While many may have first mistaken Far Cry: New Dawn for a Blood Dragon-like spin-off, with many of the series' more serious overtones being replaced by psychedelic self-awareness and 80s humour, it soon became clear that Ubisoft Montreal allowed itself to be a little more ambitious this time around. Only one year has passed since the launch of Far Cry 5, and we're already back to visit Hope County, but why not try a more serious story? How about a post-apocalyptic twist on things.
In other words, it is clear from the start that Ubisoft has, in many ways, been far more ambitious with this spin-off than first assumed, and that is despite the fact that many design elements have passed directly from Far Cry 5 to New Dawn.
But what is New Dawn? Let's start with the basics. To be cynical, New Dawn is in many ways a post-apocalyptic "reskin" of Far Cry 5 's Hope County, which you are now exploring 17 years after the atomic bombs came down and wiped out a great deal of humanity. Flora and fauna have reclaimed the ruins of the now crushed civilization, but people who sought refuge in bunkers or otherwise survived the doomsday have now resurfaced and have begun to rebuild infrastructure. You will see other kinds of animals, more colourful surroundings, ruins where small towns once lay, Mad Max-inspired vehicles, and one crazy weapon after another.
But unlike Blood Dragon, New Dawn is not an exaggerated parody, because it is actually a serious story of survival, and of putting down the foundation of what ultimately becomes a new human civilisation. You are the right-hand man/woman of the charismatic and resourceful Thomas Rush, and together with a group of loyal followers, you have made it your mission to help small grassroots communities around the United States to restore law and order and rebuild. On the way to Hope County, however, everything goes wrong thanks to the two violent and eerie twins Mickey and Lou, who want what you've got and therefore kidnap Rush. It is now up to you to unite the people of Hope County, get Rush back, rebuild Prosperity, and defeat the twins. Although there are a number of bizarre aspects of the whole narrative set-up and a sarcastic angle is a natural part of the package, Far Cry: New Dawn is a game to be taken seriously.
Although it hasn't baked the same kind of sensitive subject into its story as was the case in Far Cry 5, the game, like its predecessor, wants to ride the line between comedy and brutal seriousness, and surprisingly it manages to take that pretty far. In fact, the story is much more linear this time, something we actually missed. Where you could deal with missions in the order you wanted in Far Cry 5 (apart from the triggered story missions), New Dawn is far more traditional where you have side missions and main missions, and where the story evolves in one uniform direction, and that is something of a relief. The pace is maintained thanks to the more linear progression, and in many ways, this is closer to the sort of narrative experience we're used to in a Far Cry game. At least compared to Far Cry 5.
New Dawn is a slightly smaller experience than Far Cry 5, but not in the way one would immediately think. The game is not only more linear, but it is also more streamlined. First of all, you are not driving from town to town, but are rooted in one place, namely Prosperity. A normal Far Cry experience offers a lot of loot, so the developers obviously thought to give this loot a function, a role to play, a reason to exist, and from here the idea of the upgradeable main base was born. You collect duct tape, motherboards, titanium and other junk, as well as the primary resource - ethanol - from all around and this is used to upgrade the base. Upgrades provide the opportunity to create new weapons, grow plants, get more information about the surroundings, and different vehicles. It's a brilliant way to give the player a primary and structured purpose, and even though the systems are primitive, they are extremely effective. Going out into the wilderness for more Titanium to create a new rifle, or more ethanol to upgrade the garden is a source of motivation that simply works. Furthermore, it also gives the player a narrative purpose. You are in Hope County to strengthen the locals through Prosperity, and the fruit of your labours is constantly seen in camp.