What do kids even have nightmares about these days? Brexit, probably. Or not having enough credit on their phone. Or their latest ASMR slime video being demonetised.
Oddly, I always survived my post-apocalyptic dreams. It was never the dying that scared me, but living on having lost everything familiar. Interestingly, Far Cry New Dawn plays entirely on this fundamental fear by revisiting the familiar world of Far Cry 5, 17 years after the events of its mushroom cloud-shaped climax (one of three possible endings).
In the new-look Hope County, your goal is to reestablish civilisation... but your efforts are threatened by The Highwayman, a band of biker leather-wearing goons, governed by a pair of psychotic twin sisters. Though you won't need to have played FC5 to understand what's going on, it surprised me that it's much more of a direct sequel than I'd anticipated.
This isn't the first time Ubisoft have done something like this, of course. Far Cry 3 led to the Blood Dragon expansion, a glorious, 1980s VHS-tinged, cyber-noir shooter. New Dawn isn't quite as bold with its aesthetics, but instead offers a full-sized game, which reuses and remixes elements of Far Cry 5 to surprisingly decent effect.
The big question is whether, by recycling maps and assets, New Dawn is just some sort of lazy rip-off thing. I'm happy to report that it never feels that way. Yes, there are familiar locations, but having played Far Cry 5, there was real novelty to revisiting familiar places 20 years after a real big bomb went off.
Indeed, stumbling across a half-buried sign advertising a "Testicle Festive" brought a wry smile to my lips... as did the team's choice to steer away from the usual dark, gritty, depressing, post-apocalypse.
Rather than the archetypical grim, lifeless, wasteland that we typically get, New Dawn's world is a bright, colourful place - flowers blossom... the bad guys paint their bases in cheery, neon, hues... even the water has taken on a new, rainbow-y, pearlessence, and the wildlife has had a radioactive glow-up (literally). Coming straight from claustrophobic atmosphere of Metro Exodus, it was the perfect way to decompress.
This neat take on over-familiar tropes is juxtaposed with the usual Far Cry model of hunting, scavenging, shooting, driving, flying and side-missions. It's pretty familiar if you've played one of these games, and - for the most part - doesn't veer too far from established gameplay.
However, there are some decent new ideas thrown into the mix. You now have a central hub base which you can upgrade by conquering enemy bases (unlocking better gear, weapons, perks etc). Plus, you have the choice of holding onto said base, or scrapping it for resources... Which will see the bad guys reclaim it, but with more powerful troops - allowing you to conquer it all over again for even greater reward.
Indeed, New Dawn - through the introduction of differing tiers of enemy strength - is generally a tougher experience than most Far Cry games. Rarely is storming, guns a-blazing, into a Highwayman camp a good idea... at least, not until you've disabled the alarms.
Furthermore, supply drops will appear at random as you make your way through the world - which become a race to get to it before the bad dudes. Best of all are the expeditions - missions outside the main map, which take you to far-flung places.
Here's the thing... if you're not a fan of the Far Cry games, if you're sick of first-person, open world, map-moppers... if you're going to get on your high horse because there's the (entirely elective) option to buy equipment using real-world currency... then New Dawn isn't the game for you. Regardless, I'm a sucker for these games.
Ubisoft has found a formula here which, for whatever reason, tickles my boxes. The exploration, the secrets, the sense of freedom and choice... I feel empowered when I play a Far Cry game.
In addition, the script, the characters, the voice acting, the story - such as it is - don't annoy me as they do in so many games. I like that the game doesn't take itself too seriously, and - here - while New Dawn works perfectly well as a standalone experience, it also rewards those who've payed through FC5.
Rather than a cheap-and-cheerful cash-in, I was surprised by just how much new stuff there was - albeit staying just the right side of the established formula.
Its familiarity means this won't be for everyone, but if you're already a Far Cry fan, consider this an actual new instalment, rather than a spin-off.
SCORE: FAR CRY 4 out of FAR CRY 5.