Far Cry: New Dawn, which made its debut at The Game Awards last night, makes the bold - and we do mean bold - decision to carry on where Far Cry 5's ending left off. Ubisoft's 2018 shooter left players open-mouthed in disbelief at its final scenes, which were described by outspoken PC gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun as "the worst ending(s) in all of gaming history." Naturally, there are some major spoilers for Far Cry 5's ending ahead, but if you're worried about ruining it, know that the ending isn't necessarily something you'd want to experience first-hand.
***SPOILERS FOR FAR CRY 5 BELOW***
Far Cry 5 ended on a bang. Literally. A nuclear explosion ripped through the US countryside obliterating everything you fought to save over the previous 30-50 hours. Not only does this wildly unexpected event border on a narrative betrayal (Ubisoft claim the nukes were teased on radio broadcasts throughout the game), it effectively renders your entire playthrough null and void. That's nuclear catastrophe for you… but it doesn't make things easier to swallow.
Driving through a scorched Hope County was burned into our memories, and by the end you wind up in an underground bunker with a dead Dutch but a doomsaying, very much alive Joseph Seed. The good - or bad - news is that Far Cry: New Dawn, a standalone sequel, will pull that ending back from its cliffhanger precipice on 15th February 2019.
It wasn’t just Montana where the bombs fell; Far Cry 5’s ending was the beginning of a global nuclear apocalypse. Over the next 17 years, what remains of Hope county sees everything from nuclear winter to New Dawn’s eventual superbloom. Ubisoft’s vision of a post-apocalyptic wasteland boasts bright, beautiful blooms and a makeshift sensibility.
Put to us as a "new west with AR-15s and pick up trucks," its cobbled-together feel extends to the weapons through crafting. Sat beside an incredibly detailed replica of just such a weapon - a saw blade-hurling crossbow pointed worryingly at our kneecaps - we caught up with creative director Jean-Sébastien Decant.
“That’s clearly my favourite,” Decant answers when we ask about the lovingly crafted prop, “and we’ve put a lot of effort into creating it ... the people that designed it on the team, they really tried to create something that actually would be practical.
"This one doesn’t work,” he laughs.
“Thank God!” we reply.
Hitting the Circle-saw Trail a Runnin’
We first see that saw blade crossbow in action as part of New Dawn’s Expeditions. This game takes the fantasy from purely local to global, we’re told, as you see how the world beyond Montana has fared over the last 17 years. A number of environments are teased, from a murky swamp to a rocky canyon, but we head off to the abandoned Five Stars theme park in Louisiana.
It’s here we get up close and personal with the Highwaymen. Outside of the scarcity of resources, this faction of scavengers is the chief threat to you and your fellow survivors. They have chapters all over the US, not to mention plenty of outposts scattered throughout what remains of Hope county. Interestingly, unlike previous games, these outposts don’t stay liberated. Left unattended, the Highwaymen will retake them and increase security, upping the difficulty each time you come a-knockin’.
The Highwaymen are led by a pair of motorsport armour-clad twins called Mickey and Lou, Far Cry’s first female antagonists.
“It’s super interesting to try and find new, fresh takes each time,” Decant begins, “and it’s been awhile that we were toying with the idea of having a female villain. And at the same time, on my end, after [working on a number of Far Cry games] I was really looking for a way to change the dynamic of the moments you spend with the villain. And we had a lot of [one-on-one encounters], so could we have something where there are two characters that are straight in your face? And the idea of two siblings, you know? They have their own world and you get into that world ... That was the initial starting point.”
A Double Whammy
Mickey and Lou guide the Highwaymen as twin leaders, taking everything they can from the land before moving on and doing it all over again somewhere else. We're told they're an incredibly ruthless pair, and that their father was once a problem that the twins ‘solved’ themselves. True to Far Cry form, Mickey and Lou will grace New Dawn’s cover upon release, though they are far from the only new faces.
At the abandoned theme park, we’ve got one of several new Guns for Hire along for the ride. While Expeditions are designed with co-op in mind, Guns for Hire make it easier to play solo.
Nick and Kim Rye’s grown up daughter, Carmina, knows nothing of the world that came before New Dawn. She’s had a unique upbringing to say the least, making her particularly suited to bring along on Expeditions. However, we’ve left her on the bench for now, instead opting for Nana. Who is Nana? She’s a sharp-shooting sniper granny, and she’s got your back. We know this for a fact: we witnessed her sneak up on a Highwayman and deck him from behind.
A gun-toting granny is all well and good, but what of Far Cry 5's animal companions? You’ll be pleased to hear the Fangs for Hire will return as well. We met Horatio the Boar and the adorable Timber the Akita, who looks especially cute sat beside you in a sidecar as you ride between missions.
Seeing Another Sunrise
Intrigued by a rifle-wielding Nana, twin female antagonists, and the continuation of Far Cry 5’s story, we asked what this standalone sequel has to offer to newbies. Why should, say, someone whose only played Far Cry Primal (and yes, that someone is me) give Far Cry: New Dawn a go?
Decant is ready. “Far Cry: New Dawn is actually a great way to discover Far Cry," he says. "It’s a brand-new setting. Yes, there are ties to Far Cry 5 but ... you’re going to discover the world with [a brand new player character]." He adds that "Far Cry is an opportunity to get into an open-world shooter that’s very easy to pick up, super fun ... and it’s all about these lawless frontiers, these places that are pretty remote where you’re going to meet peculiar characters.”
Decant was also excited to continue Far Cry 5’s story through Joseph Seed’s return. However, he wouldn't elaborate further when we spoke to him, leaving us to wonder what motions the cult leader will make without his family but with the self-righteous knowledge that he was right about the end times. And what will Mickey and Lou make of him as a holdover from the old world? We won’t have to wonder for too much longer given Far Cry: New Dawn’s February 15th release date.