I really enjoyed Far Cry 5 and especially the story and the characters in the Seed family led by the irresistible force that was Joseph Seed. I also like very many reached the end as was left with the “what the hell just happened, that can not be it?” when the ending saw my ‘Deputy’ character sat with a defeated Joseph Seed in a bunker when huge mushroom clouds enveloped the sky just as the end credits began to roll. I was intrigued to learn that much like with Far Cry 4 receiving a spin off title in Far Cry Primal, the story of Far Cry 5 would be wrapped up in its own spin off, Far Cry New Dawn, and I was rather excited to see what happened next to the people of Hope County.

Far Cry New Dawn brings us back to New Hope County 17 years after the bombs fell in an event now called ‘The Collapse’. The player now takes the role of “Capt”, a member of a team of specialists travelling throughout the US by rail helping survivors to set up their own communities with water, housing and means to feed and protect themselves. We join them on route to Hope County with the plan to help rebuild the county for the survivors there when an explosion destroys the bridge and track the train is on causing it to crash killing all the specialists but the players character Capt and the head specialist Rush. The attackers are the new threat in the country called the Highwaymen, led by the deadly twin sisters Mickey and Lou. Now in their custody, the Twins want Rush and Capt to help them reinforce their hold on the county, Rush quickly refuses and understands that the Twins will likely use Capt to force him to help, so pushes you off the edge into the waters below.

This is just the start of the adventure in this new dawn of Hope County but the story does a clever thing by immediately setting up the bad guys, letting the player know that things are still turbulent in the region even away from the effects of The Collapse event but more importantly, it also connects you right back to Far Cry 5 which for me as a fan of that game, is what attracted me to want to experience more of that world in this spin off story. The person who recovers you is Carmina, a young woman who was responsible for asking Capt and Rush’s team to come to Hope County to help them against the Highwaymen menace. Carmina takes you back to their community called Prosperity, which if you played Far Cry 5 will be instantly recognisable as the former home of John Seed, a base that you as the Deputy actually took away from John seed as part of a mission.

The very natural references back to Far Cry 5’s experience for players is well used in New Dawn, every time you return to a location to see how it has changed after 17 years and The Collapse hits you right away, especially the locations which had story or side missions in Far Cry 5. Now the argument that this is just reusing the same assets for cheap reaction can be argued, but for me as a player who spent close to 60 hours in Far Cry 5’s campaign, it is a great payoff and instantly connects me to this new look Hope County. Visually it is interesting to see how the landscape had been changed following all the nuclear fallout out with the former lush green woodlands and farm lands now all covered in bright pink flowers and vegetation along with the wildlife, mutated in different ways such as deer with double antlers and different colourations and bears now more aggressive and discoloured. So, whilst it all feels very familiar it still feels new and although the playable map is far smaller than the original one in Far Cry 5, now cleverly shrunk due to the nuclear fallout and radiation zones now on the edge of Hope County, there is certainly enough here for it to feel different.

Hope County itself it of course not the only familiar thing for players to return to but also some of the main characters from Far Cry 5, which was something that the final moments of that main campaign left me genuinely worried about. Now whilst not everyone survived, it was fun to either bump into old friends of the Deputy via story missions and exploration but also in meeting some of the new characters introduced in New Dawn such as Carmina, who shortly after returning to Prosperity is revealed to be the daughter of Kim and Nick Rye, who if you have played Far Cry 5, is the baby you helped deliver during that campaign, now 17 years later and forced to grow up very quickly because of The Collapse and is a strong willed young woman, wanting to do whatever it takes to protect those in her community and take down the twins Mickey and Lou. Carmina also becomes your first ally companion that can work with you out in the world, and it feels like a reward for having played through Far Cry 5 and that feeling continues when you encounter other characters which I will not spoil for readers but just know that there are plenty of surprises and easter-egg pay offs for fans of the main game.

Gameplay wise is yes, exactly what you expected from a continuation of Far Cry 5 but with some very clever tweaks. Money is no longer the standard currency in the new world but instead its precious ethanol which can be used to trade for new items and materials needed for the new crafting system. Crafting has really been taken to a new level in New Dawn as it is no longer just ammo, throwables and items like health kits you can craft, but the very weapons you use must be crafted or taken from dead enemies but the best weapons can only come from crafting your own. In doing so you can create some very homemade looking weapons with a distinct style depending on which weapon time you prefer. The really clever bit comes in the form of a quality tier system of weapons which ties in to so much about New Dawn refresh of systems inherited from Far Cry 5.

As you progress through the game, you will be asked to help upgrade Prosperity which is tied to story progression but also player progression, and Prosperity has different sections all responsible for different aspects of the community from weapon crafting, medical services, garage, guns for hire and cartography for mapping the region amongst others. Each requires Ethanol in order to be upgraded to the next level and by doing so, will make more resources available to the player. There are 3 levels to each station and you must upgrade Prosperity in order to make the next level of each station available which for the weapon station, means accessing the higher quality weapons are locked to a particular level.

Enemies in the world will also have tiers, with higher level ones having more armour so having the right tier of weapons to deal with them is vital as a basic weapon will have little effect on say a level 2 enemy and pretty much nothing on anything higher. Story progression will keep a balanced player to enemy ratio going but it is possible to take on more difficult enemies early if you go exploring the map outside of story missions. One surprise by product of the new tier system comes in the form of the traditional outpost liberation locations. Once you capture an outpost, you will now have the option to salvage the outpost in return for extra Ethanol but you will give the outpost back to the highwaymen. Now each time you do this, the enemies will become stronger and the outpost more defended with more alarms. When you take an outpost, you will be reward with large amounts of Ethanol, needed for upgrading Prosperity and its stations and the higher tier outpost means the higher Ethanol reward. This adds a new challenge to them and means you always have a reason to go back and do them again because the rewards for doing so helps you so much.

Next to the Outpost liberations you also have the brand-new Expedition missions from a new station in Prosperity where a Chopper will fly you outside of Hope County to a different site controlled by the Highwaymen. Chopper dropped into the area, your mission is to find a package with a GPS tracker but the kick comes when you do grab it as it you will be given a short head start before the GPS turns on and alerts every Highwaymen enemy to exactly where you are. The objective is to grab the package, escape the area to the pickup location, hold out against the attacking enemy forces until you can be picked up and then escape. Now these can be repeated and like the Outposts, each time you rerun the expedition it will have tougher enemies, the package will be in a different area and the pickup location will change. When you complete an expedition at least once it will then open another so starting on a battleship then opens a desert camp and more. These are great for earning the materials needed to build the final tier of weapons.

Like Far Cry 5, there are some customisation options for your “Capt” such as gender and then a premade face. But you can also apply different clothing for your head, upper body, hands and legs. This is where the micro-transactions come into play but trust me when I say you will not need to spend any real money on these outfits unless you want to save the grind. I say this because the map has ten treasure locations and each one will give you 40-45 Silver Coins, the currency you can spend real world money on to unlock a complete outfit or outfit pieces and weapons. You can collect enough coins to unlock a full set but each of the Outposts will have an outfit linked to it. Each time you complete an Outpost liberation, you have the chance to earn a piece of the costume set and completing it enough times will give you the entire set, just for playing the game. So yes, the game does have micro-transactions but you can just play the game as intended and unlock the costumes, for free, for just a little hard work which by the time you have upgraded everything to max, you will be able to do in no time.

The story itself does tie up the main campaign to Far Cry 5 and the effort put into this definitely justifies the standalone release at the acceptable £30 pricing point. I did find the twins to be average as big bad for the story but balanced out against the different characters and how the story unfolds it is still a nice way to round off life in Hope County after everything, I have done there in two games now. There is a nice pay off with the return of Joseph Seed which again, I will no spoil and spending time just exploring the world to find all the easter-eggs and references to Far Cry 5 is very much fun for anyone who played and completed that game. There is certainly enough here for any Far Cry fan to sink their teeth into.

As always with this series, Ubisoft is catering to the fans, and to get the most from this spin off you really must have completed Far Cry 5 first, and this is more of the same fun gameplay as long as you go in knowing that this is a shorter experience. But I love the new crafting and objective tier systems and it will keep me jumping back in to challenge all the outposts and expedition missions at the toughest levels to test my skills until the next Far Cry is announced. This series is still going strong and the fact on the first big heavy game release day of 2019, Far Cry New Dawn was the best-selling physical selling game in the UK is a testament to its popularity.

There is plenty of stories still to tell with Far Cry and I really hope the new systems introduced with New Dawn carry over into the next full game. New Dawn is the perfect compliment to Far Cry 5 and it has been really fun playing both and spending time in and with the people of Hope County. I just wish that Timber could be my real life doggo!