The term ‘comfort food’ is one that gets thrown around quite a lot in videogames. Usually it’s made in reference to genres that emphasise a grind (I’m looking at you JRPGs, where sinking hours into killing smaller enemies in order to to build XP and fight bigger enemies is the norm), involve routine ("Your honour, the prosecution would like to call upon DIablo 3"), or games that are simply well-suited to letting you cosy up with a controller in hand, not requiring much thought while still making you feel engrossed; which might have been developer Hello Games original title for No Man's Sky. Ubisoft’s first-party titles are often accused of showing this box-ticking mentality towards game design, especially its open-world epics, but the publisher’s recent overhauls to the Assassin’s Creed formula have proved that it’s never too late to break a bad habit.
Prior to the release of 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, many had grown tired of the regular rigamarole Ubisoft’s stealth franchise put them through. Towers to climb? Check. Viewpoints to sync? Of course. There’s even the slight chance that some assassinating might be required by the end, if you’re lucky. All this is to say that, despite Assassin’s Creed Syndicate being a thoroughly enjoyable romp around Victorian London, everyone agreed that nine games in a shakeup was needed. With Origins Ubisoft kickstarted this process, and now Assassins Creed Odyssey has arrived to edge the series ever closer to open world RPG perfection.
Layering in service-based features to keep players coming back for more, and making drastic, but appreciated, system tweaks to improve infiltrating, exploring, and just generally existing in a long-gone setting have made Assassin’s Creed exciting again. While we shouldn’t give all the credit to the delay between Assassin's Creed games, with no release in 2016, it’s clear that the year-off gap between the release of Syndicate and Origins did much to renew people’s belief in the act of being an assassin. One Ubisoft series that the same can’t be said for, however, is Far Cry.
What used to be thought of as a fun, chaotic holiday of sorts to an exciting location, full of enemy bases to take down and cool villains to thwart, has become stale in the past couple of entries. While the announcement of a new Far Cry should make you think, “Hell yes, I can’t wait to cut loose, wreak havoc, and overthrow a maniacal dictator”, my first reaction to Far Cry New Dawn was more like, “Yup, that looks about right. Business as usual”. It’s sad that monotony is setting in so soon.
Far Cry needs an apocalyptic refresh, not the post-apocalypse
To me, Far Cry New Dawn is proof the franchise is currently spinning its wheels in its attempt to search for ideas. Look at how it (along with Rage 2 and Fallout) is swapping an original setting for a post-apocalyptic wasteland – albeit a fun-looking one. The series’ refusal to reinvent itself is even more infuriating when you think back to how Far Cry 5 mocked itself early on for how ubiquitous restoring towers had become, only to dip back into the grind of explore, liberate, shoot bad guys, and repeat. We’re ticking boxes instead of breaking them.
I’d love for the series to take time off, rather than having a new Far Cry announced less than 12 months following the prior one, as with New Dawn. Ubisoft could use this time to do for Far Cry what Origins did for Assassin’s Creed, re-evaluating the core tenets of the game. Standalone spin-offs Far Cry Blood Dragon and Far Cry Primal prove Ubisoft isn’t averse to taking risks with the series, but for me, now it’s time for it to pay just as much time, care, and attention to the systems and mechanics as to the story and location. Do this and it could be a genuine new dawn, not just for one single entry, but the entire beloved franchise and its future.
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