There’s only one rule in gaming: don’t be boring. Players can tolerate awful AI and grimy graphics if there’s a payoff. But if your game is as thrilling as a Jeffrey Archer novel, no amount of spit and polish can save you. I mention this because Far Cry: New Dawn is an unspeakably dull game, and I’m really annoyed about it.
Far Cry: New Dawn is the long-anticipated follow-up to last year’s Far Cry 5. Set in the fictional Hope County, Montana, you play the role of an idealistic soldier helping to protect a fledgling utopian society that’s rebuilding from the ruins of a global nuclear war. Standing in your way is an army of bandits called The Highwaymen, who are led by a heavily-armed pair of sociopathic twins. It’s an unambiguous tale of good versus evil.
And it’s unspeakably dull.
The heartbreaking thing is the game showed so much promise, but is betrayed by drudgery, repetition, and an “open world” that’s so small, it might as well be a prison cell.
Before I get into things, let me raise a couple of points of order. Firstly, this article is going to be filled with spoilers. If you haven’t played the game, you might want to bookmark this article for when you’ve finished, so you can return and nod vigorously with literally everything I’m saying.
Secondly: this isn’t a review. For starters, my colleague Rachel Kaser already got there. I’m not going to cover everything, like you’d expect from a more comprehensive critique. Instead, I just want to talk about my biggest bugbears with the game, and where it perhaps redeems itself.
Resource Management is a total drag
Traditionally, Far Cry games haven’t focused much on settlement building and resource management. Sure, Far Cry 4 would occasionally have you hunt animals to build ammo pouches and so on, but broadly speaking, this part of the game was a mere aside, allowing you to focus on killing baddies and forging alliances with other NPCs.
Far Cry: New Dawn tips that on its head. You spend countless hours hunting animals and scavenging through empty buildings for spare parts in order to level up your settlement and acquire powerful new weapons. It’s the post-apocalyptic equivalent of a trip to B&Q, which is about as fun as it sounds. That is to say, not very.
The main currency in the game is ethanol, which is primarily used to upgrade your main settlement, Prosperity. Later in the game, you can also use it to purchase maps and upgrade your weapons.
Ethanol is obtained by liberating outposts from the The Highwaymen. The thing is, New Dawn’s map is so small, there’s only a handful of outposts to liberate. In order to do things like upgrade your health or obtain new weapons, you have to cede outposts to the Highwaymen in order to recapture them again. In effect, this means you play the same missions again and again.
It’s true that each time you cede an outpost, things get incrementally harder. New alarms will appear, making it easier for the baddies to summon reinforcements. The adversaries themselves will come packing more powerful guns, and can withstand more of a beating. That said, this doesn’t make it feel less tedious.
It’s also worth noting that the most potent weapons require the player to obtain rare materials, like carbon fiber and circuit boards. While these can be obtained (sparingly) in the main game, the best way to get your hands on them is to complete expeditions. These are capture-the-flag style minigames which see you leave the main game to raid a Highwayman base.
I must admit, I did enjoy these. Expeditions meld stealth with frantic combat, as you try to infiltrate the base and escape with your haul. They’re also set in intriguing locales, like a grounded aircraft carrier, or a decaying theme park in the bowels of Louisiana’s bayous. The thing is, if you want to get your hands on a complete arsenal of elite weapons, you’re going to have to repeat these expeditions. And that does remove the thrill.
It’s worth mentioning that New Dawn is a painfully short game. Even with the aforementioned drudgery and repetition, I managed to complete it in under nine hours. If you were to remove the resource management element, there wouldn’t be much left.
Mickey and Lou are dreadful antagonists
A recurring feature of games in the Far Cry series is enigmatic, terrifying enemies. Far Cry 3 had Hoyt Volker, a brutal South African drug baron and people trafficker. Pagan Min, from Far Cry 4, was like if you crossed flamboyant provocateur Milo Yiannopolous with opulent Congolese dictator Mobuto Sese Seko. None of those, mind you, came anywhere close to the pure, undiluted villainy of Far Cry 5’s Seed dynasty.
Faith Seed was complex and manipulative. Jacob Seed was cruel and capricious. John Seed, my favorite, was a sadistic torturer with the mannerisms of a televangelist. He was equal parts Charles Manson and Billy Graham. Joseph Seed, the patriarch of the family, drew comparisons with real-world cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones.
The antagonists in Far Cry: New Dawn, Mickey and Lou, don’t inspire any fear. There’s no depth to them. There’s nothing to analyze. They embody the most extreme violent teenage nihilism. They break things simply because they can.
Framed against a backdrop of such fearsome adversaries, Mickey and Lou look like a pair of pissed-off mallrats with guns. And that’s just sad.
It’s far too easy
I’m not talking about combat here. One thing Far Cry: New Dawn does well is scale combat difficulty with your own natural progression. When you approach missions later in the game, odds are good you’ve stocked up on powerful weapons and health upgrades.
I’m talking about everything else. The puzzles. The missions. Everything.
Let’s address these in order, starting with puzzles. There aren’t too many of these in the game, and the few that exist are embarrassingly easy to solve. The most challenging specimens require the user to memorize a few numbers, and recite them in order. The least are basic climbing or target-shooting puzzles.
This is also true of the missions, which lack any depth or complexity, and largely consist of the player walking to one place, shooting a bunch of people, and then walking to another place.
One hideously tedious mission sees the player make a pilgrimage from the New Eden compound to Joseph Seed’s hideaway aboard a speedboat. It’s literally five minutes of quiet sailing, interspersed with periods where high concentrations of “bliss” cause you to break down with a coughing fit, like a teenager smoking a Marlboro for the first time. You fix this by burning some wood left conveniently by the banks of the river. I really wish I was making this up.
The dialog is hackneyed
And then there’s the dialog. This, I must admit, wasn’t all bad. There were some genuinely touching moments in the game, like when the Nick Rye reunites with his family after being rescued from the clutches of the Highwaymen.
But then there’s Bean, the socially inept cartographer assisted by the player at the start of the game. His “schtick” is he drops dick jokes without realizing (“just the tip,” “I know who gave me the shaft,” “if you reach around my back now, I’ll reach around yours later”). These gags are delivered with the weight of a lead balloon. His speech is so peppered with them, it just feels contrived and deeply unfunny.
I’m also sad to say that Hurk, who makes his fourth Far Cry appearance, is starting to feel a little bit tiresome. Previous games roped Hurk in to deliver a bit of well-needed comic relief. He delivered this expertly in Far Cry 3, which was one of the heavier games in the series, with scarcely any upbeat moments. But unfortunately, at this late stage, his “eternal sixth-former” routine is overdone and stale.
What Far Cry: New Dawn does right
As you’ve gathered, I’m not the biggest fan of Far Cry: New Dawn. It’s plodding, dull, and feels rushed. But in fairness, it does an awful lot right, and has clearly learned from the mistakes of its predecessors.
One big improvement over Far Cry 5 is how it tells the story. In the previous game, the player would repeatedly be kidnapped by various members of the Seed family. Although this gave the game an opportunity to craft a narrative and introduce new characters, it also wrecked its flow. One minute, players could be doggedly pursuing a member of the Eden’s Gate cult in an aircraft, and the next, they’re abruptly dragged into an annoying cut-scene.
Far Cry: New Dawn trashes this awful mechanic. Instead, the game is partitioned into chapters, which you can move through at your own convenience. Between these are short videos that tell the backstory of the main characters, like Ethan Seed, son of cult leader Joseph Seed, and Carmina Rye.
The perk point system has also received a major overhaul. Now, you gain perk points for using weapons of different levels. So, if you use a basic shotgun and then a more advanced shotgun, you’ll receive two sets of perk points, allowing you to master new abilities. I like this because it encourages you to continually mix up your arsenal. In a game as trudging and repetitive as this, you really need a bit of variety.
And at least you get a decent selection of weapons to play from. Far Cry: New Dawn has the broadest selection of guns, bows, and yes, shovels, of any game in the series. My personal favorite is the souped-up Saw Launcher, which fires saw blades at unsuspecting enemies, turning them into human bulgogi.
I’m also a big fan of the Mad Max-style salvaged cars you get to drive. While it’s often easier to get around the wasteland of New Eden on foot, I must admit there’s a lot of fun to be had by mowing over a flock of enemies in a heavily modified coupe.
New Dawn also does a good job of tying up the loose ends of its predecessor. Not only are you reacquainted with old friends, like Pastor Jerome, Sharky Boshaw, and Grace Armstrong, but the environment also yields clues as to the fate of other minor characters, like the FANG Center’s Wade Fowler, and fisherwoman Skylar Kohrs.
I think a fair few people bought New Dawn purely to see what happened next – myself included. Although I’ve got a fair few quarrels with the game, I appreciate it gives players some much-needed closure.
Finally, I like the fact that New Dawn proves that post-apocalyptic games don’t have to be visually ugly. Countless titles, from Metro 2033 to Far Cry 5, depict humanity after a nuclear catastrophe. All, without fail, present things in shades of brown, beige, and grey.
Far Cry: New Dawn treads a different path, and shows a world that’s been gradually reconquered by nature. Farms and barns are overrun by trees and plants, until they’re one and the same. It’s vivid. Gorgeous, even.
There are other little things I liked too. Hunting is easier, and a lot more rewarding. Broadly speaking, it feels more balanced compared to Far Cry 5. Deer, for example, no longer take several arrows to bring down. There’s no more sprinting across Hope County in chase of a pack of pronghorn.
Far Cry: New Dawn is a weak effort. It’s short, forgettable, and repetitive. I wanted to talk about the awful new damage-visualization mechanics, as well as the bizarre rehabilitation of the Eden’s Gate cult, but I’m almost 2,000 words in, and I’ve got to stop somewhere. You haven’t got all day, and neither do I.
The game few saving graces, but they don’t come close to compensating for its multiple flaws. Above all, it suggests that the tried-and-tested Far Cry formula, centered around open worlds and capturing outposts, is starting to look tired. For Ubisoft to keep my interest in the series, they have to do something truly special for Far Cry 6.
After all this, if you’re still willing to give Far Cry: New Dawn a try, you can pick up a copy on Amazon US for roughly $40 and Amazon UK for £35. Personally, I’d encourage you to wait until the price goes down a bit, but it’s your prerogative.
If you decide to take my advice and wait, you can occupy your time with the previous titles in the series. Personally, I’d encourage you to start with Far Cry 4, which is set in the gorgeous fictional Himalayan kingdom of Kyrat. It is, without a doubt, the strongest game in the series currently available for current-generation platforms.
Far Cry 5 is also a good shout. This game isn’t without its flaws, but on balance, it’s still a pretty good romp. It introduces you to most of the major characters in New Dawn, as well as the picturesque Hope County, which is the setting for the latest game.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Far Cry 3: Classic Edition, which Ubisoft recently remastered and re-released. This is another strong effort in the series, and blends stealth and action, with some truly terrifying antagonists.
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