Far Cry is a series that’s been around a fair few years now. It’s become a far cry of what it used to resemble, morphing from a weird first-person shooter where you have “powers”, to a giant open-world behemoth. Is Far Cry New Dawn a great addition to the series, or has the sun finally began set on the franchise?
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never closely followed Far Cry as a whole. I enjoyed many an afternoon dicking around with the map editor at a friends house back in the day, and I dived into Far Cry 2 a few years after release (I was a poor college boy, I’m sorry) and enjoyed some of what I played. I’ve since dabbled in the newer releases just “to see what’s going on” and, shockingly, Far Cry New Dawn is more of the same.
I’d like to tackle the story and tone of Far Cry New Dawn first, if I may. See, I usually like to discuss gameplay and trickle down from there, but I feel this needs addressing at the start. Far Cry New Dawn takes place in a pseudo-post-apocalyptic “wasteland”, where nature overtook the land due to the lack of humans, who cleverly hid in fridges or something. Pretty sure Indiana Jones was there.
Anyway, humans have returned and enjoyed a few brief years of peace. Naturally, peace never lasts and a group known as the Highwaymen have taken to rampaging, looting, and pillaging the area of Hope County. That’s where you come in. You play the non-talking, emotionless husk of a man, or woman (you’re given the choice to pick your avatar) who’s the bodyguard of the man who’s going to help everyone establish an amazing settlement, Rush. See, he’s made a name for himself and, via Carmina Rye’s efforts, he’s making his way to Hope County with you in his shadow.
So the basic premise for the actual stuff you get to play in Far Cry New Dawn is you’re there to build up a settlement, reunite some families and fight back against the Highwaymen. All seem’s pretty somber and self-serious, right? Well, let’s talk about that.
See, Far Cry New Dawn suffers from being almost bipolar in tone. One moment you’re the catalyst behind a heartwarming reunion, the next you’re subjected to a middle-aged man telling you that he’s got a semi while you gun down people. It’s not even the dialogue that made me roll my eyes at times, but there are various locations that you’ll have to encounter that are named in witty ways and, the biggest example I have for that is a location named “Dicks Hole”. These weird choices ultimately make for a tone that doesn’t know what to do with itself. You have a roaving gang of marauders giving children live grenades, that ends up being undercut by a socially awkward man promising to give you a reach around. I’m all for humor being used to lighten dark situations, but there’s almost a prepubescent air to the writing here.
Overall, the story is serviceable. You’re given a reason to shoot the bad guy and, I guess that’s all we really need, right?
Switching gears to the gameplay now. No more story talk from me. Far Cry New Dawn is your typical first-person shooter. You ever played the Call Of Duty? You’ll be able to guess the default control scheme. That’s the world we live in, and there’s not really a more intuitive control scheme out there until we can start shipping games with replica guns. Actually, let’s bring back lightguns in the household.
Now, I feel this point underlines everything to do with Far Cry New Dawn. The gunplay is mostly fine. See, there’s a light sprinkling of RPG elements, and no, I don’t mean everything explodes. For some strange reason, guns all have levels, as do enemies and animals. If your gun is lower than the level of an enemy (or a fucking bear) then you’re set to do way less damage than you’d anticipate. I understand the decision from a gameplay perspective. You don’t want Jenny from the block to spank through all your enemies with the first pistol in the game, but when you’re attempting to convey a realistic setting, to a certain degree, it feels oddly placed.
Leveling up isn’t really a matter of gaining experience by killing 65,340,285 boars in a forest. It’s also not really a tangible number, though I guess you could probably just look at your guns and go “guess I’m level 3”. Instead of gaining skills from gaining experience and hearing the tried and true ding, that we’ve all been trained to get hyped about like a pavlovian dog, you gain skill points by doing various challenges, ranging from getting X number of kills with Y level of pistol/shotgun/sniper rifle/etc, to completing outposts without being seen.
The challenges themselves don’t really pose much of a threat to the average gamer, but they do at least provide you with a few goals to aim for while you traverse the map. Because Far Cry New Dawn is a Ubisoft game, there’s also a plethora of extra events that are added to the map. Most of these also result in skill points, whether it’s rescuing NPC’s from the back of a lorry, to delving into a hidden room by torching the bodies of cultists, there’s usually a few skill points to be had.
The skills you gain, on the other hand, range from the super useful “carry more guns”, to the kinda lackluster “here’s a fishing rod”. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good fishing mini-game, but I feel there’s definitely a trick missing here. These skills could’ve been used to help the player vary up the minute to minute gameplay, but instead, they’re used to improve the core gameplay whilst shying away from changing it.
Base building is present, or at least, kinda. See, to gate you from getting the best guns/cars/explosives, you’ve gotta dump resources into upgrading all manner of things. It doesn’t add to Far Cry New Dawn, in fact, it kinda detracts from it. Again, I understand gating weapon progression because let’s face it, if you could have the best guns at the start of the game, you’d have no power curve. But there’s a way you can get all the best shit at the start, and that’s by dropping some sweet premium currency. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
The main resource needed in Far Cry New Dawn is Ethanol. It’s the reason you have outposts to take out. It’s the lifeblood of the game, the Mako energy if you’re nasty. There are multiple ways to get a little bit of Ethanol, as there are seemingly random events that pop up to distract you from whatever noble quest you’re on. There’s occasional air drops for you to fight over, as well as ethanol tankers for you to commandeer and drive back to your base. There’s little sprinklings of side content throughout the whole of Hope County. While it’s not a bad thing in most games, Far Cry New Dawn has a metric fuck tonne that it’s ready to ram down your throat at a moments notice.
See, with all the auxiliary activities, Far Cry New Dawn becomes mired in tedium. While the map is pretty big, traversing it is a nightmare as, and this is only a side note but the driving is shite. One of the only features I actually enjoyed with the driving, is the ability to set a waypoint and have the car auto drive. Needless to say, auto drive allowed me to cook my dinner in peace while still progressing through the map. Due to travel time and all the extra side content, getting from point A to point B becomes point A, to point Z, via points 12, 44 and Alpha. If I lost you there, there’s a shit load of stuff in your way to story missions.
Not content with having your journey through Hope County be a solo one, there’s a gang of followers that’ll journey with you. Ranging from useless gun users to excellent doggo companions. While some of them are more useful than others (always choose team doggo), you’re constantly at the mercy of the AI, and let’s be honest, there are some issues with the AI.
The AI fluctuates between being as dense as black matter, to being razor sharp on the spin of a dime. More than once, I’d drop an enemy into a downed state, to then have an entire base know my exact location. It’s strange, considering there’s literally a stealth mechanic in the game, that Far Cry New Dawn almost wants you to be in a firefight more often than not. Sure, you can throw a rock to make Guard A move over for an easier kill, but you may as well John Wick your way through the game because inevitably you’re gonna have to go guns blazing whether you like it or not.
Speaking of guns blazing, Far Cry New Dawn adds an expedition mode. Once you’ve plied your pilot with a small wack of ethanol, you can fly out to different locations for “prime loot”. You want the good shit, well this is how you get the good shit. Once you’re flown out to a location, you’re tasked with grabbing a bag and getting the hell outta dodge. Now, there’ll always be a large number of Highwaymen about, so stealth is the best option, or at least, it is until you grab the bag. See, this is where Far Cry New Dawn shows it’s hand. You can Solid Snake your way through the location, stealth kill everyone in the surrounding area and yet, as soon as you pick up the bag of goodies, every guard starts to pay attention to the tracking device. Why our loveable hero can’t just get rid of the tracking device or, better yet, take everything out of the bag is beyond me, but after a timer ticks down, all hell breaks loose and you end up in a firefight while you wait for a chopper to come save your ass.
It was in these moments that I realized I was only given the illusion of choice. It didn’t matter if I’d ran through the area with a shotgun, instead of a bow and arrow, the end result would be the same and that was a massive shame to me.
Graphically, Far Cry New Dawn is impressive. The areas are lush and colorful and buildings are decrepit. The flora and fauna are beautiful to look at, but it’s not without its problems. While the sheer amount of shrubbery is impressive and creates an impressive world to look at, it also ends up masking objects that you kinda want to pick up. The amount of times I’d lose the bodies of animals that I’d hunted because of the sheer density of the forests is immeasurable. Maybe that’s my own issue, who knows.
Gun models are interesting, with earlier guns seemingly cobbled together with gaffa tape and random pipes. It’s actually pretty fitting, as early on, you’ve not got the tools to even begin to create some sweet looking, high-quality weapons. To be perfectly honest, even with all the improvements to your base, you’re still only really equipped with a workbench and a vice, but let’s ignore that for now.
Character customization is a weird thing to include in a game where you play from a first-person perspective, but it’s present in Far Cry New Dawn. You’ve got a fair wack of hair and beard styles, some clothing options and a few faces. Also, from completing some challenges, you can unlock more clothing options, ranging from a Unicorn outfit or even a Medival Knight outfit. I’ll admit, the only times you actually see your character model if you get downed, or when you clear an outpost. It’s an interesting touch, and customization is always welcomed, but every mirror is seemingly destroyed or covered up, so you’ll never catch yourself in the heat of battle.
Far Cry New Dawn is an interesting game. It doesn’t do anything new, or groundbreaking, but it’s a mostly enjoyable open-world first-person experience. It’s a shame that there are AI issues, as well as far too much content crammed into every centimeter of the game, but you can lose a few hours before succumbing to annoyance.