Way back in 2015, Ubisoft released a survey, asking consumers where they'd like the next Far Cry game to take place. The list included a futuristic, sci-fi title; a Far Cry set in the cocaine trafficking jungles of Peru, a game during a zombie outbreak, a Spaghetti Western in the 19th century, and a Far Cry set during the Vietnam War. A game pitting you against a cult in rural Montana was not on the list, showing that Ubisoft's developers ultimately go with their own vision.
Most of these ideas—outside of the cocaine trafficking idea being used for Ghost Recon: Wildlands—didn't actually pan out. Well, until Ubisoft announced the Season Pass for Far Cry 5, which includes three of the settings mentioned in the survey. Lost on Mars is the futuristic science-fiction setting, trapping players on Mars against insectile aliens. Dead Living Zombies is the game taking place during a zombie outbreak, but with a 80's B-movie spin on it. Finally, Hours of Darkness fleshes out the Vietnam War entry of the survey. The latter entry is the first downloadable content (DLC) being released as part of the Season Pass.
Hours of Darkness places you in the shoes of Wendell "Red" Redler, one of the characters in the main game who offered you an item-hunting sidequest. We jump back to Redler's time in Vietnam, when his squad knew him only as "Cowboy". On a mission, Cowboy's chopper goes down in the jungle and he's captured. An airstrike frees him, but he has to get himself to the evacuation point. And perhaps free his squadmates Yokel, Joker, and Moses along the way.
That's the entire plot of this DLC. It's all delivered in a shaky, comicbook-style cutscene at the beginning and then the rest is pure gameplay. Neither Cowboy or his squadmates are really characters and further play doesn't add any depth to them. If you had a problem with Far Cry 5 not really saying anything with its setting, Hours of Darkness isn't going to make you any happier. What the DLC does is drop you into a new map, roughly the size of one region from the base game, patterned after the jungles, rivers, and valleys of Vietnam. You start at one end of the map, and the evac point is at the other. What you do in-between those two points is roughly up to you.
Ubisoft Shanghai, the developers behind Hours of Darkness, give you plenty to fill up your time. You have to find and rescue all three of your squadmates, who then become controllable Guns for Hire. You can liberate North Vietnamese camps, take out Commanders in their hideouts and bunkers, rescue South Vietnamese prisoners of war, destroy propaganda speakers, or collect lighters, just like Red's side mission in Far Cry 5. Doing any of these tasks offers you Airstrikes, which allow you to call in planes to bomb a certain location. If you want to rely on Airstrikes, you'll also have to add Anti-Aircraft gun emplacements to your list of targets.
Airstrikes are a bit of odd addition, if only because Hours of Darkness is very stealth-focused. Unlike the base game, there are only four Perks available in the DLC, unlocked in order. Adrenaline allows you to move faster while crouched and auto-tags enemies; Ghost reduces the noise you make; Sixth Sense automatically tags enemies that are about to see you; and Predator lets you tag enemies through walls and auto-tags foes in a larger range. Do a stealth kill and you get a perk, up to the maximum of four. Get spotted and you lose all your perks. Basically, to operate at maximum efficiency requires you to stay hidden.
It's an interesting idea that incentivizes you to be stealthy, while also not being too punitive. Sure, the perks are nice, but you can survive just fine without them. In fact, the wilderness in Hours of Darkness is a bit nicer in terms of animal attacks and overall enemies. The North Vietnamese troops do tend to swarm you if you make yourself known, but otherwise, this DLC feels a bit easier than the actual game.
The title of the DLC is pretty literal too. The "Of Darkness" is definitely a reference to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the novel that inspired the Vietnam-set Apocalypse Now. (Heart of Darkness takes place in the Congo Free State, not Vietnam.) "Hours" refers to exactly how long it'll take you to finish this DLC. If you beeline from beginning to end, you can probably be done in under an hour, but if you take your time and do everything, it'll run you 5-7 hours tops. Ubisoft seemed to realize this, as finishing Hours of Darkness once unlocks two additional modes. Survivor Mode gives you less health and a smaller inventory, while Action Movie increases your inventory and gives you more airstrikes to rain the pain down.
All in all though, Hours of Darkness is a snack, not a meal. Hunting is even more non-existent than the base game, crafting is mostly gone, vehicles aren't around, and the rest you've seen before. It's not bad considering it's just one part of the $29.99 Season Pass, but it's not really great either. Hours of Darkness leans towards a quieter, more atmospheric experience, but doesn't hit the mark there and you're lacking some of the things that make Far Cry as a series more enjoyable. I want Ubisoft to continue using DLC to explore new ideas and mechanics in Far Cry, but wrapping up my time with Hours of Darkness didn't really leave me with the desire to jump right back in. Perhaps the other two releases will be more successful in that respect.
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