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G.R.IND. Games

The G.R.IND. on Far Cry 5 (part two)

Moving on from the good to the bad, Far Cry 5’s list of positives is, thankfully, a lot bigger and more meaningful than its list of negatives; however the negatives do exist and, unfortunately, are very impacting on the whole experience; thus they should be recognized and discussed.

Also if you missed the first part- focusing on the positives- you can find it here.

The biggest drawback for me is the weapon variety and progression: It is there in numbers but not there in practice. I had a big selection of guns to choose from, however-due to some strange decision-making- they never felt different or unique enough. For example, in the handguns section these are the categories: Pistols-with fast but less powerful ones alongside slower but more damaging ones; speedy SMGs that lack any real force; a sawed-off shotgun and a grenade launcher. These categories are populated by virtually identical guns or in some occasions exactly the same guns that look slightly different-e.g. the magnum shows up 3 times with the same exact stats but different looks. This ends up making the selection of weapons feeling meaningless and makes progressing to unlock more guns pointless-which alongside other progression issues discussed later on, make the game’s progression feel lackluster and unimportant. Another example I found rather disappointing of this can be found in the sniper section, where there are two types: semi-automatic and single-shot rifles; however one of the semi-automatic rifles has the exact same range and damage output as the single-shot ones but one point less in accuracy, which in practice does not really matter. Thus, any tactical decision or being forced to accept the fact that I am not that great in aiming, so I need the rate of fire to make up for my drawbacks, is lost as soon as that rifle is unlocked and every other sniper rifle is made entirely pointless. In previous Far Cry games, these considerations were an integral part of my success and my arsenal kept changing and evolving as I unlocked newer and different option in my arsenal-e.g. taking a bow over a sniper rifle for stealth over brute force and vice versa was a tactical decision I made over and over again-but in Far Cry 5 I just unlocked extra slots and carried the same weapons again and again, never feeling encouraged to change up my tactics or consider different weapons that are better at different situations.

Gun selection screen

This isn’t to say that there is no variety in guns and how they function, but in an open world first person shooter where most of my time was spent shooting guns at cultists, I often looked at the guns available or that I had yet to unlock and felt very unimpressed with the selection and found it to be severely lacking. This is further reinforced with the way guns can be modified; you can now modify a gun and add scopes, silencers and magazines that hold more bullets on almost every gun. However, the way most of these modifications work in the game is strange and awkward; most of the silencers don’t work the way you expect them to, as they still draw attention and scopes are plentiful but hard to understand their difference as some allow better movement and others allow more zoom capabilities, but they are never properly explained. Another drawback I thought was pretty disappointing was the AI system and how buggy it is. (The next 3 clips happened in order, in the same playthrough, one after the other; also, as you will notice, they keep having the same dumb discussion which was not funny the first time, but by the end of this hellish mission I had heard it at least half a dozen times which was very close to “quit this fucking mission and don’t give a shit about it ever again”)

For a game that seems hell-bend in making the experience as immersive as possible, it was a disappointment to encounter so many problems in this category; their pathfinding capabilities are, at first, hilariously bad but by the second time you have to be driven by an AI it is now painful;

quest givers would run off in the middle of their dialogue to pursue a cultist half-way across the world who got aggravated by a bear; the specialists sometimes would simply refuse to execute my orders because they were stuck behind a barrel; the pilot specialists would crash on their own and die or specialists would use their sneaking voices in a gunfight or their loud voices in a sneaking situation. Sometimes this manifested in some absurd situations and made me laugh, so I was debating whether this deserves to be here or later on in the gray area, but then I remembered the horrible time I had while playing the mission from the clips above and was sure the AI deserves to be here.

The grand finale of this fucking mission.

Lastly (and take this with a pinch of salt, as it may be entirely my fault) the tutorial aspect of the game was pretty bad. New concepts are tutorialized whenever I was going to need them and for the most part it worked fine (e.g. shops were tutorialized when I encountered my first one and controls were tutorialized during the opening sequence etc.) however concepts like the “death from above” takedown was never explained and went through 25 hours of gameplay without knowing how to perform one-which I figured out by accident when I jumped on a cultist from a ledge without intending to do so- as well as pistol takedown were not properly introduced, but learned how to do them, when I did a chain takedown and did not continue it thus I saw the prompt. I wish these concepts were introduced better since they are necessary to complete some challenges and are pretty fun to execute.

Moving on to the grey area of the game: The changes and features that I can’t simply say that I like or dislike because they are, in their execution, a mixed bag for me-sometimes it’s a lot of positives with some negatives and sometimes mostly negatives with enough positives that it isn’t bad. The main talking point here for me, is the narrative-the story, the characters, the symbolism, the themes etc. From the very beginning I realized the sort of story the game was trying to tell, was not one that I would actively want to experience; and that’s both a positive and a negative. Having my character referred to as ‘Rook’ because he is the rookie, while all hell breaks loose around him (I chose a male character) and not one of the ‘close’ friends he ends up making along the way thinks of asking me what my actual name is, despite spending 40 hours taking back Hope County, Montana from the violent cultists (referring them as ‘peggies’ was pretty good) of the “Path of Eden’s Gate” cult took over before I arrived there, I realized that the narrative offered here was not going to come from the story, but from and what I would make up from gameplay.

This is my ‘Rook’ or at least what he looked like in the opening hours

Thus I didn’t even bother with story missions for most regions and, surprisingly, didn’t feel punished for not doing them. The game can be progressed by doing almost any activity in the game and that is a big plus that kept the entire narrative section from being just bad for me (allowing for that freedom discussed in part one); the story is basically told through, more or less, 10 cutscenes where the game wrestles control away from the player and puts you in a specific place to perform a specific task and watch a specific cutscene. This is how the game chooses to progress the story. When hitting a certain point in the resistance meter a special group of enemies is sent to get the player; the first time this happened it was terrifying. I fought for as long as I could but eventually I was overpowered and taken where I was supposed to go. The second time, I killed the specialists and the ones after them, until I realized I should just give in, so I can get this over with. This happens 2 to 3 times in each region and after the first two time it never stopped being annoying and bringing me into the story already frustrated and anxious to move on; in a game that is so good at allowing player freedom, forcibly removing player agency -regardless of what they are doing at the time- which happens, more or less, 10 times is a baffling decision; though I understand that it was made to allow freedom to choose and complete any missions they wanted and ensure they progress the story in a meaningful way- it ended up having the exact opposite effect. Having said that, the story that does exist does a pretty good job of defining the antagonists, what they want and portraying them as menacing as well as taking some narrative care like foreshadowing certain aspects of the story. On the flip-side though, the story itself is not that interesting and seems content with creating menacing characters and moments that fade away after they end, rather than a compelling story with well worked characters and meaningful commentary. For example, some characters refer to current political and social situations, thus creating the expectations of having something to say about those things, like when Joseph refers to “building walls” or when John says “look who’s in charge”. But these references fade away as soon as they are told because the story never really relates to them-in fact the game does a pretty good job of staying away from current political and social issues with characters being indifferent to those issues and never choosing a side- nor does it come back to them at all; it seems to me like they were inserted in there because releasing a game such as Far Cry, in this era with the premise and setting it has, without these references would be insane, thus making them seem as a requirement rather than a part of the narrative. Also, the tone of the game shifts from goofy to serious as often as someone shifts from first gear to second while driving a manual car in rush hour; it can’t keep a tone for more than 3 seconds before the engine starts chocking out. The story went from menacing message from John to finding a CIA agent that keeps saying “pardon my French” after each sentence in literally minutes.

 

Fuck this guy and his stupid ‘pardon my French’ bit. [spoiler title=’Spoiler for the video’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Also he RAN OVER MY FUCKING DOG[/spoiler]

I can’t fault a game that has such financial importance to a company, looks like it cost the GDP of a small sovereign country to make and is encouraging the player to blow shit up every second, for not making a bold, profound stance and create a controversial and fearless story that would have undoubtedly pissed off half of its audience, but I can see the potential for it and as someone who wants that, I feel that the main story is wasted potential. It has to be said though that the ending-in terms of narrative- is especially controversial due to the fact that it is a twist most people will not see coming, however it does not make sense when thought about, after the credits rolled. However, the main reason the story is in the gray area is that it is mainly used to create the mayhem, destruction and awesome set pieces that remain with you after the credits. I do think the ending twist and the whole narrative is faulty and disappointing, but the ending sequence is one of the most fun and bonkers ending sequences I’ve played in a while and that’s why in the end, while I’m not happy with the narrative, I accept that it fulfills its purpose of giving me reasons to blow shit up.  Also, as a side note and a nitpick that bothers me too much: I hate it when games that give you no non-lethal options call your character out for being too insistent on violence as an option or a solution to a problem and Far Cry 5 did it numerous times and it frustrated me each time it did so.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Far_Cry_5.jpg

Another big part of the narrative that I’m not entirely happy with the execution, are the characters, particularly the companions and the friendly NPCs. While the 4 main antagonists are not great, they each have a narrative basis, complete with appropriate dialogue, motivations and themes they represent (at least for some of them), they falter because of the way the game presents them; for example Faith Seed starts of very promising with vague and generalized problems she dealt with and how the ‘Bliss’ and Joseph helped her overcome her problems; just like the speeches given by religions and cults alike, designed to make the listener relate to the problems they have in their own lives and seek the same salvation others have found. However, not long after the introduction, my empathy towards that character was gone because of how annoying she got in the game (randomly appearing in the world and blabbering on thus becoming a distraction at first and then a nuisance) and how her themes were dropped to suit the game and not the story; specifically, I interpreted ‘Bliss’ as a nod to cults who usually keep cultists unaware of their actions and blind to the consequences of those actions, by actively encouraging or forcing drugs on them. But to me there was another layer about real world drug use and its ability to replace our shitty reality with a better fake one. Alas, all of these themes are dropped when the addicts to ‘Bliss’ are just mindless zombies and Faith can be seen flying around in the drug trips, which are both just to set up the mayhem that follow. But at the very least an attempt was made and relevant themes were attached to the main antagonists. The companions on the other hand are either stupid, inappropriate, a joke or just good guys that have no character development besides they hate ‘peggies’ and want to take back Hope County. I don’t remember any of the NPC names and I only remember the names of my specialists because of their gameplay relevance, not because they are characters I like or dislike.

Just a random NPC, sitting fully clothed in the water while being sucked into the earth

Lastly, the side missions are unique with their own voiced stories and dialogue; however they try the same thing most of the time, which is to make me laugh at the absurd characters and stories, which ended up making most of them forgettable and repetitive.

Even the dead cultists have a strict workout schedule

Moving on to gameplay related issues, one of the main issues I have with the game is the progression systems which have had a much-needed overhaul and in intent/theory are a step towards the right direction, however they are severely lacking in execution. In previous games, progression was linear, meaning the player leveled up by gaining xp then chose an ability or an enhancement to their base stats; Far Cry 5 changes that towards the better. Now you have challenges that you complete to receive perk points (which are also obtainable in the “prepper stashes” discussed in part one) and spent those perk points in a non-linear perks tree. In theory, you play the way you want, do what you want and get rewarded with perk points which you spent how you want-reasonably to get better at what you enjoy doing. In practice though, you try to complete as many challenges and get perk points from “prepper stashes” which in turn encourages you to try everything the game has to offer (which is great because that’s how you find the specific style you like) but does not reward you directly from keeping with one set play style and mastering that because you won’t get any more perk points; of course you can search and complete “prepper stashes” but I found the costs of perks to be way too much to rely on stashes alone. Also, the perks are a weird mix of must-have’s like the wingsuit, the grapple and extra weapon slots and unsatisfying ones like reduced recoil on handguns, which in turn makes the less important perks feel meaningless and not worth the trouble (for example spend 5 perk points to unlock the wingsuit and fly through the map or spent 7 perk points and carry more shotgun shells makes the shotgun perk feel less valuable). It’s a few adjustments away from being a really good, flexible and responsive progression system but as it is currently, it is a solid but flawed foundation for the future. Another system that has taken a back seat due to these changes and many fans will be disappointed with is the hunting, as you are no longer required to hunt animals for their skin so you can craft new stuff, you just do it for the challenges and once those are done for the money and/or fun of it, which worked fine for me because I was not a big fan of how that system worked previously, but I can see fans of that system being bitterly disappointed with the changes.

Another video showcasing the dumb AI.

Thus I finally conclude on an overtly long, two part discussion of the game and my complicated feelings about it. When writing these, before I start my conclusion, I always ask myself the same question, so I know how to conclude: “If I could turn back time, with the knowledge that I have now minus the fatigue of spending so much time playing the game, would I still buy it?” The answer to that question, surprisingly, came instantly: Yes. I would still buy and play this game for 40 hours and enjoy myself. I would still be disappointed in the story and the characters, as I am now, and I would still feel the same way about the flaws of the game, but I would still enjoy everything the game gets right, so much more than I would dislike what it gets wrong. And I walk away from it very hopeful about the future of the series and, in the end, more sweet than bitter about the present.

 

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