Far Cry 5
For all the anti-consumer practices in the AAA gaming industry today, and despite my transition into Nintendo’s way of things, Ubisoft has always been the one that has continued to pump out games I end up loving. Watch Dogs 2 is one of my favourite games of the generation, and I’ve enjoyed numerous others – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Far Cry 4, Steep and South Park: The Fractured But Whole to name but a few. While a growing number of traits of these franchises are now shared, the Ubisoft “formula” is one I’m a massive fan of – big open worlds to explore at a pace of my choice (leisurely), knocking off objectives in an order of my choice and generally immersing myself in the world.
Far Cry 5 is not only the latest Far Cry, but the latest “Ubisoft formula” game. A new, freshly-themed Far Cry (after the relative similarity of 4 to 3), set in a Montana overruled by a nefarious religious cult obsessed with flowers, flamethrowers and Amazing Grace. And, having completed it, how did it fare for me? (This review will not spoil plot points, it will only give a brief gist of how the game goes. It will also only cover the offline base game, not DLC or Far Cry Arcade content.)
I’ll make no bones about it – I adored it. Far Cry 5 refines and improves a number of things from previous Far Cry/Ubisoft games, but it’s an incredible experience. It has its problems as well, but they don’t tarnish the game overall.
Far Cry 5 begins with something I have been aching for in Ubisoft’s big open world games for a long time – a character creator. A far cry from the boring stock blokes (Marcus Holloway aside) of the past, you are able to create your character from scratch. I always yearn for this in open world games, as it is a huge boost to their immersiveness – in Fallout 4, for instance, I had grand plans of what to do with my vault dweller, but I got so into the world that I effectively became her – and could not choose any option/route that I wouldn’t have chosen for real myself.
It is unfortunately a little less involving in Far Cry 5, though, as your actual options in terms of character development are limited – you only see your character properly in the Customisation panel and the odd wanted poster throughout the game (which keep a bafflingly up-to-date record of your clothing choices). You don’t speak beyond the odd grunt when jumping or being shot, you’re not named – your colleagues refer to you as “Rook” as you’re a rookie, everyone else calls you “Deputy” – and people don’t even use he or she except in the odd snippet of incidental dialogue. It’s kind of jarring when you’re in a cutscene with two other people talking about you, and they keep using “they” when referring to you when everyone else gets the “he”/”she” treatment.
Your game options are also less involving than in something like Fallout 4, although that isn’t really a problem – it’s a Far Cry game. Pacifism is clearly not the way you’re meant to play this game – you have no way of neutralising enemies without murdering them. You can be stealthy, but most objectives involve securing an area – and this can only be achieved through fatalities.
You still have plenty of options, though, and Far Cry 5 brings from Watch Dogs 2 one of my favourite techniques – getting other people to do your dirty work for you. You can have up to two companions, which can be added to through randomly-generated allies or through a set of specialist characters unlocked through side missions, including a grizzly bear called Cheeseburger. These companions can then be ordered to commence murdering while you hide in a bush. I imagine many players prefer to get their own hands dirty, which is also an option and is also satisfying to play in Far Cry 5. But I’m patient, and scared of things.
One change from earlier Far Cry games is the exploration. Rather than the old Far Cry/Assassin’s Creed method of climbing a series of towers or high buildings and triggering the opening-up of a large area, you now have to find maps, interact with people, or generally just explore to uncover activities across Montana. It’s a more dynamic way of going about things, promoting smaller sub-side-quest activities like rescuing civilians apprehended by the villainous cult, and makes Far Cry 5 the most satisfying Ubisoft world to explore that I’ve ever been in.
Speaking of, it’s interesting – and at times annoying – how everything ties into the main game. Rather than major quests progressing the story and everything else unlocking bonuses, absolutely everything that contributes to the downfall of the enemies counts towards overall progression. In Far Cry 5, you are aiming to take down The Father, the leader of the cult running rampant across Montana – but first, must eliminate three major followers of his that each dominate around a third of the map. Each have their own ways, and can be tackled in any order.
As you complete main quests, side quests and other activites like settlement takedowns and bunker raiding, a little bar for the area’s “boss” goes up. At certain points, the game forces you into a major quest which advances the story. To an extent, I was fond of it – I have a tendency, especially in Ubisoft games, to force my way through all the optional content first, becoming massively overpowered through excessive upgrades, then blitz the story at the end to finish things up. So it meant that never occurred. But at the same time, when you’re just wanting to do something else, it’s irritating in a game that is otherwise completely free to explore to suddenly sharply force you into story stuff.
I promised no major spoilers, so I won’t talk about the story’s ending in detail. But good god. I still don’t know how to feel about it. In a very nice touch, though, you get “parallel-universed” after the credits have rolled, so you can mop up any further activities you left untouched afterwards. This is something I really wish more games did – allowing you to explore post-game even if it doesn’t make sense with the ending.
Far Cry 5 was a wholly positive experience. An already-huge game just from the single-player main story – each of the three leaders almost feels like their own game – Arcade appears to bring a huge amount of extra stuff to proceedings. And the DLC – which includes Far Cry 3! – seems set to expand on the game even further with three diverse mini-adventures. The game didn’t quite top Watch Dogs 2 for me, but it came within spitting distance of it.
How sweet the sound.