Far Cry New Dawn

FBT plays the first ever FC sequel. Well, technically they’re all sequels. *Spoilers for Far Cry 5. As a playthrough review, this also includes a rant at the end that ruins this game too*

Seventeen years after Joseph was proven right and the world was decimated in a nuclear war, ‘The Captain’ (us) and a handyman called Rush visit communities like a spec-ops Make-Over show, helping to build settlements. We’re headed for ‘Prosperity’, a commune in Hope County when we’re attacked by ‘The Highwaymen’, led by twin sisters Mickey and Lou who want to strip-mine Hope County. They kidnap Rush while we get shoved off a cliff like the opening to FC Primal. We’re recovered by a local and taken back to Prosperity to help rebuild, recover Rush and ward off the twins.

In many ways, FCND is the most blatant rip-off of the series yet. It’s the same map and characters as FC5; it’s an unapologetic reskin, and they’re not even apologising for charging upwards of 40 quid on release? This is less than a DLC! I should rage quit on principle, but largely due to how much I got into FC5, I’m glad to be back and finish the job.

The setting is brilliant; rather than Fallout’s desolate look, ND is vibrant and in the midst of a rebirth. With us out of the way, nature is having a party. It’s like a cartoon Fallout. Hang on, that’s Borderlands. And there’s Mad Max vibes. And every other post-apocalypse game. Okay, it’s not original but as a companion to FC5 this is the first time we’ve played the apocalypse before and after.

The Highwaymen have set up bases as they pillage, which means Outposts. There’s only a few of them but The Highwaymen are dug in and don’t give up easily. Just wounding a Highwaymen causes them to start yelling which alerts the others, they have dogs with suicide vests, call in reinforcements at the first sign of trouble - which drop in from choppers (shoot the parachutes) and there’s loads of armoured ones. It’s a real tough call to beat Outposts now, and that’s just the beginning.

Once you’ve run off the Highwaymen, you can leave it under Prosperity control, giving you a safe area and fast-travel location, or strip it yourself then abandon it. The Highwaymen move back in and up their security and numbers, leaving you the option to take it again for more supplies. It’s blatant padding and removes the feeling that you’re progressing but it’s also more realistic, and better than FC4’s frustrating ‘outpost is under attack’ moments. There’s 3 levels of increasing difficulty, then it’s just something to do if you need a materials bump.

And you need those materials. Since the original goal was establish Prosperity you need everything you can get. Old buildings also have the various items we need so we just strike out and start digging. The Highwaymen are doing the same thing so we’ve constantly squabbling over some duct tape, and interactions with them usually wind up with fire everywhere, dead followers and your car gone. I just built that. The apocalypse is hard work. What are they doing with all this duct tape?

Gimme that Duct tape

It’s a nice little barter system they have going though; there’s no money so copper wiring can be swapped for bullets and so on. The biggest commodity is Ethanol which you get from taking the Outposts and other missions. You have several areas that need improving such as weapon benches, a hospital and so on, upgrading those makes your life easier and strengthens Prosperity. Obviously, each time you do, the twins get antsy.

Mickey and Lou are a bit of a disappointment. Cliché, borderline pantomime villains who just try too hard, they’re supposedly at home in the apocalypse but they'd be more at home as henchmen in an Expendables movie; they inherited The Highwaymen from their father who started the gang as a means to survive. He didn’t, they murdered him.

Problem is, after Seed’s deeds, and the complexity of Min, the terrifying Vaas, even the honest brutality of the Udam in Primal, M&L are just simplistic bad gals. Just having sheer thugs to deal with could be refreshing but the game half-heartedly tries to deepen them with a completely redundant flashback to when, as kids, they abandoned their mother in favour of following dad. Also, they’re just background noise. The real reason we’re here is to see what happened to Seed, and the Deputy we played in FC5, and once we realise that’s incoming, Mickey and Lou and their Highwaymen are just obstacles to get around.

Although you’re supposed to be doing everything for the locals, we’re doing it for the upgrades. There’s still cars and even helicopters, but they must be built from materials and everything is tiered, which unlock as you build Prosperity through the main mission. Even weapons need to be built, and while that means you’re kept on a leash and not striding into Outposts over-powered, once you get to Elite levels you can start upgrading without limit and that quickly becomes an obsession. Outposts get turned over repeatedly to better your sniper rifle to take out Outposts more easily to upgrade the sniper… Look at that sniper rifle. 1500 Damage. It was a solid 500 when I got it and upgrades go at 5% a time. That was a lot of Outposting. Shame there’s not a lot to do with it.

I do find myself going ‘is that …’ and darting over to check out somewhere I dossed about in during FC5 but while it’s only a third of the size, FCND is a lot more empty; there’s few people wandering about but we don’t really interact with them, or the folks milling about in Prosperity – some are survivors from FC5 and it’s good to see them while finding hints of someone’s fate is saddening but it’s not as involving as FC5 and there’s nowhere near the amount of side-missions or adventures, most are padding like recovering photos of old locations, finding ipods to extend radio playlists (the Prosperity lot listen to Motown vs the Highwaymen’s gangster rap, not at all cliché) and hunting monstrous, irradiated wildlife.

Why does FC5/ND hate animals so much? I’m still not over the bull teste thing. One side-mission has me killing a tame bear and I have a horrible feeling that was Cheeseburger. This time there’s a mission to get a key from a wolverine nest which we do by setting it on fire then watching them burn to death.

The best side-missions don’t even take place in Hope County. A wonderfully corny French pilot (I’m playing as female and oh boy does he like me) has spotted wreckage sites we can visit to steal high-end tech from The Highwaymen. Downed satellites, a fairground in a bayou complete with gators, an old ship, they’re great little self-contained set-pieces.

Freeing hostages from Highwaymen trucks nets you a perk to level up with, but they have this annoying habit of sitting behind the driver. Turns out an over-powered sniper rifle is not always the best idea. Sorry about that. You can also steal Ethanol from tanker trucks, but they’re always driven by armoured Highwaymen who require a clip or two to take down, then the tanker explodes – taking your car with it. I just rebuilt that. I only pulled over to grab the tanker cos it was there. Damn apocalypse.

The Highwaymen are the same as the Peggies from FC5 with one major difference, elites. They were the VIPS in FC5 but now there's just regulars, patrolling Outposts. Those mofos are unstoppable at lower levels and can fire an RPG quicker than you can say ‘how the hell did you spot me’. The answer is usually a follower tipped them off. Get near an outpost and your followers start waving and yelling ‘yoohoo’.

Most of the side missions are help/protect/free/find folks who become followers; and by followers, I mean ‘stay there’. There’s loads in FCND; Carmina, the kid we helped deliver in FC5 is now an idealistic and heavily armed teen, Nana, a doddery old granny who’s a dead shot, Jerome the reverend from FC5 is now throwing out biblical verses and Molotov’s, Gina, an ex-Highwaywoman with a bad attitude, and good old Hurk of course. But the best are Timber, a pooch who sniffs out dangers, and a huge Boar called Horatio who just flattens everything in his path. And the mysterious, stealthy Judge …

Problem is, they’re a liability. They’re great to have along when you’re just out and about, and I bond with Carmina, but when the firing starts they just make it worse. Hurk fires RPGs at point-blank, Carmina throws dynamite at you, Jerome shotguns at baddies a mile away, Timber barks and draws attention, the Highwaymen are laughing at us. It happened in FC5 but here things are a bit more desperate, more close-calls so you don't need a comedy sidekick setting fire to themselves.

Even fully upgraded they’re push-overs and they constantly walk into your fire, don't get into vehicles, get stuck, basically behave like a hindrance not a help. Maybe its the radiation. You can’t control them and they often ruin missions like we’re in Daikatana. I only saw one Gator and that’s ‘cos Carmina walked into it. They're danger-magnets. They just don’t interact with the game play; where’s the smart scripting where they support what I’m doing? One time I happened across this abandoned bar and inside found all of my followers drinking beer. What the hell?! Even the dog and boar were chilling. Get to work.

Eventually it’s decided Prosperity should reach out to another settlement called … New Eden – we can guess who’s running that. It’s up to the Capt to go talk to the god-botherer and unite our flocks. I bet Seed’s going to be really smug. Yeah yeah, apocalypse, yeah yeah you were right, whatever.

I had problems with Seed in FC5 only because we never got to be swayed by his beliefs and even when the bombs fell, we didn’t get a chance to explore it; it ended with the Deputy and Seed surviving though, and this is what we’re really here for; what happened to the Dep?

I’m still conflicted about what happens. On the one hand, I kinda accept it couldn’t have gone any other way, but there’s loads of ways it could have gone and this is the problem with FCND. It deserves to be a full sequel, given time to flex and dig into all it inherited from FC5 but it just rushes through it. It also makes the twins even less effective once we see the repercussions of FC5. Compared to Seed’s story, they’re just filler.

After surviving a rite of passage which also screams filler and gives us some major-league, ethereal power-ups, Seed agrees to support Prosperity at the risk of alienating his son who sees us as usurper, and we’re off to take the fight to the Twins. While dashing through the Deputy’s fate, Seed’s absolution, his wayward son and the powers he bestows on the Capt. So much to do, so little game.

The main mission does have some killer moments, and it’s a brutal sequence of events as we incur the Twins’ wrath alongside Seed’s belief in God’s plan and our place in it, but while you really work at defending Prosperity - you saved this place once, and it’s worth saving again – the game rushes it to the point logic issues appear. The Capt has no idea who Seed is, yet when we encounter Bliss, even before understanding his part in all this, we hallucinate him. Why? We should be fantasising about the twins, as it were.

Why can’t we get involved in The Deputy’s fate? Was Seed’s vision correct? What is this new power we’ve been given? It’s all thrown up but left to land without exploration, rushing through huge moments and revelations so quickly you’re almost fighting the game, pushing for more but left to decide for yourself, which feels like a copout. When you reach the ending, narratively it’s neatly wrapped up, but it feels like there’s a lot left unsaid. I wasn’t expecting God to appear, but give me something to believe in.

New Dawn is a great FC and a good game, it’s just not the payoff it promised. It’s two, even three games in one but they push each other out the way, cancel each other out. There’s so much that we don’t do it’s like playing a demo for a larger RPG, like we’re locked out of missions and although we’re a new character it’s frustrating there’s no save game carry-over from FC5. It would have been great to see something of what the Dep did or didn’t do, inherit some unfinished business or just a few subtle nods.

FCND is a beautiful looking, fun game with no dud missions. But it’s an epilogue to FC5 when it deserved to be a full sequel. Barely one-third of the original map is used when it should have reworked the entire thing and given us the ending The Deputy deserved as well as the new beginning the Captain fought for.

*Spoiler Alert*

I can’t just end without exploring the whole Seed and Deputy thing. It’s gratifying to find Seed a broken man. He is tortured, not understanding how his vision of a paradise beyond the apocalypse didn’t include the horror that followed. But he was an absolute demon in FC5 so to expect us to feel sorry for him is a tough sell, although we can gain some satisfaction from his guilt. That he tries to atone for his past deeds, and sees us as his saviour is an interesting twist which is frustratingly half-baked because of ND’s rush to end.

On meeting him, Seeds offers us an apple which triggers a FC-standard vision fight and then we gain super-powers. We can explain it as having something to do with radiation maybe, but now I can go invisible, impervious, make super-human leaps and punch like I picked up the berserk pack in Doom; it’s powered by draining evil souls so clearly it’s God-given; it changes up how you play but we’ve crossed over. Seed offering us an Apple? That’s not a loaded scene is it, but rather than turning out to be the devil, it ends with Seed realising he is the evil in the world and wants to be finished off, but that’s an act of mercy and our character just met him. To the Capt, Seed is just some aging hipster-guru who helped Prosperity. His final judgement should have been taken by the Deputy; who is reborn as The Judge! How did we not dig into that, why didn’t that at least come together in the end?

The worst victim of ND’s short gameplay is The Deputy. Feeling responsible, they accepted Seed’s teachings and he brainwashed them; yet when you take Judge to Prosperity the first thing they do is walk into Carmina’s dad’s garage. The Dep is Carmina’s godparent! It seems as if the conditioning could be broken, but we don’t explore any of it, they’re just an NPC. The game should have allowed us to de-programme them, bring them back – again, Seed’s behaviour is so much more compelling than Mickey and Lou; how is that not the ending, bringing the Deputy back like Darth Vader. He is in a mask and has raspy breathing … There is still good in him. The ending does focus on Seed, but only closing his chapter, not his acts.

The game even wastes time trying to make us feel bad for the Twins. As she lies injured, Mickey realises Mother was right. She promises to disappear and try to atone by finding her mother, but I beat her to death instead. There’s so little investment in them other than caricatures, I just melee’ed her mid-sentence so I could crack on, while Seed's son betraying us to the Twins is so instantly obvious you're just groaning through the plot twists. It could - should - have been so much more. Or maybe I’ve over-thinking it. This is Far Cry after all, none of this will matter when FC6 comes out.

And that’s what annoys me; I invested in FC5 and followed up that commitment in FCDN expecting to be rewarded. It is a great distraction but it frustratingly misses the chance to be something exceptional that could have raised the bar for the FC series; it feels like FCND didn’t want to repeat itself, which is ironic; this is one FC game that demands we retread past events. FCND could have been the bravest FC since the first, so many ways it could have gone and despite the fact I really enjoyed this, I'm just fed up with the FC series. The AC franchise might repeat the game but they each have a compelling story, a world to get involved in, FC isn't even bothering with a story anymore; it might as well do a CoD and be MP only. Take a new route.

2019 | Developer, Ubisoft Montreal | Publisher, Ubisoft

Platforms; Windows (Uplay) | PS4 | XO