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Ubisoft has been accused both justly and unjustly of making the same game over and over again. Many of their longest running series like Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry have spent the last decade or so struggling to reconcile realistic or historically accurate worlds with ridiculous settings or ludicrous stories. Far Cry New Dawn is the latest in this ongoing struggle and, if nothing else, it proves that this specific series is in desperate need of a hard reset.
After the events of one of Far Cry 5’s three endings triggers nuclear war players step into the shoes of a new character 17 years later. The Captain – Cap to their friends – is the Head of Security for Thomas Rush. Rush has been travelling up and down the west coast of the devastated United States helping other groups of survivors. Carmina Rye enlists the help of Rush and his Captain against the Highwaymen in her home of Hope County, Montana. An organised, highly mobile group of bandits the Highwaymen are led by twins Mickey and Lou. The remnants of the Eden’s Gate cult from Far Cry 5 also make an appearance.
Far Cry 5 was a simple game trying to tell a simple story weighed down by complex political themes. Politics appear to have burned away in the nuclear fires leaving Far Cry New Dawn with the simplicity its progenitor craved. The problem with simple stories is that to more mature audiences they can be boring and Far Cry New Dawn is definitely that. It’s story is limited from the jump by yet another mute protagonist whose only goal is to kill and maim and burn in the drive towards a brighter future.
There are echoes of Stephen King’s The Stand throughout as well as (more appropriately) Robert McCammon’s Swan Song and the film Mad Max. But Far Cry New Dawn doesn’t try to hold a candle to these titans of post-apocalyptic fiction; instead it attempts to forge its own path and fails utterly. Far Cry New Dawn doesn’t lack for characters but it does lack for character.
Mikey and Lou are visually striking villains as well as being brutal in their methods just like Vaas in Far Cry 3 and Joseph Seed in Far Cry 5. Mikey is the more controlled of the two while Lou delights in murder and mayhem. But that’s about it. Nothing complicates this story of Good vs Evil not even New Eden. New Eden are the hunter-gatherer remnants of Eden’s Gate. Abandoned by Joseph Seed, the psychopathic doomsday prophet of Far Cry 5, they are now led by his prideful, jealous son Ethan. This religious, agrarian community do nothing to complicate the story they only add to it unnecessarily.
The problem, I feel, ultimately lies with the Captain. Their silence let’s every other character do the talking but so few of these characters have anything worthwhile to say. The story is all bones and no flesh and it’s characters all either talk like they’re in a non-denominational melodrama or a 90s sketch-comedy about skating. Far Cry New Dawn tells a story that is ultimately empty at its centre. The whirling void of its story is eager to ignore than its irritatingly prescient micro-transactions.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a game desperately in need of a good trim, had micro-transactions. They weren’t noticeable until the mid-game. Far Cry New Dawn’s main story is only about ten hours long whereas Assassin’s Creed Odyssey leaned closer to 60. The game pushes its in-game currency on you gently, never forcing you. But in the back of my mind I knew that an Elite level gun or car would help me in later game missions. It’s when it prods you to use your hard-earned Far Cry Credits to buy the materials needed to build new weapons and vehicles that it becomes irritating.
Taking over the Highwaymen’s bases and discovering lost treasure caches is often fun but always tough work. The methodical (or chaotic) eliminations required to take over outposts have always been the high point of the Far Cry series. The first person platforming or puzzle solving involved in the treasure stashes are a new highlight in the later games. That’s why I find the Far Cry Credits so irritating. The weapons leveled at the II and III marks are relatively affordable but the Elite guns cost a massive amount of materials to craft. This “Pay us for instant gratification” mentality doesn’t make games more fun it just makes them more inaccessible.
Suggested Reading: Game Review | What Far Cry 5 Lacks in Story It Makes Up for in Gameplay
With inaccessibility in mind I got to thinking about the apocalypse. The cars in Far Cry New Dawn’s open world all run on ethanol handily circumventing the need to drill for oil. Instead the survivors brew it. But with the post-apocalypse so firmly in my mind I thought about how easy it would be for an able-bodied person to get around. What about the deaf? The blind? Those missing limbs or born with non-functioning limbs? They are nowhere to be found in Far Cry New Dawn barring the blind Grace Robertson. Where are they? Hidden behind closed doors? Worse, culled? To be honest the developers probably didn’t bother to animate them and that’s disappointing but not uncommon in a post-apocalyptic video game.
You’ll be happy to know that guns still work after the bombs fell. The characters of Far Cry 5 aren’t savage with bows and arrows and stone spears. No they have assault rifles, rocket launchers and flamethrowers. And there’s ammo aplenty for them. I’m not saying I wanted stone spears a lá Far Cry: Primal but something a bit more creative than the promising Saw Launcher I made at the start would have been good. Late game power-ups like invisibility or a Spartan Rage-like ability have about as much impact as the game’s much-hyped Expeditions. Admittedly the weapons all have a ramshackle, slapped together look about them but that’s where any sense of the world after the end, well, ends.
Far Cry New Dawn doesn’t seem to want to reckon with the post-apocalypse. It wants to look at it in simple, broad strokes. Good vs Evil. Man vs Nature. Man vs Man. There are good people and there are bad and that’s it. No one’s popping iodine pills or growing massive tumors or mutating a third limb. Far Cry New Dawn wants to reset the world to the way it was which is a nice dream but nothing’s ever been the same after a nuclear bomb was dropped on it. Both history and fiction teach us that. All this proves that it’s not the apocalypse that needs a simple reset it’s the Far Cry series as a whole.