Hope County has got thoroughly shafted by life, if you ask me. First in Far Cry 5 its inhabitants survive a psychopathic cult leader and his cronies straight-up drugging the water supply and brainwashing innocent civilians, then when it just starts to look like they’re finally beat, what happens? Nuclear bombs drop and wipe almost everyone and everything out. Yet although the phrase ‘[insert game here] isn’t your typical post apocalypse’ might sound like a trope by now, Far Cry New Dawn really does feel like it’s treating the apocalypse not as a cheap gimmick, but as a hard reboot for the series. Hope County is pushing the survivalist formula further than it’s ever been with its hot pink, music-blaring apocalypse, and it’s paid off.
The heart of the apocalypse
Recruited by Carmina Rye (the baby daughter of bonafide aviation expert Nick and his heavily-pregnant wife Kim from Far Cry 5) to help fight the Highwaymen, you arrive in Hope County with a bang. Your train is intercepted by the villainous twins Mickey and Lou and is quickly (and literally) derailed along with your plans. So now you have to hunt down resources solo to help rebuild and upgrade Prosperity, a self-sufficient settlement that’s home to Carmina, Kim Rye, and other survivors. While also fighting the Highwaymen. And crafting your own weapons. And rescuing people. You’ll certainly never be twiddling your thumbs, that’s for sure.
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Having your very own base to upgrade is, without a doubt, ingenious and is exactly what Far Cry New Dawn needs to justify it being more than just a DLC. When you first begin Prosperity is… let’s say rustic, with boarded-up sections, rather sad patches of dirt, and blue tarp covering the roof. As you upgrade each facility, from its herb garden to the explosives lab, fairy lights get strung up, extra levels built, and the Specialists you’ve saved come and run each section. There’s a real sense of achievement as you see Prosperity grow before your eyes. As you spend most of your time roving around in Far Cry games, having somewhere where you can see your progress - and see NPCs benefit from it too - seems to hint that Far Cry New Dawn is setting precedents for the series. I really hope the upgradable base will become a staple in future games, not only for this physical indicator of progress, but also for the pure entertainment of seeing Specialists chatting to each other. One of them just sauntered around innocently asking other NPCs what an orgasm was. Comedy gold, I tell you.
Speaking of Far Cry New Dawn’s characters, they’re just as memorable as Far Cry 5. Although I would have liked to have a few more side missions where you get to know your guns (and fangs) for hire a bit better, you’ll definitely still find yourself loudly debating with others which is the best one to take into a fight (It’s The Judge, fight me). Hearing their remarks when you’re gunning down Highwaymen or just trekking through the wilds still leads to some laugh-out-loud moments - from geriatric sniper Nana especially - but as you can’t take two out with you simultaneously, I did find myself missing the conversations between pairs of gun for hire that you got in Far Cry New Dawn. Hearing Grace and Jess argue about anything from the military to the benefits of a bow vs a sniper rifle was especially entertaining, but you can still get a taste of that colour if you visit the training ground where they all hang out in their down time.
Here for a good time, not a long time
Unlike your guns for hire, the twin leaders of the Highwaymen, Mickey and Lou, feel like they’re brimming with under-realised potential. Clearly not as in-sync as they want their Highwaymen to believe, their twin dynamic is far more complex than you’d think, but you only get brief glimpses of this depth in rare encounters featuring the pair. They would have been better suited to being villains in a full Far Cry game where there’s time to explore their motivations and grow them as characters, as it’s clear from the interactions that you have with them that although their thirst for power is the same, their approaches differ wildly: Mickey is the rational strategist, who is obviously periodically frustrated by Lou’s tendency to act first and think later. It’s only near the end of the game that they start to become more three-dimensional, and it’s a shame that your final encounter with them is fairly predictable instead of reflecting their different personalities.
However, fighting their Highwaymen goons is refreshing simply because these folks don’t have some big over-arching ethos. ‘We’re here for a good time, not a long time’ is basically their approach to life. Party-hard vibes reign when they’re near, brimming with a nihilism that couldn’t be more different from Joseph Seed’s cult. Speaking of his cult (without spoiling anything), allowing you to explore the settlement founded by members of the Project at Eden’s Gate is inspired. Yup, they’ve managed to survive the bombs, becoming a key part of the story - although unfortunately the same can’t be said for their leader Ethan, who suffers from the same character-development issues as Mickey and Lou. If you’re thirsting for more depth when it comes to lore, there are letters and notes scattered around that flesh out what went on with the Highwaymen and Ethan, but it’s up to you to find it all. It’s disappointing, as bringing those details into the open more would have made up for the villains’ lack of character arcs.
But even if the central villains leave something to be desired, the missions where you’re fighting against them are definitely enough to keep you entertained. A handful go far beyond the go-here-and-shoot-bad-guys formula, incorporating puzzle elements, so when you stumble into one you can feel the game trying to do something different. Even adventuring around the world has enough to entice you to stay in Hope County: as well as liberating Outposts over and over again with progressive levels of difficulty, as you progress in the story the enemy behaviour changes too. Resources just lying out there in the open are bait to draw you into an ambush, Highwaymen hide behind trees as near Outposts and random locations, Elite enemies sometimes drop grenades upon their death, Highwaymen cars are booby-trapped… As time goes by, you can never be quite sure what’s waiting for you outside Prosperity.
Despite the world being alive with random encounters like these, one of Far Cry New Dawn’s biggest flaws is the Expeditions. Set pieces like a beached battleship and abandoned fairground might look neat, but there’s not much distinguishing them from Outposts. You have to steal a package from the Highwaymen with a GPS tracker, so they get find you no matter where you are while you wait for a helicopter to extract you, but that’s about it. Higher level Expeditions might be trickier to survive, and much more tailored to co-op play, but they’re mostly unremarkable as they need a puzzle element, or a Destiny-style Raid approach that really forces you to fight and problem-solve simultaneously. Anything, really, to justify them being entirely separate from Hope County and to mark them out as prestige events.
A link to the past
Luckily your surroundings in Hope County are have far more depth than the Expeditions. Far Cry New Dawn knows that most people are invested in the fate of Hope County after (almost) saving it from the Project at Eden’s Gate, so there’s enough linking the two games together to satisfy those who remember what it used to be like. So prepare to regularly experience déjà-vû during your time in Hope County. As it’s only been 17 years since the bombs fell, the people you talk to remember the old world too, and walking around you’ll find landmarks from Far Cry 5 like the F.A.N.G. Center, the compound where you first met Joseph, and the prison that became the Resistance base of operations.
Among the ruins of landmarks that were once so familiar you’ll discover notes from survivors documenting how they scavenged after the bombs fell, effortlessly linking the two games together. During your travels you’ll also find pre-bomb photographs taken by Tracey Lader (who some will recognise as member of the Cougars resistance faction from Far Cry 5) which you have to match up to their present-day destroyed locations. These have far more depth than you’d think, as near each photograph is a note from Tracey, explaining what she saw when she surfaced from her bunker. Both her poignant remarks and the survivors’ notes give Far Cry New Dawn the levity you don’t get from the fast-paced trailers, and is the missing component it needs to prove that the nuclear apocalypse is far more than some contrived reboot.
A bold new chapter for Far Cry
Overall, if you liked Far Cry 5, you’re sure to find Far Cry New Dawn thoroughly satisfying. Expeditions, re-claimable Outposts, and the upgradable Prosperity hint that the series is growing into something different, something better. Plus the world around you is alive, whether that’s the sound of music steadily growing louder as a Highwaymen convoy comes in your direction, coming across vultures pecking at a dead body, or seeing an animal trot through the trees with a gun in its mouth on the way to its den. For £37.99/$39.99 there’s at least 22 hours of content in there to keep you busy, and although it might not astound you, Far Cry New Dawn sure as hell won’t disappoint either.