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‘Far Cry 5’ abandons banana republics to fight madmen in the Land of the Free

Far Cry 5 creative director Dan Hay, is worried that the world is about to fall apart.

“I feel like we’re surfing on this possible calamity,” Hay said, “and that we’re right on the edge, and we don’t whether or not we’re going to be able to pull back.”

It’s not hard to understand what he’s referring to. Hay said that, growing up, he felt it living under the threat of a nuclear attack during the Cold War. Now, he’s started to feel it again. Which is why it served as the inspiration for the next Far Cry, which is set in the United States.

Far Cry 5 creative director Dan Hay Ubisoft

After four games, Far Cry has become known for a very specific type of story, one that falls between the classic “Hero’s Journey” and the origin story of a warlord. An outsider travels to a far-away land, finds himself (Until Far Cry 5, it’s always been a man) engulfed in a local conflict, and, through violence, rises to become a sort of wartime political leader.

That basic premise holds in Far Cry 5. Players control a local junior deputy police officer in Hope County, Montana, who must help the citizens of the county defend itself from the Project at Eden’s Gate, an aggressive, well-armed religious cult. The result, it seems, will be miniature war —Eden’s Gate versus an American “resistance.”

“Your own backyard is scarier than something you would pay to get on a plane to go do.”

For many players, however, particularly those of us in the U.S., the differences are what stand out. While past Far Cry games have been set it in foreign countries, the new game conceives of terrible violence on American soil.

“Far Cry typically takes you to distant shores,” Hay told Digital Trends, “and what I love is the idea that, in this game, your own backyard is more interesting and more compelling and more scary than something you would pay to get on a plane to go do.”

While so much of Far Cry 5, even after seeing small snippets, is utterly fantastical — at one point, we saw a crop duster attaching a Gatling gun to his plane – the hope is that you’ll connect that to a broader question. What if the things you thought protected you —the law, the police, the lock on your door — were not enough?

“Freedom, Faith, and Firearms”

Hay’s team began piecing together a story that would bring the franchise to the U.S. shortly after Far Cry 3 launched in 2012. At the time, Hay and his team were unsure that a Far Cry in the U.S. made sense, but Hay said things have changed in the past couple of years, and people are more prepared to accept the idea of a serious, violent conflict at home.

In defining the story, Hay cited political events from the last five years — including Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU (A.K.A. the “Brexit”), the 2008 financial crash, and the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve in Oregon by an independent militia group — as evidence that many people are caught in an embattled position, thinking in terms of “us” and “them.” While that obviously plays into the plot, it seems equally important for players, who may find this situation unnerving.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

He also said that, based on research from his team on para-military groups, the team created a persona for the game — a three-word mantra that explains the people of Hope. Freedom, faith, and firearms.

“Don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to think, and don’t try to take my gun.”

Creating a game that plays on players’ understanding of society and politics is bound to ruffle some feathers. Ubisoft hopes to minimize the potential controversy by making it unequivocally clear that the leadership of The Project at Eden’s Gate is evil. The group has started kidnapping local people to “save” them from a potential future calamity. Your character, as deputy, must defend the innocent citizens of Hope County.

“Don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to think, and don’t try to take my gun.”

It may help that, as in Far Cry 3 and 4, your enemy will be represented by a few specific faces. In Far Cry 5, that’s the family that controls Eden’s Gate. Hay said the members of the family had roles not unlike an organized crime family. Joseph, the father, is the leader, the man with vision. In his case, that is both literal and figurative. His son Jacob, a military veteran, oversees the group’s muscle. His other son, John, serves as a consigliere. Lastly, John and Jacob’s half-sister Faith is “the voice” — we aren’t sure exactly what that means, but given the context we’d expect a sort of internal evangelist, who keeps the father’s flock happy without exposing him too much.

On the other side, too, Far Cry 5 may lean more on your allies to define the conflict beyond generalizations and stereotypes. One of your character’s goals will be recruit members of the community as “guns for hire,” who can help you in combat.

Members of the Far Cry 5 team went to Montana to research the region. According to Hay, many of the characters you can recruit are based on real people. Ubisoft has released a trio of vignettes about some of these characters, which give the impression that more of the characters will personal narratives to complement their role in the game.

“We wanted to show people who were not just “nouns,” but “verbs.” If you decide you’re going to meet Nick [Rye, the crop duster with a Gatling gun on his plane], and you can figure out a way to convince him to be part of your resistance, you can call him and he’s going to bomb anywhere that you want him to bomb.”

Home of the free

While we only saw a very small amount of gameplay — far less then we’d need to tell you anything with certainty — Hay said Far Cry 5 would definitively be recognizable to its fans. Like past games, it’s an open-world shooter with a focus on freedom. That freedom starts with the game’s protagonist, whose race and gender will be customizable at the game’s outset. It extends to the game’s structure, as well. While players will still explore a world map, looking for quests and inciting incidents, the game’s primary story will not be told with a linear string of missions.

For many players, the differences are what stand out.

“Looking back at Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 where, if you were playing outposts, you could have the ability to go in and attack an outpost from 360 degrees. And one of us was like, ‘why can’t we do that for the whole game?’ Why can’t we make it so that at the beginning of the game you can go in any direction, meet any character, enlist them for anything that you want to do, be able to imbibe in the missions in any order, and just go.”

The game will still feature a large emphasis on gathering resources and crafting, with players hunting animals to gather resources.

“An animal that was once in corral is now out and loose, and all hell’s broken loose,” Hay said. “So yeah, you’re going to need to hunt. You’re going to need to get resources… All the things you would know from Far Cry, but we wanted to be able to make them feel like it makes to do in America.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Though we don’t know much about how it will work, Hay confirmed that the game will allow players to go fishing, rather than simply shooting fish in a river, as you would in the past.

While Hay was cagey on discussing it, snippets of the game shown also implied that the game’s crafting may extend to resources beyond the animal skin and bones used in Far Cry 3 and 4.

“The people that we met in Montana were resourceful,” Hay said. “They were thinking about how to take one thing and apply it to something else, and get a third thing out of it. And so, we wanted the same idea of being resourceful, and being able to take something that you wouldn’t normally think of as a weapon, and that’s where we’re leaning.”


We still have a lot of questions about Far Cry 5. Hay’s concept generates as many questions as answers. Will you feel the sense of existential concern that he feels? Can an open-world first-person shooter, which must be “fun” on a visceral level, stir those thoughts and feelings in a person?

And that also leads us to wonder, given how close the conflict in this game hits to home – do we want to feel those feelings?

The answer, I’m sure, can appear as simple or as complicated as we’re willing to see, both in the game and in ourselves. We’ll be able to answer that question when Far Cry 5 launches February 27, 2018.

Mike Epstein
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Michael is a New York-based tech and culture reporter, and a graduate of Northwestwern University’s Medill School of…
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