The final moments of Far Cry 5 were pretty intense for anyone who made it all the way to the game's end. Making a particular choice triggered an ending in which The Father, the cult leader villain of that game, forced the player character into a bunker just as nuclear bombs started falling all over the world. The Father's prophecy about the end times turned out to be right, and the apocalypse came for Hope County--and the rest of the world.
That's not the end of the story, though. Ubisoft Montreal is picking up the thread with Far Cry New Dawn, which is both a sequel to and a spin-off game from Far Cry 5. Ubisoft Montreal officially revealed New Dawn at The Game Awards but gave GameSpot an early look at the title at its studio. It takes place in Far Cry 5's Hope County 17 years after the bombs fell,, long after a devastating nuclear winter nearly wiped out all life in the place. But life found a way, including some human life, and after six years of nuclear winter, that too subsided. The environment has stabilized in Hope County, and with it, plants and animals have returned. The survivors are restarting civilization on a transformed version of Far Cry 5's map, and it's going pretty well.
Or it was, anyway. Before the start of the game, a tough-as-nails group of scavengers called the Highwaymen showed up in the county and took over. That's where you come in--as a survivor from elsewhere (and a fresh character, rather than a holdover from Far Cry 5), you take it upon yourself to bring down the Highwaymen and rebuild the settlements of Hope County.
"Bringing Far Cry to a post-apocalypse setting is something we really wanted to do for a long time," art director Isaac Papismado told GameSpot. "It's something that really excites us. And this is an opportunity for us to really do the Far Cry take. We really want to have something that's unique and refreshing for the player. Everybody has their own opinions and ideas of what a post-apocalyptic setting should look like, but we really wanted to bring the player somewhere that's really refreshing for him."
Just because the world has seen nuclear war doesn't mean everything's been destroyed, though. As Papismado put it, Ubisoft Montreal wasn't interested in building the end of the world, but something else.
"We really want to focus on building the beginning of this new world," he said. "And so from the beginning we knew we wanted something super colorful and inviting."
That's what led to the idea of the Super Bloom, something that happens in deserts. The team talked to experts and did research on how nuclear war might actually affect the environment, and one possible effect is desertification, the changing of certain biomes into deserts. While Far Cry New Dawn's ideas aren't strictly scientific--the developers took liberties with some of the ideas, they said, such as animals who've been changed by the nuclear war--the landscape players will encounter is rooted in reality.
New Dawn is connected to Far Cry 5 in that both games take place in the same location, but the world has been greatly transformed between the two experiences. The spin-off title also focuses on a few different ideas, like scavenging and surviving in the Wasteland, and offering greater combat challenges, both playing alone and cooperatively with a second player like in Far Cry 5. New Dawn is its own story and its own package, but links between the two games still exist. You'll encounter a few characters from Far Cry 5, director Jean-Sebastien Decant explained--and the teaser for the game at The Game Awards revealed that The Father has managed to survive the end of the world, as well, although we don't know how he'll factor into the proceedings.
Far Cry games are almost always defined by their villains, and in New Dawn, there are two: Mickey and Lou, murderous twin sisters who control the Highwaymen. The young women dominate a culture that's based on taking things from others, so they're pretty tough--and Ubisoft revealed that their backstory included taking over the Highwaymen from their father, who they murdered after he "became a problem" and apparently killed one of his own.
All of the characters have been fundamentally shaped by what they experienced after the bombs fell, scriptwriter Olivia Alexander explained, and in the case of the twins, it's given them a view of the world that's fundamentally opposed to the survivors of Hope County.
"They're incredibly shaped by the world that they had to grow up in," Alexander said. "It was a world of scarcity and lawlessness, and any good villain always think that they're doing the right thing and that's exactly the case with twins. They're here for a good time, not a long time. The Survivor philosophy is to plan for tomorrow. These guys live for today. They are very much the product of a world of, like, nihilism. They're very much rather than oh, you know, God is dead, let's be sad, it's hey, nothing matters--let's have a party and enjoy yourselves. Even if having a party hurts people around."
The idea of two villains rather than one means that Ubisoft Montreal is trying to flesh out both characters, and Alexander said having twin antagonists creates an interesting dynamic. It's one that players should be able to see first-hand, at least in the case of how the twins' leadership filters down through the ranks of the Highwaymen. Ubisoft Montreal showed the beginnings of one mission during its briefing, in which the player character infiltrates the Highwaymen as a fighter in its gladiator-style fight pits.
The plan is to climb the ranks of the Highwaymen and disrupt the organization from within, but that also gives a look into their culture. The Highwaymen are fundamentally rougher and meaner than the Survivors, but one of the more surprising aspects of an early walk to the fight pits is that they have children around, as well--just like the Survivors. The Highwaymen are a civilization unto themselves, and while they're predatory, they still have certain values. They work for each other, even if they're kind of awful about it. Like the twins, the Highwaymen are a response to the circumstances as people struggle to survive a new world.
Alexander said a big theme running through Far Cry New Dawn is the idea of people looking after each other. The Survivors and the Highwaymen are fundamentally opposed, but each takes care of its own, in its way.
You'll still need to take out a whole bunch of Highwaymen, though, as is typical for a Far Cry game. This time around, though, you'll find the ranks of the enemy comprising different tiers of enemies, each with their own difficulty level and combat capabilities. They're best identified by their armor, which is mostly scavenged from motocross gear, with the bones of animals mixed in to give the Highwaymen an apex predator look.
Enemies have varying levels of armor and toughness, and the worst baddies to deal with are the Enforcers: heavily armed and armored Highwaymen who'll be dispatched to chase you and take you out. You won't just be randomly encountering enemies in the world or battling them as you try to take down their outposts--some Highwaymen will be on your trail, too.
Ubisoft Montreal's post-apocalypse is a colorful one, but it's also one that acknowledges a way of life that relies on scavenging the remains of the old world. Much of the game carries a makeshift, ramshackle aesthetic--which will apply to your gear throughout the game. Attachments for weapons such as scopes or bayonets are created from items like pipes or kitchen knives, for instance.
The signature weapon of New Dawn, and a perfect reflection of the makeshift style, is the Saw Launcher. At its simplest, it's a motorized crossbow that flings radial saw blades at enemies, but it's easy to see how it's constructed from scavenged motorcycle parts and other junk. In keeping with Ubisoft Montreal's attempts to make its post-apocalypse feel believable even if it's not realistic, Decant said the developers are trying to build a real-world version of the Saw Launcher to see if they can get it working. In the digital world, the gun at least looks like something you might build out of stuff you found scattered in the ruins, with moving bike chains and chunks of handlebars serving as vital components.
The makeshift look is not just an aesthetic choice, though. Decant said the team has put a greater emphasis on scavenging and crafting in New Dawn, to reflect a post-apocalyptic lifestyle. And the post-apocalyptic lifestyle is a big part of the game, as one might expect. Survivors in Hope County are rebuilding their community, and as you work to take back the area from the Highwaymen, you'll also be contributing to their settlement, Prosperity. It's not exactly clear yet what that will involve, although it does sound like you'll be bringing any survivors you encounter in Hope County back to the safe haven of Prosperity. The effort you put in will be reflected aesthetically as the community expands, morale improves, and more and more people start showing up.
Fixing up Prosperity will also afford you some tangible benefits. The expanding place and the new people will mean specialists who can help you create and repair gear, for instance.
Eventually, improvements to the settlement will offer you new opportunities, such as one of the new additions to the franchise in New Dawn: Expeditions.
Expeditions are special missions that let you take on the Highwaymen in entirely new locations outside of Hope County, giving you a chance to explore more of the country in the wake of nuclear war. Decant called them "smash-and-grab" missions, and they're somewhat similar to the outposts that players clear and take over in much of the Far Cry series. They're also challenges that can encourage you to team up with a friend, thanks to New Dawn's cooperative multiplayer support.
On an Expedition mission, you'll be looking to claim a bag of valuable supplies from a Highwaymen base, which will be larger and better-defended than many of the outposts you might encounter in Hope County. Those supplies can be used to upgrade the Survivors' base, which makes them pretty valuable.
Your options, as always in Far Cry, are to shoot your way in, or take a sneakier approach. With a second person, coordination can be key to survival and to remaining undetected. Once you get to the bag's location and grab it, however, the Highwaymen become alerted to your presence regardless thanks to a GPS tracker in their goods. From there, the operation becomes a running firefight as you try to hold off reinforcements until your extraction, the Survivors' helicopter, can swoop in and save you.
While Expeditions seem built for two, you don't need a friend in order to enjoy those missions. Back from Far Cry 5 is the Guns For Hire system that lets you bring along allies you meet in the game world. Those include two animal friends: Timber, a faithful dog that can scare away other, larger animals. He can also jump through car windows to more easily ride along with you, Decant said, thanks to community feedback from Far Cry 5. There's also Horatio, a giant boar who can take on five Highwaymen at a time and smash cars.
You can issue those characters orders as you play, like sending them to a location or asking them to snipe an adversary, making them pretty useful for the mission.
The Expedition shown to journalists at Ubisoft Montreal took place in a ruined amusement park, complete with Highwaymen using rollercoaster tracks for their lookout posts. The quick mission started stealthy, with the AI-controlled Gun for Hire Nana, a slightly grizzled elderly sharpshooter, joining the player character. That didn't last, though, as despite her best efforts, Nana's silenced sniping couldn't keep the Highwaymen from discovering the player.
Grabbing the bag, the pair worked their way through the park toward its edges, fighting off enemies carrying RPGs, sniping from towers, and riding in on four-wheelers. Before long, the helicopter set down, allowing the player and Nana to escape the onslaught with the goods they game for--but only just barely.
Decant noted that each of the Expeditions feels a bit different. One takes players to the West Coast and onto a beached aircraft carrier, for instance, which makes for a more vertical experience. Another, set on a canyon-spanning bridge in Arizona, will have the added layer of trying not to fall to your death as you fight your way through it.
Something For Everybody
Generally, Far Cry New Dawn feels like a normal Far Cry game married with something of a more arcade approach. Decant explained during the briefing that the franchise's outposts, a mainstay players clear out and take over throughout the game, have been tweaked to offer more challenge. You'll still take over outposts and turn them for your faction, but now you can abandon captured outposts if you so choose. When you do, the Highwaymen will move back in and retake them--and then fortify them, to make them tougher. The hope is that the increased challenge will be a perfect excuse for players to take on outposts with a friend.
Outposts go up three levels for added challenge, but only if you want them to. The same is true of Expeditions, which are meant to be tougher missions, but it seems you only have to partake in them if they're your thing. In fact, Decant said the hope is New Dawn will provide a little something for all kinds of Far Cry fans--a story-driven traditional experience if that's what you're into, opportunities for tougher combat challenges and cooperative play if that's what you prefer, and a big world to explore with lots of treasures and secrets to discover if that's more your speed.
"The offer is slightly smaller than what you get in Far Cry 5, but it's still pretty huge," Decant said. "Our take on it was, it's the year after Far Cry 5, we wanted something that's going to be perceived as generous."
Far Cry New Dawn launches for $40 on February 15 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Editor's note: GameSpot's travel and accommodation during the preview event was provided by Ubisoft.