The history behind the Far Cry franchise is perhaps one of the wonkiest in modern gaming.
The series basically started out as just another sci-fi themed first-person shooter with some gameplay mechanics that were innovative for their time. Then somehow, over the franchise’s ten-year history, it eventually became synonymous with everything that is wrong with the modern open world game but the developers still somehow manage to make them fun and addicting to play. Since the third game’s release, they haven’t really changed all that much and seem content on sticking to the formula that it established with a few improvements and variations in each installment. Far Cry 5 is yet another game that does this but once again the end result is so fun and addictive that you’re probably not going to care. Even if you won’t remember it a week after the end credits roll.
The game takes place in a fictionalized version of modern Montana in Hope County where a local doomsday preacher by the name of Joseph Seed has gained a considerable amount of influence. After a video of Seed apparently killing a man leaks online, a US Marshall conscripts the sheriff and his deputies to arrest him. This includes your character, one of the sheriff’s rookie deputies who is only ever identified as “Rook” or “Deputy”. The arrest does not go according to plan and you are forced to flee the area after an intense gunfight with Seed’s men. Once your character reaches safety he must lead a resistance force against Seed and free each part of the county from his lieutenants.
There is A LOT to unpack in this game so first let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way.
At first glance, the plot seems tailor-made to invite political discussion, much like the previous games. After all, this game came out right in the middle of the Donald Trump Presidential Administration and it’s widely known that people in rural areas tend to vote more conservatively than other parts of the country. One could actually be forgiven for assuming that it’s a game about killing conservative nut-balls for good old liberal America. But the game isn’t actually about that at all nor is it really political.
Any politics that factor into the game are mostly background details that you have to actively look for to get or are so cartoonish and over the top in nature that it’s impossible to take them seriously. In fact, the story seems to be on the average rural conservative’s side. The supporting characters themselves are conservative, gun touting militant nut-balls to be sure, but the game puts them in the light of being more the everyman. It’s as if they’re trying to say that conservative America is quirky, and in some cases dangerous, but the more insane elements of it are the exception and not the rule. But beyond that, it really doesn’t have anything to say on the matter or modern politics.
The game that does just enough with the plot, story, and characters to make it compelling.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the game is a fascinating example of a game that does just enough with the plot, story, and characters to make it compelling but with that just enough being more than enough. Structurally the plot and characters are the same of that of Far Cry 3 and 4.
You have a protagonist who isn’t particularly interesting, (and in this case completely silent), whose motivations never go too far beyond taking down the bad guy because he’s evil. You have a number of supporting protagonists who really don’t have enough screen time or dialog to be properly developed but have just enough screen time and are well acted enough that you care about their fates.
This time around, however, the writers went all out, giving us four extremely interesting villains instead of just one.
Once again, however, the characters who are the most fleshed out with the best moments are the villains. This time around, however, the writers went all out, giving us four extremely interesting villains instead of just one. It’s not at all hard to see why someone would follow Joseph and how his ideologies and words could set into your head. He’s incredibly charismatic and often preaches about acceptance and love in a way that you believe what he is saying. Even if his actions are incredibly reprehensible and horrible.
Two of his Lieutenants follow in suite. John “The Baptist” is incredibly well acted and is an utterly terrifying character to be around, with a disturbing belief in torture and pain as a means of confession and salvation. Faith “The Siren” is the opposite, tempting people with a drug-induced bliss and a promise of a kind of heaven if they just accept it and, by extension, Joseph’s words into their hearts.
Both of them have some fairly tragic backstories and it’s easy to see how they would have ended up as members of this cult. The only real weak link is Jackob “The Soldier”. He’s not an objectively bad character and his method of conditioning soldiers is horrifying but he’s not nearly as charismatic as the other three and his backstory isn’t as interesting.
It does have to be said that the plot is pretty bare bones.
It mostly just amounts to you going from location to location, freeing the regions from Seed’s influence, rescuing your friends and killing the bad guys. It’s serviceable but doesn’t have much going on under the surface. The only noticeable thing about the plot is it’s ending. I won’t spoil it for you but it does have to be said that the options available to you are really bad and it’s a prime example of a game trying to be smarter than it is.
The gameplay follows a very similar style in many respects. It is fun but once again it’s just doing enough. But once again, doing just enough is more than enough in this case. The act of running around a vast open world and gunning down enemies in creative ways has never felt better and you’ll find yourself coming back to it regardless of how repetitive these elements might be. Every region that you liberate from Joseph and his lieutenants more or less plays out the same way.
You run around the various territories saving people from the cultists, liberate towns and important outposts and completing story missions in order to gain resistance points in the said region. Once a certain number of resistance points are earned the antagonists of the region will abduct you and try to have you submit to their will where they show off their colorful personalities.
Eventually, you’ll earn enough points to where the antagonist will come out from wherever they’ve been hiding, overrun whatever place is your defacto base in the region before you put said villain down.
Now this does unfortunately make the game a bit repetitive.
And once you have liberated one region you’ve basically seen everything the game has to offer. It’s not at all helped by the fact that 90% of the missions amount to killing a certain number of people in a certain area or blowing up a certain number of items in a set area. But the strange thing about it is that each region is just different enough that you don’t really notice it as much as you might think.
This is mainly thanks to the villains and their various methods in trying to influence you. John captures you with his elite units who take you to his torture hellholes that look like something straight out of a Saw film. Faith puts you through drug trips that really sell Joseph as a force for good. And while Jackob is easily the least interesting antagonist of the four, his conditioning methods for creating soldiers is by far the most horrifying and I refused to spoil it here.
This is all helped by the franchise’s core gameplay mechanics. While it is true that it hasn’t changed much since Far Cry 3 it’s a textbook case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The act of going around bases, scouting them out, marking your targets and killing everything with a pulse through stealth or all guns blazing is still as satisfying as it was back in 2012. They do manage to spruce things up with companions who will help when things get harry but otherwise stick to formula.
>In the end, Far Cry 5 is a lot of fun but it’s nothing special. Its gameplay is fun, its characters are good even if a little thinly written and its antagonist remain the best part of the franchise. More then likely you will forget about the game the moment the next big open world game comes out but until then this one is just good enough. But in this case, just good enough turned out to be more than enough.