The end of civilisation as we know it might be a scary prospect, but in Far Cry: New Dawn it sure is pretty. Pink and purple flowers bloom in the ruins of a liquor store. Dense vegetation covers a collapsed farmhouse. And the faded white timbers of a derelict chapel poke out from a carpet of lush greenery.
But the world of Far Cry: New Dawn is no leafy paradise. Set 17 years after a nuclear apocalypse, Ubisoft’s latest open-world adventure takes place in the same slice of Montana that we explored in Far Cry 5 earlier this year. As such, the gameworld you’ll explore in New Dawn is familiar but transformed. And while most post-nuclear landscapes are a sea of browns and greys, Ubisoft’s artists and developers instead envision a world in which nuclear winter has given way to an age of ‘super-bloom’.
And while the apocalypse has changed the world, it hasn’t stamped out humanity entirely. Survivors eke out a living in makeshift townships, farming the fertile land for supplies and sustenance. But danger lurks on the horizon in the form of The Highwaymen, a brutal band of scavengers determined to claim every remaining resource for themselves. They prey upon the weak and the defenceless, taking what they want and leaving nothing but bodies in their wake.
It’s on this lawless frontier that you start New Dawn, playing as a new character who’s attempting, in their own small way, to rebuild the America they once knew.
Everything old is new again
If the environments of Ubisoft’s latest are a mix of the familiar and the transformed, then the same can be said of New Dawn’s gameplay. After all, the latest entry in the Far Cry series features exactly the same sort of emergent shooting as the previous entry, but there are spicy little differences everywhere you look.
Most obviously, there’s the weapons themselves. Given that you no longer live in an industrialised world, mass-produced weapons are hard to come by. Instead, you’ll have to rely on strange ramshackle weaponry, taking aim at enemies through jury-rigged launchers that fire bouncing buzzsaw blades and crude explosives. This is a world in which everything – whether it be housing, armour, or weapons of war – is improvised from scavenged parts.
Another noticeable tweak to the Far Cry formula are the little numbers that appear over enemies when you open fire at them. Role-playing game veterans will immediately recognise these damage indicators, but when we spoke to New Dawn’s creative director Jean-Sebastien Decant, he explains that they’re not indicative of a major shift towards role-playing systems. Instead, they signify the simple fact that New Dawn hosts some tougher foes with hefty health bars. In part, this is down to the fact that Highwaymen are often equipped with hefty armour, but Decant confides that it’s also an excuse to let Far Cry’s advanced artificial intelligence express itself for more than a few seconds before the player guns them down.
Tick tick boom
If all that sounds like a radical departure from Far Cry 5, it’s worth noting that some familiar features make a welcome return. The Guns For Hire system is back, offering a variety of non-player characters that you can recruit to fight alongside you. During our time with the game we watch an Ubisoft staffer tackle an especially well-defended Highwaymen outpost accompanied by a sharp-tongued octogenarian known only as Nana. She may be ancient, but Nana’s a dab hand with a sniper rifle.
Far Cry 5’s Fangs For Hire system was even more memorable, letting you stride into battle accompanied by a fearsome grizzly bear or an adorable pup. And while Boomer almost certainly hasn’t survived the 17 long years since Far Cry 5, canine enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that New Dawn offers its own poochy pal in the form of Timber the akita. He’s handy in a fight, he’ll ride alongside you in a motorbike sidecar, and we love him very much.
The wealth of AI companions in New Dawn is welcome, since the game offers a range of stern challenges for veteran players looking to test their skills. One example is the new approach to outposts, which have long been a staple of the Far Cry series, but are now replayable for the first time in the series’ history, offering tougher challenges and greater rewards for players that want to test themselves against the Highwaymen’s elite soldiers.
The new Expedition missions are another example, offering players a chance to travel beyond Montana and perform snatch-and-grab missions in other key US settings. These intense excursions are especially well-suited for co-op play, as you and a buddy hunt down valuable resources in the Louisiana Bayou or gun down enemies on the wartorn West Coast. For the first time in a Far Cry game, the in-game fantasy is global, rather than local, and it’s exhilarating to step outside of a single open world to explore the wider world.
While New Dawn clearly builds on the successes of Far Cry 5, then, it’s clear that Ubisoft is looking to shake up the series like never before with this expansive new entry. The 15th of February 2019 may signal the end of the world as we know it, but it still can’t come soon enough for us.