Far Cry games are like buses of late, albeit ones that zoom off a cliff in a ball of fire: two have come along at once, or at least in quick succession. Less than a year after the arrival of the cult-killing romp through the American prairies that was Far Cry 5 we have New Dawn, a standalone sequel that takes place 17 years after ‘The Collapse’, the nuclear annihilation of Earth for which the crazed cult were preparing.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that all-out war would draw a fiery line under the nefarious activities of Joseph Seed and his followers but, actually, it’s just the beginning. In the decade or so that follows the so-called ‘good’ and now canonical Far Cry 5 ending, a devastating drought makes way for a nuclear winter that irrevocably transforms the once-idyllic Hope County.
Yes, New Dawn shares Far Cry 5’s setting, which might disappoint anyone who can muster up the excitement for another game in the series so soon. If you’re in that camp, the game only costs 45 euros, which is somewhere between a major expansion and a full triple-A release.
Nevertheless, you may well have a morbid curiosity for what has changed across the landscape you once bounded across with Boomer the dog. Much of the environment has been lost to the ravages of time and enriched uranium. The poky church that plays host to the beginning and conclusion of the previous game is an overgrown, derelict shadow of its former self. Pylons and barns keel over and submit to the maw of the snaking vines at their feet.
Dawn of the deadly
As you can infer from this sequel’s title, life is returning to Hope County when the game begins. Somewhere between the aesthetic stylings of The Last of Us and Rage, Far Cry: New Dawn’s world sees a vengeful Mother Nature re-establishing her dominance over the Montanan outback. A ‘super bloom’ of wildflowers injects an explosion of fresh colour and new biomes into the landscape, as if nature has been supercharged by radioactive E numbers.
But it isn’t just flowers that are populating the revitalised Hope County: a ragtag gang wearing Motocross armour called the Highwaymen have entered the scene, screeching to the fill the void left by the Peggies. Headed by new bleach-blonde twin baddies Mickey and Lou, this motley band are particularly nasty bandits that use the remnants of Far Cry 5’s era to raise hell with makeshift weaponry and scavenged resources.
Thankfully, these miscreants are not the only human survivors roaming the wastes of this new United States. You play as a new – but still silent – protagonist who’s part of a group that clash with the Highwaymen over critical resources. In what amounts to a familiar Far Cry opening, after your train is ambushed, you must assemble and strengthen your team of friendly survivors to subjugate the bandit big bads.
Opportunity today, Prosperity tomorrow
Your base of operations is one of the standout new features in New Dawn. Veterans of Far Cry 5 will recognise this repurposed settlement as the ruins of John Seed’s ranch. What was once a cultist fortress is now the Prosperity Base, a place where you can park your suitably outrageous set of wheels, pick consumables from your farm, and gather intel on your next destination. As you progress through the game, other survivors sympathetic to your cause will rock up to your home and liven it up with laughter and songs.
Prosperity is also where you can treat wounded Far Cry: New Dawn Specialists. Both Guns and Fangs for Hire return, but they’re all new due to the whole end-of-the-world thing. We’ll be getting Nana, a sniper-wielding senior citizen, and a particularly aggressive boar called Horatio to tag along with us. But, yes, that does mean beloved Boomer is dead. Since New Dawn takes place 17 years after Far Cry 5, the goodest of videogame boys might have merely succumbed to old age. He probably didn’t, though.
Regardless, Specialists still mostly exist to fill the absence of a real-life co-op pal, which was the best way to play Far Cry 5. If you played it in single-player, however, you were left to muddle through a confused story about US separatism – whether Ubisoft intended for that to be the case or not. Ubisoft has made its desire to distance Far Cry: New Dawn from politics even further in an interview with us, despite the fact that nuclear war symbolises diplomatic failure in its most terrifying and extreme form.
Once again, any political teeth when it comes to story and dialogue has been replaced with slapstick, GTA-style humour. Fans of the relatively serious tone of Far Cry 2 will be disappointed to instead find gross-out jokes inherited from Far Cry 5: a side mission sees a mutton-chopped Highwayman thug recruiting you for a gladiatorial arena fight and bragging about a recent scrap in which he’d “punched [a guy] so hard he farted his brains out.”
As with Far Cry 5, the best stories in New Dawn will be written by yourself and a friend. Every mission in Far Cry 5 was playable with a virtual partner, and capturing an outpost together elevated a middling game to a memorable one. Thankfully, then, co-op is also where this sequel looks the most promising. First, there’s the Escalation system, which adds a juicy new dimension to one of the game’s strongest activities – securing outposts.
Once you’ve sent the Highwaymen running with their elbow pads between their legs, you have a choice: claim the base for your group, or pick it clean for more resources. If you take the second option, prepare for the bandits to set up shop again, but this time with better defences. Then, if you choose to return and send them off in a further mess of dirt clouds and skid marks, so to speak, you have better loot to return to Prosperity base. Foes will level with you too, and the most powerful of their number – the heavily-armoured Enforcers – will significantly increase the challenge. It’s a system that’s intended to encourage you to repeat these missions over and over, but it also has the potential to drive the ‘anecdote factory’ with a friend in co-op.
There are also Expeditions, which are missions that take you beyond the confines of Hope County. These maps are one square kilometre in size, taken on from inside Prosperity base, and will be set in Bayou and West Coast environments. They’re essentially larger scale outposts that increase in difficulty.
The Expedition I get to see takes place in a disused amusement park swarming with heavily-armed Highwaymen. Snipers take their position amid roller coasters, while Enforcers mill about between burned-out shops and hot dog stands, itching for a new target. These missions bring to mind the player-made Far Cry 5 Arcade maps which is a feature that won’t be coming to New Dawn.
Escalation and Expeditions are the most enticing aspects of New Dawn, provided Ubisoft support it more than Far Cry 5’s map editor. Whether Far Cry: New Dawn is enough for solo players remains to be seen, however. It’s clearly an iteration on Far Cry 5 and it feels like we’re very much going over old – if rather scorched – ground. The appeal of ticking off more quest markers and building up another resistance less than 12 months after the previous game might put off many. But Far Cry: New Dawn proves that, when it comes to blowing up a baddie-filled base and knifing goons stealthily from behind, the more is most certainly the merrier.