Cops and Cults
Far Cry returns with it’s fifth annual installment.
I saw the sun rising again this morning, so I guess Ubisoft is putting another sandbox game out. Ubisoft is to sandbox games what LucasArts was to point and click adventure games in the ‘80s, meaning they pumped out the same played out tripe every year like a clock. This year they showcased this with yet another addition to the Far Cry series.
Since it’s a Far Cry game, we can’t forget the formula: a charismatic villain with an army of followers takes over a small isolated nation and has to be opposed by a gormless protagonist with untapped survival skills they developed from routinely leaving all their gift shopping for the last weekend before Christmas. But what part of the world could audiences believe would allow itself to be taken over and isolated by a charismatic psychopath with inexplicable legions of followers?
The game takes place in an isolated county in Montana that has been taken over by a doomsday cult run by the usual charismatic villain. There was no money left for the protagonist’s charisma budget, so we’re stuck with a faceless, silent protagonist who is sent into the heart of the cult to arrest their leader.
The cult is comprised of religious fundamentalists who think that gun ownership is more important than basic personal hygiene, but they’re also racially diverse psychedelic drug users sporting beards and man buns. This makes the motivation for the player much more politically minded, since apparently we need to inject politics into our mindless entertainment now.
Far Cry 5 has much of what now should be expected: liberate the outposts, stop the convoys, find collectibles, stare at people until little icons appear over their heads like little stars on Christmas trees – but some efforts seem to have escaped some of the Ubisoft’s worst excesses. For example, you don’t have to climb radio towers to unlock the map. As for liberating districts, there are only three. There’s one for each of the main sub bosses, although the charisma budget was still running a bit low so they’re all basically the same character as the main boss, infuriatingly self-assured soft spoken religious nuts talking condescendingly at you.
The game as a whole is laid out in a manner that I think all sandbox games should be – the linear plot advances to the next stage after you’ve done a certain number of missions, it doesn’t matter which or in what order.
Surprisingly, this one actually has an ending. It doesn’t just dump you back in the sandbox after the final story mission, so don’t plan to leave stuff aside for post-ending mess abouts, because there won’t be any. The ending of the game – let’s just raise the spoiler alert level to ‘elevated’ – is a bit of a downer. Not disappointing, just depressing. Granted that’s why I seek out stories, to actually feel something other than the constant unending rage I feel from a day to day basis, but it has killed any future inclination I might have to replay the game knowing that it won’t turn out all that well. And unlike God of War 3 in which turning off the game is the only sure-fire way to ensure that the main character isn’t going screw the whole world over and yet we play anyway for the fun and spectacular combat, the gameplay of Far Cry 5 is just going through the same usual Ubisoft sandbox motions as always.
The apple has not fallen far from the trees of the first two games; it’s still relatively easy to get a bow or a silenced sniper rifle, squat in a bush and have all the outpost’s and guards taken out before they can finish daydreaming about marrying their first cousins. Unfortunately, the game has forgotten that you can spawn as many attack helicopters as you want. Ninety percent of the missions are outdoors, and it gets extremely trivial when you show up in a helicopter with missiles on it.
The game is about as good as Ubisoft sandbox games get these days. It’s got Ubisoft’s strengths on display, and not so many of its habits. The story is pretty relevant for the times. That was what was so depressing about it.