The second you begin playing Far Cry New Dawn, it’s immediately clear what this game is: more Far Cry 5 with a little here and a little there added in to shake things up enough to be enticing.
If you’ve played 2018’s Far Cry 5, you know exactly what you’re getting when you step back into Hope County. At its core, it’s very similar to the game you may have played last year.
Beyond its gameplay skeleton, which is nearly identical to that of the past few iterations, there are, however, enough layers of skin to make this sequel — the first direct sequel in the franchise — not only exciting for old players, but new players as well.
That’s a grotesque way to put it for a game that is surprisingly the opposite. If someone told you that Far Cry was going post-apocalyptic, games like Fallout or movies like The Road would likely come to mind.
You’d be wrong, though, because this game is on the other side of the spectrum.
It retains the beauty of Far Cry 5 but comes packed with plenty of purple and pink flowers, hazy greens, luscious blues and in turn, creates a post-nuclear wasteland world that actually looks like somewhere people would desire to live.
Instead of going with the dreary and desolate setting we’ve all come to expect from these types of games, Ubisoft has created, as they do, a post-apocalyptic setting for Far Cry that feels just as beautifully-unique as Far Cry 3, just as varied as Far Cry 4 and just as picturesque as Far Cry 5.
And in true Far Cry fashion, this game comes packed with loads of weapons, enemies, vehicles, mechanics, perks and more. Unlike the previous iteration, though, all of this has been integrated into the new light-RPG nature of New Dawn.
Whereas in previous entries you shoot an enemy until they go down with no real indication that they’re dying, in New Dawn, every single bullet that lands causes a damage number to ping off the enemy’s body, and each of these pings indicate a drop in the health bar floating above their head.
How quickly that health bar drops, though, depends on the rank of the enemy, which is another new aspect of the game.
Now, enemies are ranked either level one, two or three, with each rank indicated by a progression of general toughness and body armor protecting the enemy.
And just as enemies have ranks, so do guns. You can, of course, find a higher ranked gun, indicated by its gold glow in the inventory screen, while exploring.
Or, if you’ve got your eyes set on one of these weapons, you can gather the materials necessary to craft it and do just that. From the start, your menu has a screen showing you all of the weapons and the ranks associated with it.
The gun pictured above is a crossbow that shoots circular saw blades and because it’s one of the highest-ranked guns in the game, getting your hands on one won’t be as easy as obtaining something like a new pistol or assault rifle.
This brings us to crafting, which is in no way new for the series, but all the more fitting for New Dawn.
Personally, crafting in past entries, especially 5, has always felt weird. Can’t I just buy the gun or find another health pack at an enemy outpost or take a new bag off a dead body?
With New Dawn taking place 17 after an apocalypse, crafting feels right at home. I can’t just go to a gun store and buy a weapon. I can’t just find a trusty AK-47 (which no doubt was obliterated when the nukes dropped).
If I want to shoot something, I need to create a gun that can shoot ammo that I’ve also created. I’m a survivor after all.
While I wish they had gone further down this rabbit hole of mechanics — some guns are just standard guns with a post-apocalyptic skin — I am, for the first time in the series’ history, excited to craft, and more importantly, convinced narratively that I actually need to do so to survive.
Who wouldn’t want to create a sniper using a rifle, a hollowed-out flashlight as a scope, a screwdriver as a bayonet and a bottle as the silencer?
While the director of the game assured me that the RPG-ification of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are independent of each other, I can’t help but feel that RPG is where Ubisoft as a whole is heading, but that’s a discussion for another time.
What’s important here is that it feels right in Far Cry and is a welcome addition to the series’ admittedly tiring mechanics.
If you’ve played all of the past Far Cry entries, the new light-RPG mechanics are sure to make this game feel more fresh than past titles ever have.
Another addition to the game that aims to spice things up for veteran players and show new players why they should stick around are expeditions, which are basically challenge-mode maps through the United States that allow you to leave Hope County.
With a map size of one square kilometer, these expedition areas aren’t nearly as massive as Hope County, but far more varied. And that’s because each expedition takes you to a drastically different location.
Expeditions will take you to San Francisco, an abandoned theme park far from Montana and even the Louisiana bayou, among other places.
Each location comes with its own unique visuals, its own unique wildlife — alligators galore in the bayou — and access to significantly more supplies than can be found in Hope County.
It’s these supplies that will serve as the main reason players should go on these expeditions.
Gathering enough ethanol to power up a helicopter or enough springs to help make a new gun in Hope County could take you some serious time depending on what chests and safes you find.
A trip to the Louisiana Bayou, on the other hand, could end with you returning to Montana with loads of these supplies and more, and in significantly less time.
Getting those supplies won’t be easy, though, because the number of enemies on an expedition far out exceeds most areas back in Hope County.
Almost wave-based but not quite that, an expedition to a foreign area will begin with an onslaught of enemies that you should focus on taking out, and while you can choose to bypass this combat and instead explore the area, these places have been designed for exploration after clearing the enemy encounter.
You’re also free to go on these expeditions as many times as you’d like (as long as the helicopter has enough ethanol) and free to up the difficulty by taking on the rank two or three version of it.
While it is completely optional technically, it’s hard to imagine that the New Dawn experience feels complete without at least a visit to each of these locations.
Light-RPG mechanics, crafting and expeditions have all been contextualized within this new post-apocalyptic Hope County, which is in a bit of a civil war between the new New Eden, the Highwaymen and the survivors, which is the faction you lend your allegiance to.
Without going too deep into spoilers, fans of the Father and New Eden who felt that Far Cry 5 left them hanging narratively are in for what the director promised me is a conclusion to that storyline.
In the three hours I played of the game, I only encountered the Father once, but what occurred was trippy, spooky, certainly Far Cry and definitely enough of a thread to see me jump back into this game come Feb. 15.
If you’re new to the series, though, the main antagonists of the game will no doubt ensure that you see the credits roll (and fear not, almost every call back to Far Cry 5 feels more easter egg than it does absolute necessity).
Badass, brutal, here-for-a-fun-time-not-a-long-time and just as charismatic as Joseph Seed, the Twins are the perfect antithesis to the old ways of New Eden and Joseph Seed himself.
After wrapping up nearly three hours of the game’s beginning during the preview, I found myself excited about a game that I had admittedly written off as a re-skin prior to playing it.