Since its debut in 2004, the Far Cry series has hopped all around the globe and time itself from the Nepal-inspired Kryat to the prehistoric Stone Ages. However, FAR CRY NEW DAWN marks the first time the franchise has returned to a location. Far Cry 5’s Montana is back but has been perverted by nuclear weaponry and a whole lot of colorful flowers. Although this fresh coat of pink paint is only on the surface as Far Cry New Dawn is an overly safe, repetitive entry that follows too closely to its numerous predecessors.
Being a sequel to Far Cry 5, New Dawn directly lifts mostly the same framework and drops it into this remixed setting although it is slightly less open this time around. Players have to run through the map balancing main missions and recruiting specialists that help you during gameplay and add to your homebase.
While adding different specialists to your ranks is straight from the previous game, the homebase is where the game makes its biggest strides. In its attempt to be more of an RPG, players can invest resources they find in the open world into their base to get better stats and gear. There are eight different sections of the base that can grant you more health, better weapons, additional fast travel points, and more depending on what you dump into where.
Far Cry New Dawn Review | Building a better base
Each takes a hefty bit of resources to upgrade and players have to decide what parts of the base are more important along with keeping some material stashed away for crafting stronger weaponry. Placing importance on scavenging matches the post-apocalyptic tone and gives more incentive to pick everything clean. It’s an incredibly basic yet moderately addictive loop that rides solely off the joy of seeing numbers go up and cleverly deepens a game with a relatively smaller scope. New Dawn isn’t as big as Far Cry 5 but it attempts to make up for that with more leveling and systems.
But its turn to an RPG doesn’t always make the game better. Weapons, enemies, and animals now come in four color-coded flavors: Rank 1, Rank 2, Rank 3, and Elite. Foes only take substantial damage from weapons at their rank and higher and means that you can dump an entire clip into a Rank 3 bear with a Rank 1 gun and essentially do no harm. It’s an odd disconnect that gives the game a loop with constant upgrades but at the cost of believability and creating artificial barriers of what you can and cannot kill.
This makes the early parts of the game incredibly tedious and frustrating but then drastically swings in the other direction once you gather one or two Rank 3 weapons after a few missions. There’s hardly a difficulty curve as it spikes near the intro and then nosedives once you’re well equipped only two or so hours in. Most players will probably prioritize weapon crafting too, meaning that this likely won’t be a rare scenario.
Far Cry New Dawn Review | Not a far enough cry
Part of the reason it becomes a cakewalk is because of how similar it plays to its litany of predecessors, meaning that you’ll know what to expect. Aside from the sick new saw blade launcher, most of the weapons make a return covered in duct tape and makeshift parts but have the same core function and feel. Taking outposts has almost the exact same rhythm from the last few Far Cry games. Enemies and animals behave similarly. Perks are basically unchanged and even foolishly lock up previously free upgrades (like the binoculars, for example) as a poor attempt to change it up. Since there are essentially no new tools and enemy setups remain unchanged, it plays like a carbon copy of the last game which was similar to the last game and the one before it.
This borrowed loop of taking over outposts, which is the bulk of the gameplay, is a consistent plateau; a solid core but never exciting because of how many it has been done over the years. There are so many ways to overtake an outpost and Far Cry, through its repeated releases, has seemingly squeezed it for every last drop. It even borrows the near omniscient AI from Far Cry 5, which can severely punish any small mistake; an unfortunate consequence of trying to adapt to the game’s co-op.
Relinquishing outposts and retaking them on a higher difficulty for more resources feeds into the game’s economy well but it doesn’t hide how you’re just doing the same thing but against tougher opposition. Expeditions, which are huge randomized outposts that take place in different areas, are a pleasant change in scenery but are just the same mechanics that have been dropped in a new location. Regardless of where you’re doing the same ol’ sneak stab, you will be greeted with a strong soundtrack that bounces between licensed music and original compositions quite nicely.
There are, however, a handful of new skills that arrive through a story mission about 60 percent into the game and offer a bit of difference in how you can approach each situation. It’s an unexpected twist and one the game should have probably embraced from the start to give it a more unique outlook from the outset. They’re unique abilities that offer the player a slightly new perspective on the same Far Cry gameplay, but only make things easier in the late game. The interesting power set will probably inform future entries and hopefully they will be more thoughtfully woven in and utilized from the beginning next time.
Far Cry New Dawn Review | Vaas would be disappointed
Its story is also stunted despite honorable intentions. The post-apocalyptic wasteland is being terrorized by a group of mischievous deviants called the Highwaymen, led by two twin sisters, Mickey and Lou. They trash the land for their benefit at the expense of others, which jump-starts your mission of recruiting people to build an army worthy enough to stop them.
Villains have always taken center stage in Far Cry games but New Dawn hardly remembers its lineage. The twins mainly lurk in the background, only to scream at you once every few missions over the radio. Their limited appearances and laughable attempts to get humanized override their decent performances, wasting their potential and coming across as nearly faceless bad guys over the game’s abbreviated runtime.
The mute protagonist doesn’t help either, with it jarring to be on the receiving end of monologues only to not even say a peep in return. But while the silent hero is a big issue, its handling of Joseph Seed and the cult is an even bigger one. Seed, the main antagonist in Far Cry 5, does return and plays a pivotal role in the latter half of the game. He’s different this time around, a calm and understanding soul compared to the dogmatic bullshit spewer he used to be.
Seeing a villain’s redemptive arc in a follow-up is fascinating in theory, but it all happens off-screen. His actions in Far Cry 5 were despicable and caused a lot of suffering, which means he’d have a lot to atone for to prove that he truly is a changed man. Running into him and having him simply say that he feels guilty for what he’s done isn’t good enough for a man who has ruined so much; it would have been better if New Dawn showed that transformation instead of just paying lip service to it. Even though they maybe should have been in Far Cry 5, there are some good moments with Seed regardless, but they are missing many of the steps showing how he got to where he is.
Cooperating with the remnants of his evil cult is also problematic. Even if the game doesn’t produce another overly saccharine view of life in the American heartland, it’s tone deaf in other ways and all of its narrative flaws result in a plot that has been stitched together with a ton of questionable elements.
Perhaps it’s too much to ask for a budget-priced sequel to change up the Far Cry model. However, while copying the core loop makes sense as that is the Far Cry Formula™, it has worn thin over the years as it hasn’t made big enough leaps forward to keep up with the consistency of the franchise’s output. Far Cry New Dawn is fine, functional, and sometimes fun, but it mostly just hovers around the middle, neither touching greatness nor mediocrity but occupying the safe, boring plateau in between. Far Cry 3’s Vaas said that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Unfortunately, with Far Cry New Dawn, it seems that Ubisoft is content with doing just that.
GameRevolution reviewed Far Cry New Dawn on PS4 via a digital copy provided by the publisher.