Far Cry 5 Review — Exploring a Cult of Personality
Far Cry 5's window into a cult-captured Hope County, Montana is a captivating experience, never wavering from excellent open-world gameplay design.
Rarely can any game series capture the spirit of adventure in quite the same way that the Far Cry series is able to. Often placed in novel environments and pitted against insurmountable odds, Ubisoft has long-since studied the art of open-world game design and settled on a generally satisfying formula for the Far Cry series: climb tower, reveal missions, liberate outposts, rinse and repeat. And while Far Cry 5 will hit many of the same notes as other games in the series, it’s adoption of new open-world mechanics and focus on story will be both jarring and deeply satisfying for returning fans and newcomers alike.
If you’ve been living under a rock, Far Cry 5 took a larger leap when it comes to setting than its precessors. Where Far Cry 3 takes place on the tropical Rook Islands and Far Cry 4 based its world in a Bangladesh-themed country Kyrat, Far Cry 5 doesn’t stray into developed or undeveloped countries. Instead, you are the deputy sheriff in Hope County, Montana responding to a growing cult known as the Project at Eden’s Gate and their charismatic leader, Joseph Seed. Following the opening scene, you are dropped in the wilds of Montana with little direction, a ton of enemies, and no chance of backup from the National Guard.
Despite speculation, Far Cry 5 in no way suffers from the domestic backdrop — given the state of the world you are dropped into, the county is just as disorderly as any third-world or hostilely controlled nation. Hope County is ostensibly as lawless as any other game in the Far Cry series, and just as satisfying to grow your own resistance in. While the landscape of the world remains largely static throughout gameplay, the amazing detail and graphics pumped into the game relegate the scenery to an interesting backdrop to otherwise compelling missions.
Beyond hitting the right tone and creating a beautiful backdrop for your over-the-top gunplay, it’s worth pointing out that Hope County and Far Cry 5 as a whole is a much brighter game than others in the series — very literally. Ubisoft went all out with the sun effects. Whether you are leaving a house or exiting a bunker, expect to find
As mentioned before, Far Cry 5 has offered me one of the most dramatic turnarounds in opinion — after binging all current-generation Far Cry‘s in the past couple months, I was certain I had the formula under wraps. However, developer Ubisoft made deliberate changes to the formula in many ways to the shake up provided to the Assassin’s Creed series with Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Far Cry 5 embraces the idea of directionless play far more than the already open-world design from previous Far Cry games. Following the introduction, you are given little-to-no direction in the dead of night to escape the possible captors, find the missing members of your entourage, and learning the lay of the land.
That all sounds positive, right? For me, I couldn’t agree initially. With very little introduction to the characters, removal of a minimap, and the entire replacement of “towers” to reveal nearby areas and surrounding missions (something joked about early on), it’s easy to feel both lost and overwhelmed early on.
Early on, these felt like sacrifices being made to aim for a more minimalist UI and highlight the stunning backdrop scenery leading to frustration as I trekked across the map to reveal what was hidden under the fog. On top of that, outside of the general mission of taking down Joseph Seed, you may go 3-4 hours before the game truly has its hooks in you. Thankfully, the game does get its hooks into you largely thanks to both the characters and a rewarding system of progression that naturally builds over time.
Obviously, the Far Cry series is known for their dynamic antagonists — and there are good arguments to be made that Joseph Seed and his family rival the likes of Pagan Minn and Vaas. However, this is expected as Far Cry 5‘s bread and butter. More important to the game are how well the characters themselves are written. While some characters are far more cartoony than others — for instance, an aimless scientist or a flamethrowing redneck who loves taking his pants off before clearing crowds of enemies — each person you stumble upon in Hope County has a certain flair and is likable in their own way. This is a long leap from Far Cry 4 which otherwise gave you two sympathetic anti-heroes and practically no other reason to compel your journey. While I would still personally have enjoyed a developed protagonist over a nameless, semi-customizable avatar, Far Cry 5 offers much more in story than any game in the series before it.
On top of the cast of recurring faces, one of the largest wellsprings of entertainment in Far Cry 5 is the snowball effect of progression that starts slowly but hooks you entirely within hours. Yes, you begin the game with little to no direction and with limited skills. However, this only helps serve as the backdrop and a means of comparison as you continue along your journey. Over time, I went from feeling the game was a survivalist slog with a slow drip of missions to being overwhelmed with locations to visit, people to meet, and missions to tackle. It literally becomes difficult to put Far Cry 5 down as you adopt a “one more outpost” mindset. While the game may not get its hooks into you early, it does manage to get you good down the line.
Along with the improvements to the Far Cry formula, the best advertised change to the series is the depth of mission variety and introduction of companion AI that isn’t just going to bog you down. While the game does have a few repeating staples throughout the game like stunt car racing, liberating outposts, rescuing hostages, and blowing up explosive silos, the story and side missions are anything but formulaic. Ranging from dropping bombs on trucks from a plane, drunkenly shooting balloons with a slingshot, helping rush a pregnant woman to her midwife, and (my personal favorite) collecting bull testicles for a rocky mountain oyster festival (lovingly titled the “Testy Festy”), the range of variety is both unexpected and vastly rewarding. Each mission was its own adventure and came toe-to-toe with the normally impressive story missions.
The other hyped up mechanic of the game was a more dynamic UI system, where you could summon different specialty characters to fit your playstyle. Renegade rogues could, for instance, call on “good boye” Boomer to help scout and distract enemies and fetch ammo, while the Rambo-inspired players could call on Nick Rye to offer aerial strikes on enemies from his plane. Even as someone who likes to solo out a stealth gameplay experience, I found it difficult not to call on their help early and often. Even if you don’t have a group of friends to join you in co-op, using the AI companions is still a very viable option.
For those of us gamers (myself included) who turn to gaming as a form of escapism, don’t be concerned about the over-hyped fear of a political undertone for the game. From the very beginning, you are introduced to the fact that the Project at Eden Gate’s followers are targets for being overtly American or religion… but because they are an insane masochistic cult kidnapping and drugging people. In fact, the heroes and the excellent cast of characters coming from the very intro are salt of the Earth Americans, ranging from “sovereign citizens,” doomsday preppers, a local pastor, and a flamethrowing enthusiast who gripes about globalization. Despite the backlash Ubisoft got in marketing, the game serves more as a tribute to the American way of life and the people living in “flyover states” — not without the occasional ribbing, but rarely political.
Speaking of controversy, Far Cry 5‘s use of microtransactions never feels oppressive in execution and exists mostly for cosmetic flair. While players are able to trade in loot for cash at stores, if you ever find yourself short on money to buy a gun or vehicle you can grab Silver both in-game (sparsely found in safes) or with some real-world money. Thankfully, in-game money was never so tight I never felt compelled to spend real money (nor could I in the pre-release servers) but it actually feels like a cheapened experience to take that route — part of the fun in Far Cry is slowly building your arsenal and using the tools of mass destruction to incrementally become more of a thorn in the antagonists’ side. I’d personally steer clear of the microtransaction market and err towards the compelling Season Pass offerings, but I’m not here to tell you what to do with your time and money.
There are a few key components from other Far Cry games that I was left wanting in Far Cry 5 — mostly the sense of world-building and more elaborate crafting within Far Cry Primal. While Hope County does grow to reflect the changes you make and strongholds you capture, I did feel there was a certain charm to base-building in the last Far Cry game that went underutilized here. However, even that is just a small nit-picking gripe when compared to the dynamic changes that it brings to the table.
Missing in this review is a breakdown on Far Cry 5‘s Arcade Mode which acts as a dynamic map creator and avenue from multipurpose play. While I enjoyed my brief time with it, it’s hard to judge the merits on any community-aggregated content without an actual community existing. However, with my brief time with the mode so far, it can only serve as a boon to an already-exceptional campaign.
Far Cry 5 isn’t revolutionizing open world gaming, but it is a perfection of one of Ubisoft’s most noteworthy series. With a captivating scenario, diverse gameplay options, breathtaking background, and a colorful cast of characters, Far Cry 5 is primed as one of 2018’s earliest Game of the Year contenders, and potentially the best title in the series to date. Through more thoroughly leaning into the concepts of open-world design, Ubisoft has managed to craft a game that will really scratch your itch for exploration.