Far Cry 5 has released to a fairly mixed reception. Like with AC Origins Ubisoft was adamant about the myriad changes to exploration and gameplay in an effort to keep interest in one of thier signature franchises high. Today we’ll take an exhausting look at Far Cry 5, from it’s narrative to it’s gameplay systems to try and answer the question. Does this game need to exist?
It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here because all of my posts are alterations of my video scripts and my most recent videos have either been about Destiny 2 (which nobody here wants to talk about I’m sure) or they’ve been just ridiculously long. Well....this is ridiculously long. It ends up being an nearly one hour long video. So either watch that, or take your time reading this. I’m posting because there are some very interesting things in this game. Politically, narratively, and gameplay design all have some lessons to teach us.
I’ve got a truly stupid amount to say about this game. Today we’re going to take a look at Far Cry 5. It’s setting, it’s narrative and it’s politics (or lack therof) and how those 3 things are inextricably linked together. We’ll talk about how it looks, how it sounds and how it plays. We’ll also talk about what this game is, has been, how it’s changed and how many more Far Cry games we really need. Because fundamentally with all of the changes, and there are many, at the end of the day, this is another Far Cry game.
Meaning, it’s about what you’d expect. And for that reason, and to get where we are going in answering the question “How many sequels does a game need” we’re going to have to start by agreeing on what a “Far Cry” game is. What do we expect in a Far Cry game. What are the core systems and aspects that define what a player expects when they buy Far Cry. So.....as always, let’s get the brief history out of the way.
Far Cry A Chaotic (Open) World
Far Cry has, at least since Far Cry 2, been a specific set of systems and aspects that in whole create a pretty unique game-play experience. The original Far Cry released in 2004 and was developed for Ubsioft by Crytek. After partnering with EA for Crysis the exclusive rights to both Far Cry and the original Cryengine were sold to Ubisoft.
Crytek is probably best known by “quote unquote hardcore gamers” for “but can it play Crysis.” Both Crysis and the original Far Cry used the Crytek engine to push what was then possible in game design. Far Cry featured a large open world map and pretty good for it’s time AI as well as punishing difficulty. It was a game best known for it’s tactical and emergent game-play, it’s size, it’s difficulty and its beauty.
After being acquired by Ubisoft the game became what we, today, consider a Far Cry game and while there is a small and devoted group of gamers who lament the change Far Cry exploded in popularity after being acquired and developed by Ubisoft’s in house development studio in Montreal.
So what is Far Cry? It’s difficult and often a fools errand to try and distill complex games down to only a few features but I think with Far Cry it’s quite possible. Far Cry is a recognizable brand specifically because those two words have meant a few important things. And no I don’t mean radio towers and camps to clear though those have always been there as well. Far Cry 2,3 and 4 as well as their generally excellent expansions, (Primal was a Far Cry 4 expansion as far as I’m concerned and looks a helluva lot better in hindsight if you just decide to think of it like that.) all feature huge, beautifully rendered, exotic wilderness locations. They are all open world games with tremendous, for their times, maps. They all featured memorable charismatic villains. They all featured a distinct undercurrent of outrageous, ridiculous, over the top chaos that was often quite funny. And they all created most of their fun through the emergent game-play that resulted from that madness and chaos the player could create.
That has been the core of Far Cry. Emergent, explosive and often quite funny, game-play as a result of a large map and the huge amounts of player freedom that comes from a large assortment of weapons, tools and vehicles to play with.
But there is something else that Far Cry has generally been about. Something that it took quite a bit of criticism for over the years. (unfair criticism, in my opinion). Far Cry has always been a game set in an exotic FAR off land.
Conflict Tourism And Far Cry...Was This Even Worth Considering?
Far Cry has over the years been criticized for “disaster tourism”. That is sending white American players to far flung nations and having them save the brown people by murdering hundreds of other local brown people. Ok. So I’m a fairly politically correct guy mainly because I don’t see the point in being a dick. It’s very easy for me not to say fag or retard or tranny. And I don’t because the value of removing a few words from my vocabulary is lower, in my opinion, than the value of not being an asshole and hurting people for no reason. I’m perfectly willing to call a gay person a piece of shit or a trans person an asshole. But I won’t call them a fag or a tranny because I despise most people for who they are, not what they are. And there is plenty to despise about most assholes you meet without despising them for something they have little or no control over. Also all organized religion is basically bullshit tailor made to make some people hate other people and I don’t suffer from that particular affliction anymore.
So I’m the kind of person who would be most likely to understand this criticism. But I don’t. The point of the Far Cry series hasn’t been that the locations were nations of color. It’s been that they were failed states. The entire narrative underpinning the game-play loop depends upon the breakdown of the rule of law. We can discuss the geo political realities that have resulted in many of the worlds failed states being home to people of color (although South America has historically featured tons of failed states and those states have always been ruled by European descended Spaniards.). But Far Cry doesn’t try and do this A) because it’s WAY too fucking big and complex to deal with in a game about running people over in an ATV while you stick CV to another dude’s head and blow him up B) because that would probably be a pretty fucking boring FPS game and finally C) because it would be so very easy to fuck that up and just make everyone angrier.
The game has always been about creating just RIDICULOUS amounts of mayhem. It’s managed to keep that even remotely believable because the game has always taken place in locations riven by civil war and where state institutions could believably be weak enough that someone could actually get away with driving around with an RPG in plain sight without being immediately swarmed by 2000 Interpol agents.
But Far Cry also is developed by Ubisoft. And Ubisoft is A) a tremendous and profitable multi national corporation and B) French. Large corporations by necessity are usually loathe to offend anyone. Corporations exist to sell things and Ubisoft would like to sell it’s wares to every single human on earth regardless of race, creed or gender. And Ubisoft in particular is French and displays the humanist social liberal values of the nation where it exists. This is a company who, at the beginning of each AC game puts the following up on screen. Ubisoft for both financial and, seemingly, philosophical grounds is particularly sensitive to these types of complaints.
And so it was, perhaps, inevitable that Far Cry 5 would respond to this criticism by changing the setting of the game. We’re going to look at narrative, visual presentation, game-play and then bring it around and try to decide if this game needed to be made in the first place. Let’s start by looking at the narrative in general and start with some of the issues that arise by setting the game in the United States.
Setting Is Part Of A Narrative And Crucial To Suspension of Disbelief.
Far Cry has always been set in a beautiful and exotic deep wilderness. And on those two points the fifth installment is no different. Montana IS a beautiful and exotic wilderness. The plains, mountains and forests of the American West are stunning and far more wild than one who hasn’t ever seen them would believe. Vast swaths of the Western half of the nation are lightly peopled wilderness home to everything from dense forested mountains to gorgeous arid deserts. America is BIG and beautiful and diverse.
So from a purely aesthetic angle the setting is perfect. But while the art direction is gorgeous and diverse I can’t help but feel a bit let down. For the first time in awhile I’m pissed I didn’t buy this on PC. We all know Ubisoft has a tendency to....well, fucking lie, about it’s graphics in it’s marketing so I didn’t think the game would look as good as it’s commercials but frankly for the first time I’m not sure this Far Cry looks any better than the last Far Cry. And it looks significantly less beautiful than Horizon Zero Dawn for instance. There is a disturbing amount of pop in, especially when flying and when looking out from a high place the textures can be downright dreadful. Trees in the distance look like low resolution cardboard cutouts. The lighting is good but not fantastic. Previous Far Cry’s always felt like they were pushing the limits of the consoles they released on. I’ve had very few moments that wowed me.
And then there are the character models and lip syncing which, frankly simply aren’t up to par. And of course there are the usual Ubisoft bugs and glitches that we’ve become disturbingly forgiving of. There’s a consistent issue where dialogue that is spoken inside has a terrible and annoying reverb effect that makes characters sound like they are talking in an empty ball room rather than in furnished house. Hey real quick aside. Editing this script it occurs to me this EXACT problem was in AC origins. Ok back to the video.
The cumulative effect of the graphics, textures, sound problems, bad character models and lip sync issues mean that overall the game doesn’t wow visually as Far Cry games usually do. In fact that’s generally been a big selling point for me with these games. The game looks and sounds fine in aggregate. But nothing more than that. I’ve basically run out of trust with buying big AAA games for PC on release because there is like a 50 percent chance I’m going to get a broken piece of shit. Usually the console version doesn’t make me regret that choice. This time it did.
But the setting of a game isn’t just it’s visual presentation. Setting is a crucial aspect of narrative in any art form. Far Cry’s game-play relies upon chaotic mayhem in a lawless land. And setting this game in America means that the suspension of disbelief required is a bridge too far. On to the narrative.
The game begins with an absolutely fantastic opening sequence. So good that I was legitimately impressed and excited for the story to come. The cinematic and playable sections here are arresting and interesting and deeply disturbing. Our first introduction to Father John Seed is good enough that he seems like he’s going to continue the long line of great charismatic villains in the series with one key change. It’s clear, right from the get go, that John Seed is not going to be at all funny.
After this initial cut-scene things go awry and you’re on the ground beginning the game exactly as you have each other game in the series. Like every other one, you’ll sneak up on an enemy and click the right stick to take him down (I believe I punched the guy in the throat and broke his neck) before getting your hands on a weapon. The game controls as good as ever, the exact same stealth mechanics are in place and it plays just as it always has. We’ll go into whether that’s good or bad later. For now lets dive into the story on offer.
Far Cry 5 is about a religious cult. Now. At this particular time in American history this seemed like a bold and potentially controversial choice. A religious cult, armed to the teeth in the America West? IS the game going to deal with Christian Nationalists? IS it going to deal with race? Any thoughts you may have had about that were for naught because it never becomes clear what the cult believes beyond preparing for the end of the world. They generally have bibles and John Seed sometimes quotes the Bible but they actually never are presented as any kind of Christians. In fact they never really talk about this religion at all outside of their belief the world is ending. So if they aren’t white nationalists, and they aren’t fundamentalist Christians how can this cult in Montana have enough adherents to populate Ubisoft Montreal’s tremendous map with people for you to burn alive with flame throwers?
Apparently they’ve invented, manufactured and then begun TREMENDOUS large scale production of a drug with powerful mind control powers. Not only that, they’ve been systematically dumping this drug into the water supply of the region, taking over the minds of the residents and bending them to their will. And apparently nobody in power has noticed this. In the UNITED STATES. The United States happens to be the nation I live in. And in this nation I put up eleven feet of fencing in my back yard only to have a city official turn up and make me tear it down for not going through the permitting process first. I had to take it down, pay the fine, get the permit and then put the fence back up exactly as it was. The game takes place in THAT United States.
There are several, impossible to ignore, narrative breaking issues with this crucial plot point. First of all, and least importantly amazingly, this isn’t how drugs work. There are no mind control drugs and if we’re using this as a plot device the game has now veered into science fiction and I’ll be needing some explanation of where this drug comes from and how it works.
But this isn’t the only suspension of disbelief problem I have with this particularly stupid plot point. See, again, the game is set in the United States. Now if the game was set in a small fictitious failed state in the Andes I might be able to believe that this tremendous large scale production of this drug and the subsequent dumping of enough of it into a county wide municipal water supply, were possible.
Buuutt, here in the United States we have several, massively funded and ridiculously zealous law enforcement agencies focused on not only domestic terrorism, as this is, and environmental regulation but also on repressing and punishing with outrageous draconian measures any and all drug usage. Drugs are extremely taboo in America. More than that America is a huge bureaucratic nightmare of water inspectors, and FDA agents, and DEA agents and FBI agents and local zoning boards, and school boards and...you get the picture. It’s simply IMPOSSIBLE for this to happen. Like, absurdly impossible. Previous games were unlikely action movie plots. This is just a story that COULD not happen in a country with a government that is reading everyone’s emails and arresting millions of people a year for tiny personal use amounts of benign drugs.
So the plot is impossible Pliny. Lighten up. Suspend your disbelief. Ok. I did that. But that’s not the only problem here. In previous games the enemies you were fighting were all on the opposing side of their own free will. WE could argue that nobody deserves to be burned alive by me for fighting in Pagan Mins army but at least all of those people were paid soldiers who willingly signed up to fight for him. It quickly becomes clear that a bunch of the people I’m fighting here have been involuntarily drugged into compliance. They are being mind controlled. Doesn’t that mean that most of them are actually victims of the cult? You know, the kind of people who in a country like the US never would have been a part of this cult because a low level water management official would have stopped this entire endeavor the second somebody showed up with a truck full of green barrels to dump into the water treatment plant? Sigh.
OK fine. That’s enough of me applying logic to the plot of a Far Cry game right? But...no. Because there is a REASON that this plot exists. There’s a reason that Far Cry has to bend over backwards to create an enemy faction in Montana out of against their will drugged religious but not Christains American but not nationalist, people. And that’s because Far Cry 5 wanted to have it’s game in America but didn’t want to actually have it’s game in America. And no, the ending of the game doesn’t solve this problem, though it tries.
The Problem With Setting Far Cry In A Real Country. Then That Problem Exploded By Making That Country America.
So for whatever reason, I personally am almost positive it was a political decision made to counter the “disaster tourism” critiques, Ubisoft Montreal decided to set the new Far Cry in a major industrial nation. But if you’re going to set this in America you’d better have something to say about America. I don’t need Far Cry 4 to make a political or social commentary on Kuryat because it doesn’t exist. But Far Cry DID try and make a political (although weak and ham-fisted one) anyway. Far Cry 4 tried to look at two revolutionary forces, each with their own methods and preferred outcomes and asked the player to make a morality judgment. But here Far Cry 5 is AGGRESSIVELY apolitical. America actually has a history with white nationalist groups. And with religious extremist groups and with separatist groups (some of which are out in this very part of the country.) There are significant numbers of Americans who could be convinced to follow and fight for any number of distasteful causes.
But Far Cry wanted it’s story in America but it didn’t want to say anything about America. This couldn’t be a Christian extremist group because that might mean some Christian groups would boycott and they’d lose sales. It couldn’t be about extreme nationalists because a certain segment of conservatives would take that as assailing them and then they’d lose sales. It couldn’t be about some crazy offshoot socialist group because A) America doesn’t really have those and B) Europe is mostly mildly socialist. Instead Far Cry is about nothing. Even the religious extremism angle isn’t explored because that would be controversial. So instead we have a religious group without any actual religion explained. And one that converts people not with its ideas or by playing to their fears but rather by that always easy to use boogeyman...drugs.
If you’re going to give us a game in America you need to give us a believable American villain and one who is reasonably capable of winning other American’s to his side. But to do that you’d have to make a political statement about at least SOME American’s and the last thing Ubisoft wants is anybody unhappy with Ubisoft.
So what we get is a villain who COULD have been great. And a game that could have had some really interesting narrative elements. But instead we get some crazy story about how nobody noticed a cult in Montana poisoning the water with mind controlling drugs and creating a literal air force and special forces units armed to the teeth. Right now American intelligence agencies know about even the smallest groups of separatists and white nationalists. There’s an NSA agent reviewing the contents of your latest bowel movement at this very moment. It’s simply impossible. And beyond that we get a religious leader who isn’t from any religion.
John Seed’s theology isn’t ever explained to you beyond him calling for the end of the world. I can’t call John Seed a good villain because he’s barely in the game and because I have NO IDEA what he believes. The best villains are believable. They play to our fears because we believe they are possible. We see ourselves or our neighbors in them. It would have been so easy, and so timely to have made this a white nationalist group that attempts to create a pure white nation. You’d still have the narrative problem that such a thing is unlikely in a stable nation with robust institutions but to address that you place the game 25 years from now. Because I CAN believe, with a little suspension of disbelief, that 25 years from now America will have crumbling institutions and be ripe for a little insanity.
Far Cry could have been a game that people talked about. The choice of setting it in America seemed bold when we all heard about it. But companies are loathe to offend anyone and the narrative ends up being nonsense.
Gameplay: How Many Changes Does A Sequel Need To Make?
On the surface there seems to be not much to discuss here but indulge me because actually I think the changes made, and not made, to Far Cry 5 are quite interesting. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the amount of new game franchises seems to be on the decline. It seems like the biggest games each year are almost always sequels. Or sequels of sequels. Or sequels of sequels of sequels of sequels. If you’re EA you’ve basically given up making anything OTHER than sequels. PS you fucking suck EA. WE might be approaching sequel fatigue any mintue now. We all feel it and it looks like most of the big non EA publishers feel it too. People are getting sick of paying 60-100 dollars for a slight yearly graphical upgrade.
Far Cry 5, in all it’s marketing materials and press stories, wanted to make it clear that big changes to the franchise were in store. And I can tell you, after playing ** hours and finishing almost all of the game, that while many changes were made, none of them make the game feel much different and for every change that was positive there was one that was negative. We’re going to have to break this section up. We’ll look at the map and mission design,campaign and enemies including bosses combat and vehicles and the progression system.
Let’ start where every big Ubisoft game starts. With a huge fucking open world map. I’ve criticized the size of the map in AC for a good long while because traversing that map is a fucking chore. But Far Cry is set in the present day. And we have cars and helicopters so the map traversal ranges from fun to innocuous. In the promotional lead up Ubisoft talked quite a bit about how many significant changes were made to exploration and map discovery. At the very start of the game you’ll need to climb, you guessed it, a radio tower. Only about half way up Dutch, the NPC who’ll be leading you through a lot of the game says “put video clip”. Now I never really had a problem with the radio towers in the same way I did the sync spots in AC because in general they were relatively fun little jumping puzzles that manged to break up the flow of the game a bit. I had a problem with like 75 fucking radio towers but in general I actually enjoyed them. For me they just needed to cut down on them. Like Horizon Zero Dawn did. But I know that’s an uncommon opinion. In Far Cry 5 you unlock the map by traversing it and talking to random NPCs who will tell you about strongholds you need to clear. Ubisoft seems to think this makes exploration a more dynamic and organic experience but it doesn’t really add much. It doesn’t take much away either. It’s a neutral change. It’s...fine. The map is huge, it’s mostly really nice looking and it’s easy to get around. None of it looks any different than any other part so it gets a bit repetitive but good art direction means it never gets downright boring. A solid B if you’re scoring at home.
Campaign, Enemies and Bosses.
Before we get into to much that deals with the story I have to say that the game ends on a twist that I’m not going to reveal here. Actually I changed my mind. I will reveal it but I’ll let you know before I do so you can skip it if you’re interested in playing the game. The twist is interesting. But how you get somewhere is as important as where you get. For those of you who have played the game through to the ending I think you’ll find everything I have to say here is valid and isn’t really changed by the ending. Either way I’m not comfortable with an out of nowhere ending retconning a story no matter how well it’s presented.
And above all, this game is presented very very very well. So there will be mild spoilers for those who haven’t played the game. But I assure you nothing I divulge here will detract from the game and I won’t spoil the ending without putting up a big spoiler thing.
After you enter each region you will notice that the game feels very much like your normal Far Cry experience. The map is huge, people will send you places to kill people and free hostages. The enemies remain almost completely unchanged from any other far cry game. There are only a few enemies. Your regular dudes. Regular dudes with a snipre rifle, regular dudes with amazing full body bullet proof armor and a new addition drug addled weirdos who are literally covered in drug fumes and rush you like idiots with sticks and shovels and shit. You will kill many many many dudes. And now that I think of it 99.9999 percent of the people you kill are dudes. I have only one complaint on enemy design. In previous games enemies always were relatively easy to spot. In 3 they all had red on their uniforms. In 4 it was orange. These fucking guys are all wearing black jackets and beige shirts which makes it a massive pain in the ass to spot guys even when they are standing only feet away from you. Some will say this encourages extra vigilance and that’s true. I’ll say it encourage me shouting “what the fuck” several times an hour and that’s also true. I hate it. You may like it. But you’re probably wrong.
You’ll do the standard missions of kill, rescue and clear out camps a WHOLE bunch of times until you’ve built up enough Resistance Points to unlock another story moment. These moments happen strangely. Instead of unlocking a mission they just sort of....start. When the bar hits a little dot..it happens. The first few times I didn’t even understand what was going on. There’s actually some radio chatter to let you know it’s about to happen but you are so constantly fucking assaulted by people talking at you on your radio that I just almost immediately completely tuned them out. Each time you will be somehow captured. This was a very odd choice because it doesn’t make any sense. One time this happened to me as I was standing in a major hub area surrounded by dozens of friendly NPCs. Another time I was literally flying in a helicopter with someone sitting next to me only to have the screen get wavy and wake up in Jacob Seeds custody. Another time I was actually in a conversation with a named NPC. Seems like the kind of thing that could have easily been avoided by only making this happen when you were alone in the wilderness but...again.. fine.
Amazingly these scripted far more linear missions are, without a doubt, the best content that Far Cry has to offer. Maybe the best that Far Cry has EVER had to offer. The missions are unique and interesting. The enemy placement feels deliberate and important not like guys were randomly scattered around a cluster of buildings and the level design feels DESIGNED. We’ll get into this more later but for now let’s leave it at these are the best missions in the game.
Once again the map is broken into three areas and Each area has a different boss and their missions all have their own flare and theme and eventually conclude with a Boss battle. The first area wasn’t all that good as John Seed is annoying and I have no idea what he was all about. He’s kind of like an aging boy band metrosexual mega church pastor....who makes polished tv ads....I...don’t know...what this guy believes or wants or what his purpose is beyond they could only really think of 3 cool bosses and this guy
Also his boss battle is an absolute CHORE. The plane flying, and especially dog fighting mechanics on offer here are total shit. The planes control terribly, you can often bounce off the ground and flip upside down with no problems and just sort of roll back into the air. It’s basically impossible to fight anything on the ground and the turning radius on these planes is just ridiculous. You can make literal 180 degree turns. Its disorienting and just feels totally off. Collision detection and physics in planes are a fucking mess. The enemies fly in continual loops meaning fights are tiresome long bouts of looping after them over and over. John seeds boss battle is that, except against a plane that is a grotesque bullet sponge.
I literally spent ten minutes in a continual deep sigh until I finally shot him down at which point he somehow survives long enough for me to then have him lecture me about some shit that is ridiculous and pointless. I really would have appreciated the freedom to immediately shoot him because he’s stupid.
The second area I went to fares much better. Henbane River is where Faith Seed, Father Joseph’s non sister sister rules. She’s a former drug addict from a tortured past who is apparently responsible for the production and distribution of Bliss (the magical drug the plot revolves around). Far Cry is known for it’s hallucinogenic drug sequences. Most of these are absurd depictions of drug use but, in general, they’ve depicted shamanistic drug usage as beneficial or at least worthy of respect. Something I fully agree with. I’m a pro drug guy. In far Cry 4 the very best sequences were the drug induced Shangri La sections. Far Cry 5 flips the script with the drug sequences being part of the main story. These are a narrative mess. They begin without warning. And while they are clearly hallucinatory they are also apparently reality based. In one you end up in a boat with your fellow Marshall and are told you have to save him. I assumed this wasn’t really happening but apparently it was. When I finally did I just ended up confused about what was really going on. About ten thousand times more confused than I’ve ever been even when actually taking REAL hallucinogenic drugs. DMT makes more sense than this. For all my bitching here this part of the story gets close to interesting. But only close.
Far Cry 5 makes a token effort at fleshing out the Faith character by giving her a troubled past and trying to ask questions about whether the cult members are there of their own free will. But it never works. It doesn’t spend enough time, ask the right questions, or have any answers. And we happen to know they aren’t as people are clearly being brutally hurt and repressed by the cult and this drug. This was also very fertile ground for narrative exploration, and I want to be clear. On a scene by scene basis the writing is quite excellent. It’s not the writing in any individual scene, most of which are excellent, that’s a problem, it’s the over arcing narrative that never decides what it wants to say.
Either way, the cutscenes are pretty good, the writing is pretty good, her character is a bit of a mess but she features a quite surprisingly fun drug addled boss fight. You beat her and...she...drowns herself...I don’t know. The game never really does enough to explain what Faith actually believes. And so in the end her motivations are never understood. This is going to end up a recurring theme. Interesting ideas, great writing, great cut-scenes that when you look back never actually mean anything at all. It’s a really well done illusion of an interesting story. A hallucination of a good story. And no they didn’t do that on purpose. Nobody purposely fails at a story. They tried, it just doesn’t work. Or not well enough.
The third area starts quite strong. Jacob Seed has an actual philosophical underpinning. It’s simple and easy to understand and logical. He thinks the world has grown soft and weak and he and the cult will cull the heard so that after the world ends only the strong will survive. Again many of the playable missions here are of a hallucinogenic nature. Jacob Seed also uses mind control on the cult members although he apparently has a fool proof Manchurian candidate conditioning program revolving around using a small music box that plays The Platters old hit “Only You”. Kind of like a mix between Bioshock’s Would You Kindly and the small music box in Bloodborne but several thousand times less cool. Because the box in Bloodborne means something and this one doesn’t. And would you Kindly was a twist we didn’t see coming until the end and this isn’t. Even when it’s finally revealed whats going on it isn’t satisfying enough.
Jacob’s linear missions are less interesting only because you end up running the same mission each time. Still, the presentation is excellent and the repetition is important narratively. And even still, when Ubisoft Montreal has to actually sit down and design linear FPS levels they do very very well. Again these levels are some of the best combat in the game. Even after three times running through the level the pacing and game-play that emerges from carefully designed levels combined with strong narrative motivation can often be more satisfying, though much less chaotic fun, than the open world formula generally provides. This is the best writing in the game.
Jacobs boss fight takes place on the open map but the long sight lines, open coverless fields and huge amount of ranged enemies mixed in with wolves that chase the player down serve to change the gameplay by making you have to push and constantly move. It’s well designed and entertaining.
Ultimately Jacob as a character, despite the strong start and seemingly compelling back story, still falls a bit short of excellent. Again, Ubisoft Montreal gives Jacob a tragic background, but it never quite works. It’s just short of great, like much of the narrative. It had the potential to really make a statement. About anything. But it just can’t ever commit or decide what it wants to say. Each character is well written, fleshed out, given a compelling history and stellar voice acting and cutscene rendering and direction. That’s about 90% of a great video game narrative there. But an understandable motivation is crucial for an antagonist. My last video had long sections on why Half Life 2 works so well while Destiny 2 fails so miserably. Ultimately villains need to be understandable. WE don’t have to like them but their motivations need to make sense and we have to fully understand how they got where they are. I know why Andrew Ryan and Dr. Breen ended up who they were. TO it’s credit Ubisoft tries to get John, Faith and Jacob there. But it never comes together because it never really makes sense. Without that all you have is a bunch of great ingredients that end up being less than the sum of their parts. Perfect presentation that never decides what it actually wants to say.
Immediately after defeating Jacob we go to our boss fight with the Father. The fight, dialogue, rendering and narrative twist are all excellent and presented very very well. Before we do the spoilers I’ll say this If I play a game for 40 hours and plot inconsistencies and motivation issues bother me, nothing that happens at the end can erase what came before. It’s a neat narrative twist that’s very enjoyable but, ultimately doesn’t change what came before. Ok. Here’s the only part that people who don’t want spoilers need to avoid. Please skip ahead to the next section for the wrap up where I unilaterally decide whether Far Cry has my permission to continue to exist.
So the plot twist on offer here is that right at the end of the boss fight with Father Joseph several nuclear explosions go off. This sequence is fucking top notch. It’s shocking, it’s gorgeous and the ending voice acting and cut-scene is fantastic and emotionally charged. It’s great. Until you think about it. At first it really affected me and made me question all of my problems with the narrative. Then I got confused. Then I got mad.
As gorgeous and interesting and well written as it is it’s also cheap bullshit. It retconns the entire story and still doesn’t fix all the problems I’ve pointed out with the narrative. On top of that this ending implies that the cult was right. But, fuck that, no....they weren’t. At worst a nuclear war would push society back to the stone age but preparing for rebuilding society doesn’t require mass drugging people into a torture murder cult. It just doesn’t stand up. It makes no sense it retconns the game and tries to lay a thin veneer of moral ambguity on a game that has NO fucking right to try and garner moral ambiguity about a mind controlling, water poisoning, mass torturing, genocide inducing murder cult.
The most intersting character in the game from the very start to the very end is The Father but he’s just totally fucking absent from almost the entire game. We barely see him, don’t get to know him, don’t understand him. What’s worse is I don’t think the game understands him. WE never learn what the father really believes. He veers wildly from murder cult to make the world strong, to talking about love and shit and the game doesn’t even try to make us understand why all these people were taken in by him. The ending doesn’t really stand up because I still don’t understand who this guy is.
Like everything else in the game it’s fantastic, wonderful execution in service to a plot that doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t earn it. Sigh. It looks and feels great. As long as you don’t over analyze it. But over anlysis is what I do. And getting pissed off is what I do even better. And here my over analysis led to a perfect storm of me getting pissed off by my analysis. Hopefully i’ve ruined any good feelings you had about the ending. You’re welcome.
Far Cry 5 gameplay loop and Progression System
SO Far Cry 5 makes several changes to progression and gameplay that I didn’t like. The gunplay is as good as ever. But remember how in previous games guns were consistently unlocked as you wnet along? If you REALLY wanted a gun early before it was unlocked you could spend money on it but the smart player just made do with what the game gave them and used their money on gun mods. For some reason Far Cry 5 makes you buy almost EVERY gun you want. And that means I ended up using way less guns than I normally do in a Far Cry game. I kept waiting for guns to unlock before finally realizing when the game was almost over that it wasn’t going to happen. So I went through the whole game with the same auto rifle, shotgun, bow combo until right at the end when I finally bought a sniper rifle and an AK 47. WHY? Were there people out there saying, “Yeah Far Cry is fun but you know whaat it really needs? Way less weapons to use. It’d be way better if you used the same 3 weapons for all 40+ hours,” I....why? Is it the microtransactions? I don’t think so because that system is garbage but I guess it could be. I’ve heard people say there’s more than enough money but they are wrong.
I used a bow with the explosive arrows for most of the game and you have to BUY explosive arrows. They’re quite expensive. I could have avoided this by using an RPG but in the universe of Far Cry 5 a Rocket Launcger is slower and less effective than an arrow. Watch this. The RPG is USELESS. Enemise can basically just slightly move and avoid them. It’s insane. This is a big fucking problem because if you but explosive arrows and do most of the content like I did, you’ll have enough money to buy the scope magazine and silencer for about 2 weapons, maybe buy 2 more and buy one or two vehicles. And thats it. This change DRAMATICALLY reduces the amount of weapons you can use and makes the game actively less fucking fun. Again....WHY? I actually don’t understand. Somebody please help me understand.
This is an absolutely stupid terrible, almost game breaking shitty change and it sucks balls and is indefensible.
Hunting and Crafting
There’s one other big change that sucks. For some reason the heart of the crafting system has been removed here. Not the annoying, shitty, busy work crafting system that doesn’t really require any gameplay mind you. You still have to craft drugs and molotov cocktails and explosives that require you to loot things (don’t worry we’ll get to that) and pick flowers. No only the fun crafting system. You know, the one that actually had a gameplay system attached to it. Listen, I understand that crafting systems are a dirty word in games now. But Far Cry’s crafting was more than a well implemented progression system. It drove a major part of the game. Hunting. With all progression now moved to a skill tree hunting is completely irrelevant. There is simply no reason to do it outside of a small cash reward. And the reward is so small it’s simply not worth it. Seriously. A bear skin is like 100 bucks. Less than an explosive arrow. To refill my explosive arrows I’d need to kill like 6 to 8 bears. Fast travel back and sell them in an annoying menu. Its useless. And if you do decide to hunt you’ll find it much less fun. There are WAY less animals around. I saw ONE fucking bison in the entire dozens of hours. Mabye 5 bears. 15 or 20 deer. I literally have seen more deer in my suburban florida negihborhood. There no badgers. An unforgivable ommision considering the series history.
Animals flee at absurd car like speeds and they never menace the player. If you shoot an animal it takes off a such an aburd speed it just isn’t even worth pursuing. Why? IN previous games animals were dangerous adversaries that could kill the player. Bears in Far Cry 5 die very easily and never really threaten the player. The same with all of the other wildlife. I’m not sure who decided that hunting wasn’t a core part of the Far Cry experience but I think it’s a major step back and a feature that had always been one of my favorites.
Skill Points. Everyones favorite mechanic.
With progression moved to a skill tree it begs the question of why it exists at all. I’d have much preferred the elimination of a skill point progression system while keeping the crafting. If it’s because of the story. Well, if there one thing I can say with absolute confidence it’s that realism and believability weren’t a major concern anywhere else.
The skill tree is pretty much pointless. You have to spend HOURS gaining points to carry a fourth weapon. It feels arbitrary and annoying here. Prevous games did this but you in those you had to hunt animals to craft the holster. It got you in the world hunting the most dangerous animals. It was fun and had a very thin narrative excuse. What’s the excuse here. Why do I have to unlock this. Wtf? If you’re not going to make me hunt dangerous animals for this can you just let me carry the 3rd and 4th gun? Because, you know, that makes the game more fun?
Same with the health upgrades. Why? Why not just scale the enemies. IT never feels like you actually are stonger because the enemies get stronger with you. It’s pointless. The others are so lackluster and dumb it’s not even worth it. Chain takedowns, unlike the last games, just never actually happen here for some reason.
They’d have been better off keeping the hunting and removing the skill tree and simply letting you get the parachute and wing suit from a mission, give me a mission where a bear ate someone with a four gun holster and we need to retrieve it. Just get rid of the skill tree. It doesn’t ever impact your gameplay. Well done skill progression systems work when they serve to SLOWLY introduce you to new and more advanced systems or mechanics. Nothing in the skill tree here changes the game in any way. It needs to go.
What do you DO?
As for the typical gameplay loop of roaming a world and clearing outposts. IT’s still here. However the outposts are extremely well designed this time. They don’t feel like cookie cutter clusters of buildings. They all feel like real places. From lumber mills, to state parks to diners to satelite centers each one feels meticulously crafted for the combat encounters they house. And, there’s less of them.
Less outposts of a much higher quality is a big step forward for the game. Ubisoft Montreal hit it out of the park on this front. All of the outposts and areans look unique. Each one feels different and they all look cool and offer the usual, very good, Far Cry mayhem. You can do it all not getting spotted stealh if that’s your thing, or big loud and stupid or if you’re like me all of those over the course of the game. However, the penalty and reinforcement mechanic for being spotted and alarm triggers is now completely neutered. An alarm basically means like 10 more dudes show up. Remember in the previous games where tripping an alarm often meant having to flee and try again? Yeah that’s not a thing anymore. It just means a slightly more difficult rampage. An incorrect change imo. Also there are never more than 2 or at most 3 alarms so the stealth has certainly, like in AC origins been heavily de-emphasized.
So let’s wrap it up here by asking an important question. Does this game need to exist? And can it still be Far Cry if there’s even less open world and more scripted content?
Far Cry 5 Is A Step In A New Direction But It’s Hardly A Far Cry From Far Cry
Alright. So back to my original question. Does there need to be a Far Cry 6? Here’s the thing. I’ve played Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, 3, and Bloodborne and while I read several Dark Souls 3 reviews that said it was time for something different I just don’t understand that. I am not even close to being done with what Dark Souls brings. From software can continue selling me Dark Souls games into perpetuity as far as I’m concerned. It isn’t the number of games. It’s how those games work. Dark Souls still always feels fresh and challenging. The enemies, levels and bosses are always beautiful and lovingly crafted and designed. Nothing about it ever has felt boring to me. IT’s still going strong. And I think the reason for that isn’t the number on the box, or even how many years of development it takes to create one. It’s the deliberateness of the design. Soulsbourne feels lovingly and meticulously crafted. It feels like each and every enemy was created, designed and placed right where it needed to be. It feels like each and every level was created with a gameplay moment in mind. Nothing feels haphazd (Ok Lost Izalith but you know what I mean).
But here’s something funny. I sorta liked but only kinda, Nioh. Was the combat good? Yeah sure. Just like Far Cry 5's gunplay is good. But Dark Souls isn’t just that combat. It’s everything. Nioh featured bland and repetitive enemy design. But nothing else about it captures what makes Dark Souls special. The loving and meticulous design. The enemies in a Soulsbourne game aren’t just combat obstacles. Each one tells a story in it’s design and placement (this is less true in much of Dark Souls 2). Nioh felt like Dark Souls after it jumps the shark. Like a Dark Souls game made ONLY to be a Dark Souls game. Far Cry 5 too often feels like a Nioh of itself.
And like Nioh it’s got enough that it does well to not be a total waste of your time.
Far Cry 5 features many linear scripted missions that are absolutely top notch. The cutscenes acting and story production, while ulimately meaningless is very well done. And of course the mayhem of it’s combat is still, during each little gameplay moment, fun. But frankly the open world stuff is getting very very old. By the end of the final area I was pushing myself through to get to the end.
I did a pretty long review of Assasins Creed Origins and ended up saying that for all the talk about reseitn ghe series and taking longer to make it still felt like a haphard rushed product. Far Cry 5 is better than AC Origins. But I think it still suffers from the same crisis of identity and rushed production schedule. What would Far Cry 6 be like if it had a 5 year development cycle. Enough time to really think through everything in their story. Enough time to edit themselves. Enough time to make more linear areas and design the open world as meticulously as they designed the story missions?
I think that ends up being a much much better game.
The “freedom” of a huge open world gets boring real fast. Faster with each installment. I don’t think the game needs another like this. BUT, if this game showed me anything it’s that Ubi Montreal is capable of making fantastic linear, narrative FPS levels. Those aspects were the best part of the game by a mile. In fact the rest felt just as much like repetitive busy work as number 4 and Primal did. Except this time I didn’t have hunting to distract me.
IF the series is going to keep going It needs to drastically increase the amount of linear story missions. And decrease the open world. Right now you’ll spend 80% of your time doing the same open world shit and 20 in those fantastic hand crafted levels and it’s still boring.
If Far Cry 6 was split 50 50 they might just have something truly fantastic. Right now the open world stuff means they can’t spend as much time as was needed to develop the characters and story. They had to spend too much time making outposts.
So if the game is going to be exactly like this one? No there doesn’t need to be another. The more I play these Ubisoft games the more I see the seams in the design. And the more I see those seams the less DESIGNED the game feels. In the end, like Assassins Creed, the game needs go away for longer this time. Come back when there’s a reason for this game to exist BEYOND “Well shit Far Cry always sells pretty good. I understand Ubisoft is a company that exists to make money. But they make that money by providing a service that has diminishing returns if they sell us the same thing over and over. Far Cry 5 is as good a place as any to leave it for a good long while.
But if they have the guts to REALLY re-imagine what a Far Cry game can be. IF they have the guts to actually lean into the linear narrative elements that this game proves they have the skill to excel at? They yeah, sign me up.
As it stands this Far Cry scores about as well as I would have scored the 4th game. A 7.5. Worth the money, maybe worth the time. Mindless fun most of the time. Above average. But you won’t remember this game 3 months from now. I’m chomping at the bit to play the Dark Souls remaster in May and I’ve already played that game 8 times all the way through. No one will ever ask for a remaster of this.
Maybe that’s good enough for most people. IT’s probably good enough for Ubisoft. But it’s not all it could be and that’s not good enough for me.
Pliny The Welder has a twitter account and a Youtube channel. He also has recently developed really shitty foot pain. Like right on the inside of his right big toe? Kind of on, like, the bottom? Ms. Welder hectors Pliny to seek proffesional medical care but Pliny puts no faith in charlatans and snake oil salesman and their spells. Pliny will shout at the toe until it stops hurting. Or cut it off if it offends him. Until such day as the toe stops it’s arrogance or is cast aside he shall imbibe of Advil and know no pain.
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