A megaton announcement.
Set 17 years after the climax of Far Cry 5 – which, if you’re not aware, saw Joseph Seed’s religious cult detonate a series of nuclear warheads around the Northern hemisphere – Far Cry New Dawn carves out another story of uprising and resistance amidst the fallout.
Yes, Far Cry’s latest entry is set in a post-apocalyptic world, but crucially, it’s one that’s trying to resist all the cliches that setting might suggest.
A lot of what you might expect from the apocalypse has already passed. The US has endured a long and brutal nuclear winter, where nothing grew and almost everything died. Nearly two decades later, nature has enthusiastically reclaimed what humankind lost – New Dawn presents the most lush and inviting apocalypse imaginable.
There’s been an explosion of vegetation. Vibrant pink flowers cascade over the landscape and the bones of abandoned buildings. In fact, this is an actual phenomenon seen in nature known as ‘superbloom’, a period of intense fertility in which long-dormant life reappears and thrives. But look closely, and you’ll recognise the location. This is still Far Cry 5’s setting of Hope County, but the last two decade have dramatically altered the area. Not only has the flora and fauna changed and taken over, the shifting nuclear dust has reshaped the map and buried a lot of the past. Familiar locations are still there, but you’ll find them ravaged by time and buried in the dust which more closely resembles pure white sand than anything grim or morbid.
In the absence of civilisation, a band of marauders known as the Highwaymen have taken control. With biker-gang-like chapters across the US, they move from town to town looting whatever they can, with the most precious commodity in the future being biofuel. A train carrying scientists and farmers, security experts – a futuristic Mayflower of sorts – is sent into this chaos from the West coast, in the hope of resettling America. You assume the role of the unnamed head of security aboard this train, but the train is attacked, and the hope of rebuilding civilisation in Hope County thrown into doubt.
The attack comes from a new antagonist. In the absence of law and order, a nationwide gang known as the Highwaymen have taken over. With motorbike-gang-style chapters across the US, they ride from settlement to settlement bleeding them dry of resources. They wore heavily-graffitied and brightly coloured motocross and BMX padding – the most scavengable form of armour in the post-apocalypse – and led by two new villains, sisters Mickey and Lou, who killed their own father to assume control of the nationwide gang. But even though they’re certainly being positioned as New Dawn’s main antagonists, the presence of Joseph Seed looms large. He appears at the end of the trailer, and with Mickey and Lou filling the role of New Dawn’s lead villains, I suspect your relationship with Joseph might be different this time around, and that the former fanatic might even regret the decisions that brought the world to ruin.
What you do in this world is still pretty typical Far Cry-type stuff, but certain elements have been tweaked to better suit the setting. For instance, take Outposts. They’re now replayable in a way that makes sense to this fallen world. Whenever you now liberate one, you’ll be faced with the option to either take it over and use it to manufacture ethanol, the most valuable resource in this new world. Or alternatively, you can ransack it for a quick return, but this will leave it vacant and vulnerable to the Highwaymen who will eventually take back control. The Outpost will become more fortified each time and elements like the alarm will move around, making it harder to take back. Each Outpost can be taken back three times, with escalating rewards. It’s a small tweak, but one that makes perfect sense in this world of small factions warring for limited resources.
Despite these changes, the prospect of returning to the same location might not feel as appealing as an entirely new setting. New Dawn seems conscious of this too, smartly introducing Expedition, a new type of mission for those who crave more variety.
These missions have a simple structure – you get in a chopper, head to an entirely separate part of the US, extract a package, and then attempt to get out. It’s probably best to think of them as giant Outposts, with each one roughly a square kilometre. Since they’re distinct from the sprawling open world, New Dawn can up the visuals and numbers of enemies in these locations to make things more hectic. But it’s the setting themselves that make them right now New Dawn’s most appealing attraction. In fact, one is even set in a dilapidated amusement park in the bayou. Even though Hope County has been reworked, it’s smart to allow for these creative excursions. While I couldn’t find out the exact number of Expeditions, we know they’ll include a trip to the Grand Canyon and the West Coast. But if you look closely at the launch trailer you can spot one of these locales, which New Dawn’s Creative Director, Jean-Sebastien Decant, confirmed to IGN was in fact Alcatraz.
To aid you on these missions, and in the core game, are entirely new cast of supporting characters. We weren’t shown all of them but there’s Carmina – the daughter of Nick and Kim Rye from the last game – and Nana, a senior citizen sniper with comically large glasses. But more importantly, there are two new Fangs for Hire. (I hate to break it to you like this, but it’s been 17 years. Boomer’s gone to the big open world shooter in the sky.) There’s Timber, an Akita who will now ride in a motorcycle sidecar with you, and there’s a Horatio, a huge slobbering-but-cute boar who loves to gouge Highwaymen.
As great as Horatio is, I think it’s the little changes I think I liked most about New Dawn. It’s a post-apocalyptic game with mutants that make sense. They aren’t grotesque abominations, but weird looking variants of familiar creatures. Again, it’s based on a scientific extrapolation of what would happen – at least initially. A nuclear fallout would create unnatural selection, potentially resulting in recessive genes become more popular. For instance, albino deer now appear to be the dominant form of the species. Then there’s its pink antlers – according to Decant, the Far Cry 5 drug Bliss has combined with the radiation to produce more exotic mutations.
There’s no getting around the fact that it’s built on Far Cry 5’s map and systems, but to fixate on that overlooks what it’s adding – I can’t wait to take back Alcatraz with a boar by my side – and exploring a new type of apocalypse. New Dawn appears to avoid a lot of the cliches of post-apocalyptic shooters. It’s not drab, nor is it grim, but vibrant, fun, and unexpectedly beautiful. The end of days has rarely looked so inviting.