Exotic locations, countless climbable towers, and a more linear story. These are traits that have accompanied past Far Cry games, as well as traits that players have come to expect. Far Cry 5 goes against those expectations, however, and flips those traits around. The game ditches exotic locations and takes the player to a more familiar Montana. Towers have been removed so that the map is revealed through exploration, and perhaps most importantly, Far Cry 5 is much more of a sandbox. Many of the signature Far Cry traits are left behind, allowing the series to be reinvigorated.
Far Cry 5 takes place in Hope County, Montana. The area looks beautiful, and at times the land was a marvel, but the graphics and art are still bested by many games out today. Including some previous Ubisoft games, like Assassin’s Creed: Origins. It’s also the least exciting location the series has used so far, yet it works well with the overall theme. The area has been taken over by a religious fanatic group that calls themselves Eden’s Gate. The cult is run by Joseph Seed and 3 members of his family. They are portrayed as untouchable from the start, and they have a trigger-happy following that is willing to risk their lives for the cult. As a Hope County Deputy, it is the player’s objective to take down the cult, and ultimately arrest Joseph Seed.
As any fan of Far Cry knows, taking down the cult means plenty of guns and explosives. The gunplay is more refined than ever, and simply firing the weapons was fantastic. Bullets register as projectiles now, which makes the shooting more realistic and satisfying. Audio as well is great, and each weapon sounds imposing up close or from a distance. I would have liked to see more weapon variety, however, and there seemed to be less total unique weapons in Far Cry 5 when compared to a game as far back as Far Cry 3. Even the attachment system; a suppressor, a sight, and an extended magazine, is just as simple as the oldest games. Variety was lacking, but the sheer fun of the weapons more than made up for it, and pursing the big bad guy was as fun as any player might expect.
There is no right or wrong way to pursue that objective, and that is one of the biggest changes to the core game. Each of the 3 cult leaders controls their own region of the map, and they can be taken out in any order. It’s possible to start wreaking havoc in one region, and without completing it, move on to another for a while. Run some side quests, take down cult outposts, or search for abandoned stashes. It’s up to the player to decide what happens next, and at what pace.
The superb sandbox put in place is also enhanced by the companion system added to the game. There are 9 unique companions who can be obtained through missions, and limitless random companions that can be used as well. With upgrades, 2 companions can follow at a time, and they are extremely useful. They can revive players, take out marked targets, and they tend to provide some comic relief either by accident or through random dialogue. I got sick of some of their dialogue after companions repeated the same line for the fiftieth time, but that’s when I would switch to Cheeseburger the bear or invite a friend to play in my game world instead.
Many of the companions were interesting characters, despite their dialogue repetition, but it is in the cult leaders that the character writing shines. Each Leader has their own brand of insanity that kept me on edge in each encounter. Their face to face monologues in a jail cell, a twisted torture room, or a drug induced paradise had me anxious for what was next and their presence in the game was truly effective. Unfortunately, it felt like the story itself had less care and couldn’t stick to a theme or message. Much of Far Cry 5 is whacky and much of the time one big joke, yet the main story is very dark throughout. Existentialism, morality, and politics are all focus themes of the main story. Many political undertones, such as gun control, fanatic religion, and insane leaders, were also presented in side quests or through companions, yet they never amounted to anything substantial; as if they didn’t want to make a commitment to one idea.
This was a problem that seemed to effect other aspects of the game as well. Far Cry 5 is a game that benefits from a fun sandbox, but it suffers in some areas for the same reason. The story has an inconsistent pace that can hold attention or lose it an any moment. The world is open, but sometimes the story would take over when you were in the middle of another objective, placing you in an unexpected cutscene with a cult leader. A design moving away from previous games is clear, yet much of the same mission repetition from those games is present.
Regardless of some of the game’s flaws, what Far Cry 5 does well, it does expertly well. I found myself immersed in an action-packed Montana for hours on end, bringing about as much chaos as I possibly could. Differing themes clashed, but I found myself enthralled in and laughing at the well written humor and characters throughout the game. Hope County, Montana certainly still contains gameplay relics from previous games. At its core, Far Cry 5 is still another Far Cry game, but it deviates just enough to stand out in the best way possible. I enjoyed my time spent in the turmoil that Hope County offered, and I have high hopes for what the next Far Cry can bring to the table.