(This is a guest post based on an article that originally appeared on Medium)
Far Cry 5 is without a doubt the most fun the series has ever been. From its ridiculously over the top emergent gameplay to its hilarious side quests, Far Cry 5 is a delight to play. Even weighed down with a poorly paced and subpar story, the recent installment in the long running franchise proves that this series can still shine.
Taking place in a fictional county in Montana, you play an unnamed and silent sheriff’s deputy as you try to rid the area of a violent cult who are convinced that doomsday is near. A conviction that may hold some truth as radio broadcasts throughout the environment hint that the much larger world outside of Montana is enduring a crisis. Sadly those bite sized narrative chunks scattered throughout the game exceed the mediocre and much less interesting villains of the story.
Like other games in the series the beginning starts with an engaging and terror inducing introduction to the main baddie of the title, Joseph Seed. He is a man not meant to be crossed. His power is made all the more scary by his brainwashed followers who will do anything to prevent him from harm. Even if that includes sacrificing oneself in a particularly gruesome moment that causes your arrest attempt to go completely wrong. All of this leads to an intense and engaging tutorial sequence which sees you on the run, stranded from the rest of your squad.
So it’s a shame that after such a creepy introduction to the villain that the main plot falls apart. It’s biggest crime is that it’s just not interesting. Unlike Far Cry 4 in which I looked forward to any encounter I’d have with its big bad Pegan Min, or Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro, in this game I began to dread seeing Joseph Seed or his lieutenants, and for all the wrong reasons.
Without spoiling anything let me just say that they’re boring and their sequences are dull and repetitive, especially those involving Joseph’s brother, Jacob. One big problem with the plot is that it falls into an odd narrative trap.
As you work your way around the world completing tasks you fill up a resistance meter in each of the three regions. Each meter is associated with one of Joseph Seeds lieutenants. Jacob, Faith, and John. The meter is broken into sections and as the sections get filled you gain the attention of the region’s lieutenant, and then they kidnap you.
Over the course of the game you get captured a laughable amount of times. Fill a section of the meter, get kidnapped, rinse, repeat. Not only does this make the bad guys seem incredibly incompetent as you constantly escape or are let go, but they don’t react any differently after you’ve killed one of the other leaders of the family, although the biggest flaw with all of this is just how repetitive some of the sections become. Jacob Seed, as mentioned above, becomes incredibly boring. Every time he kidnaps you you are forced to replay the same ‘obstacle course’ and while this repetitiveness does have an overall theme and narrative reason, it’s just not fun to play, and in a game where so much of it is fun, this seemed like a failure.
As far as gameplay goes Faith’s region was my least favorite due to an over-reliance on a drug called Bliss. Bliss is a drug used by the cult to manipulate and maintain control over its members. It quite literally puts them in a zombie like state and Blissed out enemies are their own zombie-esque enemy type. In theory this should be all fine and dandy, but the drug, which is scattered everywhere, causes the screen to turn blurry and objects you’re looking at appear as doubles. I found this effect slightly nauseating. In some ways it reminded me of the Fade from Dragon Age: Origins. It’s one of my all time favorite games but the Fade with it’s blurry screen is one of my least favorite levels in all of gaming. And I know drugs are far from new to the Far Cry series, but they have always been my least favorite aspect, and to have it play such a prominent role in this story and it’s gameplay rubbed me the wrong way.
As for the other two regions, story stuff aside, they’re great!
Early into the game, after getting the hang of the ropes via a small tutorial area and a larger but still tiny introductory island, you are thrust into the world to tackle missions, side quests, and other activities as you see fit. With the exception of a small few plot important compounds, no area is off limits.
In a series known for its exotic and lush environments, many were worried that the forested backdrop of Montana wouldn’t provide the same thrills, but I’m happy to report that it’s fantastic and easily my favorite map in the entire Far Cry series.
The world is beautiful, but more importantly, it’s believable.
While past games have left me feeling that the layout and design didn’t seem real, this game goes out of it’s way to create an environment that feels lived in, but also it makes logical sense. Driving around I was completely immersed. At moments losing myself in the thought that here I was, driving through a small Montana town, that is, until someone opened fire on me.
And opening fire on you the enemies will. But don’t worry, you have a large assortment of guns to level the playing field. Bows, LMGs, SMGs, rocket launchers, and even flamethrowers are all at your disposal. There’s even a super radical secret gun that I won’t spoil here, but trust me when I say this, doing a specific person’s side quests are worth it to get this doozy of a weapon. I suppose this is where I should mention that the game has microtransactions, and that they can be used to purchase guns and vehicles, but thankfully, any item can be obtained with in game currency.
While the premium currency (silver) can be found around the map (each outpost has a safe you can open which contains 40 silver), it was never really necessary. I have yet to even use what I collected over the course of my play time.
With the money you obtain from hunting and selling skins, completing missions, and partaking in Far Cry 5’s Arcade mode, money is in abundance and any player will be able to buy whatever it is they want without splurging with real world cash. Often microtransactions are a huge turn off, but here they just feel like an alternate option and not a forced component, this becomes more apparent as while certain special guns and vehicles cost more, their prices aren’t so outrageous that it’ll push you to whip out your credit card. In testing this I bought every ‘premium’ gun in the course of my 32 hours and I never once paid for anything with real world cash.
When the game begins you can only carry two weapons, but as you earn perk points you gain the option to expand your inventory to a maximum of four guns. Though it is worth noting that some perks require special prerequisites be met before you can unlock them, but they’re just mission related and nothing is ultimately too hard to unlock.
Like other Far Cry titles your tasks within the game are similar. You’ll hunt animals, complete quests, and take over outposts and kill hundreds if not thousands of bad guys, but unlike other games, even just other Ubisoft games in general, the fat has been stripped away and only the lean and most savory meat remains.
Gone are the days where you hunt an absurdly large number of beasts to create a wallet or other gear. Instead you just complete challenges which then award you points to attribute within the skill tree to unlock new abilities. During the course of play I completed all 70 challenges. None of them were too challenging or dull and the system worked as a good means to push me to explore all that the game had to offer. The game is more streamlined and in making this design decision the tedium and boredom of past titles has been completely removed. With the exception of some story bits mentioned already above.
The simple fact is that this game is fun. Rarely did a moment pass in which I wasn’t experiencing joy. It’s made all the more enjoyable by a world that doesn’t take things too seriously.
From side quests which tasked me with helping a man achieve teleportation to another which had me track down an ever elusive pee tape, the game is full of laughs. Even the weapon and vehicle descriptions are worthy of a chuckle or two.
Though one of my favorite moments came as I was playing co-op with my girlfriend and I drank a new item in the game called a homeopathic, the game has different ones which each grant a special ability and the one I downed made my punches infinitely stronger. Immediately after drinking the potion I came upon a bull having sex with a cow and I punched it and sent it flying. I must have laughed for a solid ten minutes straight. Never has cock-blocking been so funny.
The moment described above about sums up my experience with the game. It’s just simple and unforgettable fun. It’s not a tough game and oddly that made it even better. So much effort has been put into just allowing the player to have a legitimately good time. Few games these days put such a focus on just having fun and this game does it especially well. The various elements of the game combine in such a wonderful way that unexpected and silly moments are happening at almost every turn. You can even throw shovels at enemies and pin them to walls, and now I want more shovel throwing in future games.
All of that leads to a general sense that the game is filled with heart. There’s a corniness to the whole affair and I feel the developers had fun coming up with all sorts of stupid jokes to litter around the world.
Even the glitches within the game, of which there are a few, add to the silliness. While glitches are never something to praise, in this game, for me they added a level of unpredictability. Granted I should note that most of the glitches I encountered weren’t game breaking. Often they just involved physics going a bit wonky. Always to hilarious effect. Usually occurring after I threw a body or two into the back of a truck. Though one thing that did irk me is how often dead enemies clip through walls and objects in the environment. I can accept a truck achieving take off due to a weird glitch involving bodies in the back, but even that is less immersion breaking than shooting a dude and seeing his leg or torso appear through the other side of a wall.
I should mention that my partner who was also playing the game on her console just across the room fell through the map once, and in another occurrence two planes flying above me froze in mid-air, but that was the worst of it between the two of us. Unlike past Ubisoft games my console never even crashed to a blue screen. All other instances of glitches were just physics breaking fun.
Speaking of fun, another new thing added to the game is prepper stashes. These are a combination of puzzles and exploration and they are by far my new favorite thing in the entire series. While not difficult to solve, they are neat little elements that show off the creativity of the game development team. In one I walked through what amounted to a haunted house, not a real one mind you, but the type you pay to visit during Halloween, and in another I had to escape and survive a heavily booby trapped underground bunker. Think Home Alone but ten times more deadly. The game has just over 25 of these and most of them are a treat. Plus each one gives you multiple perk point, so they’re a great way to level up.
Also new to the game is the guns for hire. These are nine NPCs who can join your ranks (up to a max of two at a time) to fight alongside you. Each one comes with their own abilities. They even offer unique dialogue, though in some cases this can break down and they’ll start repeating certain lines over and over. Out of the guns for hire I fell in love with Peaches the cougar and Cheeseburger the diabetic grizzly bear. If you wanna see evil cultists get just completely destroyed, call in your grizzly bear.
Along with the nine named and important NPCs you can also recruit an extra three random NPCs from the multitudes scattered around the world. I personally wasn’t a big fan of them as I much preferred the personalities of the main nine, but this is a neat little option if you’d rather form your own posse. At first they kinda suck, but as you play with the random recruits they will unlock two extra abilities, also randomized.
After you’ve roamed the world and killed your fair share of bad guys a welcome additional distraction is arcade mode. This is a tough beast to discuss in a review as it’s enjoyment is dependent upon the creativity of the Far Cry community. But based off the offering there now, I had fun with it. Well at least the single player portion of it. You see, arcade is user created maps with various objectives. Most are just outposts that task you with killing all the enemies while others have you seek out and kill a specific character. My favorite is called Journeys and these task you with escaping an area and let me tell you, some people have created some amazing single player content. I highly recommend seeking out these three levels to get a full grasp of what can be done with the map editor: Upside down, The Last of Us, and Hospital.
The multiplayer aspect however is not so good. At least not yet. In the course of play I managed to get in 6 hours of competitive multiplayer and I disliked almost every moment of it. I personally hated the maps but that could change as people become more accustomed to the level editor and begin to churn out well crafted content. Admittedly this won’t be an area of the game I return to but I can still appreciate it’s placement in the game and for that reason my distaste of it won’t negatively impact my review. In general it just seems like something that will leave people mixed. during the course of chat I heard people exclaim that the multiplayer is great, and in other exchanges I heard people yell about how much they hated it.
Far Cry 5 is a great game that is loaded to the brim with stuff to do. It’s not hyperbole when I state that it’s my favorite of the entire series. It is a shame that a mediocre story weighs it down, especially in a title so dedicated to cutting the fat of previous entries, but it’s a testament to just how enjoyable this game is that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Although it does help that the plot ends on what I found to be a very strong note. It’s sure to divide the community, but it’s implications set up what could be a fun path for the series to go down in later installments.
If you’re looking for escapist first person action at it’s finest then Far Cry 5 is worth your time and money.