You know how it goes: You live out in the country, enjoying the quiet life, when suddenly along come a bunch of new folks with their fancy rules and religious practises. The next thing you know all of the spare farmland has been bought up, people are being abducted and brainwashed and they’re getting the locals hooked on weird mind-altering substances. No, it’s not Scientology. Or hippies. This is Far Cry 5.
Far Cry 5 is the fifth title in the open-world series (as long as you don’t count the awesome Far Cry 3 standalone Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and the Far Cry 4-based gap-filler Far Cry Primal) and it has taken a few lessons from Ubi’s previous outings. And from the recent Ghost Recon: Wildlands. And from the Assassin’s Creed series. Any just about anywhere else Ubisoft can think of. The result is a streamlined and effective open-worlder that has improved in many ways but which has also lost a few charming effects along the way.
The story so far
You play as a rookie deputy, either male or female (your call), who has been called upon to accompany the local Sheriff and a US Marshal to serve notice on the leader of the Project at Eden’s Gate cult, one Joseph Seed. Seed looks like a young firing range instructor-slash-hipster, if said young man had various tattoos, the names of sins carved into his flesh, and disconcertingly penetrating eyes. He’s taken over a large amount of land and more than a few minds out in the area of Hope County in Montana in the States.
Your motley group manages to get Joseph Seed cuffed and into a helicopter but that’s where things start to go wrong. Seed’s followers know him as the Father and they’ll do anything to keep him around, since they reckon he’s their path to salvation. One of them sacrifices themselves to take down the chopper, putting your little law enforcement group on the ground and into the hands of the cult. A brief but frantic escape gives you some idea what you’re up against: the cultists are heavily armed, well trained, numerous, and very, very fanatical. Oh, yes, and you also find out that you’re the harbinger of the prophesied Collapse and the catalyst for an event the cultists call the Reaping. Guess what that entails?
But you manage to evade capture (barely) and begin to build a counter-attack. And you’re not going to be alone. Far Cry 5 has a strange and varied crew of possible partners, who will tag along on missions with you — except when the game says they can’t. But you’ll have to unlock them first, by completing a mission or two to get them to join you. There’s a pilot, a couple of snipers, a full-on rocket maniac (Hi, Hurk, you Danny McBride knockoff, you), and a trio of animals to choose from. Boomer is the goodest dog in the whole Montana territory but you can also recruit Peaches the cougar (the animal kind) and Cheeseburger the bear if you really want to make the Project at Eden’s Gate folks (known as Peggies in-game) soil themselves at every opportunity.
These fine folks and animals all have their own perks and benefits. Some are stealthy and animal-friendly, others will harvest ammo and weapons on occasion. Hurk will blow things up and Nick the pilot will be your eyes in the sky — this is handier than is sounds. But they’ll also try to modify their tactics to your play style. If you favour stealth, Boomer and co will lurk in the bushes while you use your bow on unsuspecting Outpost guards. Go loud and they’ll charge in with you. Happily, they’ll manage to hold their own for the most part and will even assist you if you manage to get yourself semi-fatally wounded. Unless you fall off a cliff, in front of an angry wolverine, and then manage to get run over by an eighteen-wheeler.
So much to do, so little time
And you’ll be glad of the company. In order to take a crack at Joseph Seed you’re going to need to go through John, Jacob, and Faith Seed, who each control a large swathe of Hope County. John Seed controls the Holland valley and is quite a charismatic fellow, when he’s not brainwashing people. Faith Seed is in charge of the Henbane river and manages the control and production of a mind-altering substance called Bliss. Jacob Seed is the family’s military mind and is responsible for training cultists in the Whitetail Mountains.
And you’re going to have to go through all of them in order to get another shot at Joseph. The way you do this is up to you. Sorta. Each of your actions will fill up your Resistance bar for the region you’re in, eventually hitting a milestone that will kick off a compulsory mission. We suspect you could complete the whole game this way, taking down Outposts (which are then staffed by the Resistance) and generally helping people out in the world until you manage enough Resistance points to take on one of the three siblings. If you want to do it all faster, you can take on the story missions for the likes of a bartender, the old Sheriff, a gun-toting pastor, or any number of other secondary characters. In addition to the extra XP, you’ll also flesh out the storyline extensively.
All the extras
There’s a lot to do besides just shooting cultists and reclaiming territory. There’s loads to explore, particularly with regards to bomb shelters. Most folks seem to have one and they usually contain weapons and Perk points magazines, which are used to upgrade the player. Far Cry‘s skill tree is here but it’s been modified. You need Perks to put points into a feature and these Perks can be earned by finding magazines or by completing challenges. This could mean getting a set number of headshots, rifle or handgun kills, or just having a companion add a set number to their own headcount. This has the added advantage of getting you to try out the many, many play styles on offer. If you’re traditionally sneaky, you can still see how the other half live and go hunting with an RPG. (Do NOT try this at home).
You can go hunting or fishing, though there’s something lost on the side of the former. Far Cry used to require that players collect set resources in order to craft upgrades, which gave hunting for specific animals a point. Now, in order to get upgraded weapons you just need the cash for upgrades. Some weapons are locked by player progression but the moment they unlock you can customise them completely — if you have the coin. Fishing’s neat, though, provided you pick a spot where the fish are biting.
A missed chance
If you were paying attention to the marketing for Far Cry 5 you’ll have noticed the provocative imagery used. There’s one as the main image for this review: a modification of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper depicting the Seed family. For all its teasing, Far Cry has less to say about religion and American politics than you might have been led to expect.
Instead the focus is on cult dynamics and how people can be led (and misled) by the right person at the right time. How you can take the hopeless (whether they actually are or just feel that way) and turn them into a powerful, if evil, force. It’s about how people can be preyed on, using their hopes and fears as levers to open their brains so you can make changes to how they think. It’s surprisingly easy to fall in with one of these crowds. After all, the Flat Earthers are experiencing a resurgence for some reason…
Ubisoft backed away from what could have been an impressive platform to say something about the state of affairs in the States at the moment to make a story that chooses to just entertain rather than provoke thought. They’re perfectly allowed to but… we would have liked to have see what they could have done if they’d fulfilled their provocative promises.
Far Cry 5 Verdict
If you’re after another Far Cry, one with a heart taken from Ubisoft’s most recent crop of titles and enough free-flowing explosions and gunplay to keep even the jaded entertained for ages, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re after some biting social commentary, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line. There are hints of it, to be sure, but this is all about being the hero. Or the saviour. It really depends on which side you take. Whichever you pick, you’re probably going to have a lot of fun. Especially if you take Boomer fishing at a tranquil lake before wandering off to blow something up with a fully-equipped chopper. That’s Far Cry for you.