Far Cry New Dawn

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Feb. 15, 2019


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Xbox One Review - 'Far Cry New Dawn'

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 14, 2019 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Dive into a transformed, vibrant, post-apocalyptic Hope County, Montana, 17 years after a global nuclear catastrophe. Lead the fight against the Highwaymen as they seek to take over the last remaining resources in the latest installment of Far Cry.

Buy Far Cry New Dawn

It's been a little less than a year since Far Cry 5 debuted, and the follow-up is already here. If that seems like a quick turnaround for a major franchise, it is. Instead of a full-priced sequel, Far Cry New Dawn is a moderately priced offering ($39.99) that builds on the world established in Far Cry 5. It's more like an expansion pack from the pre-Steam PC days rather than a full-featured game, but it still offers up plenty of fun.

Because New Dawn reuses the core engine work and base map from Far Cry 5, it allowed the team to experiment in other areas. This means that New Dawn isn't just Far Cry 5 with new missions.

One thing that really stood out for me when playing through New Dawn was the expeditions feature. These one-off side missions have much smaller maps than the open world of the main game, and that allows them to have a lot more detail. This is true on both an architectural level and an enemy level. Designers also got to go crazy with location and theme because they weren't really tied to any other part of the game.

For example, one expedition is set in a decaying theme park in the south, while another has you exploring a crashed cargo plane in the jungle. There are multiple paths through each expedition level, which encourages exploration. Sure, you could run in, grab the package, and hightail it to the extraction point to complete the expedition mission, but that misses the point.

The expeditions also shine in co-op. Playing through these with a buddy made it obvious that each of the expedition levels was designed with co-op in mind. You can play them alone, but the experience isn't the same. It's much more fun to play with a friend — doubly so when things suddenly go sideways because one of you screws up and gets noticed. If expeditions don't appear in future installments of the franchise, I'll be sorely disappointed.

Another new aspect that appears in New Dawn is the inclusion of some light RPG-style leveling elements. New Dawn has the concept of four different levels (I, II, III, Elite) for characters, animals, and weapons. This has the effect of "gating" some basic access due to damage caused. For example, a level I or II weapon isn't going to do much more than annoy a level III enemy. This doesn't mean you have to run away, though.

Because this is a Far Cry game, there are usually alternative options. One early mission had me facing off against a level III bear with mostly level I starting weapons. After a bit of swearing, I chucked a Molotov cocktail at the bear, which lit its fur on fire. An attempt to run caused the fire to spread to the grass, and before I knew it, the big bad bear was toast — literally and figuratively. In another area of the game, I ran into an elite-level animal before I was ready. Thankfully, there were also a number of NPCs around. With the help of two NPCs and a gun for hire, I took it down. It was a challenge, but it was also quite rewarding.

Unfortunately, the level bits aren't perfect, as it does lead to the occasional brick wall during the story missions. I was able to play through the majority of the game using only level II and III weapons until I reached the two final story missions, which have elite boss fights. Suddenly, I found myself going from a successful fighter to being stomped on like a rookie. The solution was to run through all of the outposts again and upgrade my levels.

With an elite bow and upgraded gun for hire, I returned to the same fight, and what was previously impossible was no longer a problem. The experience was only mildly frustrating, as taking down outposts is part of the appeal of Far Cry games, but I couldn't help but feel like I was being forced to grind at the end of the game. A better difficulty ramp could've alleviated this issue.

Speaking of outposts, in Far Cry 5, you could reset the outposts only after completing the campaign. In New Dawn, you can reset or "scavenge" an individual outpost at any time after beating it. Scavenging an outpost offers up additional resources, while reloading it with more powerful enemies for a greater challenge. It's a solid way to keep things fresh for players, and it's a good option if you're looking to master a specific set of takedowns.

Visually, New Dawn puts on a good show, especially in HDR. The art designers have a solid grasp of the "destroyed beauty" aesthetic, and it shows. The postapocalyptic world of Hope County may not be as populated as it was pre-nuke, but what's here is vivid and colorful. I often found myself stopping to switch into photo mode, just to appreciate some of the imagery on display. My only real complaint is the limited tether distance when it comes to the camera in photo mode. Setting up that perfect shot requires getting your in-game character to be in the correct location. You can't just get close and then go into free movement with the camera.

If there's any part of New Dawn that feels repetitive, it's the story missions. Whereas the story missions in Far Cry 5 generally felt bespoke, the story missions here generally feel more by-the-numbers. They're not bad, but they don't spark the same feeling of creativity this time around. The twins are also underused as villains here, appearing more than once but generally doing little more than threatening and bluffing. The vocal performances are solid, so it's not a knock on the actors so much as it is on the game's script.

Another issue with the script is how it handles Joseph Seed's arc. Greg Bryk reprises his role and absolutely delivers on the performance, but he's limited by the script. Bryk delivers the emotion of a man who has been completely beaten down, but the story never offers up an opportunity for him to come face-to-face with what he's done. Instead, it merely presents him as someone who feels guilty and wants to give up, rather than face the tough choice of atonement. It's an easy out for the script writers, if a disappointing one. Especially with an actor of Bryk's caliber, I really would've liked to see the story present a more challenging set of circumstances for the character interactions. Far Cry 5 did a better job in this regard.

As an overall package, Far Cry New Dawn delivers a focused expansion of the world that was established in Far Cry 5. You don't need to play the prior game to enjoy what's here, but those who have done so will come into New Dawn with a greater appreciation of the world and the characters. The more limited scope means no add-on features (like Far Cry Arcade) and no season pass, but it also allowed for some experimentation that you don't usually see in a AAA title. Put this one on your purchase list, but you should stick with the regular edition and skip the deluxe edition. The deluxe edition is $10 more, with nothing to offer except some early weapon unlocks with alternate skins.

Score: 7.8/10

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