Far Cry New Dawn Review
Far Cry New Dawn launched in February for $40 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Similar to Blood Dragon and Primal before it, its underlying map data is taken from the preceding game.
However, this isn’t just a re-skin of Far Cry 5. Rather, it’s a direct sequel, offering about 20-30 hours of either single player or co-op first person shooting action, with some light RPG elements thrown into the mix.
I had a lot of fun with it until the precise moment that I didn’t. Fortunately, that moment came right at the end.
Far Cry New Dawn casts you as “The Captain,” a voiceless protagonist with an appearance of your choosing. You’re thrown into a colorful post-apocalyptic world that follows on from the shock ending of Far Cry 5. In grand bombastic Far Cry style you’re immediately introduced to the antagonists…who are then largely relegated to yelling at you over the radio for the rest of the game.
This is a problem that Far Cry has always struggled with, and it’s a shame to see New Dawn’s interesting twin sister villains almost wasted. Ubisoft continually creates fascinating antagonists for this franchise, but then struggles with how to actually bring you to their location so you can see them. I admire the determination to stick with the first person perspective at all times, but a willingness to cut away would allow for much greater storytelling potential.
The radio-yelling solution is a little more graceful than Far Cry 5’s strange “we kidnap you and bring you to the villain” strategy it deployed at regular intervals, but the villains are still reduced to the background a little too much in this game that’s overcrowded with characters for being set after the apocalypse. Each of these side characters will stick in your memory just as much as the villains do, and many of the side missions revolve around doing tasks for people to recruit them to your upgradeable homestead.
New Dawn brings light base building into the Far Cry series for the first time, and it smartly ties every other mechanic in the game back into the progression of either your character or your base. Like other modern Ubisoft games (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, The Division 2), every action you take in the world feels like it has more of a purpose here since it almost always contributes to improving your ability set.
The leveling system is more akin to the one in Far Cry 3 and 4, with easy ways to earn skill points all over the map and lots of different overlapping options for upgrading. I didn’t like how Far Cry 5 tied its skills to different challenges and play styles. It meant that there were several skills I wasn’t likely to earn, since I always play these games in the same “stealth-till-mistake-then-guns-blazing” way I have since Far Cry 2. New Dawn’s system is very flexible, and its only real fault compared to other modern loot-filled games is the lack of a proper random weapon system.
Instead, there’s a pre-set collection of weapons here, and many of them are cosmetic redesigns of guns from Far Cry 5. Each one has a defined tier, and each enemy has a defined strength tier. You want to have weapons that at least match the tier of your enemy or you’re going to have a rough time.
I had a great time playing this for about 20 hours on the PS4 Pro, blasting my way across the world, opening new locations, gathering resources, and powering up my base. Then, I hit the final boss battles.
It’s here that the game runs out of design fuel and falls back on that classic boss battle trope: the bullet sponge.
After fighting the first bullet sponge, I was irritated. But then when there was a second bullet sponge arena battle right after that, the game nearly lost me. It’s so bizarre that a game built around open world freedom, multiple play styles, and putting your skills to good use devolves into two tiny arena fights against enemies with hilariously long health bars right at the end.
It all feels a little like the game wants you to go back and grind for more resources…or spend some money on time-saving microtransactions. My advice? Do neither of these if you’re stuck on these fights, and turn the difficulty down. The only thing difficulty affects in New Dawn is the amount of health that enemies have, and the final boss fights seem better-balanced the further down the difficulty tree you go. But maybe that’s just me.
Aside from the stumbles in the final encounters, mission design actually has some variety, with some great use of platforming and puzzle elements to shake up the shooting. I enjoyed some of the puzzles, which hearken back to first person point-and-click adventure games. The token RPG combat arena sequence you’ve seen in every other RPG ever also makes an appearance.
Graphically, the game is nigh-identical to Far Cry 5 tech-wise but with a new color palette and a decent amount of new artwork for the destroyed landscape. One of the side mission chains in the game is about taking you to different locations from the last game, and showing you just how different the world now looks, in case you were going to chastise Ubisoft for making an “asset flip.” It’s cheeky and fun.
Aside from a large open world to pillage and standard side missions to complete, the game also has a small handful of Expeditions, which are basically raid dungeons set on other unique maps. These are fun, though they escalate in difficulty if you keep repeating them to the point where they’re clearly meant to be challenged alongside a co-op partner.
In spite of doing some fun stuff with its side characters, Far Cry New Dawn’s plot isn’t quite as strong as the previous games in the franchise overall, but it’s still really impressive for a lower-priced game, and all of the actors do a good job with the material they’re working with.
If this became the new model for some of Ubisoft’s sequels going forward, I’d probably be okay with that. I’m guessing the production time on this was much more sustainable than the average “AAA” game, but it’s still good enough presentation-wise you’d never think it was made with less money unless you knew.
I’d love to see a new smaller Assassin’s Creed game set in one of the maps from the previous game…even though I know that’s probably not happening.
Ubisoft kept everything from Far Cry 5 that worked (the tech and the combat) and was able to create some fun new designs and mechanics that almost overcome the lackluster story. And terrible final bosses.
This game regularly goes on sale for $20, so if you’re looking for a reasonably fun first person shooter then that’s a stupidly good deal for the amount of content and quality graphics here. Hopefully, Far Cry 6 will build on this game’s smart game system integrations and expand out the loot and character customization options. And find a way to show players more of the antagonist without resorting to hackneyed plot devices.
I intended to play this game through again on my Xbox One, but then I ended up falling off of it a few hours in. Screens in this review from the Xbox One version of the game, but it looks great everywhere.