In the two months since its release, the general consensus surrounding Far Cry 5 has settled on it being a solid experience but also one that didn’t bring anything new to the table. In the hope of finding something fresh, series fans have been placing their bets on the game’s post-launch DLC to satisfy those needs. The first of which, Hours of Darkness, is a stark departure in terms of setting, but it still ends up duplicating the franchise’s formula to a tee.
Taking place across southern Vietnam, your helicopter is shot down during a routine mission, subsequently leading to capture. Fellow Americans quickly bomb the outpost in order to aid your escape, and then it’s a sprint for freedom away from the base. The main objective then becomes one that tasks you with making it to the rendezvous point on the other side of the map so that you can be rescued.
The premise isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, and it’s clear that the plot wasn’t a focal point for this piece of DLC. Every meaningful story beat takes place within the first 10 minutes of the experience, to the point where the teaser trailer for the expansion shows a piece of every single cut-scene present in its 39 second duration. You can only expect so much out of a separate plot for something released just two months after the base game, but this is just completely throwaway.
Of course, a new location brings with it a new map. Roughly the same size as a single region from the original game, this rendition of Vietnam packs in the usual side activities and objectives you would find in a Ubisoft title. There’s the standard outposts to conquer, prisoners of war to rescue, AA Guns to destroy, propaganda speakers to dismantle, war commanders to eliminate, and finally collectible lighters to pick up from downed US soldiers.
Completing all of these optional tasks while you work your way to the rendezvous point rewards you with airstrike tokens, which allow you to call in air support in the form of a carpet bomb. This is a neat little addition that allows you to destroy enemy camps in no time at all. As well as that, companions return to aid you in your quest for liberation, and they too can be found scattered throughout the map. Taking the form of your comrades that were aboard the same helicopter as you, they’ll help out in combat and fight alongside you. In a cool twist, however, there’s no coming back for these marines. Once they die, they’re gone for good.
One mechanic that’s missing in action in Hours of Darkness is the perk system, in the sense that you won’t be earning points to pump into a skill tree. Instead, survival instinct perks take their place. Earned by performing stealth kills, you’ll be able to move faster while crouching, reduce the noise your brisk walk makes, and even auto-tag enemies within your vicinity. They’re fine as a substitute for what is found in the main game, but they’re also sort of pointless.
The mechanic is clearly promoting a stealthy approach to enemy encounters, but you can be fully kitted out with handguns and assault rifles no less than 20 minutes into the game. And at that point, the experience is already all too easy. We appreciate the effort to scale down the mechanic to suit the bitesize experience, but its implementation is lacklustre and suited to a playstyle that not many players will choose to implement.
It’s this dull and lifeless feeling that’s present throughout the entirety of Hours of Darkness, because this feels like a lesser Far Cry experience in every way. Crafting is completely gone outside of picking plants in exchange for med-kits, wildlife is there simply for decoration, and there aren’t any shops to promote customisability or variation. The core of what makes it a Far Cry game is there, but with many players tiring of the Ubisoft open world formula long ago, this first piece of DLC already feels five years old.
You’ll see everything this expansion has to offer in around about five hours, and upon completion, two more modes are unlocked. Survivor mode throws you back into the Vietnam jungle with less health and a smaller inventory, while Action Movie mode goes in the opposite direction by letting you unleash airstrikes at will and bolstering your weapon slots to four. With Trophies attached to both modes, you could boost your playtime by a few more hours, but that’s only if you really want to make a return to a world that has had its mechanics tweaked, rather than changing the environment itself.
Despite bringing a few new mechanics to the table, Far Cry 5: Hours of Darkness is a lesser experience when compared to the base game in every possible way. Its story is almost non-existent, the open world is completely generic, and with a fair few features from the original experience missing, it all feels like a step back. The core of what makes this a Far Cry game is still present, but you were probably already tired of that long ago.