Hands-on: Far Cry New Dawn

17 years after Far Cry 5, Hope County looks pretty different. Since then the bombs have dropped and most people survived by living in bomb shelters and in prepper facilities until it was safe to live on the surface again. In that time Hope County’s fauna and flora took over, and an impressive aurora is present in the sky above. Life was hard, but they survived. Then the Highwaymen came from the east, adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers who aren’t interested in surviving. They want to have as much fun as possible before dying off.

Once again you play an outsider to Hope County, this time as an employee of Thomas Rush, a man who has been travelling from state to state helping people to build their settlements, providing skills and expertise to get old machines working again and converting vehicles to work with ethanol. Rush and his crew are heading to Hope County to help the survivors when their train gets derailed. You survive but without your boss and in a new land, it isn’t long before you get involved in the fight between the survivors and the Highwaymen.

Upgrade your home

The big focus of the game is to upgrade Prosperity, a small hamlet in the South West of Hope County. It takes a lot of resources to improve the various facilities, but it makes a big difference. A healing garden will periodically have plants for you to pick to make medkits, a workbench will let you build stronger guns to take on your enemies and a cartographer will help you track down specific resources you need and other points of interest. In the short time I played there were some tough choices to be made, like heading on an expedition or getting better weapons. Every upgrade is a benefit but it might not be the biggest benefit you need right now.

Go on a hit-and-run

Once you get the town running, you can go on expeditions to steal some of the ill-gotten gains from the Highwaymen. These missions are separate levels outside of Hope County, allowing you a chance to see a few more other places in the world. On one expedition the Highwaymen had discovered an aircraft carrier and were stripping it of parts, with most of the upper deck turned into a race course to entertain themselves. During an expedition there is all sorts of good loot to scavenge, and one large cache that you can find. It has a GPS tracker though, so once you nab it, you have a few seconds before all the alarms go off. You then rush off to an extraction point and have to defend it until the helicopter arrives and takes you to safety. It is a fun way to collect a pile of crafting materials and they can be repeated too, with better rewards and tougher enemies every time.

RPG lite means scary enemies

Tougher enemies? For the first time Far Cry has some RPG elements and you will have to be careful about who you fight and where. An enemy with no armour, or a wild dog counts as a rank 1 enemy, and the ranks go up to rank 5. Similarly all the weapons have a rank, so you know which weapons can do high damage or shed armour. Fighting an enemy a rank above your equipped weapons is tough, but a headshot will still hurt them if you get rid of their helmet. But fighting two or more ranks above you will have you running out of ammo before the enemy dies. Luckily you can upgrade your Friends for Hire and your own weapons, and some perks help you perform takedowns on tougher enemies. It adds a new level of threat to the game, and suddenly having an alarm go off in an outpost isn’t just an annoyance, it could be deadly or cause you to run off when a squad of heavily armoured Highwaymen arrive, armed to the teeth.

Occupy, or strip

Enemy outposts are no longer a conquer and forget part of the gameplay loop. Now with every outpost, you can choose to leave it standing for survivors to try collect materials which you can collect from time to time, or you can strip the place of as much useful material as everyone can carry and abandon the place. Abandoning an outpost will cause it to become occupied by enemies once again, but they will bring better-equipped people to defend it this time. The payoff though, is that if you beat it again, there will be more loot this time around. You can repeat doing this to get great rewards out of an outpost, but you might want to keep a few around as fast-travel points and as places to return an ethanol-tanker to. Otherwise get ready for a long truck drive back to Prosperity. You also run the risk of having the place have enemies that are far too strong for you to take on and when that alarm goes off for reinforcements, be prepared to see some really nasty, powerful troops arrive to help defend their turf.

Scavenge or hunt for supplies

Many of those prepper stashes and bunkers lie untouched, or some of them were resupplied before a new threat arrived. You can help yourself to the contents if you can get in, which normally involves an environmental puzzle. It was fun finding a stash at a place that is recognisable from the previous game, but reading the leftover scratchings and letters is a sad reminder of their fate. If you thought Hope County seemed rough when the Peggies were on the rampage, wait until you see what people do to survive now.

Some of the elements of New Dawn feel similar, really similar to Far Cry 5, but I wonder if that wasn’t on purpose to cement it being a sequel. I love the fact that the Ryes are still around and the daughter you helped deliver is one of the Guns for Hire that will help you as you explore Hope County. Some of those Guns for Hire are characters we spent a lot of time with before, and hopefully they have new stories to tell of life after the bombs fell. Seeing how locations have changed, how people adapted is interesting and Far Cry 5 already had strong environmental storytelling and this has continued in New Dawn. Hope County is definitely a place I wanted to see more about and this is the perfect chance to tell new stories and finish up some old ones.

Far Cry New Dawn is scheduled to release on February 15 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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