Far Cry 5‘s first piece of DLC—Hours of Darkness—shifts the focus to stealth with a reworked perked system that’s an ideal fit for a short piece of DLC. Unfortunately, not much else has changed. Hours of Darkness feels like a fan-made mod for Far Cry 5. There’s barely any story to speak of, no interesting NPCs, and the environmental design merely consists of trees, grass, and huts copied and pasted all over the map. For $12, all you get is more outposts to clear with fewer options for how to go about doing that than you had in the base game.
In Hours of Darkness, you play as Far Cry 5‘s Wendell Redler during his stint in the Vietnam War. He escapes capture and must get to an extraction point at the other end of the map. In case you were expecting any different, I should warn you that Hours of Darkness is like a Hollywood movie when it comes to its depiction of the Vietnam War. It’s all gung-ho American nonsense as you kill Vietnamese soldiers and resist their propaganda without ever stopping to think of your own role in proceedings. I personally found it inoffensive just due to how cliche it all was, however I’m not Vietnamese. For many, I suspect the “leave no man behind” and “stick it to the commies” nonsense will induce more eye-rolling than offense, but consider yourself warned.
Hours of Darkness wastes no time getting returning players back up to speed. The opening ten minutes are a little rough as you spend more time looking at pop-ups which explain the new systems than you do playing the game. However, from then on, you know all the mechanics and can proceed without interruption.
Instead of a large skill tree, Rendell has four stealth-focused perks that activate one at a time with each successful stealth kill and then reset when you’re spotted. It’s a decent system for short content where lengthy skill trees aren’t appropriate. The major drawback is that it gets far too easy if you have all the perks active. The inherent tension of moving through a dense jungle is somewhat mitigated when you can see the red outline of enemies from 200 feet away.
You can head straight to the extraction point if you like, but on the way, there will be plenty of camps to liberate, POWs to rescue, and commanders to kill. There are three American soldiers to save who will then fight alongside you. They are nothing like the nine main companions in Far Cry 5 who each had a particular skill to use in combat plus some actual personality. The allies in Hours of Darkness only have one skill; the ability to get spotted by enemies when you’re trying to remain undetected. These allies do more harm than good, ending stealth runs and taking damage out of nowhere. I swear they were playing in a separate game to me. They would fly away as if they’d been hit by a nearby bomb that didn’t exist. Maybe the Predator was darting around taking them out. At least these companions can die permanently. I was relieved to be rid of them.
The map initially looks big, however the trip to the extraction point is fairly linear thanks to unclimbable mountains that guide you from point A to point B on a set path. It also gets repetitive quickly. Vietnam looks beautiful, but there’s no variety. Once you’ve snuck through the tall grass, hidden behind trees, and snuck into a camp you’ve seen most of the game. Disappointingly, there are no dynamic weather effects, such as thunderstorms, that could have made camp infiltrations more enjoyable.
The most interesting environmental effect is the poison gas (possibly Agent Orange) and even this doesn’t change anything. When I first approached the gas, I assumed I would need to find a gas mask or make my way through it quickly. Nope. The gas makes Rendell cough, but that’s it. You don’t take any damage and there is nothing to do while in the gas other than finding a collectible. You just move through it and head to the next camp. A monumental travesty such as Agent Orange deserves to be more than glorified fog that you’ll immediately forget about.
Hours of Darkness gives you the usual laundry list of things to do, however nearly all of it involves going to a camp and killing everyone there. There are none of the interesting puzzle quests like Prepper Stashes and little incentive to do any of it. As with Far Cry 5, locations aren’t added to your map automatically. You have to either find them yourself through exploration or get information from POWs you rescue or commanders you kill. However, this doesn’t serve as an effective reward because the linear map practically forces you to discover locations anyway.
One nice touch is the ability to call in airstrikes once you’ve destroyed nearby anti-aircraft guns. Again, this is just an excuse to clear out more camps, but at least there’s a reason you’re doing it and a tangible reward.
If you head straight to the extraction point and ignore the camps you can easily complete Hours of Darkness in under an hour. It took me two hours to get just over 70% completion. On completion, you unlock survival mode and arcade mode both of which should have been offered at the start. These modes add some replay value, but I’m not going back to this jungle any time soon.
Vietnam could make a great setting for a Far Cry game but it has to be handled with more care than this. I appreciate that at $12 this is not supposed to be a full Far Cry experience, however I still expect more than a glorified two-hour fan-mod. The next two pieces of DLC will have to offer big improvements to make Far Cry 5‘s season pass worth the money.