Opinion

Far Cry: a franchise cursed by its own success

An 8 year long shadow that is only getting bigger

Picture a 13-year-old me, I’ve just bought my first ever gaming console, a second hand Xbox 360, and I bought 1 game with my leftover pocket money, Far Cry 4. I had no idea what I was in for. Flash forward 1 year, and I am in love with Far Cry 4, its expansive mountain setting of Kyrat, and its varied cast of characters, from the delightfully maniacal villain Pagan Min to the simple, yet satisfying roadside trader NPC and his distant greeting of “HELLO FRIEND!”. I had begun regularly playing co-op with my best friend at the time, on what we called ‘Far Cry Fridays’, then Ubisoft revealed Far Cry Primal, reigniting my childhood love of all things prehistoric, and my life changed. Now, 5 years later, I have an immense passion for video games and the video game industry, and I owe it all to Far Cry 4.

Far Cry 4’s bell towers were a popular game mechanic that encouraged…an open mind

The definition of insanity

Having now played Far Cry 3, Blood Dragon, 4, Primal, 5 and New Dawn, I feel I have some experience with what makes a Far Cry game work. But then again, so does everyone else on the internet, but for the most part, people can agree on one thing. Ever since Far Cry 3 made the world fall in love with the series way back in 2012, Ubisoft has tried and tried again to make another all-round winner, and the general consensus is they are failing. For any studio in that position is, the challenge is to decide whether to return what made their big seller work or try to break the mould and be daring. Ubisoft has tried both, and neither has worked to the ideal extent. Certain gameplay elements have survived, exotic settings, crazy characters, explosive gunplay (scratch Primal) and a baddie you love to hate, or, so, they want us to.

Far Cry 3’s Vaas staring down the helpless player and delivering a line that still gives us chills 8 years later

Its good to be bad

While every Far Cry villain has brought a fresh face to the table, none have topped the brilliantly written and performed villain of Far Cry 3, Vaas, played by Canadian actor Micheal Mando. Far Cry 4’s Pagan Min bounced off of Vaas’s insanity in a more refined way, swapping tank tops, cargo pants and a mohawk for a decadent pink suit and a very 2010’s haircut, Pagan was the other side of the insanity coin, and actor Troy Baker was largely praised for his performance. The spinoff villains are largely forgettable but Far Cry 5, actor Greg Bryk and his religious, delightfully scary Joseph Seed attempted to dial the crazy back up, adding a morality element to the story when (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of the game the Nuclear Apocalypse he had predicted came to pass, apparently due to the actions of the player. And while Joseph Seed and the lesser tier villains, his siblings, John, Jacob and Faith (similar to the secondary and tertiary villains of Far Cry 4, Yuma, Paul and Noore), did their job well, they hardly matched up to Vaas.

The players first glimpse at Far Cry 5’s Joseph Seed, his unique yet individually scary siblings, and their fanatical doomsday cult that has conquered regional Montana

Never forget your history

At the heart of these decisions in writing and gameplay for the new entries is, of course, the fans. We all long for a villain that can match Vaas blow for blow, but maybe that’s the problem. If Ubisoft keeps failing to make a game that can match up to Far Cry 3, maybe that’s a sign they should stop trying. On a counterpoint, in a sense, Ubisoft already tried to divert away, but not completely. Each diversion still had some similarities to prior games, for example, Far Cry Primal abandoned the modern-day and all its details entirely, reinventing the weapons catalogue for a more melee-focused arsenal, and had a daring new gameplay feature in its beast system, which was a really strong addition to the series that carried over into the guns/fangs for hire that continues to feature in each new addition. However, the map of Far Cry Primal was the Far Cry 4 map with a spiffy 10,000BC Europe makeover and a handful of extra areas attached to the sides. This made it feel like a half departure, a game daring to be different but still at its core reliant on its predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it felt like a game that had to ask it’s parents for permission to go play with the other neighbourhood FPS games.

Far Cry Primal introduced new complexity to gameplay with its advanced day-night cycle, but this player has opted out of using a torch and instead chose to bring their trusty tamed wolf on a risky evening stroll

The fans come first

The main problem is, like many current franchises, the fans are never universally happy. Ubisoft has long forgotten the warm feeling of a united fanbase, not only in Far Cry but in most if not all of their long-running franchises, Assassin’s Creed being the other big example. While traditionalist fans love seeing the return of details they loved about the first game, modernist fans are desperate for something new, and both will be unhappy if the others get what they want. There is no such thing as a crowd-pleaser, not for Ubisoft. So with that in mind, the only true solution is a dramatic and unlikely one, perhaps it’s time Ubisoft puts the beloved franchise to rest? Perhaps, to misquote Luke Skywalker, it’s time for the Far Cry to end.

Far Cry New Dawn was a rare entry, one of the few narrative sequels to the previous Far Cry game, where players explored a much sillier, much more colourful post-apocalyptic Montana 

A chance for redemption

However, that is extremely unlikely to happen any time soon, with the Far cry series selling over 50 million copies as of September 2019. Whether or not the fans like it, the games make enough money for Ubisoft to continue to back its ongoing development. But the recent reveal of Far Cry 6 gives mixed signals, with a return to the traditional tropical setting and boasting A list Hollywood actor Giancarlo Esposito as the main villain, the brutal dictator, and seemingly terrible father, Anton Castillo, So far, seems like a run of the mill Far Cry setup. Hopefully, Esposito will be bringing the same personal brand of menace he has used in the other roles on his extensive resume of villainy. Far Cry 6 could be Ubisoft’s last chance to definitely decide whether or not they will move away from the nearly decade-old game formula or follow the promising changes first seen in 2019’s Far Cry: New Dawn. Or if this will be the final nail in the coffin, and Ubisoft will finally put their battered, bruised but somehow still beautiful franchise to rest. Either way, the game has many questions to answer, what about the Nuclear Apocalypse at the end of Far cry 5? Is the son of the main villain a young Vaas, making the whole game a Far Cry 3 prequel? (I really hope that one isn’t true). Whatever the case, we will find out on February 18, 2021, when Far Cry 6 launches for Next and Current Generation consoles and PC. 

Click here to watch the cinematic reveal trailer for Far cry 6

 

 

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