Far Cry: New Dawn takes the open-world FPS series into a near-future nuclear post-apocalypse that finds you roaming around a new kind of Hope County. Many of Far Cry 5’s locations and characters are back, but they’re ravaged by a society gone awry. As we discovered in the game’s reveal, New Dawn introduces new enemies dubbed the Highwaymen, a Mad Max-like faction led by twin sisters who survive by stealing resources from self-sustaining societies.
You can find out more about how the game plays in our preview, which looks at New Dawn’s RPG elements and base-building system. But we also had a chance had a chance to speak to narrative director James Nadiger about the game’s inception, the ideas behind its concepts, and the design of its new villains.
GameSpot: The first question that came to my mind when New Dawn was revealed was: How long has this been in the works? It follows on from Far Cry 5’s ending, so you must have this iteration planned for quite a while?
James Nadiger: It’s officially been in development for only about a year and a half (Editor’s note: Far Cry 5 was released 10 months ago at the time of writing). When we were coming up with the ending of Far Cry 5, which was centered around Joseph and his doomsday cult, we made the decision to end that game on an actual doomsday. We all got super excited about it because it also gave us an opportunity to bring Far Cry into the post-apocalypse space, which is something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think it’s a very Far Cry environment.
The reveal of Far Cry 5 gave us the impression that it was going to be dealing with a lot of political overtones because of the setting, the nature of the cult, and the timing with the US political climate—though that wasn’t really fully explored in the actual game. Each Far Cry game is different, of course, but was there an active decision to really distance New Dawn from anything like that?
No, absolutely not, because we were in development before 5 was released. We really were just focused on making the game that we wanted to make, take it to an apocalypse space.
One of the things I enjoyed about Far Cry 5 was that it encouraged this new mode of exploring the world at your own pace and gradually uncovering narrative beats piece by piece. Do you have any insight into that decision to move away from Ubisoft’s traditional method of creating open worlds?
I think Far Cry, at its best, is always about player choice, and so early on the decision was made to just put the player in control of that choice from the get-go and give them the map all at once. If you just wanna find stuff on your own, you go and it’s there, we have signs on the road to point you to animals, we have people you can talk to for little hints. We just felt that was the best, most organic way to create our Far Cry worlds.
You’re using an altered Hope County as the primary map again, but I was surprised by the new Expedition missions that take you to all these different spaces across the US. It seems like both a narrative tool to sort of explore the wider effects of the apocalypse, as well as creating some interesting spaces that wouldn’t otherwise work in the main game. But what was the primary design motivation?
To be honest, they probably happened simultaneously, because we’re really excited that for the first time in Far Cry the story and the fantasy wasn’t confined to just one country or just one time and place. The collapse happened everywhere, and at the same time, we wanted these sort of big gameplay-focussed maps, almost like the fortresses from Far Cry 4, or about the size of a Far Cry Arcade map. So we realized we could take little trips around the country with some solid gameplay, which have repeatable things, like Outposts. Every time you play it, it gets harder, and the challenges remix. And if you explore the notes, or if you’re stealthing and you’re hearing the Highwaymen in those parts of the world talk, you get little glimpses of what happened in these spaces.
Tell me about the villains in Far Cry New Dawn, about their inception. How did you come to create the twins?
Sure. It came from, well, at Ubisoft we tend to go world first, so as we were building sort of what our apocalypse would look like, we found overwhelmingly there were two ways to get by in this world. If you were on a piece of land that you could turn into farms again and hunt again, then you would be able to rebuild. But if you came from a place where that wasn’t possible, you became sort of a bandit. If you couldn’t grow things or build things, you have to take things, and so the twins come from that background. They were just kids when the bombs dropped, they were in the ruins of a city, and so their dad created the Highwaymen, and they became sort of modern day pirates. They were taught from a young age that the ends justify the means, and that’s how they grew up, that anything is justified as long as you just stay alive for one more day. Then they’ve just gone across the country just hoovering up things.
So it’s kind of a city versus country thing? Being a product of the environment you grew up in, basically?
No, it’s just the idea of makeshift, as well, cities don’t exist, stores don’t exist, and so after a certain amount of time in the years between the collapse and now, there’s just nothing there. You have to keep on the road, and some people fled these desolate areas, and then put down roots, because they had the knowledge, they were able to rebuild a life, and some people, again, just take things and move on. We’re in the most lawless frontier we’ve ever done, because sort of the rules of society that we take for granted, they no longer apply.
Okay, so tell me more about the actual characterization of the sisters. Why twins? Why women? Why African-American? What were the decisions behind that?
We’ve wanted to have a woman as a Far Cry villain for some time, that was one thing. Then our creative director, J.S. [Jean-Sebastien Decant] , was really keen on the idea of having a duo, so that became the twins, because it allowed us to sort of shake up the usual Far Cry dynamic of a one-on-one conversation. So not only are they dealing with you, you get to get brought into their world a little bit, and you see how they have each other’s backs, but you also see the different ways that they’ll react to you as you start to become more and more of a thorn in their side.
In terms of their casting, once we sort of came up with the idea of the Highwaymen, and that these fearsome twin sisters that would lead them, we sent out an open casting just to see what kind of performances we could get back. We really needed two people who could share those scenes, and there were a lot of talented people, but it was Leslie Miller, who plays Lou. She auditioned with a lot of other women, but she was always sort of the anchor that kept everything together. Then separately we had Cara Ricketts, who plays Mickey. We’d worked with her before on Primal. It was another performer that you can just throw anything at her and she just nails it, and when we put them together, their chemistry was instant. We had Lou that was violent and unpredictable, and we had Mickey who had this extreme confidence in just owning a situation. We’re just very happy.
I’m disappointed to hear they’re not actually cool twins who exist.
No, sadly. We looked, but it just wasn’t right. It’s hard to describe, but you just know when you’ve got something.
The reception to Mickey and Lou after the reveal was pretty positive, and a lot of people were a little upset when they actually found out that you weren’t playing as them. Is that something that surprised you?
A little bit. Far Cry, I think, is always interesting in the way that the players and the fans have relationships with the villains. Even though they’re violent, or they do super questionable things, there’s a lot of people that are very fond of them, and even though it’s ultimately your destiny to go up against them, there’s this affection for them. But no, I’m very happy with the reception that the twins got.
So playing as them or teaming up with them was never a consideration.
No. They were always meant to be the villains.
Why do you think Far Cry needs the «crazy» villain?
I think it’s just part of our DNA. The goal is to never create «crazy» for crazy’s sake. I think we want every villain to stand alone, and to be like a real person, or real persons in the case of the twins. But I think what unites all the villains, whether a little more out there or sort of grounded like Joseph, is that they are convinced that what they do is the only sane response to the world around them, and they’ll have a chance to convince you the player that what they’re doing is right. But yeah.
Can you ever see a Far Cry without the larger-than-life villain? Can a Far Cry game work without that aspect?
I can’t talk about the future of Far Cry beyond New Dawn, but every time we start a new game everything’s on the table, and we sort of see what we have to work with.
Far Cry: New Dawn releases February 15 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.