Far Cry New Dawn review: A surprisingly satisfying refresh, with some lingering old problems

Far Cry: New Dawn is something of a paradox. On the one hand it’s exactly what the series needed, a significant mechanical shakeup that’s breathed life into ideas that grew stale two or three entries back. There’s complexity, here. Friction, you might say. Much of what you’re doing is the same as it was in Far Cry 5, which itself isn’t all that far removed from Far Cry 4 or even 3. But New Dawn remixes features or adds layers on top that force the player to engage with the world more—and it mostly works.

But for all its mechanical strengths, New Dawn is further evidence of a series adrift. Ubisoft just can’t seem to decide whether Far Cry is over-the-top silly or deadly serious, and New Dawn falls into the same awkward no-man’s-land as its predecessor.

Apple of Eden

I’ll restate it again, just for posterity: Discussing New Dawn means spoiling the end of Far Cry 5. That’s just how it is. I’m honestly not sure why I bother with the warning because Ubisoft’s already spoiled the ending of Far Cry 5 in every bit of New Dawn marketing, but if you want that to stay a surprise? Stop reading.

Far Cry New Dawn IDG / Hayden Dingman

For those sticking around, I assume you either saw (or read about) the ending of Far Cry 5 or, more likely, don’t care. If you’re in the latter group, it’s just about the most absurd—and unearned—ending I’ve seen in recent years. After killing cultists and preppers for 20 or 30 hours you’re treated to a scene where nuclear bombs fall on Montana, proving the cultists and preppers right. Far Cry 5 ends with you and cult leader Joseph Seed alone in the bunker where you started the game, waiting out the apocalypse.

Far Cry: New Dawn is a direct sequel, albeit with a new protagonist. Set 17 years after the bombs fell, Montana’s returned to some semblance of post-apocalyptic normalcy, meaning people are back above ground and building towns.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, there are people who want to ruin it. They’re the Highwaymen, a group that as far as I can tell loves motocross helmets, the color pink, and club music. At the top are two of the most generic villains you can imagine, sisters Mickey and Lou, who don’t do much of anything except talk about how “The only currency in this world is power” and so forth. One day Far Cry will feature a big bad that’s not just a thinly disguised take on Far Cry 3’s Vaas, but New Dawn isn’t the one to break from tradition.

Far Cry New Dawn IDG / Hayden Dingman

Anyway, somehow these two YouTube libertarians have enlisted an entire nationwide network of dirt bike enthusiasts—seriously, the Highwaymen control territory from San Francisco all the way down to Florida. And yet they’ve come to Montana, to terrorize the 30-odd people left living there in some ramshackle little town called Prosperity. Then you come to Montana as well, apparently to help liberate these 30-odd people from the Highwaymen.

Listen, I’m no four-star general. I have not trained in the finest military academies, nor have I helped rebuild our country after nuclear missiles wiped out the majority of the populace. That said, I struggle to understand the tactical importance of Hope County, Montana, a place that in Far Cry 5 was known for bull testicles, wheat farms, and maybe small game hunting.