Not even a year since the release of Far Cry 5, Far Cry: New Dawn brings us back to a drastically different Hope County than the one we had previously explored. We were able to get our hands on the game and gave our impressions (you can read them here), but to find out more about what's in store for players we also talked with creative director Jean-Sebastien Decant to talk about the new features, world, antagonists and more. First, though, we wanted to know how things were going with the team?
"We're wrapping up the game, and we've been all over the world to present it. It's been pretty exciting to see people outside of Ubisoft play the game, their comments, their reactions, their realisation of what the game can be. I think that was very special".
With no-other Far Cry spin-off being a sequel before, we wanted to know what the reaction has been to this diversion from the norm.
"The feedback is pretty good! I think people are happy to be able to reconnect with some of the characters. There is an emotional connection that happened in Far Cry 5, be it a hatred with Joseph Seed or admiration depending on the people, but also with secondary characters like Kim, Nick Rye, Pastor Jerome, Grace - there were characters that people related to."
JS, as he's called by his friends and peers, also told us one of the benefits he found with returning to the world of Far Cry 5, explaining how "it's been a long time that I've been making games at Ubisoft. I had a frustration, that we made these big games, we take a lot of time making them, then we show people the world and you play them and it's super cool, then you put them on your shelf. And we do that too. And I was super happy to actually re-open the box and continue playing with the toys and the characters and the dolls, you see what I mean? I was really happy that once I could do that."
Far Cry has always prided itself with powerful and memorable antagonists, with the Seeds from FC5 being no exception, so we wondered what the new villains would bring to the table. "Yes, so, Micky and Lou are the villains of Far Cry: New Dawn. They are twins, they're in charge of the Highwaymen. They're quite straight forward in their way of seeing the world you know? They have fixed, very clear objectives. The world has gone to shit and they want to make sure they have what they need to survive. If it means hurting people or getting rid of people, they're gonna do it. So, I wanted to try something new with having a duet of characters. We had a lot of one-on-ones, and these one-one-ones I thought they were - still good - but getting a bit stale. I wanted to find a way to refresh the formula, and having two characters in your face at the same time was changing that. So for me, there's this unexpectedness of "what's going to happen? Who's going to say what? What's their behaviour?". It was interesting to go there. And the idea that having siblings also makes it super intriguing because they have their own world. Each scene, each moment is kind of like a peek into this familiarity that they have, so that was like a very good initial idea to try and have someone that would surprise you".
The struggle with having such beloved bad guys is the bar it sets for the next game and the weight that puts on the developers' shoulders. "With each Far Cry, there is a lot of pressure because when we made Pagan Min, [he] was in the shadow of Vaas, how could we make something interesting after Vass. And then we did also The Father who kinda changed the formula, but now there is the shadow of The Father! So how do we do something that'll surprise you after that, and trying to go in some other totally different direction?"
Despite this, Jean is confident that Micky and Lou meet expectations: "I think the characters match this world. It's a world 17 years after, it's a dog-eat-dog world. It has changed a lot. I was really happy to find them and do that."
Speaking of the world, Far Cry: New Dawn uses the same map as Far Cry 5 as a basis. But we were curious how they'd evolved the game-space that people will be exploring.
"Yes, so we started with the world first when created our post-apocalyptic world, and that gave us a lot of ammunition I would say, to transform the world in a very surprising way. So, for instance, we brought some of the sand and flowers from the west coast through strong winds, and now they're populating Hope County, and they've changed the panorama. Now there are sand dunes that you can jump on with your quad [bike]. Also, they can sometimes cover places - like the scenery visually feels different."
The changes to the world go beyond just differences to the scenery, Far Cry: New Dawn's world reflects its post-apocalyptic nature in a multitude of ways. "People that have been surviving, they've changed the way they've been building so their architecture is different," the creative director explained. "The Highwaymen, they have a very strong print on the world, so when they're there they burn cars to manifest their presence. So there are lots of visual elements that make it strikingly different, also the vivid colours and the nature that has been impacting the space in a strong way. Also the animals! You know, in 17 years there hasn't been evolution, but there has been natural selection. So some animals that could've been anomalies before, they've become the predominant species. So that's why we have white dear, and weird rabbits, so we've pushed that a bit."
All in all," I feel like it's a world that could vaguely evoke Far Cry 5, but it's like wholly to be re-discovered. It's almost like if you come back to a place you've been when you were a child during summer but a certain amount of years before, and it has changed, and it's actually super cool to re-discover how it has evolved."
What about the mechanics? Has the systematic approach to unlocking boss encounters persisted in New Dawn?
"Yes. We changed the formula a bit, we listened to the community that was saying that sometimes the boss captures were a bit too much. So, we loved the resistance system, but the forced captures were a bit too much, so we tried to change the formula a bit but maintained the freedom. So, this time the resources are the resources, so if you want to make the game move forward, invest in resources. So craft, gather resources, invest them in the home base, and then the story will move forward. That's really the idea. So the home base has become the resistance meter I would say. So build the home base, make the game move forward. In that sense, it's very similar to the approach that we had in the previous one, except that instead of boss capture, we have rendezvous with the enemy where we create a moment and you can go there when you want to."
One thing we always loved in Far Cry were the outposts. So we were curious about the three-tier system that's being added and the implication it has for players, especially those who are going to come back and tackle the same outposts again?
"Yes. So, it starts with the light RPG approach of the game. The world is set 17 years after the apocalypse, we're lacking resources, it's a little bit more dangerous and I wanted that to be felt by the player so they are on the lookout all the time. So on the lookout for resources to be able to craft guns, also on the lookout for enemies and dangers because you may not survive everything you might encounter if you're not prepared. That was the core, and that gave us a lot of leeway into ranks for weapons, ranks for enemies, and we realised we could take an outpost and reshuffle it and make it a totally different challenge by increasing the difficulty and changing some of the parameters. So we went for it and we tried, and we realised that we were putting the game in a space that we never appreciated before in terms of intensity."
This tier system also applies to expeditions, a brand-new addition to the series. "So we just embraced [the tier system] and did it for the outposts, but also for the expeditions which are the maps outside of Hope Country in the rest of the U.S where you have to find a package and go back. Both the outposts and the expeditions have three tiers of difficulties, and really tier two and three become really manic and crazy, which makes them great to look for the best weapons but also great to play with a friend in co-op".
As for what expeditions were, Jean explained what the player was doing. "So the structure is pretty straight forward, there are resources you won't get in Hope Country there. Then you better get back quickly to the helicopter and leave. These maps are separated from the rest of the world, they're about a square kilometre large.
Leaving the map must also provide greater creative licence, so we asked what they've been able to do by leaving Hope County behind. "We can push the graphics a little more and we can put more enemies so in terms of intensity these ones are even greater. In terms of setting, we have one that's set in the Bayou in a derelict amusement park. There is another one that's set on Alcatraz. What I like with that is that there is this major large building with multiple levels and enclosed space. That's not something we do a lot in Far Cry, we're often in nature and wildlife, and suddenly you're in this very small space which changes totally the way you approach the gunfight and the stairs and everything. That was an opportunity that we were super happy to explore. So we have that on the aircraft carrier, and Alcatraz, there's also a big crashed plane. There are seven in total."
With Far Cry: New Dawn looking like it's filled with plenty of enjoyable features, we asked what main thing Jean was the proudest of, and what he was the most excited for players to get their hands on. "That's difficult because we love our game in many aspects. But I'd say that the idea of being in a world where there are survivors trying to rebuild America in a way, trying to build a future for their children, facing these enemies that are living for today and enjoying the moment and if you're in their way it's going to be bad. But there is this third-party, which is Joseph Seed and New Eden and what they're trying to do now in this world which is, for them, an opportunity to try and build a new society, a utopia, that's separated themselves from everything that's our culture, our technology, everything. The story that is going to mix these three groups is going to be special."
Far Cry: New Dawn comes out on February 15 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.