A lot has changed in Hope County since nuclear detonation, but those that recall the events 17 years prior will see familiarity when they step back into Montana. A once modern world has taken a post-apocalyptic turn. Weapons and vehicles are seemingly held together with duct tape, and the region’s wildlife looks like the result of a bad trip on Bliss. The early vibes had me thinking Hope County was better than ever, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in Far Cry New Dawn following nuclear winter.
In Far Cry New Dawn, I stepped into the shoes of a new character often referred to as Cap, short for Captain. The choice to play as male or female was present, and there were minor customization options for appearance, such as hairstyle and clothing. The system didn’t need to be too complex, though, since Far Cry New Dawn was almost entirely first-person. Following a prologue to showcase basic gameplay and introduce the Highwaymen as the bad folk, Cap was set free in Hope County to explore and kill at will.
A walk in Hope County, Montana
My journey began in Prosperity, a base set up by some allies. It had walls to keep the Highwaymen out, and specialists that each ran different parts of the operation. Some were present from the start, but others had to be recruited through side missions. These Specialists and their departments required ethanol, the backbone of the economy in Hope County. Ethanol was used to build better accommodations for specialists, and in turn they offered upgrades and better gear. For example, upgrading my workbench with ethanol was how I unlocked access to better guns to take on tougher goons.
Soon I was free to do as I pleased, so I went for a walk toward a waypoint that led to a mission. It didn’t take long to run into danger, and there was familiarity with how the gun play felt, but also a necessary adjustment when it came to engaging enemies. They were level one, two, or three, with the most formidable foes being elites. My character’s weapons started at level one.
This is where the light RPG approach came into play. Cap’s guns and vehicles were given a rank that mimicked how enemies were categorized. Trying to take down a level-one enemy with level-one guns was reasonable but trying to take down an elite with level-one guns was nonsense. Perhaps possible, but I knew when to walk away and avoided those who could squash me like a bug.
To take on tougher foes, I needed to upgrade Prosperity, requiring ethanol found by liberating outposts. Outposts started at level one and, once liberated, could be looted for more ethanol, delivering the location back into the hands of the Highwaymen. They’d beef up defenses, meaning the outpost moved to level two. Liberating outposts, along with completing expeditions for crafting supplies, was the main way to unlock better guns. Thankfully, I enjoyed the increased challenge of taking an outpost back for the second or third time. Both outposts and expeditions were like mini missions where I needed to solve the problem of how to complete my objective without alerting the Highwaymen.
Post-apocalyptic shooting and looting
There were nine Guns/Fangs for Hire (NPC companions) to unlock in Far Cry New Dawn, and some had better abilities than others. The crack-shot sniper was great against lower-level Highwaymen but struggled with level-three and elite foes. Luckily, there were enough options that I could usually find the right tool for the job, and the more I used a companion the more abilities they could use, and the more likely I would earn perk points for their efforts. If NPCs weren’t cutting it, though, co-op was always an option in Far Cry New Dawn.
Far Cry New Dawn brings back both challenges and perks, which worked like they did in Far Cry 5. As I went about my business, I would unlock perk points, gaining new abilities and upgrading others. There were only 30 perks to choose from, which sounds like a lot, but I earned points so quickly there was no need to put serious thought into my character build. There was no real variety in potential character builds. By the time I reached the end game I had most perks unlocked, and the ones I didn’t were because I didn’t need them. I would have liked to see meaningful choices for building my character, like choosing between one perk or another, but not both. That would have sold me on the light RPG label a tad more.
The sights and sounds of war
Far Cry New Dawn is another stunning game from Ubisoft. I played on PC, all settings on max and the resolution at 2K (2560 x 1440). I don’t recall frame drops or problems loading the environment. Stylistically, expect a mix between vibrant foliage and burnt out forests, but everything was crisp and detailed, which I took note of more than once.
Of course, audio and visuals tend to feed off one another, and I found the audio in Far Cry New Dawn to be exceptional. There was the radio to listen to as I drove around, and I was able to unlock new songs by finding in-game collectibles, but where the audio really shined was the moment-to-moment events. As I gathered collectibles, I found myself searching a building. Outside I heard an NPC screaming, followed by gunfire, vehicles, and finally an explosion. Eventually everything went quiet, and I could see what had transpired in my mind without ever stepping outside. When I did, though, the scene was as gruesome as I’d imagined. Being able to paint a clear picture and evoke emotion through sound was not a one-time event in Far Cry New Dawn.
The scraps of those long gone
I began to lose my high with Far Cry New Dawn in the way the content connected to the world and the lack of interesting reasons to seek it out. Most often, I was doing something because I needed to get more ethanol or circuit boards to build stronger weapons. Clearing an outpost gave me ethanol and a shot at a cosmetic item, but there was no chance of finding a stellar weapon. The same thing went for expeditions; yes, there was a reward at the end, and the locations were awesome, but the incentive to explore was lacking because there was nothing to find beyond bullets and crafting resources.
This carried over to the enemies. I don’t recall ever finding a good gun on an elite enemy, so I just avoided them. What’s the point in killing a random elite if there’s no chance I’ll get something unique? All the loot I found exploring was essentially bad guns and crafting materials. Weapons and vehicles were all crafted through menus besides a few earned through missions. As I progressed, I realized the light RPG approach was there to slow me down. There was no real reward for taking on more difficult activities, unless you count ethanol, which you need to take on more difficult activities. A vicious cycle, that was.
This lack of incentive to engage with the open world extended to hunting and fishing. I think I caught three fish through my run, simply because there was no need. Hunting was just trying not to get eaten by level-three creatures. Meat was needed for making Medkits, but I had enough of that saved up from emptying entire magazines into a single animal. There was no reason to engage with outdoor activities, and no sign of complexity or finesse to make them rewarding on their own.
Reminiscing about the good old days
Far Cry New Dawn struggles to find its narrative identity, but there are great moments mixed in. Loose ends are tied up with old characters, and that was the interesting part of the story. I didn’t enjoy how all the characters were written, such as being called "My dude" or having an old woman spout off cliché one-liners that missed the mark. It didn’t help that NPCs had too few voice lines, so I ended up hearing the bad ones repeatedly throughout my experience.
That’s not to say there weren’t intangibles pushing me to explore and further the narrative. Far Cry New Dawn brings back several characters from Far Cry 5, and though I had problems with some of the new ones, that didn’t halt my intrigue about how returning folks fared the last 17 years. Far Cry New Dawn tied off loose ends that brought closure to the story for me, and I appreciated that.
Hope County itself had a lot to say through environmental storytelling. Prepper stashes are back but are called bunkers. These puzzles and mini adventures were fantastic. Besides perk magazines and currency, the reward for solving each was boring, but there was no shortage of storytelling when I took in my surroundings and read the lore scattered about. That extended to almost every location in the game. Taking time to look, listen, read, and explore was rewarding just for the lore.
Goodbye, Hope County
Ubisoft brought many of their strengths to the table in Far Cry New Dawn. The gunplay, sights and sounds, and environmental storytelling were great. I’m not sure the light RPG approach worked and would have loved to see more consistency throughout the narrative and from the characters that presented it. Far Cry New Dawn did provide me with a sense of closure in Hope County, and the highs outweighed the lows, but ultimately it left me craving a more complete experience.
This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. Far Cry New Dawn will be available in retail and digital stores on February 15, 2019.
Far Cry New Dawn
- Beautiful game on PC
- Gun play is a lot of fun
- Ties up loose narrative ends
- Outposts are entertaining to tackle
- Incredible in-game audio
- Lots of environmental storytelling
- Bunker puzzles are fantastic
- No interesting rewards for most content
- Weapons are mostly discovered in menus
- Some of the characters are poorly written
- No reason to go fishing
- No reason to go hunting
Bill Lavoy posted a new article, Far Cry New Dawn review: Closing the book on Hope County