Let's be real, I'm pretty bloody excited for Far Cry 6. It looks fantastic. A bit lopsided, but fantastic. A huge open world, with a ton of stuff to do, some incredible combat, and a truly engaging story. What seems clear is that Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito is going to make one formidable villain, and we can expect a politically dynamic narrative that even goes as far as to explore the theme of family, with Esposito's in-game son clearly playing a significant role in the narrative (at least from what we've seen in the previews).
So, what's the problem? Well, it's kind of complicated. I have had a difficult relationship since I let Far Cry 3 take over my life in 2012. Far Cry 4 came out in 2014 and was met with rather mixed reviews. In retrospect, Far Cry 4 was every bit as good – gameplay-wise – as Far Cry 3. The world was massive and dynamic, the combat was just as streamlined and satisfying as in Far Cry 3, and Troy Baker's Pagan Min, whilst not reaching Vaas' heights, was pretty bloody fantastic. What was the problem? Well, it was exactly the same game as Far Cry 3, added very little, and was insanely buggy at launch.
Then came Far Cry Primal. I didn't play that game. It seemed unnecessary to me. The exact same game again, but you were a caveman. It was uninteresting, and whilst many said that the game was pretty darn fantastic, I was just simply disinterested. That disinterest did, however, briefly dissipate in the run-up to the launch of Far Cry 5, which before it released in 2018, looked like a potential Game of the Year contender. Set in a red-neck region of the United States, the game looked ready to tackle issues of White Supremacy and political extremism, but ultimately fell flat. I got the game (for free, mind you, I worked for a major games retailer at the time), played it for two hours, and was bored out of my mind.
This brings us to the present: 2021, three years later. Giancarlo Esposito's Anton Castillo looks to take the stage from Vaas and become Far Cry's best villain yet. Will he succeed? Well, considering how killer the game's concept is, I darn well hope so. Far Cry 6 could easily be that killer game we've been waiting for, something to pull me through until Halo Infinite releases in December. Will it deliver, though? Well, it could, but it could easily be a ruddy mess.
Here's the thing: Far Cry 6 looks good, but it also looks like a living juxtaposition. On one hand, the narrative looks as I described above: dynamic, political, dark, brutal. On the other hand, it looks unbalanced against the game's wild combat, crazy new weapons, and adorable sausage-dog companions. It was clearly never going to be Breaking Bad: The Video Game, but to be honest, I don't see how they can fit the silliness of Far Cry 6's gameplay with the seriousness of Far Cry 6's revolution.
It's a curious proposition, because the game seems to be taking a step simultaneously in the right and the wrong direction. It's the same step, but that step is both a strength and a liability. Every Far Cry game that has ever featured an interesting villain, especially Far Cry 3, managed to create a sense of serendipity, because the villain was an almost James Bond style bad-guy. Vaas was brutal and nasty, and insanely entertaining, but it was in a fun way, in that whilst what he did was horrific, he had a charm and humor that justified the tone of the rest of the game.
There were the psychedelic dreams that the protagonist would inhabit, there were the craziness of the characters, and the old man on the hill. There was that dynamic between the group of friends, and that very personal sense of irony that carried through the entire experience. All of these features meant that, despite Vaas being one hell of a b**tard, he didn't take away from the silliness of the world, nor the silliness of what you were actively doing in that same world. Instead, he fit in, it was natural, and there wasn't this discomforting sense of dissonance.
Look, I'm not saying that Far Cry 6 will be a mess, I'm just worried that it will. I truly, truly hope that I'm wrong, but it just doesn't seem feasible for Ubisoft to pull all of this off in the same game. I am sure the gameplay will be fun, the world will be jaw-dropping, and the story will be engaging. What I'm not sure about is whether it will all come together and form one cohesive whole. I hope and pray that I'm wrong. Luckily, we won't have to wait long to find out.
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