By rights I should sit back from my desk, blow the foam from the tops of my bubbling test tubes, and loudly declare, “MY EXPERIMENT HAS BEEN A SUCCESS!” But as is so often the case with science, it would have been failure that produced the most interesting results. Failure led to penicillin, the high five, and the satsuma. I have no satsuma.
Playing Far Cry 4 with just the bow and arrow proves to be entirely viable. In fact, it proves to be an enormous amount of fun. It doesn’t change anything drastically, doesn’t render the game fantastically more difficult, and doesn’t create too many hilarious anecdotes. In fact, I’d positively recommend playing the game this way.
While the bow is rather unsatisfying in terms of progression, it starts off incredibly powerful. Once you’ve added a sight to the stick, there’s really no more that can be done to it. Upgrade your quiver to the maximum animal skins will allow and you’ve got fifty regular arrows, and ten fire arrows and ten explosive jobbies. You’re packing. And the three are a surprisingly adept combination.
Regular arrows can take down most foes in a single shot, even if you miss their face. Tougher enemies may require two new holes in their bodies, or just one to their head. The toughest enemies, those bumbling around with flamethrowers and special suits, take a whole bunch, but here is where you switch to one of the specials and watch them blow themselves up.
With the main arrow so powerful, the fire and explosives end up mostly being there for pure entertainment reasons, or when you’re hugely overwhelmed. Seven of them all piling in at once means the relatively slow reloading time for the bow becomes a little impractical, but if you can set the whole lot of them on fire, or blast them all into the sky, it doesn’t prove too much of a problem.
Archery only becomes useless when someone’s right on top of you, and in my guise as a ranger, it’s wholly appropriate for me to stick them with my dagger. Risky, and definitely a cause of occasional deaths for me, but still not resorting to pop guns.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been slightly trickier. There have been bases I’ve attempted to clear multiple times, thwarted by the limitations of not being able to blast a dozen guards at once with a machine gun. Picking them out one by one gives much more opportunity for them to notice their colleagues are having impromptu naps, and while there’s a huge pay-off in terms of the attacks being silent, it’s meant a much more meticulous process of picking them off. It’s also led to far more elaborate ways for things to suddenly go horrendously wrong, creating the best moments in the game as I frantically scramble to get back on top of an ever-escalating calamity.
I confess, it has also turned me into a gun-wanting madman. I’ve never been one for caring of the brand of shooty-gun-stick in games. I like the one that lets me hit the target most accurately, and don’t tend to make much more fuss than that. But restricting myself from using them, I’ve found this mad urge to get the biggest, angriest gun, and just walk around spraying bullets into the air. I suspect, with this experiment concluded, I may spend a bit of time playing the game as the most ridiculously trigger happy lunatic that ever walked the isle.
But I also suspect I’ll quickly return to the bow. There’s something so satisfying about accurately aiming a one-shot weapon. And never more-so than when hitting a moving target with some well-practised pre-emptive aiming. It’s a superbly satisfactory way to play the game.
I think this is all testament to quite how great a game Far Cry 4 is. It’s unquestionably not a big step forward from FC3, even perhaps just an iteration of it with a whole new daft, ignorable storyline. But it’s such an adventure playground of silly fun. And that it has the room to let you ignore a huge proportion of its content – the arsenal of guns and ammo that are so central to its structure – is really worthy of remark. It has space to let you approach it as you wish. And I really have been, ignoring main missions for hours and hours, instead merrily filling in ?s and taking over bases and radio towers, all as the great ranger I now know I truly am.