Far Cry New Dawn is a “stand alone” game, which is strange because it directly follows up and ties into Far Cry 5. It's also more of a sequel than any other Far Cry, and it feels as it should have either been DLC or just labeled an Expansion Pack, yet since there are no such thing as expansion packs anymore, it should just have been DLC. It is not quite long or big enough to be a full fledged game and making it stand alone seems out of place for what this game is.
New Dawn follows up the ending of Far Cry 5 with the aftermath of the nuclear fallout that Joseph Seed and his weirdo cult predicted all throughout Far Cry 5. This game is based around 20 or so years after the bombs have dropped. Life has moved on passed the nukes and civilization is starting to rebuild slowly but at a decent pace.
You control another unnamed mute character that is starting to get quite old and boring at this point. As with Far Cry 5, you are just a character, this time named “Captain” instead of “Rookie” who somehow gets roped into helping the main “good guys” and their town Prosperity. As you advance through the game you collect items and scavenge materials to build up and “upgrade” you HQ. The idea of it being an HQ and upgrading it and taking care of the people inside the base and building relationships sounds all well and good, but sadly there is just zero point in doing so. The HQ is literally at the bottom left corner of the map, making it a chore to ever go back to. The characters all seem quite boring and the writing for them also just comes off as way too much of a stereotype or the modern self aware writing that plagues the cinema of raunchy Judd Apatow wannabes. I don’t need another Pam Poovey from Archer or another macho hillbilly who looks and acts like a knock off Kenny Powers, it just feels very lazy to copy and paste these traits into a action game.
The main storyline of you going against a set of twins who basically rule over the second group, known as the Highwaymen are the key figures you will be fighting. As with Far Cry 5 these guys are everywhere and you would be very lucky to go more than 3 or 4 minutes without an encounter evolving into a full blown firefight. The weapons at your disposal have a really cool hobbled together style to them but sadly they don’t go deeper into modifying them or expanding on them at all. They basically break down into pistols, sub machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and then a couple special weapons.One unique weapon for the game you get fairly early on, a saw blade launcher, is extremely powerful and ricochets off walls and cars, but quickly gets forgotten as you come across much more powerful assault rifles soon after and gets left in the dust for the rest of the game.
That is the real bummer of this game, is that it just feels very unnecessary and a carbon copy formulaic approach to the Far Cry series. Most have already grown tired of the modern Far Cry formula starting with 3 in 2012, then Blood Dragon, then 4, then Primal, then 5, and now New Dawn…. it’s just a bit too much of the same crafting, guns, big flamboyant villain that loves to monologue in front of you while you easily escape. I think Scott Evil said it the best. “Why are you explaining this to him? Why not just kill him now and be done with it? I’ve got a gun in my room, I’ll go get it and BLAM! It’ll be fun”. Every point in this game feels like the devs played the other Far Cry games and just copied the major notes and inserted their own little personal story points into it. Everything here has been done before and on a bigger and more interesting scale.
The semi-twist near the end game of having Joseph Seed (the original cult leader and main villain from 5) show up, was the most intriguing part of the whole story, he is a charismatic enough character that you really do hold onto his every word. Seeing his descent into madness and what is truly God’s will or what he perceives it to be is a deeper level of writing that the game doesn’t touch on enough. I wish I had more time with him over any other character in the game. His whole motivation of being a vessel for God and coming to the realization over several decades that he might be wrong in his actions speaks so much more than anything the twins ever do.
What really did captivate me and most of my time with the game was just the basic gameplay and mechanics. Romping around the hills of Montana’s fictional Hope County again was fun. Seeing areas that I visited last year all grown over with beautiful vines and lush valleys of drug covered fuchsia bloomed flowers is just a joy to be in. The color scope of this game is unlike any other “Post Apocalyptic” setting that you will come across. Instead of various shades of browns and greys, the world is filled with purples, pinks, greens and the most breathtaking blue waters I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s a breath of fresh air to explore a beautiful nuked out town for once. The abandoned and overgrown nature taking back the land is something that I can never get enough of, whether it is in movies, tv, books or video games. Living in a world that civilization isn’t the master of is always fascinating.
New Dawn also brings in the most enjoyable part of Far Cry 5, the Prepper Stashes. In 5 these were underground bunkers littered all around the map that had a small 5 minute or so side story attached to it, with puzzles on how to get into them. New Dawn brings that back but puts a slight twist on it with all the bunkers being lived in for years and holding only the most valuable contents while the owners experience all sorts of cabin fever and leaving. Reading notes left by the peppers, or playing back old tape recorders give you a bit of insight on life underground and the eventual life after the bombs fell. It’s fun, doesn’t waste time and you get little bits of bite sized human interest stories.
Roaming Hope County can be extremely lonely as it’s large and mostly uninhabited other than a few strangers on the road or the highwaymen trying to murder you if they see you. Luckily you get a companion. As you progress through the story you unlock more companions. I found the dog Timber the best. His abilities of being able to mark enemies and hidden items made me spend most of the game going around to the 101 various little spots in the map and picking up materials. Running around the map with my dog in the wilderness was so peaceful and enjoyable, that’s exactly why I 100%ed this game.
The game itself wasn’t anything really special. I feel the story itself could have been interesting if the main characters had more going on in their personalities or a main character not as blank as a piece of dirt. The dumb decisions you are forced to make, like meeting the Twins several times and you just blindly leave all your weapons behind because… they told you to. It just feels very forced and no one in these situations would just leave all your weapons behind because the bad guys tell you to without any other motivation. I felt the end game really soured me on the game because it tried to give redemptive arches to the twins. Even though they are despicable humans, they try to justify them as people who are hurt and “didn’t mean to do it”. Just because there is a 2 minute intermission cutscene at the end as they are dying, showing their dad leaving them as kids, doesn’t mean I’ll have sympathy for them whatsoever. It’s a real disconnect when you try to shoehorn in a “please feel sorry for them” moment as they are dying. You can believe I shot those two right in the face with a shotgun immediately instead of granting them mercy.
It’s a bland game but somehow was an extremely enjoyable experience when I just focused on everything other than the main storyline. The world is big enough, interesting and beautiful enough as it is to spend a solid 15+ hours in and just enjoy the gameplay itself. Once you focus on the story it gets bogged down with too many plot holes, bizarre choices, and lame characters. New Dawn is an very enjoyable location and a side piece of content to the mediocre Far Cry 5. I liken it to the “where are they now” section of a movie, during the credits you see where all the characters ended up. Seeing a glimpse beyond what the original game’s cliffhanger ending was is nice, as long as it’s kept brief. New Dawn has to be the final straw in the Far Cry formula, the series requires a much needed break. The franchise could do with a hiatus and freshening it up after a bit of time away will breathe new life into it, but as a final pleasure trip in the overgrown Hope County, I thought this was a good one to go out on.