Vibrant colors and overgrown landscapes permeate Far Cry New Dawn. Its post-apocalyptic world is filled with two-headed animals and majestic albino deer frolicking in meadows sprawled with thousands of bright pink flowers. The spirited wildlife, colorful landscapes, and the perpetual borealis in the sky reminded me of something straight out of Annihilation. The tone of the rest of New Dawn did not live up to these standards.
Far Cry New Dawn sometimes feels ethereal in its environments, until you walk too far through the woods and encounter enemies alongside the road. Every few meters there has to be some kind of event or encounter happening, whether it’s an enemy ambush, a truck full of prisoners to liberate, or a supply drop nearby. There’s no time to simply appreciate the beautiful world as you travel between missions and outposts. Sometimes I just want to relax by the lake and catch some fish, but then comes a boat full of enemies along waiting to ruin my day. Maybe it’s just my own playstyle, but I wish I could have a break from the constant barrage of combat encounters.
It’s not that the combat was particularly bad, however. There are lots of weapons to mess around with, especially the saw launchers that — you guessed it — launch sawblades that ricochet off of people and objects, racking up multiple kills. Aside from the saw launcher, however, most guns were typical FPS mainstays with little variation or creativity. With so many opportunities for combat, it’s important for the gunplay to be engaging, and I would have liked more guns to be as crazy as the saw launcher.
The enemy faction comes in the form of the Highwaymen, a group of survivors outfitted in BMX gear, led by a set of stubborn twins. I loved the design of the twins, Mickey and Lou, with their clashing cotton candy pink and blue color palettes, but their characterization left a lot to be desired. I didn’t understand their motivations and desires the same way I understood an antagonist like Joseph Seed.
As a standalone sequel to Far Cry 5, New Dawn still features the New Eden cult, and Joseph Seed makes a return, working with you to defeat your mutual enemy — the Highwaymen. Missions involving New Eden felt tonally opposite to those involving the Highwaymen. Visiting the New Eden compound felt like traveling straight to Skyrim, since everyone was dressed in rags and living in wooden huts. Meanwhile, vibrantly painted cars sticking out of the ground littered the landscape just outside.
The tone and writing of New Dawn feel chaotic and disjointed, and I was never given a great reason to be fighting for the “good guys.” You play as the captain of security to Thomas Rush, a man who supposedly has helped other communities rebuild after the bombs dropped in Far Cry 5, but I still don’t feel like I even know who he is. The game just expects you to want to fight for him and help the community of Prosperity. This settlement acts as a central hub and is our first introduction to the light RPG elements in Far Cry New Dawn. To help rebuild, you are tasked with finding specialists across the map that will help with crafting weapons, providing more health, or creating new vehicles at the garage. You can then level up each of these areas once you’ve collected enough ethanol (a resource for leveling up Prosperity) from fighting enemy outposts.
The outposts are simply enemy-controlled territory, and once you defeat everyone there, you gain the resources from it. What is unique to New Dawn is that you may scavenge these outposts to gain more resources, and it will be retaken by tougher enemies with even more ethanol. Enemies, weapons, and vehicles have different ranks, ranging from one to three, and the absolute best being designated as “elite.” As the game progresses, or as harder enemies take outposts, it becomes clear that having higher ranked weapons is necessary to defeat tougher enemies. This means funneling a lot of resources into weapon crafting to ensure you’ll stand a chance against elite bosses. Don’t be like me and try to take down a boss with a rank two shotgun.
You can get some help from various guns for hire, much like in Far Cry 5. There are several classes, like snipers and assault, and each character can learn specific abilities after reaching a certain amount of kills. For example, Gina, the heavy gunner, gets unlimited ammo after 15 kills. These companions bring a little bit of personality to gunfights and break up the monotony of fighting alone, but sometimes they can be downright annoying. The sniper grandma, Nana, seemed like a fun choice for companionship, but she just yells and curses because that’s funny, I guess.
Other characters had similarly cringe-worthy writing, and some of the jokes and dialogue felt very “how do you do fellow kids.” For instance, the medical specialist is an almost laughably cliched stoner who says things like “my dude” and “hecking,” which feels really out of place. I appreciate that the characters can be fun and unique, but some of the writing felt like a corporate entity trying to be quirky and relatable on Twitter (here’s looking at you, Wendy’s).
Aside from some out-of-place writing and characters, there were some unique quests that I actually enjoyed. Traversing a river filled with bliss (the hallucinogenic drug from the previous game) and lit up with sparkling pink flames was one of the best, and most beautiful, experiences I had with the game. Other quests had me driving a rickety car at snail’s pace through deadly obstacles, or freeing a tanky boar from the Highwaymen’s grasp. New Dawn also introduced “expeditions,” which take the player to an entirely different map to complete an objective and handle swarms of enemies. These felt more like challenges that would be better taken on with a co-op partner. Much like Far Cry 5, New Dawn can be played entirely alone or tackled co-operatively.
Despite any qualms with the writing and characters, Far Cry New Dawn is still a fun, chaotic thrill ride. All the invading wildlife and violent warring factions transport the player into a truly anarchic post-apocalypse, even if it doesn’t entirely know what it’s trying to say.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by Ubisoft.
Far Cry New Dawn suffers from clashing tones and cringey writing, but it offers some unique quests and a fun, chaotic wasteland to play around in.