I know what you’re thinking: yet another first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic setting? Yep, and there’s not a whole lot more to say about it than that. Set 17 years after the events of Far Cry 5, New Dawn is a direct follow-up and includes features such as being able to scavenge for loot and use components to construct weapons. These are ideas that sound good on paper, but the reality of the success of New Dawn’s ideas are a little more mixed. In my view, the new mechanics don’t fit well into the mould of a Far Cry title and ultimately result in a game that feels confused and lacks identity.
In New Dawn, you control the Captain, a silent character who is assisting the people of Hope County with their fight against the Highwaymen, a ruthless group of mercenaries led by female twins. Certain characters from Far Cry 5 return, although your reception to them will depend on how much you connected with that game’s story. In my review of Far Cry 5, I noted that story and narrative was one of the weakest components, so your mileage may vary. In my view, I thought that the tale of New Dawn was merely serviceable – you’re not going to be feeling much of this story after you’re done with it.
Hope County is, however, an absolute joy to play through. It’s primarily set in the American countryside and features lots of natural terrain with a few urban locations. And while it’s the same map, significant sections of it have been modified and covered in stunning floral displays – the narrative describes this as the “superbloom.” In any case, this visual style distinguishes New Dawn from other dreary, grey post-apocalyptic games.
Mechanically, New Dawn introduces some significant departures from previous games in the series. Some are more successful than others. Arguably the most substantial change in the game is an RPG-style system of hit points (think Borderlands and Anthem). After ten or so hours of gameplay, this is still difficult to get used to and feels out of place in this universe. I would also argue that it’s arbitrary and forces players to obtain better weapons to defeat enemies which are substantially similar, save for the level indicator next to their health bar. This system also meant that in more than one occasion I found myself shooting a higher level enemy in the head multiple times, only to see small chunks of their health chipped away. It just doesn’t feel right in a Far Cry game. If Ubisoft wanted to pursue this style of gameplay, they should have gone all-in with other RPG mechanics – such as additional attributes and equipment which has elemental and protective properties.
Weapon upgrades are also treated differently. In Far Cry 5, you could add mods to individual weapons. For example, if you wanted to add a silencer, extra mag and a specific skin to your assault rifle, you could do that. In New Dawn, you are limited crafting pre-set weapons and are unable to customise them further. If you want an additional component on that specific weapon, you have to hope that it’s available in the next level upgrade. I’m not a fan of this, and I don’t think many returning players will appreciate this change either.
The Guns for Hire system returns from previous games without any changes. You can issue simple commands to your squad – go to a specific location/attack a particular target and follow you. I would’ve liked to see this system evolve a little more since Far Cry 5. For example, being able to issue orders to take down targets in a specific order, or to commence an assault with you simultaneously, would’ve been awesome. Perhaps in a future game, but a definite missed opportunity in this one.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about New Dawn. While I applaud Ubisoft for being willing to introduce new mechanics into the tried and true Far Cry formula, it’s a shame that not many of them are successful. The RPG-esque hit point system doesn’t feel at home in what has so far been a traditional first-person shooter series. Weapon upgrades have been dumbed down without the meaningful updates that were available in previous games. And the setting, despite being visually appealing, doesn’t offer returning players anything significant beyond a merely serviceable narrative. New Dawn isn’t a bad game, but it certainly feels like a missed opportunity.