For a while I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Far Cry 5 or whether it was going to substantially differentiate itself from recent entries in the series. I attended a reveal for the game about a year ago in New York, where I was first introduced to its setting and antagonists. Quite honestly it was a bit dramatic. But it certainly set the stage for what, at the time, felt like a unique approach at a Far Cry game — at least from a narrative point of view.
Far Cry 5 focuses on a religious cult that’s taken over of a sizeable chunk of Montana. It’s amassed a scary amount of weapons, influence and resources to the point where it’s essentially an impenetrable militia. It’s the first Far Cry game to take place in the US and it’s more eerily reminiscent of domestic tensions than it likely planned on being. Despite the familiar anxieties it reflects, the game’s creative director says it was conceived nearly a decade ago.
But after my time with the game at E3 2017 and the months leading up to its release on March 27, I’ve come to understand that Far Cry 5 isn’t a massive detour from the series’ legacy, but instead a highly refined, cohesive vision of what makes a prototypical Far Cry game tick. It’s also easily one of my favorites in the series.
Ultimately, the focus on the cult — the Project at Eden’s Gate — can sometimes feel lost among Far Cry 5’s sweeping, open-world vistas. Perhaps the story would have been more weighty and focused in a more linear game with an A-to-B experience. Thankfully, there’s no loss of fun in Far Cry 5 for it — it’s a blast to play
Far Cry 5’s narrative ambitions aren’t all for naught. It showcases a handful of memorable moments and characters that feel important and a number of allusions that will undoubtedly force you to compare them to real-world events. And sure, some of the people you’ll meet in the game will force an unwilling “oh, brother” from your mouth.
The Far Cry series’ notorious strength in creating heinous villains is certainly present here too. But ultimately, I found Far Cry 5 to be a better game than some great premonition, though there is occasional imagery that can only be defined as “too real.”
In typical Far Cry fashion, you’re tasked with leading the resistance against the Project at Eden’s Gate, or the “Peggies” as they’re referred to in-game. You’ll need to methodically take out its leaders, the Seed Family. Three siblings each control an area of Hope County, with the fourth and main bad guy, Joseph Seed, also known as “The Father,” at the center of the operation.
With that said, the premise starts to spiral further into silliness than seriousness. The cult’s reach is only touched on at the start, but it isn’t long before you begin to witness the ridiculous number of people inside this thing. Peggie members consist of trained pilots, chemists, doctors, soldiers and more. Their presence feels like it’s in the thousands, not to mention the underground military bunkers, chemical production facilities and the 200-foot statue they’ve erected.
To put it plainly, the founders of Eden’s Gate are real shitty people and their evil has permeated throughout almost all of the fictional Hope County, Montana.
Far Cry 5’s greatest success is its overall refinement and finesse. It’s trimmed so much fat that nothing seems like a tedious undertaking, from the removal of tower-climbing to the inclusion of crafting within the weapon wheel. Very few of its objectives bored me. Without a doubt, Far Cry 5 deserves praise for its structural design — despite its massiveness, it’s all digestible.
Instead of unlocking points of interest by some kind of physical ascension, you’re encouraged to explore the world you’re constantly liberating. You can talk to civilians you’ve freed from the cult and turn over the stones of a once-peaceful Montana county. New areas open up through these interactions and more open up as you take down the cult outposts peppered across the map.
This creates a real satisfying loop, with side missions and other to-dos all logically unlocked and able to be tackled at your discretion. Smartly, there’s usually no progress that’s gated by a specific objective, save for maybe a vanity outfit, vehicle or weapon. There are multiple paths to acquiring perks and plenty of ways to earn cash or learn about hunting spots.
Adding crafting to the weapon wheel was the right move, but placing ingredients inside lootable containers removed the need to forage through wooded areas in search of some mystical root. Sure, it’s all micromanagement nonsense, but it stops crafting from becoming a chore.