Welcome back to Hope County, Montana, home of the Cougars baseball team, Cheeseburger the diabetic dumpster-bear, and apocalypse prepper cult The Project at Eden’s Gate. What’s left of them, anyway. It’s been 17 years since the bombs dropped, and if you think things couldn’t get much more miserable for the survivors than the prospects of radiation-induced cancer and no toilet paper, you’re wrong. And no, not because Peaches is dead, but that too.
Led by twin sisters Mickey and Lou, the Highwaymen bikercore gang has skidded into town and started messing with the locals. Desperate to save their potatoes (or whatever) from this new neon pink-powered hell, the residents must make a deal with the Eden’s Gate creeps and their daddy-messiah Joseph Seed, and – inevitably, I guess – things go from bad to biblical.
As a sort of sequel, sort of expansion, Far Cry New Dawn reuses much of Far Cry 5’s map, but with a post-nuke makeover. Not the drab brown-with-brown post-nuke makeover of games like Fallout, though – this unconventional post-nuke makeover is a vivid, dreamy extravagance of colour, its world in a “super bloom” as nature reclaims her spaces from the reckless industrial terrorism of humanity. It’s probably a metaphor or something.
The game introduces Prosperity, the new home base of Hope County’s community, and – for some reason – entirely your responsibility to maintain as The Protagonist Who Just Kind of Conveniently Turned Up So Everybody Else is Off the Hook, Lol. This includes finding and recruiting specialists, and upgrading facilities with looted resources to expand your inventory of available things. Upgrading the Workbench, for example, will unlock additional and improved guns, upgrading the Expeditions camp unlocks fast travel destinations, and upgrading the Cartographer unlocks… bonus maps. Some facilities are more immediately useful than others, I suppose, but these home base improvements keep you busy between missions and provide a meaningful sense of progression so that’s an A+ innovation for the series.
There’s also a junkyard demolition derby. A junkyard demolition derby, you guys.
Far Cry New Dawn also adds some zany new guns into the mix, but – because this is the end of everything, remember – you’ll mostly have to scavenge scrap for parts to build and level up your gear. The buzz-saw launcher is an instant must-have that I kept with me throughout the game, dissecting enemies with a grotesque but sort of mesmerising elegance, but as with Far Cry 5, I also relied on the subtle sophistication of a bow. The problem with this otherwise totally versatile loadout, however, is that I got stuck in a boss encounter in the game’s finale and after a number of frustrating fails and swears, had to quit out, completely reorganise my things, and start the mission over. I’d managed to accumulate enough this and that to purchase the necessary – and drearily ordinary – arsenal of LMG, shotgun, and assault rifle without extra chores, but less scrupulous savers could find themselves in big trouble here. Besides, a boss encounter? Like, a legit boss-with-mega-hit-points-and-spells-and-stuff encounter? In a Far Cry game? Um, thanks but no.
And it’s not the only issue. Critics were divided on Far Cry 5’s absurd premise and conclusion, but I loved it. This one? Not so much. The premise is equally preposterous, but the conclusion lacks in… I dunno, conclusion. Ostensibly, the psycho twins make for a unique and intriguing villain ensemble, but unless I missed some important (collectible, but it’s not an excuse?) exposition, they don’t make sense. And by definition, maybe, psychos don’t have to make sense – but the cutscenes seem to imply that there’s more to this campaign of carnage, some bleak inheritance of domestic disorder, a scandalous family secret, perhaps – but that’s it. Implication. And not the English class book assignment but-okay-but implication that provokes thoughtful analysis and introspection, but instead superficial pretensions of plot that end abruptly without even a moment of almost-epiphany. It’s probably also a metaphor, but it doesn’t matter. And I’m not counting what happens with The Father and Eden’s Gate, because it doesn’t matter either. That’s probably a metaphor too, but so what? It doesn’t matter. Roll credits, and get back to slapping mutant moose for XP. Far Cry 5’s finish might’ve been questionable, but Far Cry New Eden’s is an anticlimax. And with so much potential wasted, that’s even worse.
And it sucks, because Far Cry New Dawn is a lot of fun. With its gaudy, idiosyncratic same-but-different sandbox of silly anarchy and cartoonish ultra-violence, its cast of eccentric characters, and its infinite to-do list of stupid shit, the game is a compelling diversion from the austere drama of other recent franchise FPSes like Call of Duty and Battlefield. I love the silly anarchy and cartoonish ultra-violence, the eccentric characters and stupid shit – that’s what Far Cry is about – but I also want it to matter. Even dropping bombs matters. The twins should’ve dropped bombs. That would matter, because whatever our endeavours and accomplishments and profound existential realisations, everybody is going to die and it doesn’t matter. That’s probably a metaphor.