Ubisoft Montreal knows something most of us don’t. They know how to push buttons and tug on all the heart strings. They know how to put the fear of chaos into us. They know how to present a structured narrative that requires thought and drive. But they also know how to take all of the above and flip it on its head. Where you might have once thought you knew how to attack a situation they’re happy to mess with agency and destroy your best-laid plans, system by system. It’s their known trade in the Far Cry series, after all. In Far Cry New Dawn, a direct standalone sequel to the events of Far Cry 5, we get all of the above with an even greater design secret the studio has tucked under its wing. These guys know how to fucking arcade everything
I wanted to make a joke about this just being Far Cry New Skin
, because it is. But it isn’t. Well, it is because the game is quintessentially Far Cry 5 just fast-forwarded in time with pretend RPG mechanics tied to it -- numerical value hit points on enemies an RPG proper, does not make. Missions and distractions are also the same. Trucks with ethanol are randomly parading about the map, and you need to collect these. Highwaymen, the new Eden’s Gate Hope County bullies, appear at random and in recognisable gear. Animals are Far Cry angry, you liberate, you collect treasures, you find loot. So much fucking loot. And solve minor puzzles for entry to various interiors. Vehicles lie in wait for you to abscond with, despite
the key ingredient in the game each of game-world’s denizens is crying out for, is fuel.
And it’s that last point that gets us back to the point about arcade. You see, Far Cry 5’s setup was scary and almost too on-the-contemporary-political-and-societal-nose. It still is. And how it ended, even with all of the loose silly stuff in between, remains a concept people are weary of. Now, New Dawn which is set 15 years later takes that threat; that scary notion, and runs with ‘what if?’. But the what if is built around a greater sense of fun. Nothing in this new game-world actually really makes any sense, and Ubisoft Montreal isn’t afraid to take that to a level we can all bite into, without really ever having any attachment to it.
"Names will be familiar too, Nick Rye’s daughter, Carmine, is all grown up and becomes your first companion..."
What’s charming here is if you’ve spent any amount of time in Hope County before, you’ll love trouncing back through its new colourful, pink and somewhat dirt-ravaged space. Houses you remember visiting are now buried under mounds of dirt, while others have been changed in more silly ways. Remember the church you rescued Grace from? Now, someone has taken the F.A.N.G. animal center sign and declared the church that place. There’s even a trained bear you’ll run into, though he’s no Cheeseburger. Names will be familiar too, Nick Rye’s daughter, Carmine, is all grown up and becomes your first companion. While others still rear their head such as the aforementioned Grace, Pastor Jerome and even Hurk.
The game’s largely broad structure and narrative is built around helping the safehouse called Prosperity, prosper. The evil twins in Lou and Mickey are the new Seed family, and there’s a fair chunk of Mad Max homage riddled throughout everything else. But as stated earlier, this is very much Far Cry 5 with a new skin, which isn’t at all bad. It’s just that we’re really wanting something else and want this series to potentially rebrand itself in the same way Assassin’s Creed has of late, and successfully I might add. But I digress.
My favourite thing in New Dawn is the Saw Launcher. Every now and then a unique developer-created weapon in a videogame just sticks with you. Tha Laptop gun in Perfect Dark, the Cerebral Bore in Turok 2, the Plasma Cutter in Dead Space, anything made by Aperture Science. Even Tihar from the recently-released (and excellent) Metro Exodus -- a pneumatic rifle that shoots ball-bearings. Each of them have all entered the annals of off-the-wall weaponry sick and twisted developers wizard out of their hats. But the Saw Launcher might be king of them all. This thing will cut through an enemy and keep going. If someone else is near the target, expect them to drop too. I even took down three mutated deer walking in unison. It was a thing of gross beauty. I haven’t given it up yet at all, it’s just too much fun.
And that’s the thing about Far Cry New Dawn. I’ve peppered it throughout here, but the game is just too much fun. It’s hard to give it any other reason to play it. There’s a loot loop that is pavlovian as fuck, and that’s kind of almost a system metaphor for the whole game. You gain Perks, you open up the Map, you make Prosperity bigger, you build your companions list (which includes a new doggo as well as a boar, among the bipedal followers). There are Challenges that are simply part of your moment-to-moment gameplay, so you don’t have to track them with the keenest of eyes. You can Train to make your Guns of Hire stronger, Craft, Explore and even get off the grid (heh) in Expeditions. Co-op naturally shines and once you gain enough Perk points, you can get back to the water and Fish, among so much more. The game is full
of things to do, and they’re all fun, but we’ve been here before and that’s largely what lets the game down the most.
"Might be time to drop a figurative nuclear bomb on Far Cry as we know it right now, in an effort to rebuild, from the ground up..."
Far Cry’s tentpole isn’t its open-world, or its dynamic systems. In-house, Dan Hay and co love
the villain. They love creeping the fuck out of us, and while Joseph and his siblings might have been (arguably) the best in the series, the twins here are another metaphor for tired design. Instead of making one, let’s make two!
And that’s not really mixing up an escalatingly
tired formula. This blueprint is still fun, don’t get me wrong, but if anything New Dawn represents more of a sunset on an old design sheet. Might be time to drop a figurative nuclear bomb on Far Cry as we know it right now, in an effort to rebuild, from the ground up; something new and contemporary for the brave new world ahead of us. Fuel, after all, will be a thing of the past soon enough.