The Game Awards is always a fun occasion, and for Far Cry fans there was an extra sprinkle of loveliness this year since we got the announcement of Far Cry: New Dawn, a project that's continuing the legacy of Hope County that we saw in this year's game. We were invited to a presentation by Ubisoft just last week, where they told us all what's going on in a touch more detail, but what exactly is New Dawn?
Before this preview goes ahead we should point out that New Dawn takes place directly after the events of Far Cry 5, and will, therefore, include spoilers for those who haven't finished that game.
Well, the short answer is that it's a sequel to Far Cry 5. The long answer is that it's a continuation of the events in Hope County. As you'll remember if you finished the game, nuclear bombs from the global conflict flattened the land and destroyed society as we know it, and in New Dawn we're placed into Hope County 17 years after the first bombs landed. There's still no government, but after 10 years the harsh winds, dead soil, and sun-blocking dust have subsided, resulting in what's called a superbloom, where the flora and fauna come back in full force to reclaim the destroyed buildings.
When talking about the setting in more detail, Ubisoft's Jean-Sebastien Decant explained that this is like the new West, except there are AR-15s and pickup trucks instead of revolvers and horses. The emphasis is on the makeshift, as people repurpose old materials for new uses, but the lush element is just as important, as the rebirth of nature means flowers and vines creeping over and inside everything.
In terms of characters, we'll see a new threat and new allies, but there will also be some familiar faces, like Carmina, who you might remember as the baby you helped deliver in Far Cry 5. These are split into factions, as on the one hand you have the Survivors, which are mostly simple farmers who reside in Hope County and had prosperity for a while, since they had fuel and ethanol, the latter of which is the ultimate currency in this new world.
Then you have the Highwaymen, who are pretty much your raiders. These guys scavenge but they also prey on people, being led by two women, Mickie and Lou. This pair got their wealth by taking resources from docks in the west when the bombs dropped, taking this to grab power and establish a gang that reaches over many areas. They scavenged motorsport gear to protect themselves, and they now lead this gang that terrorises, brutalises, and steals from everyone that has what they want.
A new game also means a new protagonist, and we play as someone trying to rebuild society and help people. The group that we're a part of on the west coast hops on a train to continue their efforts, but at the game's opening, this clan is torn apart as the train is ambushed and derailed, leaving you once again in Hope County alone. Then your priorities change - it's now about rallying survivors in this lawless frontier so that you can fight for your survival.
Your home base will be key to your survival in New Dawn as how you upgrade determines how you progress. You can recruit specialists for things like medicine - with the Healing Gardens we saw - and weapons (there's even someone trying to create a new sort of Wikipedia, we were told), but there are also guns and fangs for hire. Yes, this ally feature is back once more, and while we have human companions like Nana the sniper, the animals will probably be of most interest.
Decant did inform us that Boomer had unfortunately gone to the big doggy kennel in the sky, but in his place comes an Akita dog called Timber, joined by a boar called Horatio, and what's more is that all animals and allies can ride in any vehicle with you. We even saw Timber get in a bike's sidecar (a new vehicle, by the way) which was super cute. These guns/fangs for hire all have their own special abilities too, like Nana being able to shoot through cover with her sniper, for instance.
It wouldn't be a Far Cry game without tons of weapons and vehicles to choose from too, and there's a makeshift collection to suit the world you're in. Decant explained that they want players to experiment rather than stick with one weapon for the whole game, and so each has their own unique appeal, including the new Saw Launcher which fires saw blades that ricochet around. What's more is that these can be crafted and upgraded, so you can fire more than one blade at a time, for example.
You might need some of this tough firepower too, as enemies will become increasingly hardy the further you dive in. We were shown a handy image of the lowest level enemy looking like a shirtless dude we've seen plenty of in Far Cry 5, but as they progress they get more armour and pack a meaner punch, meaning you'll have to adapt to survive.
When you're not doing main missions there'll be plenty to do as you'd expect from this series, as there are activities, destructibles, intel, treasure hunts (the evolution of Prepper Stashes), slightly evolved wildlife (not mutated, Decant stressed), and of course Outposts. These have been tweaked though, as you don't just clear them out to claim them. Once you first capture one you scavenge and get the ethanol, but then the Highwaymen move back in and strengthen, adding replayability and challenge as you work to recapture harder bases for greater rewards.
Perhaps the most interesting element in our eyes is the addition of Expeditions, which are missions designed to take you to different locations in the USA - like the bayou, west coast, and the canyon - for what Decant called "snatch and grab" missions. Here you have to go in, get resources, and go back to the chopper to extract, and this has a co-op focus in mind, providing small pockets of fresh and isolated challenge.
Speaking of co-op, we were reminded throughout that this is a game that once again lets you get a buddy in for the entire experience, so if you enjoyed that feature in Far Cry 5 then you can look forward to more of the same here. Solo players need not fear though, because the Expeditions can still be played alone, and the added assistance with the new allies is going to give you a significant boost too.
Going back to the Expeditions, in the following gameplay demonstration (a hands-off one that Ubisoft said is a sneak peek of the full experience, rather than a curated demo) we got to see one of these in action, as the player headed to the Five Stars Theme Park. Decant told us here that Expeditions are all around a square kilometre in size, and because of the different constraints, the studio can provide a graphics boost and more enemies.
Once they went in to collect the package the alarm was raised and it became a case of waiting it out for the helicopter to arrive, defending your position as Highwaymen started bringing the pain. Having completed that, we were told that each Expedition also has three levels, meaning different rendezvous points, packages, and more.
In this little section, we also saw a number of smaller changes. Numbers fly off the body when damage is dealt in a style reminiscent of Borderlands, for example, and the UI is also made simpler in the sense that everything you need in the weapon wheel is there in one place, rather than having to navigate through layers. Crafting elements all appear on the left, while weapons are still on the radial dial, meaning you can keep crafting and swapping on the go as you see fit. We'll also see some new suits for third person view and brutal knife takedowns returning in the way they did pre-FC5 (although you'll need to level them up to take down really heavy enemies).
When we weren't in the Expedition we saw a bit of the base and a brief glimpse of a mission that saw us infiltrate a Highwaymen fighting pit, and what stood out to us most is the visual style that Ubisoft is going for. While there's still the classic Hope County aesthetic that we've seen already, layers have been added to it like the destroyed facade and rugged post-apocalyptia. Cars stick out of the ground to mark Highwaymen territory, for instance, and there is plenty of scrap piecing things together.
That said, there are two other elements that stand out. The first is the bright colours that adorn all of the Highwaymen buildings, along with graffiti Ubisoft told us was from a Montreal artist local to them. These bright colours remind us a lot of Rage 2's style, furthered even more by the wild and unruly nature of the Highwaymen, but then you also have the nature that has forced its way onto what remains of civilisation. Decant emphasised the word "lush", and it reminded us of Fallout 76. It's all lovely and verdant in its own bizarre way, and these two styles provide some much-needed variety to make New Dawn stand out from 5 in a major way.
Having not got our hands on the game for ourselves its hard to give an assessment of its quality mechanically, but considering its built upon the foundations of 5, from the map to the mechanics, that's a promising sign for sure. It's a bit brighter - especially with UI and menus in neon pink - and has enough there to make us think that this will offer a different experience compared to the one we saw earlier this year. All that we have to do now is wait until February 15, when we'll see this sequel launch at a price point of 45 euros.