A lot has changed since the apocalypse in Far Cry New Dawn. Lush verdant scenery, a marked lack of eagle-draped, stars-and-stripes Americana, and most of the people that you come across - you included - have no memory of what the world was like before the bombs dropped. Bah, whippersnappers. However, one thing remains the same: Joseph Seed and his cult are back, although he’s nowhere to be found and his people are, actually, kind of your allies… and no, I can’t believe that I’m saying that either. But it’s true, and the apocalypse is far more than an excuse to turn Far Cry New Dawn into a whirlwind of colour - it’s a way to see former enemies and the game itself in a whole new light.
The return of Joseph Seed
As the apocalypse is a hard reset button for the series, and I talked to Jean-Sebastien Decant, Creative Director at Ubisoft Montreal, about why Far Cry New Dawn is set after the bombs dropped. “It’s an opportunity to do something we wanted for a long time, which was bringing Far Cry to a post-apocalyptic setting. When you think about the post apocalypse, it has lots of points in common with Far Cry… it’s a lawless frontier, the wildlife and the nature is very present, and then you have this struggle in between groups of people trying to survive,” he explained, and all of that makes the post apocalypse a natural fit for Far Cry.
The return of Joseph Seed’s cult is one of the things that ties Far Cry New Dawn to the events of Far Cry 5. While there are a few clues scattered around the world as to what happened to Rook, the player character from Far Cry 5, when it comes to how the apocalypse affected former-and-maybe-current baddie Joseph, things become a lot clearer.
Back in Far Cry 5, Decant reminds me how Joseph Seed was “trying to get people protected... in quite a demented way, but now there are no more fights to be [had]. Now the world is where it was supposed to be for him”, as most of the ‘sin’ he preached about in the previous game has been reduced to ash thanks to the bombs. Although I didn’t get to meet him in the section of Far Cry New Dawn that I played, by the sounds of what Decant said Joseph might not be the same antagonist that he was before.
In an attempt to find out what happened to the man-bun-wearing cultist, I headed to Dutch’s island, where you began (and canonically ended) Far Cry 5. Once there I found Joseph Seed - or rather, a vision of him. He boots me off on a vision quest which ends with me entering the bunker where Far Cry 5 ended. Inside is a book he wrote as well as notes from Rook. I’ve got some bad news: they gave in and it sounds like they became one of Joseph’s devout followers. Yeah, that sucks. I know. That twist is one of the first major indicators of how much the apocalypse has changed characters from the previous game, and it feels horrendous knowing that my Rook succumbed to Joseph’s brainwashing. Their notes mention overwhelming feelings of guilt - survivor’s guilt, by the sounds of it - and the manipulative Joseph unsurprisingly took advantage of that. If it weren’t for how he takes advantage of the vulnerable, Joseph could almost have been a good guy in New Dawn. Seeing how he twisted my Rook into a follower during those years in the bunker has got me hungry for revenge, and I dearly hope that in New Dawn I’m able to finally end Joseph once and for all.
Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system, it’s official: Certified Creep™ Joseph survived the apocalypse, and according to Decant things have turned out pretty swell for him. Finally “the world is kind of where he wanted it to be… He wants to build a Utopia. So he’s trying to leave behind the technology, the knowledge, and everything from our world to not fall in the pitfalls that brought us to our knees,” explains Decant. Seeing what role Joseph ends up playing in New Dawn is sure to be fascinating. He was right about the apocalypse, after all. He finally has the new beginning he wanted, but it looks like that’s given him a crisis of confidence as once I reach his village, New Eden, although he’s got what he wanted he’s nowhere to be found. He’s run away into the north. Coward. That said, running into an older, frailer Joseph who’s conflicted over his role in the events leading up the apocalypse, would make for an intriguing twist. Not that his turbulent state of mind would mean that I’d hesitate to put a bullet between his eyes. God, I loathe that man.
Like father, like son?
Surprise surprise, Joseph has kept it in the family and has passed leadership of the village to his son, Ethan. Although he's clearly pissed off that I was the one to find the book and not him, Ethan isn’t what you’d expect from Joseph’s son. Smart, cunning, and very eager to keep his position as leader, Ethan feels like he’s treading a very thin line between valuable - if manipulative - ally and potential villain. When I asked Decant about Ethan, Decant explains that “Ethan is much more rational than his father… it’s getting very frustrating for him because the people are following him, but at the same time they’re still referring to the father. They’re still hoping that he comes back, and that puts [Ethan] in a very special spot. He’s actually a major character in the story, and it’s going to be interesting to see the dynamic between him and the returning father.”
One thing is for sure: neither one of them is going to give up the top dog position easily. After having spoken to Ethan, I find myself in a position I didn’t think I’d ever be in. I help the cult reignite their ceremonial fire at the base of the ruined statue of Joseph. Yup, that’s the one you blew up in Far Cry 5. Awkward. Upon returning to Ethan, his glee at having the entire village eagerly await his decision about whether to go and find Joseph is palpable. He’s biding his time, waiting until things become desperate and making everyone hang on his every word. Maybe he’s more like Joseph than I thought...
Ethan might be related to Joseph by blood, but interestingly he also speaks of his father’s madness as he inspects the book I’ve brought him. Unlike the other members of his village, he’s not under his father’s spell, and although that makes him unpredictable I’d definitely rather have him at the helm than Joseph. With a power vacuum in New Eden, Ethan has clearly taken control and, worryingly, his obvious reluctance to let it go is reminiscent of the two twins and central villains of Far Cry New Dawn, Mickey and Lou. But whereas they go about retaining power through violence, Ethan exploits the faith of his village to ensure they stay unwaveringly loyal to his father’s bloodline. I’m not sure whether I should be impressed by this level of manipulation or intimidated. Right now I’m going to go for impressed, although seeing Ethan’s wiles in action makes it clear how blurred the lines between leader and villain can be in New Dawn. Shudder.
New Dawn, new Far Cry
Joseph’s imminent return isn’t the only thing that’s shaking up the Far Cry formula. As well as getting rid of forced capture (that irritating mechanic that railroaded you into main story mission in Far Cry 5), Decant has changed plenty in New Dawn. “We’re really trying hard to make sure that if you haven’t played Far Cry 5 it’s still a place you can be in and understand what’s going on,” he revealed, and there are a handful of firsts in New Dawn to make things feel more like an RPG. For a start, Decant told me how all the “enemies are slightly more dangerous so you think twice before engaging. I think that’s a new approach for Far Cry. I think before you could really go in all guns blazing and everything would be fine”. Take it from me: coming across a level 3 cougar is now a terrifying test of fight or flight, and makes voyaging across the post apocalyptic wilderness much more of a gamble. With limited availability of ammo and sometimes unreliable weapons (my gun jammed a couple of times mid-fight), you’ll find yourself seriously weighing up whether you have enough resources to adventure on foot.
Making you pause and think before you tackle an enemy in the distance, the introduction of enemy levels signals that New Dawn is all about rewarding those who like a challenge. So now you can choose to allow conquered outposts to be retaken by the enemy Highwaymen, who reinforce them and make them even more difficult (but not impossible) to reclaim. Plus speaking to an NPC named Roger Cadoret lets you participate in Expeditions to Arizona and California, missions that are tricky as hell with three difficulty levels, but completing them gets you some sweet, powerful loot. This emphasis on testing players and replayability means New Dawn is full of firsts, making the new era of the post-apocalypse a perfect setting for the game. Or as Decant puts it, although Far Cry New Dawn explores “tough thematics of a world that’s on the brink of falling apart … it’s all about hope, it’s a game about a new beginning”. All that’s left to do now is wait until you can be part of that new beginning on February 15.
Want to find out what other games are coming up this year? Check out these other new games 2019 has to offer!