypes for your helpers doesn’t really change, you still get the aforementioned sniper, a dog who can help tag enemies from far away, and even a heavy who you’ll find very familiar… Ah, who am I kidding? It’s Hark, the idiot loud-mouth from all the other Far Cry games. Why wouldn’t he be in this one, right?
If that guy can survive the bombs, you might be surprised to discover others did as well, but unlike our old knucklehead friend, they play an entirely different role this time around. I’m talking about the Seed clan, who are back, but instead of playing the bad guys, they’re turning leaf and lending you a hand. It’s a little weird seeing that sudden twist, considering all that went down in Far Cry 5, but hey, the story has never been the series’ strongest point, so consistency is anyone’s game at this point in the franchise. In fact, ever since that particular game, the sense that the well’s run dry is all but present when it come to writing for these games.
The villains were probably the weakest part about Far Cry 5, and it’s just about the same this time around. I don’t really believe that splitting up in two sisters made much of an impact in just how stale their personalities are as they speak to the camera at you — one is cunning, while the other is just plain cruel — a hallmark of just about every one of the previous games’ baddies one-track minds. Sure, one of the series’ best like Pagan Min might have let you get away if you had just stayed at the dinner table and was a fun and somewhat bubbly persona, but he was a villain that you eventually had to deal with nonetheless.
Still, for as tiring as the formula’s starting to get for Far Cry, there’s absolutely no denying that these games can be a whole lot of brainless fun. Far Cry: New Dawn is no exception. Its map might be recycled, but the visual changes and embellishments to gameplay help make up for the fact that this is another first-person shooter open-world game under the Ubisoft flavor. It’s a plan that works, but it’s also one that’s run its course over the years. Like Assassin’s Creed before it, Far Cry needs a violent shake-up in its foundation if it hopes to stay relevant, and hopefully that won’t mean adding a ‘battle royale’ in whatever they might be planning to announce at E3.