Far Cry New Dawn is a spin-off and a sequel to 2018’s fifth entry in the Far Cry series. It takes place nearly two decades following its predecessor’s dramatic conclusion. (Spoiler warning: Far Cry 5 concludes with a nuke initiating a post-apocalyptic age.) Set again in Montana, New Dawn follows a group of survivors trying to prosper in the face of great adversity. That adversity arrives mainly in the form of a new group of bandits known as the Highwaymen. Blood Dragon and Primal demonstrate the franchise’s potential for crafting stellar or lackluster spin-offs. But where does New Dawn fall in the pantheon of Far Cry entries?
Comparing the Series
Much has been said about Ubisoft’s reluctance to deviate from the status quo in its prominent IPs. Far Cry 3 cast an incredibly wide shadow the license has yet to truly escape. Then, Far Cry 4 is essentially a carbon copy of its predecessor. Meanwhile, Far Cry 5 introduces a handful of alterations to the basic formula. Rather than littering Montana’s map with icons to check off a list, Far Cry 5 encourages exploration. Your character aims to discover outposts waiting for liberation. Although traversing the open world is more intuitive, the actual gameplay loop remains chiefly unchanged from the previous iterations. Far Cry 5 is a cautious step forward rather than a confident leap.
Conversely, New Dawn seems reluctant to step away from its parent game’s light. Spin-offs provide the perfect opportunity to lead a popular franchise in a fresh direction. Unfortunately, Ubisoft opts to regurgitate most of Far Cry 5, only adding a few minor tweaks along the way.
The player character is a nameless captain who dedicates his days to wandering in search of settlements needing guidance. Ultimately, the hero’s caravan travels to Montana when summoned by a hastily assembled collection of survivors. They seek to establish a slice of paradise called Prosperity. Alas, they face opposition from the Highwaymen, an assortment of scavengers, brawlers, and bandits led by the villainous twin sisters Mickey and Lou.
Lasting approximately 10 hours, the main story works best as an epilogue for some of Far Cry 5’s personalities, particularly those associated with Eden’s Gate. While the franchise is known for its fun antagonists, Mickey and Lou are New Dawn’s saddest disappointment. Following a somewhat effective introduction, the twins disappear for large chunks of the campaign, only showing up sporadically to ensure the player does not forget about them.
For the most part, New Dawn plays its story straight, which does not quite match the setting. The Highwaymen and Prosperity’s residents are both willing to pillage others to aid their own causes. Yet, the latter’s quest is presented as noble. The mass-murdering protagonist does not strive to protect a native culture from being invaded by outside influences. Nor is he just trying to survive. In a post-apocalyptic world, everyone is fair game.
New Dawn’s marketing leans heavily on its post-apocalyptic setting, a first for the series. Now, in all fairness, Far Cry’s penchant for insanity is so extreme, many of the adventures may as well take place in a wasteland. Far Cry 5’s Montana is a lawless albeit visually gorgeous county packed to the brim with religious fanatics desperate to meet their maker. A nuke and 17 years later, Montana is still a lawless albeit graphically striking province packed to the brim with tame Mad Max rejects destined to face a bullet. The great outdoors has always served as Far Cry’s quintessential calling card; consequently, New Dawn’s post-apocalyptic Montana primarily comes across as a slightly more unkempt version of Far Cry 5’s location.
New Dawn basically reuses the same map as its predecessor, which doesn’t help the sense of déjà vu. Obviously, Montana has received a makeover, chiefly in the form of pink flowers blooming everywhere, but the world does not feel wild enough to justify the post-apocalyptic premise. Not even a nuke is enough to change Far Cry’s ways.
At this point, you may be wondering whether New Dawn’s gameplay is even going to be discussed. The fact that there is very little to say is quite telling. With the exception of a few RPG mechanics, Far Cry New Dawn plays exactly like Far Cry 5. Suffice to say, shooting enemies remains inherently fun. As the hero’s goal is to help improve Prosperity, liberating outposts rewards ethanol that you can use upgrade the home base. Along with the settlement expanding after a certain number of improvements are made, better tiers of guns and vehicles can also be unlocked using the same material. Although the equipment is mostly recycled from the previous game, New Dawn’s new Saw Blade category is easily the most entertaining to use.
Completing random map events like stopping a slave convoy or stealing a supply drop reward perk points to upgrade the playable character’s own skills. While the majority aid in exploration or provide passive improvements in firefights, five extraordinary abilities that essentially transform you into a superhero become unlocked during the campaign’s second half. New Dawn is the easiest Far Cry of all time.
Enemies are also split into various ranks, meaning certain areas cannot be tackled immediately. New Dawn circumvents this issue by establishing Prosperity at the bottom of the map and framing the story missions as a progressive drive north.
New Dawn is frustrating. Out of context, Ubisoft has crafted a fast-paced shooter set in a visually nice albeit homogeneous open world. Unsurprisingly, the gunplay is enjoyable, but this compliment extends to the franchise’s recent entries rather than solely New Dawn. RPG mechanics are a welcome addition, but such a small alteration hardly justifies reusing the same core map and the forgettable villains. Fans of Far Cry 5 are likely to enjoy New Dawn, mostly because it is nearly the exact same game.