I was so hyped for this game. You could get a goddamn bear to fight alongside you! And when I started, it was a ton of fun. Then I started moving the plot along…
I’ll keep spoilers below a cut.
Its a Far Cry game, and it’s an Ubisoft game. You run around a huge map, shooting things and doing fetch missions. I was prepared for that. Wanted it, even. Some mindless fun with a side of kicking cultist ass. Sign me the fuck up. If the writing really shone, we’d get a good examination of militant/evangelical Christianity in this country. I was hyped.
Unfortunately, the game loop works as follows:
- Do missions in one of the three game zones.
- Gain resistance points (RP) from the above.
- Reach enough RP to piss off the local cult lieutenant.
- Get captured by said Lt.’s people and forced into cutscenes (at best) and repetitive missions (at worst).
(4) is the real rub here. You’ve got no control over it. Your skill, companions, ammo, etc. don’t matter. Eventually they’ll catch you and you’re stuck. This happens three times for each Lt.
“Just avoid the plot!” you say, “It’s a Far Cry – drive around and do random shit!” Point, except for two things:
- Talking to the NPCs was a large part of the fun. They had some great characters in the game. And talking to them pretty much involved doing their associated missions.
- Certain activities outside of main/side missions also get you RP. Blow through a cult roadblock? 50 RP! Save a civvie by killing the guys who had them at gunpoint? Another 50 RP! Blow up certain trucks/tankers? 75 RP!
So the game loses a lot of its luster if you try to go your own way, and going your own way will backfire eventually, forcing you into the plot whether you wanted it or not.
Getting pulled out of the fun like this is the kind of game decision it’s hard to justify without plenty of in-game reasoning. There’s none of that. At least, none outside perhaps some monologuing by Joseph Seed about the signs he’s seen and how they’re inevitable. I don’t recall much in that vein, but his character is such a creepy fuck and I’m so adverse to religious bullshit that I was mostly waiting for him to shut up every time he was onscreen.
The most I can recall is in the intro, after shit has hit the fan and you’re mostly through the initial cutscene. Joseph makes some comment about how you (the PC) aren’t here by accident. Really? He then proceeds to EARLY SPOILER radio the sheriff dispatcher that everything’s fine, for which she’s grateful. So she sold you out. Great. Still doesn’t mean you’re prophetic, jackass. Eventually they reveal later on that the sheriff’s last name is Whitehorse, so that old line Jacob quotes about a white horse bringing death with him? Real original. /SPOILER
Perhaps there’s some meta commentary here. The game gets you used to having your agency taken from you, so when it happens in the ending it’s more a let-down than an actual shock. Even so, I maintain the narrative has to somehow reflect that, or you’re just fucking with the player. That goes double for a huge open-world game.
Whether they explain it or not, it’s handled in a shitty fashion, and with no thought given to the mechanics of the game. One of the first times you’re captured by the Lt’s men in a certain area, they shoot you through the leg with an arrow. The PC actually looks down at the shaft protruding from their thigh before blacking out.
This really is just fucking with the player. Before then I’d been shot probably hundreds of times, plenty by cultists with bows. But this shot takes me down? Horseshit. If they wanted to railroad me but keep it at least a little believable, they should’ve had to (effectively) kill the PC, at which point the game would play some dialogue about capturing them and making sure they don’t bleed out, before loading the scripted sequence.
“But the player might kill them all!” So? Do what GTA does – send more baddies! Arm them with RPGs! Raise the capture group’s snipers’ accuracy. Ramp it up alongside some radio chatter explaining how they’re just gonna keep coming, so I the player at least get to go down fighting.
Before I get into serious spoiler territory, a few highlights:
- Cheeseburger the Bear, who loves pets and head scratches!
- Hurk and his running commentary. “Maybe we could’ve used our words to avoid fighting? Nah.”
- A comment from Adelaide as I started to fly a chopper with her in the passenger seat: “Punch it, Chewie! *pause* Betcha you got a kick out of that. Fuckin’ nerd!”
- The last mission for Nick and Kim Rye. (spoilery details omitted)
OK – SPOILER TIME
FUCK this ending.
Wait – let me back up. Let’s start with Jacob’s bullshit. After the second round, I realized that yeah – we were infiltrating the Whitetails, and were probably going to kill the leader. And there’s some meta in the fact that you’re forced to do the same sequence over and over until you get it just right. Some commentary on Soulslike games, maybe. But that sequence is the worst example of how they pull you out of the fun and shove you face-first into a bucket of shit.
Related – you can’t get near Jacob’s compound, even after you kill him. “Only You” starts playing, and you’re teleported a short distance away. I suppose the explanation is “conditioning”, but whatever – it feels like a shitty cop-out.
The Bliss. Somehow the PC swims through water full of it, walks through caves where it’s replaced the local nitrogen, and gets contact highs from every container they pass. Yet they never succumb to it until it’s time for Faith to have one of her tantrums. No slow drain on the life meter – nothing. Shitty game design, and we’ll come back to it for the ending.
John was a tad more realistic in his railroad scenes. And it was nice to see the slick televangelist crack when you destroy his godawful “YES” sign. But the last mission (Atonement?) starts with some scripted crap.
You have to enter a church. Through the front door. And when you do, some yahoo clocks you with the butt of his rifle.
I don’t fucking think so. Not after everything else in this game. I showed up there wielding a Vasquez-level machine gun. I’m gonna creep through the door and start shooting anything that moves. If that’s not how the game wanted me to do things, they should’ve allowed it, but failed the mission because the hostages were killed by the cultists. Again – no agency.
So, the ending.
I realized early on the the proper way to do this as the officer of the law you’re supposed to be is to borrow or steal a car, get to the nearest town that isn’t captured by the cult, and call the fucking FBI. Let them handle it. (Side note – fuck the marshal from the beginning of the game. It’s his bone-headed fault we ended up in all of this.) Alternately, sneaking to Joseph’s compound and arresting him. Which will probably involve killing lots of his followers when you try to leave, but at least you’re attempting to be lawful.
If you choose to Walk Away (I did not – I was ready to murder a particular smarmy cultist.), you and three companions get to leave. Driving away, one turns on the radio and “Only You” plays. You black out, and presumably you kill them all. AND presumably the Resist ending happens as well, because there’s no reason it wouldn’t.
If you Resist, Joseph knocks over two big barrels of Bliss, and you have to fight. Joseph gets to teleport around, because of course he does – you’re on Bliss! The same bliss you’ve been soaking in most of the fucking game. I call lazy writing. No one at Ubisoft had a good idea how to end this. Over the course of the fight you shoot and then revive all your companions and friends, and finally get a kill shot on Joseph.
Only you don’t. He’s beaten up, but the 50+ rounds I put into him – to say nothing of my revived companions – have done nothing. Clearly, he is Superman. Or it’s another case of lazy writing. So we arrest him, because we again have no agency in this plot (my deputy would’ve shot him in the head and pled insanity. would’ve worked, too.). As you’re standing there, a nuke goes off in the distance.
Yep. A nuclear explosion.
See if you’d listened to the radio, there were apparently announcements about peace talks breaking down, etc. I never heard any, despite trying once I knew about the announcements, but not their content. And I drove around quite a bit.
So the people not knocked out by the shockwave pile into the truck. This includes Father Man-Bun. And you get to drive past a lot of burning trees, trying to get to Dutch’s nearby bunker. Of course we have no agency here either, and end up crashing into a fallen tree. When you come to, everyone else is dead or unconscious, and Skinny Jeans is dragging you out of the vehicle. You come to again handcuffed to the bed in Dutch’s bunker like the start of the game (look ma – a callback! we learned that in writing school!). Joseph then proceeds to monologue about how you took his family, how you’ll be his new family (they avoid Going There by having him say something like “you’ll be my child”). And he ends by pointing out that he was Right.
Nope. Sorry. Try again.
At any given time for as long as I can remember (which is at least 35 years), there have been screwballs in the news, claiming the End Days are upon us and (to quote Dennis Miller) running the Bible through their Jebediah begat Jedediah decoder ring to make it say what they want. None of them have been right. Even when nuclear war was something I as a kid in the 80s was sure was going to kill us all, I saw those charlatans for the frauds they are. I watched them fleece my grandmother out of a lot of her money, too. So if it sounds like I’ve got a hate-on for evangelical Christianity, you can understand why.
So you weren’t right, Joseph. You got lucky. And you better hope no one else with your same delusions manages to survive, or it’ll be round eleventy billion and one of “My Line to God is the True Line to God”.
What’s the game trying to say? I don’t know. It treats cultists as some kind of boogeyman, but gives us no certain way to stop them. I suppose the message could be, “These people have already won, and we’re fucked.” And while I’m fine with a downer ending – drop the bombs, in this case – not giving me the agency to finish off Joseph Seed is farting in my face after you’ve pissed on my head.
What the game really told me was not to buy the next Far Cry game until I read reviews that consider the ending.