Warning: One absolutely unavoidable (and major) spoiler for Far Cry 5 is below, but chances are you’ve already heard about it.
Ah, the “standalone sequel.” It’s a tricky beast. Of course players want it to work. Heaven knows studios want it to work. Unfortunately, it rarely works.
Far Cry: New Dawn is no exception – but that is far from a bad thing.
The latest Far Cry spinoff takes us back to Hope County, Montana, the setting for all of the events in its fifth main game. While we’re dealing with a completely new story line, (almost) entirely different characters, and an elaborately re-skinned environment, newcomers shouldn’t plan on enjoying this chapter sans Far Cry 5 knowledge. Note that I’m saying “shouldn’t” and not “couldn’t.”
You absolutely can play the new release without investing in its $60 predecessor, but you will substantially devalue your New Dawn playing experience in the process. The narrative will remain followable (save maybe a few Google searches for extra clarification) and the gameplay will, of course, be unaffected.
However, the best parts of New Dawn are found not in what’s obviously new to Hope, but in the more nuanced ways Hope has changed since its original unveiling last year — er, 17 years ago, assuming you follow the game’s timeline.
Here are 5 reasons you absolutely must play Far Cry 5 before tackling Far Cry: New Dawn.
5. The finale of 5 raises all of the stakes in New Dawn.
Mad Max: Fury Road not withstanding, it’s generally tough to appreciate a post-apocalypse if you have no notion of the world prior to doomsday. In New Dawn, you need the events of 5‘s final act to provide contextual weight to the game’s present day developments.
While the sequel’s villains — the dangerous-yet-colorful Highwaymen led by two terrifying twins — can stand on their own merit, the gravitas that comes with witnessing the full-blown dumpster fire that is the end of Far Cry 5 really emphasizes how little people are messing around in this universe. Once you’ve seen everything go up in smoke, new threats can inspire an intense sense of hyper-motivating fear that’ll have you saw-blading a bit more vigorously.
4. The altered open world is more enjoyable when you’ve seen it in its original glory.
Upon first examination, the layout of New Dawn‘s map is a bit of a bummer. Players excited to explore the lush open world dangled before them will quickly find themselves jammed into the southwest corner of the arena, effectively funneled into an unexpectedly linear storyline. But that’s fine, if you can appreciate how and why this change occurred.
Far Cry 5 allows you to explore the same (albeit substantially less purple) world with a far greater sense of freedom — just pick a direction and go.
When you revisit Hope County with an established appreciation for the environment’s history in New Dawn, you’ll be able to enjoy the slow reveal of finding recognizable locations and can likely put some of your frustration over the world’s structure to rest. There’s still plenty of organic gameplay to be had here, but you’ll need the touchstones to get maximum exploration gratification.
3. You’ll understand a lot more of New Dawn‘s lore.
References and shorthand explanations plaster New Dawn like bad wallpaper. It’s a fun reminder of how times have changed if you saw it get put up in the first place, but if it’s entirely new to you, it could get annoying quickly.
Unless you want to spend all of New Dawn saying to yourself “whatever” and “I don’t know,” do yourself a favor and at the very least, read up on the bonkers details of 5. I would argue New Dawn has a tighter and more complete storyline at the end of the day, but it’s unquestionably better if you’ve got all the backstory needed before jumping in.
2. It’s easier to forgive both New Dawn‘s and 5‘s shortcomings when they’re part of a bigger narrative.
Parts of 5 that may have felt incomplete or unresolved are rounded out by the events of New Dawn. Likewise, the portions of New Dawn that feel rushed or unmotivated are bolstered by the narrative and established format of 5. While each experience can be held independently of the other, they’re substantially better when enjoyed as a pair.
In an ideal world, we’d take the improved storyline and killer updated fighting mechanics of New Dawn and plop them into the middle of the larger open world of 5 for a master gaming experience. But I say, take what you can get.
1. More Far Cry is almost always a good thing.
While longtime fans can debate endlessly the specifics of which installments were better or worse, the canon of Far Cry experiences to be had is still finite. If you like Far Cry, then you like Far Cry. As such, playing more of it really shouldn’t be a problem.
For those of you out there who for some reason or another missed out on Far Cry 5, I’m encouraging you to take the time to experience this game not as a “standalone sequel,” but as a totally predecessor-dependent “sequel.” Yes, it is a bigger financial and time investment, but with the fate of everything at stake? You can and should make the time.
Far Cry: New Dawn is now out on PC, PlayStation 4, and XBox One.