Ubisoft loves open worlds more than 50 Cent reckons a fat kid loves cake, and can’t seem to go three months without asking players to dive into another 30+ hour story set in a vast, expansive environment.
In Far Cry New Dawn, you play as the silent Commander, as he or she and a band of ragtag rebels try to recapture Far Cry 5‘s Hope County, some 17 years after a nuclear blast wiped the whole place out, and bizarrely, turned it multicoloured.
At a budget(ish) price point and arriving in an extremely busy period, does New Dawn have what it takes to rob you of another 30 precious hours?
IT’S A NEW DAY
If you’re familiar with Far Cry 5, then you’ll be very familiar with New Dawn‘s Hope County, as it’s largely the exact same map. However, after that aforementioned nuclear blast (yes, the ending of Far Cry 5 was very weird. Don’t ask), things are looking a little more… fluorescent.
The once-irradiated world is reclaimed by nature, but for some reason nature has been put in the wash with a tie-dye shirt, and now everything is a garish pastel blue, green, pink or orange. It’s a look alright.
Even the animals are affected. Ever wanted to do battle with a fauna that looks like it was stripped straight out of a No Man’s Sky comedy compilation video? Then look no further. Especially when there’s a multicoloured turkey standing in front of you.
Gaudy foliage and laughable wildlife aside, there’s a new threat in Hope County – the Highwaymen. Think Mad Max extras in 90s-WWF legends The Legion Of Doom cosplay, and you’ll get the picture.
They’re led by a vicious pair of female twins, Mickey And Lou, whose appearances in cut-scenes are some of the game’s real highlights – excellent voice acting and a real sense of menace put these two on a par with Far Cry 3‘s infamous Vaas Montenegro.
As you might expect, it’s your job to stop them, by gathering a small army of rebels, clearing outposts, and blasting as many shirtless vagrants into the ether as physically possible. Along the way, you’ll team up with various right-minded allies who’ll join your cause once you carry out a simple loyalty mission or two, and they’ll even fight side by side with you.
It’s the same system you may be used to from Far Cry 5, but it still adds some depth and character to the world.
GLITCH IN THE MATRIX
Despite the setting, Far Cry New Dawn is shockingly similar to Far Cry 5. Obviously the map is largely identical, at least geographically, but there is almost nothing new here in terms of gameplay.
If you’ve battled through a Far Cry game in the past decade, you’ll already be comfortable liberating outposts, taking on assassination missions and swearing at the TV when another stupid animal interrupts your perfect sniper shot. This is a more streamlined experience than Far Cry 5, though, and mercifully avoids that game’s insistence on making you replay the same bizarre indoor section over and over again. There are also fewer enemies constantly bothering in the open world, making the pace a little more measured and less frantic.
Considering the game is so similar to 5, though, it’s weird to see so many bugs and animation issues. Shoot an enemy off an ATV, for example, and they’ll teleport directly upwards like something from a 1980’s Spectrum game, while other bad guys will just stop in their tracks right in front of you, staring into the distance like a confused Grandpa. It all feels a little rough, a little rushed, and that’s because it probably is.
LIVE LONG AND PROSPER
While moment-to-moment gameplay is nearly identical to Far Cry 5‘s, New Dawn does have its own hook – Prosperity.
This is a Red Dead Redemption 2-style homestead, where you can upgrade things like a herb garden for improved medkits, a weapons station for higher-tier blasters, and even a helicopter to get you about the place.
It’s the strongest addition to the series in a while, as it gives the game a sense of purpose and progression in amongst all the shooting, clambering, driving and animal-slaughtering. Everything can be upgraded by gathering Ethanol, the world’s main currency, which is won through completing story and side missions.
There are some more fluid ways to gain Ethanol, too, such as capturing the supply tankers that drive about Hope County, or replaying Outposts at a higher difficulty. Again, it’s all simple stuff, but an improvement on the unfocused sprawl of Far Cry 5.
BUY BEFORE YOU TRY
The folks at Ubisoft Montreal have clearly been spending some hours dropping into Titled Towers, as there are some unusual Fortnite-style elements here that feel out of place. Supply boxes drop in at random, and you can stand next to them, holding a button until you snaffle their contents.
Numbers pop out of enemies heads when you shoot them, now, seemingly for no reason other than the fact it’s the done thing these days.
However, there’s something altogether more sinister creeping in Far Cry New Dawn – and no its not that rainbow turkey. We’re used to seeing microtransactions in Free To Play games, and of course they often make their way into Premium products too, but rarely this brazenly.
Much of New Dawn‘s progression and perks are tied into crafting. New weapons, new abilities, new buddies in the open world. Crafting materials can be hard to come by, but fear not, you can pay REAL WORLD MONEY to unlock new packs of materials and speed up the process.
This isn’t hidden away in a sub menu – it’s right there in the same main options screen as the in-game store, perks screen and everything else. And while it’s entirely possible to comfortably play through the game without spending any extra money, it’s just a little grim to see something so unashamedly ugly.
When Apex Legends and Fortnite – free games- are only using microtransactions for cosmetics, why is a premium game charging for essential progression materials?
Far Cry New Dawn verdict
At a lower price point than usual, you might expect Far Cry New Dawn to deliver a shorter, more truncated experience than its predecessor, but this is a still a sprawling apocalypse to wade through. And despite the overwhelming similarities to Far Cry 5, in many ways it’s a stronger game – more streamlined, less frantic, and built around a central hub that’s genuinely enjoyable to upgrade.
Far Cry’s gameplay isn’t as revolutionary as it once was, but it’s still a thrill to take out an enemy encampment on your own, or tear through a forest on an old rusty motorbike, and so it’s tricky to not enjoy yourself in New Dawn.
However, the lurching creep of microtransactions makes the whole affair feel uglier that it ever should, and when you marry that with glitches, bugs and some the fact the map is largely the same as before, New Dawn feels a little cheap and occasionally a little nasty.
Enjoyable, sometimes very much so, but also pretty inessential.
Streamlined and enjoyable, but far too familiar.
Great bad guys
Homestead-upgrading is enjoyable
The classic Far Cry loop is still great fun
Buggy and glitchy