In the lead-up to its release, Far Cry 4‘s premise has been a simple one: “every second is a story.”
Following on the anarchic heels of the addicting Far Cry 3, the latest title in Ubisoft’s long-running adventure FPS series takes players on a different journey, away from the tropics and islands of its predecessor and instead taking things deep into the mountains of Kyrat, making for a trip that may be familiar to some, but completely extravagant and exciting all along the way.
Placed in the role of protagonist is Ajay Ghale, a young Kyrati descendant returning to his homeland from America to spread his mother’s ashes in the mountains, but things quickly escalate in the campaign and often time explosively.
Placed under the rule of the unpredictable dictator Pagan Min, Far Cry 4‘s story quickly becomes a tale of choice and dilemma — Ajay’s noble intentions quickly get wrapped inside political and moral complications within the war of Kyrat, with Min’s soldiers constantly at odds with Kyrat’s resistance forces, The Golden Path.
Political, social, racial, and moral complications are nothing new to the Far Cry series, but here more than ever, the player’s actions will have a tangible effect on the landscape of Kyrat, and the consequences are always what is the most interesting to explore.
Taken as a sort of fusion between action-adventure, RPG, and FPS games all rolled up into one, just a quick trek is almost overwhelming at first, as its world map is filled with things to do and never runs out of activities or goals to accomplish.
Whether it’s in hunting animals to craft new syringes and equipment, scouting out Bell Towers to unlock new map areas, or finding the best way to crack through an enemy Outpost (or the newly-added Fortresses), the game is filled to the brim with content and activities that always make exploring its giant mountains and gaping valleys worthwhile.
Open-world have been nothing new, as Fallout, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Crysis, and countless others have filled the genre with plenty of variety and situations, the Far Cry series’ strengths in the genre have always made it a cut above the rest, mainly through its sheer unpredictability.
While the game is filled with structure through its many objectives, Far Cry 4 is truly wild — the Kyrati ecosystem of animals, its enemies, and circumstances always make a playthrough feel different and unique, and giving each mission and event numerous paths to completion.
While going through enemy outposts and finding Bell Towers, I always managed to find so many different options for completion. While favoring the sneaky route by going in with a bow, a sniper rifle, or nifty new weapons like the Auto-Cross and throwing knives, Far Cry 4‘s biggest strength is its wealth of options to complete missions.
Even with just a quick scan of the area, taking an enemy outpost can be accomplished through conveniently-placed explosives, a wild tiger or elephant stampeding through the area, or going in loud with all guns blazing.
Sure, some options may be better than others, but blowing your cover or accidentally sending things south doesn’t (often) lead to a mission being blown. Instead, it provides mayhem, moments of improvisation, and thinking on the fly.
Far Cry 4 is a wild experience; its moment-to-moment gameplay rivals the best of action set-piece masters like Call of Duty, has enough content to rival titles like The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age. It’s plentiful in content and gameplay enough to fill three games, and while it’s a satisfying and hearty experience, its gameplay retains a keen edge, despite some familiarities.
With Far Cry 3 being a fairly dramatic, and wholly satisfying, departure from previous Far Cry titles, 4‘s biggest drawback is its desire to play it safe. Aside from new weapons and equipment bringing new elements alongside the change of scenery, players of 3 will definitely feel a sense of deja vu, as the core gameplay mechanics are largely unchanged from the previous installment.
The cycle of finding Bell Towers, defeating enemy-held Outposts, and traversing the map for mission points will bring a definite sense of retreading old ground, especially when compared to the growing formula of Ubisoft’s other titles like Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed.
Even though the gameplay is familiar and may be stagnating, especially compared against Ubisoft’s other franchises, it maintains the series’ solid foundations for exceptional gameplay and combat with continually upgraded weapons, equipment, and abilities.
Aside from the familiarity issue, the title more than makes up for in the variety of its missions and objectives, whether players end up trying to tackle all of the side missions, liberate the Outposts and Fortresses, or go after the elusive wildlife waiting to be used toward crafting upgrades and collecting plants for syringes.
In addition, the game’s campaign missions and side quests also take players to the reaches of Kyrat, whether it’s in the various acts done for The Golden Path, assisting hilarious stoner duo Yogi and Reggie on psychedelic-fueled quests, or experiencing the supernatural in the game’s most visually-arresting missions, the Shangri-La side quests.
In assisting rebel group The Golden Path and its forceful leaders, Sabal and Amita, in their efforts against Min, player choice and morality play a deep role in the outcome of the story and its numerous endings available.
Though fairly binary in nature, the crux of the decision-making comes between supporting either Amita or Sabal at certain points in the campaign missions, and choosing to side with either Sabal’s more traditionally-minded views of Kyrat’s future, or aiding in Amita’s quest to bring the country into the modern era and progress.
Though it comes down to one of two options, the circumstances presented by each split in the campaign missions leads to some interesting and complex outcomes, with each decision never being merely just black-or-white: there is equal amounts of good and bad in supporting either faction, giving a nice refreshing change of pace to the mire binary moral choice systems in other games.
Far Cry 4‘s freedom and willingness to let players find their own fun gives the game a huge amount of its appeal and core focus, though at points does work against its narrative and characterization.
Having the leash taken off and being thrown out into the wild is exhilarating and thrilling, yet often leads to story progression feeling unsatisfying in comparison. despite his terrific introduction and an excellent performance by Troy Baker, Pagan Min’s insidious debut at the start of the game is the most that players will see of him throughout the entire game.
Despite his prominence in the game’s story, it’s disappointing that Min’s appearance becomes minimal following the game’s introduction, leading him to appear only periodically, more often through various radio calls that are amusing, but not as fulfilling given the character’s great appeal and scene-stealing presence in the game’s earlier chapters.
Likewise, Ajay himself largely remains an uninteresting protagonist that falls too far into the typical Generic Hero archetype. Though his intentions and backstory are a noble step up from previous titles, Ajay’s modest beginnings as an unknowing Kyrati-American in unfamiliar territory is quickly lost against his exceptional skills of combat and hang-gliding thousands of feet in the air.
In taking players high into the mountains, Far Cry 4 often reaches even higher and very nearly touches the skies above it — it’s only in a few areas that its ambition slightly avoids its grasp. Despite its weaker aspects in story and characters, it keeps players coming back to Kyrat.
Whether it’s in play sessions of only half an hour or five hours, every experience nevertheless is rewarding and makes its open world one with exploring every acre of. Sure, this title’s heritage may lie with previous titles of old, but not all of it is familiar ground — seek hard enough, and there will be plenty of treasures for the adventurous.