Far Cry 5 finds players in the fictional setting of Hope County, Montana, where the mountain goats butt heads so hard that their hooves fall off (fun fact) and the doomsday cult called Project at Eden’s Gate is taking over. The game opens up with an attempt at arresting cult leader Joseph Seed (deemed “The Father), gone horribly wrong and soon spirals into a chaotic chase in which your character, a deputy in local law enforcement, is running for his or her life. Assuming you have lived through the subsequent fire fight and brief swim, your character will wake up confused but no worse for wear in a hidden underground bunker. Welcome to the resistance.
After completing a short tutorial area players are set loose on Hope County, Montana and given the choice of where to go next. The map is split into separate regions with each assigned to one of three siblings of The Father, also know as The Heralds. Each region will offer missions and side objectives that, when completed, will fill up a gauge with the ultimate goal of drawing out one of The Heralds for a confrontation. These zones do not need to be completed in any specific order and players can choose to focus on just one region at a time or bounce back and forth between several.
Outside of story missions, Far Cry 5 comes packed with both familiar and new side objectives including fishing, hunting, liberating areas controlled by cultists and tracking down stashes left behind by preppers (folks who horde away supplies, just in case a violent cult of religious fanatics decides to bring around the end of the world). Of special note in the series latest installment is the ability to unlock, recruit and bring along sidekicks for the ride. The sidekicks can either be recruited from liberated locals, who will take up arms and kill on command, or from a group of “special” NPCs that come with their own sets of side missions and offer unique abilities.
Far Cry 5 brings with it a 25 hour campaign and even though I have logged a solid 10 hours since release, I am still only in my first region. Yes, I am completing the story missions but most of my time has been spent exploring, collecting and unlocking. Why? Well, this is where the game starts to lose it for me: the story.
The Cult of Disappointment
The Project at Eden’s Gate is a fantastically creepy cult, in concept. The idea of Eden’s Gate taking over a rural county is full of promise thanks to potential themes including religious fanaticism, opioid additction and politically or racially charged motives but when push comes to shove, every encounter with the villains feels empty.
I’ve read through a handful of other reviews for the game and feel that Paul Tassi, a Forbes contributor, summed up my feelings best in his article ‘Far Cry 5’ is Apolitical To The Point Of Absurdity.
The Eden’s Gate cult is creepy, but ultimately uninteresting because their agenda is so muddied and nonsensical that it’s hard to even understand their purpose outside of doomsday prepping. All their dialogue is just a jumble of word vomit that sounds vaguely alluring and ominous, but ultimately means nothing… I think these characters are well-acted, but they are simply air. There was a lot of potential here to deal with a number of interesting issues, and yet the game takes none of those roads, content to make bold statements like “murder is bad, unless you’re murdering murderers!
One of the specialists that I unlocked early on was on the fence about whether to pack up his family and leave Hope County or to stay and defend the land and home that his grandfather built. Ultimately, he decides to stay to fight for his right, which is a wholesome sentiment, but his moment of indecision struck a chord with me: Outside of my ability to efficiently slay virtually constructed cultists, who am I to the locals that I am fighting so hard to save? Who are they to me and why should I care?
Even after finding out that some other members of law enforcement had been captured and were most likely being horribly tortured, I did not feel compelled to act. What am I fighting for and where is my hook?
Despite my misgivings toward the plot of Far Cry 5, there is a lot to enjoy that remains very Far Cry-ish. Players are encouraged to pick up side missions and explore the surrounding environments, which ultimately unlocks more side missions. These side missions can range from tasks like hunting down psycho-killer moose to stealing back an armored and weaponized Jeep from the Cultists. The vehicles in game come in many different shapes and sizes and players are encouraged to test them all out from very early on in the game.
In a change of pace, Far Cry 5 brings with it several new options for melee combat and sees the return of some other old favorite weapons like the bow and assault rifle. The perk system has also been revamped and is just one more reason to stray from the main story line and experience the world.
Far Cry 5 is indeed a fresh take on a tired formula and I won’t fault an FPS for a shoddy story line. I bought the game to have fun blowing stuff up and so far, I’ve blown up a lot of stuff. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Ubisoft had the opportunity to push the limits of asking hard questions in games, to immerse players in a world full of moral ambiguity and tough decision making, and decidedly stayed within the lines.