I love Ubisoft games.
Large publishers don’t make it easy to love them for much of anything. EA and Activision certainly go out of their way to torch a potential fan base by dismantled beloved teams and meddling with a developer’s vision. Ubisoft, however, has avoided that stigma thanks to a lot of smart decisions and franchises that resonate. Even when they’re making a lot of the same greedy decisions the other publishers get so much flack for, it’s always better somehow.
That’s why I come back to Assassin’s Creed even after over a dozen entries. It’s why I’m always curious about the next tactical game with the “Tom Clancy” moniker. It’s why I get excited about weird experimental multiplayer games like For Honor. It’s why I’m chomping at the bit for a new Splinter Cell game.
It’s also a big reason why, year after year, through rental or purchase, I take another chance on another risky-looking Far Cry game.
From Far Cry 3 in 2012 to New Dawn in 2019, I’ve rolled the dice six times. Only with the parody game, Far Cry: Blood Dragon was I truly happy with my purchase. Every other entry has over-promised and either under-delivered, frustrated, offended, bored me to tears, or some combination of all four.
This year I decided things would be different. I’d still give Far Cry: New Dawn a shot, but as a direct story-sequel to Far Cry 5 (a game I largely hated), I knew not to get my hopes up. There was always some hook in the past that intrigued me—usually in the form of a unique setting or villain—but this time I wasn’t allowing myself to get excited about any of it.
Even with zero expectations, Far Cry: New Dawn’s story is disappointing
For years, the writing teams behind the Far Cry games have been setting up unique and compelling premises, only to do nothing with them. Usually, the trick is to build up the promise of a politically or socially-charged narrative, only to back away from any deeper meaning in the final act. This is a classic Ubisoft problem that extends to their jingoist Tom Clancy games and even their interviews with the press.
Sometimes, on the path to saying nothing, Far Cry builds up a white savior narrative where a vacationing millennial goes native. Other times, while still trying to say nothing, it puts its conflict in white nationalism ground zero, and expects us to accept that a militant cult would be comprised of an extremely diverse cast of bad guys. This time, Far Cry: New Dawn blows up the whole world, revisiting diverse and inclusive white nationalism ground zero 17 years in the future. Was this a chance to re-evaluate Far Cry 5’s Joseph Seed and his poorly considered cult? The cover of the game certainly suggests that:
New Dawn focuses on three key factions: the Mad Max villains known as the Highwaymen, your home base of Hope County survivors and their children, and New Eden, Joseph Seed’s new flock of religious zealots. Any opportunity to have fun with this cast of new and returning characters is met with one groan-enducing plot development after another. Thematically, it seems like everyone in New Dawn is dealing with their daddy issues, and you’re stuck on their dreary ride.
Early on, you meet Joseph Seed’s son Ethan. My one moment of hopeful excitement was wishing Ethan would introduce himself and then, like a disenchanted Force Awakens’ Luke Skywalker, cast his father’s legacy into the ocean and tell me all that religious zealotry was BS. Instead, he’s even worse than his father, and the both of them drone on and on about nothing.
It’s time to stop making the same Far Cry game over and over
At about hour number four of this 8-10 hour game, I’d realized I was officially bored of the gameplay loop established in Far Cry 3. I’ve felt this way by the end of my time with Far Cry games many times before, but never this quickly.
More than ever, the shooting mechanics in Far Cry: New Dawn (at least on a controller), don’t feel satisfying anymore. Stealthing your way through a base with a bow and arrow is still precise and rewarding, but as soon as a firefight starts it becomes clear that the gunplay and controls don’t hold up to high octane action. I’ve always felt like I was fumbling around somewhat in Far Cry games (this was the whole appeal of Far Cry 2), but with the addition of RPG mechanics and bullet sponge enemies the lack of precision feels worse than ever.
New Dawn hammers this point home by closing out the game with two of the worst boss fights I’ve ever experienced. In both fights, enemies have to be shot hundreds of times before dying. All the while, you’re one false move away from a quick and sudden death. This is the Far Cry series at its absolute worst.
It’s hard to imagine getting another yearly iteration of Far Cry after New Dawn. I can only imagine it would double down on the RPG mechanics, shy even further from meaningful storytelling, and fall deeper into the gear-and-level grind that Ubisoft has infused into the Assassin’s Creed games.
But then again, this is Ubisoft I’m talking about. The same Ubisoft that took a break from Assassin’s Creed when it needed it, reviving the series with the phenomenal Assassin’s Creed: Origins. My advice? Look back at Far Cry 2, consider Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and rethink the Far Cry formula before bothering to make another one of these things.