Far Cry New Dawn is a standalone sequel to Far Cry 5 set 17 years after the bombs drop over Hope County. Instead of a bleak, brown-and-gray post-apocalyptic scenario, Ubisoft has focused on life once nuclear winter has given way to a superbloom. The new world is full of color, rusting relics of the past, and well-armed residents with an appetite for combat. In Far Cry New Dawn, the gameplay is fast, fluid, and a natural evolution to the tried-and-true Far Cry formula.
It's fitting that one of the first in-game songs players will hear is from Die Antwoord, because the aesthetic of the band would blend right in with the colorful post-apocalyptic world of New Dawn. Here, players will find brightly-painted graffiti all around Hope County with DIY structures, vehicles, and weapons aplenty. This isn't a world filled with inhabitants who gave up after the bombs dropped, but rather reclaimed everything in their own, new-world style. This setting provides an enjoyable backdrop as players jump in to explore a world filled with random enemy encounters, treasure puzzles, and epic beasts.
Much like in Far Cry 5, Ubisoft has kept the open-world gameplay fast and fluid in New Dawn. Each element of gameplay puts players firmly into the action, with previous series elements that slowed down this process having been cut out entirely. Tasks like skinning animals is done with a single button click, a fast travel system cuts out most to-and-fro travel elements, and actions like repeating outpost raids can be triggered straight from the worldmap. The result is that New Dawn is constantly putting players in a position to be doing something exciting, which makes the game hard to put down.
Ubisoft has evolved the traditional Far Cry formula with what it calls a 'light RPG approach', which means enemies, outposts, and weapons all now have tiered ranking systems. Higher ranking enemies are better-equipped and can take on much more damage, so players will need to upgrade their own arsenal to level the playing field. This encourages players to explore the world and gather the supplies necessary to level up these weapons, a process which is thankfully relatively grind-free.
Ubisoft fans may recoil at the word microtransaction, but they do exist in New Dawn - though there's no Odyssey-level of grinding if players wish to avoid purchases. Players are given the option of bypassing the crafting system and purchasing weapons and vehicles via microtransactions, but the game isn't actively forcing this path. The average gamer will find that as they enter the late-stage content of New Dawn, they'll likely have more than enough supplies to have a full arsenal of maximum-tier weapons and vehicles. Nothing feels arbitrarily locked behind an additional paygate, and that's an important thing to note in an era of loot box scandals and consumer exploitation.
In New Dawn, outposts that have been captured can now be scavenged for ethanol, an important supply used to upgrade the player's own home base. Doing this means that the Highwaymen will retake the compound and defend it with more difficult units and structures, at which point the capturing process can be repeated for even bigger rewards. It's a great system that immediately lends more replayability to the title. Given that this process can be done right from the world map, it also means gamers are never more than a click away from throwing themselves into a large-scale battle.
One of the biggest new gameplay additions are Expeditions, which allow players to jump into closed-world settings all based outside of Hope County. Players are tasked with raiding an enemy compound, grabbing a bag of loot, and hightailing it out to the extraction zone to be picked up by a helicopter as the enemies close in. They're fun experiences that take place in polished, unique settings, and the loot rewards go a long way to providing crafting materials.
While players can tackle the game with an online co-op companion, there's also a roster of guns for hire that can help throughout the game, too. As one can expect from a Far Cry title, this roster features some pretty colorful characters. These companions can unlock new abilities by racking up kills, and each of them has their own playstyle: some are well-equipped for stealth takedowns, while others (like Hurk) are more likely scream something uncouth and whip out a rocket launcher.
The actual storyline of Far Cry New Dawn is fairly straight forward: the bountiful settlement of Prosperity is a haven for settlers, and this has made it a target for the blanket bad-guys of Hope County, the Highwaymen. At the head of this motocross-inspired faction are Mickey and Lou, two twins hellbent on taking whatever they want through violent means.
There's a variety of missions that the storyline of New Dawn will throw at players, keeping things fresh as the plot progresses. Players who complete the roughly 10-hour campaign will experience everything from castle-siege defending, prison-infiltration assassination plots, and even a post-apocalyptic fight club. This healthy mixture of mission tasks keeps the campaign gameplay interesting, though the same can't be said for the game's villains.
Far Cry has set high standards for interesting antagonists, but Mickey and Lou fail to live up to this bar: they're both one-note characters whose soul goal is being as outright violent as possible. This 'evil-for-the-sake-of-it' behavior gets old quick, and unfortunately, they're more-or-less the only antagonists that players will ultimately face throughout the game. While Far Cry 5 had the Seed family that led up to facing Joseph himself, New Dawn falters in that only Mickey and Lou really get screen time - though this wouldn't be a problem if they were as interesting and developed as previous villains.
Thankfully, some returning Far Cry 5 characters - including Joseph Seed himself - have better character arcs and more actual character building than Mickey and Lou. This helps, but it's clear that memorable writing isn't what New Dawn will be known for. Thankfully, the enjoyable gameplay more than makes up for any storyline stutters, especially in a game launching at a price point of $40.
Far Cry New Dawn represents a natural evolution to the gameplay that made Far Cry 5 the most polished title in the series. The game delivers fast and fluid open-world gameplay from start to finish, offering plenty of replayability with tiered outpost raids and expeditions. While New Dawn won't be known for its memorable characters or plot, it's fun enough that gamers are likely to forgive the narrative stumble. For Far Cry veterans or gamers new to the franchise itself, Far Cry New Dawn represents a wonderful, action-packed take on the open-world genre that's hard to put down.
Far Cry New Dawn will launch on February 15, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.