When it comes to a typical Far Cry game the usual setup sees you, the player, taking on a big bad man who has near total control over a previously unexplored corner of the world. New Dawn is not your typical Far Cry game though, which is why we're up against two big bads, both of them women (twins Mickey and Lou), and we're doing so in Hope County, the setting of the last game, 2018's Far Cry 5. It's not the same Hope County though, largely because since the last game took place, a nuclear winter that lasted several years has come and gone, and now, 17 years after the events FC5, we're back in town and things are looking rather different.
For starters, nature has somewhat reclaimed the place. Plant life creeps over ragged buildings, society has been reset, and nearly all of the everyday comforts that we all take for granted have fallen by the wayside. It's familiar, yes, but it's not the same place - not even close - and while we had moments of déjà vu as we explored, this feels like a new play space. Simply put, it's not a simple re-skin even if there are unavoidable similarities.
What's more, you're not the same person. You're not even from the area. Following the nuclear apocalypse, a number of factions sprung up, including the one you're a part of. In fact, you're the second in command to enigmatic leader Thomas Rush, a captain of this resistance of sorts, and along with your brethren you're on a train heading around the country helping to liberate people trapped under the yoke of those who would abuse the vacuum of power that now engulfs the country. The only problem is, on your way to Hope County, your train is hijacked and your resistance scatters to the wind. Cue a quest to put things right, kick some villainous posterior, hunt some animals and gather resources, and generally be a badass who takes no nonsense from those who try to oppress their fellow man. In that sense, this is a pretty standard Far Cry.
There's much more to New Dawn that differentiates it from its predecessor than the setting. Perhaps the most notable change is the introduction of light RPG mechanics. Cutting a long story short, you'll need to level up your gear as you go, and having low-quality equipment effectively gates content. You can go where you want, that much is true, but when you get there, if you're not adequately armed, you're going to struggle. We found that out the hard way when we tackled one of the new outposts. Ostensibly, they're the same as before, but once you've beaten them you can rinse them for resources - or "scavenge" them for supplies - and in doing so hand them back over to the enemy. At this point they go up a level, the local grunts are upgraded to more capable soldiers, and if you approach them with the same low-level weapons that you used before you'll likely see the Game Over screen sooner rather than later.
Outposts have been upgraded, but they're hardly new. Expeditions, on the other hand, are totally new. These standalone missions take you to different areas across North America and you're tasked with getting in, grabbing a package, and then getting out ready for helicopter extraction. Like the aforementioned outposts they also level up, so once you've completed them you can go back and play against hardier soldiers and try and claim more lucrative rewards. Oh, and you can play both of them, and indeed the whole campaign, in co-op.
We completed one of the expeditions during our hands-on time. The level was set on an old aircraft carrier, and naturally, it was full of enemy soldiers. We snuck in, stabbed a couple of guards, found the package, although by then we'd alerted the Highwaymen to our presence and it was a case of grabbing the gear and heading to a nearby beach so we could get to the chopper and escape. It was hardly revolutionary stuff, but it was a nice change of pace from exploring Hope County and we envisaged these being a highlight much in the same way as the outposts are, perhaps even more so as the isolated nature of these areas allows the developers to explore new regions, add more detail, and crank up the number of enemies.
Once you're done with your expedition (there are going to be seven on the disc - if that's not an antiquated way of looking at things) it's back to Hope County for more exploration and story missions. In FC5 you had to tackle a certain number of missions to bring the Seed family out of hiding, but things are going to work a little differently in New Dawn, and you'll be invited to meet your opponents at a designated point when the time is right, rather than have them turn up unannounced. You'll still be meeting allies out in the world, doing jobs for them, taking out Highwaymen wherever possible, and generally stamping out injustice whenever you see it.