How Far Cry 5 can reclaim the open world crown

Poor Ubisoft. They crafted this enormous open-world icon-riddled niche of their own, trod it into the ground while flogging it to death, and then other people came along, borrowed their ideas, and built superior games with them. In the last year, despite decent showings from Far Cry Primal, The Division, Watch Dogs 2, and Wildlands, players and critics were beginning to weary of yet another open map of odd jobs. None was particularly at fault, but we were experiencing perhaps the sense of diminishing returns, and certainly the weariness of fatigue. And then this year we got Zelda: Breath Of The Wild from Nintendo and Horizon Zero Dawn from Sony. Pow. Two platform-pushing monoliths that schooled Ubisoft at their own games.

In the wake of being so astoundingly outshone, what can Far Cry 5 [official site] do to reclaim the crown?

No one can claim that Ubisoft couldn’t have seen it coming. 2015 had seen The Witcher 3, Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V. It was clear that their open world toes were being trodden on, with other studios often outdoing their own efforts. They had to step up. Of course, development lead times meant that we wouldn’t see this in 2016, and as mentioned above that year saw them put out a solid list of fairly standard examples of their format. But it’s perhaps fair to say they couldn’t have expected the degree to which 2017’s two console-exclusive big hitters would so enormously lift from the open world model used across so many Ubi franchises, nor that these new games would utterly blast even Ubi’s best efforts out of the water.

But that does make life tricky. It’s with some cruel irony that they announce a Far Cry – surely the flagship titles in their map-icon formula – into the fray having been so recently outdone. So what to do?

It’ll take more than money

I think the first thing is that the challenge won’t be solved purely with money. And I’d be willing to bet that would be Ubi’s first instinct. Zelda: BOTW and Horizon Zero Dawn (HZD) are both expensive games made by enormous teams over many years. Figures are vague, as you’d expect. But we know BOTW took over 300 people five years, and Nintendo say it will take an extraordinary 2 million sales to break even. At £60 launch price, that puts it at around £120 million. HZD is slightly more confusing because the developers gave a figure to a Dutch magazine, and it’s clearly far too low. Despite a team of 250, plus another 100 outsourced, and at least four years development, they claim it cost €45m (£39m). Although it’s likely this is minus the advertising budget, and since Sony was using the game to sell PS4s (just as BOTW was used to sell Switches), you can expect the same figure again or more to be tacked on. Which is all to say, these are a couple of £100m games.

Of course, Ubi has to make everything confusing, and not even a hint of budget figures has been released for the previous games. (We’ve asked.) Their games are made in a very peculiar way, with different portions of a single game made by different studios. Take FC4, for instance: those Shangri La dream sequences were made by a completely different team at Ubi Toronto, with completely different creative options, from those at Ubi Montreal making the waking world of the game. They compare this to movie studios, who will have multiple production companies working together to build a film, and overseas filming units with their own local assistant directors and production teams. Which makes guessing at costs even more ridiculously hard, but I strongly suspect the Far Cry series hasn’t nudged those astronomical budgets just yet, and I really don’t think it’d help if this one did.

More money often means more beautiful, more detail, more content, more side quests, and so on. More money can be really good for a large open game. But as the subheading says, it’ll take more than cash, and so we go on.

Remember to be a playground

I think this is probably the most essential thing to let Far Cry 5 be a game that stands out in such a busy open field. Because when you look back at the history of the Far Cry series, that is where it has always shone.

Far Cry, the original Crytek shooter in 2004, has more in common with the Crysis series than it does with where Ubi took the franchise. But despite that, if you look at where the game worked best, it was in those early stages where the player was bestowed with (then) unbelievable freedom to go off fixed paths and explore. To grab a hang-glider and soar wheresoever they may wish. To stumble into enemy soldiers and scramble your way out of the impromptu skirmish, then dash off in a stolen car. Gosh it was great. Right up until the bloody mutants show up. (It’s quite the thing that the notion of reintroducing monstrous mutants to the series at this point would seem outrageous.)

Far Cry 2 is a divisive game, where very wrong people think it was the best of the series [if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right – Ed], whereas right people recognise that for all its intentions of delivering absolute freedom, it was in fact a clown car of broken AI and repetition [my other car is a clown car – Ed]. But despite that, it too was always at its best when letting the player improvise within its world. As hilariously bad as the AI was, it was brilliant fun to set up a trap on a bridge for the sake of it, rather than because the plot demanded it. (That you’d then get to watch soldiers deliberately driving cars into rivers or shooting each other for no reason was a bonus.)

By Far Cry 3 a lot had changed, and what I think we can identify as modern Ubisoft’s core concepts were put into place. Big open island, lots of bases to capture, animals to skin, and side quests and collectibles to busy you for dozens of hours. And then, uncomfortably squeezed into that, was A STORY. A big stupid ugly really quite racist story of rubbish, but we’ll get onto that in a bit. I wasn’t as down on the action in the story missions as were others – I thought the different approaches broke the flow quite nicely. But even so, there’s no doubt it was best when it was freest.

Far Cry 4 was very much more of the same, slightly better refined, but not altered enough to avoid making the same mistakes. Primal tried to be slightly different, add in tribal business, recruiting characters, and so on, but yet again was only ever brilliant when you were mucking about.

I feel despondently certain that Far Cry 5 will have an over-written overwrought story that incessantly interrupts the entertainment. I feel more certain, in fact, because of the success of Horizon Zero Dawn, which had a bloody enormous story with lovely twists and turns, genuinely interesting characters, and a protagonist who felt real, vibrant and splendidly honest. If Ubisoft have proven anything with Far Cry, it’s that they don’t seem to be capable of that, and the worst thing they could do this time out is try. We don’t need an interrupting story – we just need an excuse to be playing.

Don’t be afraid to ditch a core idea

The situation Ubisoft have found themselves in is one of sticking too arduously to their formula. You know when you pick up one of their open world games you’re most likely to be gathering resources to craft, taking out enemy encampments to take them over as your own, and climbing some awkwardly designed towers. Each of these and so many other repeated factors, are I suppose “proven”. They’ve worked before, so they’ll work again. Except we’re now at the point where others are besting Ubi, and they need to be brave enough to abandon some of their core ideas.

My suggestion would be the enemy encampments. Why? Because they’re often my favourite bits of the previous games, and as well as not wanting to feel as weary with the concept as I already do, I’d love to see what they’d be forced into inventing if they couldn’t depend on them.

Maybe don’t be racist

Not something that usually comes up when considering how to sustain a long-running series, but good grief. I loved Far Cry 3 – I was one of the ones who successfully fought to see it as our Game Of The Year for 2012. It was, despite itself, an amazing festival of stupid fun. And, at the same time, it contained some absolutely embarrassing crap. With some homophobia thrown in. And an extremely badly handled rape plot. And magical Negros. And a colonial mindset. Games are complicated! Something that became even more bewildering after one of the strangest moments in my entire career – interviewing the game’s writer and realising midway through that he was giving excuses instead of answers, that entirely contradicted previous things he’d said. It was weird.

I guess I can better put this as: don’t see Far Cry as the place to make extraordinarily convoluted political points unless you actually know what that point is and why you want to make it. I mean, that’s probably a good rule to apply to everything, ever. So it certainly counts here.

Don’t be Zelda: Breath Of The Wild nor Horizon: Zero Dawn

It must be so tempting. You’ve seen these two very different games interpret the ideas you worked so hard to foster in such exciting and enormously successful ways, and dammit, it’s your right to take them back! But we don’t want Far Cry to be Zelda, and we know Ubisoft Montreal is not the studio to deliver something so delicate and intricate as Horizon. “But what about some boss fights?” NO! No Ubisoft, no. “But maybe we could have mechanical animals from the pas…” Ubisoft! “How about we borrow from…” Be careful now. “…From Shadow of Mordor?”

YES!

Oh my goodness yes. Please, finally, someone do that. Someone have the good sense to steal the Nemesis system, for goodness sakes.

Be weird

Perhaps I’m retro-fitting this rule having seen the the teasers we saw yesterday revealing the Montana location, and suggesting some peculiar goings on. But it could also be defensive in response to them too. Maybe I’m overreacting to my pleasure on learning it’s another big red reset button, no tropical island in sight.

My immediate vibe from the FMV clips was something akin to The Leftovers, my absolute favourite TV programme in a decade. That sort of lonely subdued horror. And then my imagination span away, thinking what Far Cry could do with something Lynchian, unnervingly quiet and subtly wrong. The little vignettes, the bell being struck by the man’s head, the dead body drifting down the river. They make me wonder if it could be a post-virus near-empty world, a last few survivors grappling with a planet where the rules of reality don’t quite work any more.

Of course, I could be being ridiculously optimistic and maybe it’s the more prosaic interpretation of what we see, with the worst possible outcome being – eurgh please no – zombies. It could be, couldn’t it? And then it wouldn’t be weird at all. It’d be bloody The Walking bloody Dead bloody again, wouldn’t it?

Weirdness would be so much more interesting, quiet, peculiar, unsettling just-off-balance reality. There’s the Far Cry 5 I’d love to see. Along with one that reaches above itself, lets itself let go of the remnants of its past, and responds to those games that blew its format out of the water not by trying to outdo them where Ubisoft are historically weakest, but rather where they’re demonstrably strongest. Playgrounds – big, daft, ridiculously free playgrounds.

We’ll find out just how disappointed I’ll be by the crushing reveal in a couple of days time.

95 Comments

  1. int says:

    Give us something like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, honestly how great would it be to play coop as Eastwood and Bridges:
    (jump to 4 min)

    • songkran says:

      Great movie! You reminded me I should rewatch this again soon.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Excellent suggestion. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is kind of a proto-neo-noir. It’s a bit lighter in theme than No Country For Old Men, but that might actually suit Ubi-level storytelling better.

      Urban crime tropes placed within a western/road environment, with some slightly off-kilter weirdness.

  2. Carlos Danger says:

    Can drop the don’t be racist already. With its setting I expect every villain to be a white drug/meth-head, sleeping with his sister and wearing a MANGA hat while driving his pick-up truck to the next clan meeting that is run by the town’s pastor.

    • stringerdell says:

      manga?

    • LukeW says:

      errr, that’s a pretty racist thing to say

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      John Walker says:

      It must be exhausting to hate games so much that seeing the word “Montana” causes so many people to fall head first into these so SO certain conspiracy holes.

      • alh_p says:

        Um, I know you get a lot of stick from swivel-eyed interweb goblins but I think you might be in danger of misreading the comment here. Looks like friendly fire to me…

        I could well be wrong myself – don’t know the OP from Adam (as in Eve, not Mr strategy games) – but isn’t the OP’s fear/joke about what another cliche’d view of somewhere in a Ubi game could look like exactly as you were advising against in the article?

  3. Crafter says:

    Honestly, BotW did not even have to try that hard.

    It took the sames basics of open world games as Ubi, it just had the balls to really look at what worked and what did not.

    Towers are stupid in ubi games. Climbing them is just boring.
    Climb the tower (without any challenge), get some new POI in the map, go there and do generic quests, repeat to the next tower.

    BotW breaks this by :
    -having an unique twist for each tower : frozen, hidden behind the terrain, in a battlefield, etc
    -having less towers
    -climbing the tower reveals the map, but not the POI. It is up to you to actually explore this open world. Guess what ? you are on top of a tower, the perfect place to have a look at what might be interesting to explore.

    • Moraven says:

      Being able to look out and mark beacons was great.

      POI marker infested Horizon also, but you had the option to not buy the maps that added them to your map. But the graphics are not as intuitive to clearly get you curious to explore various areas. Things in Zelda grab your interest and it has been the most fun to randomly explore.

    • JohnnyJustice91 says:

      BOTW did some more interesting things than just that.

      Game had its problems with the world becoming a vapid, existential obstacle to the next objective later on- but the feeling of adventure, the fact that it was systems based, etc. held out for much longer than they do in most modern open-world games for me.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      That actually raises a good point. Towers in games, when they reveal the map, you tend not to actually do much looking around. The camera might pan around, but the goal is always to climb the tower, not to actually see your surroundings.

    • Augh_lord says:

      Iirc the climb-o-tower-mania came from the Assassin’s creed series. I did enjoy some of the climbing as it gave me a vantage position to assassinate stealthily and I loved the detailed Arabic/Byzantine/Italian architecture.
      The fact that you were the invincible murderman didn’t make sense for so much cloak and dagger, but as a game mechanic, it was great to discover how sneak in and reach your target undetected.

  4. draglikepull says:

    I found Horizon to actually have a lot of the same problems that Ubi games have. The map is cluttered with icons and boring side-quests, the story is boring and poorly told, pointless time sink skill trees, and so forth. But.

    But!

    The dino hunting combat in Horizon is fantastic. In a lot of ways it’s a cookie-cutter Ubi game saved by the fact that the core gameplay itself is really good.

    Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, is a game I hope Ubisoft learns from. BotW strips away so much of the pointless fluff of open-world games and has confidence that if you give the player interesting tools and some space to figure them out, you don’t need to constantly prod the player with map icons and skill trees and other time-wasting fluff.

    • Daymare says:

      I disagree. HZD had
      – a really engaging, twisty story
      – an entirely likeable protagonist

      and I want to add:
      – not just good gameplay but also many, many different kinds of enemies and tools.
      – All *collectible* icons hidden except if you wanted to go look for them (I didn’t); other icons also simply served as markers, e.g. where some specific sorta robot was.
      – a cool, mostly un-exploited post-post-apocalyptic setting and some pretty awesome technology behind the graphics. I spent a long time in screenshot mode.

      • Daymare says:

        Except for the animal hunting. That was taken a little too directly from the Far Cries. While within the setting it made sense, and one didn’t have to do tons of it, it was — to me — by far the most unengaging part of the game. Fuck raccoons.

    • Moraven says:

      Collectibles you have the choice to enable or not via map purchase.

      You can turn off markers and route tracing in options. That along with a dynamic UI, it became a bit more immersive and less hand holding.

    • MushyWaffle says:

      I agree, HZD was overblown simply because it was a PS4 exclusive and they dont’ have many exclusives to get excited about.

      I beat the game.I 100% agree that the ONLY memorable character was the main one. Every shop was identical, crafting fastly became irrelevant as did money and the 90% of the weapons were not needed or interesting. The story was NOT that great, it was semi interesting from a sci-fi perspective. It was very predictable and wasn’t mind bending or even strongly interesting. I beat all.. yes ALL of the enemies with the same 2 weapons. You even get epic (purple) gear in the first 20% of the game meaning I finished the game with the armour and weapons I started with. Only reason to use other weapons was just to see what they did, but all you need is explosive traps for pretty much everything. Or just hide in a bush and pick them off 1 at a time (boring). Challenge with enemies is NEVER really there.

      No, it wasn’t all bad (great character control) but it definitely was NOT what the hype train created.

      • Daymare says:

        Sorry, but what difficulty did you play on? I played on the highest, and the idea of killing Thunderjaws, Stormbirds, or any of the boss versions this way in the Cauldrons is laughable.

        I had to regularly use: ropecaster,freeze arrow, corruption arrow, sniper arrow for humans, burning+sharp for Corruptors, Tear+sharp for big foes in general.

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          AutonomyLost says:

          This. I played on whichever difficulty level was highest from the get-go (Hard? Can’t remember.) and the damage taken was quite severe even in encounters early on, and it took a hell of a lot of ammo and well-aimed shots to fell the biggest dinos. The game was overall quite challenging, but fairly so, and also quite enjoyable. I hope the sequel comes to PC! Wishful thinking, but HZD would have been fucking Epic if given the room to breathe on a high-end rig.

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    Nauallis says:

    Intriguing thought, implementing something akin to the nemesis system in a game like Far Cry. I think Zenicetus pointed out on the FC5 reveal commentary that the fundamental problem with that sort of idea is that no more than a handful of the characters that you typically kill in Far Cry are meaningful in any sort of way. If you don’t want bosses or mini-bosses in Far Cry, I cannot think of any way to make something like the nemesis system fun, as that’s based around marking and co-opting meaningful mini-bosses. In fact, the brilliance of such a system is in removing some of the player’s own personal agency and need to clear a map of icons, rather opposite the formula that Ubi’s been pursuing with the last three FC games (and the Division, and Wildlands, and AssCreed).

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      John Walker says:

      To clarify, where I talk about boss fights in the piece, I mean the sorts of giant set pieces with multiple stages that you see in your Zeldas, rather than just a more difficult enemy like you get in Mordor.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Fair enough. Thinking back on my single playthrough last December of Far Cry Primal, I did rather dislike the faction boss-fights that they implemented, at least the Udam leader, because it was a case of arrow sponge stage then spear stage then arrow sponge stage. The Izila leader fight was incredibly weird. Both were more annoying than fun, though. And fit within the context of the game.

        So yeah, implementing something like BotW bosses or previous Zelda dungeons would be super tedious, not to mention having almost nothing to do with “normal” Far Cry gameplay.

        Although, that was kinda one of the things that HZD did well, adding all of the subterranean ruins for you to explore, not to mention the cauldrons that were totally unlike anything else in the game, e.g. mini-dungeons with boss fights at the end. What made that more fun was that the “bosses” were just regular robots.

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          Nauallis says:

          Though I was a little disappointed that cauldron RHO (the second one?) was so surprisingly short and easy, since the first one was lengthy, the third (thunderjaws & behemoths) was huge, and the fourth was made for stealth. Still, very memorable.

          • Daymare says:

            Yeah, did they run out of time when they made that one? I wonder.

    • urbanraccoon says:

      Adam mentioned the Nemesis system and I realized a perfect way to make it work with Far Cry, by using brilliant AI to make mini-bosses HUNT YOU. You could clear out an encampment, but word gets out youre nearby. Generic bro-buddy on the radio gives you a heads up, so you can take off, they will scour the area and chase you for a day (you are a legendary terrorist), or make your stand with mines and turn the encampment into a death trap. Every round you fire and animal you kill leaves a trail for them to follow. Maybe they C4 a bridge and wait for you. Maybe they take out the rebel trader that just sold you an RPG.

      In every Far Cry you are by far the most annoyingly deadly person in the conflict, wreaking havoc all over with your white privilege, yet they never decide to fly copters all over and check every signposted safehouse for you. Maybe you don’t get to have a free-roam vacation until you talk to a specific person in a specific place.

  6. playzintraffic says:

    The problem is that you’re expecting all of this from Ubi. To wit:

    “Each of these and so many other repeated factors, are I suppose “proven”. They’ve worked before, so they’ll work again. Except we’re now at the point where others are besting Ubi, and they need to be brave enough to abandon some of their core ideas.”

    and:

    ” Their games are made in a very peculiar way, with different portions of a single game made by different studios. Take FC4, for instance: those Shangri La dream sequences were made by a completely different team at Ubi Toronto, with completely different creative options, from those at Ubi Montreal making the waking world of the game. They compare this to movie studios, who will have multiple production companies working together to build a film, and overseas filming units with their own local assistant directors and production teams.”

    Ubi can’t pull off anything other than a mediocre, unimaginative game for the simple fact that they make games in this fashion. Most of the best movies do not in fact utilize these sorts of production methods; yes, the *highest grossing* ones tend to, but that’s far different from *best*. Look at the mishmash that was Age of Ultron (subpar compared to its less ambitious first installment), or the last Transformers movie. That’s what you get with multiple production teams working on a movie.

    Same goes for games. Ubi simply is constitutionally unable to muster the creative coherence necessary to pull off a great game. All their production method can do is create games with AAA production values, because what it is is an EFFICIENT production method, not a COHERENT one.

  7. DanTheDragonman says:

    BotW was good, but I don’t know about Horizon. I feel like it’s the overrated stuff that Sony always makes and pays reviewers to give really good scores. I never played it though, so I can’t really judge. The only Far Cry game I really played was Primal, and, other than it being somewhat hard, it is a pretty good game. Other Ubi games are pretty good as far as I know, but I haven’t played Wildlands yet.

    What really matters, though, IS CO-OP!!!

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      You impugn gaming critics with accusations of corruption in the breath before you say you haven’t played the game!

      I *have* played Horizon, in my own time, and it’s truly wonderful.

    • genosse says:

      Slightly offtopic: I always wonder which part of the brain makes some people believe in the most outlandish answers to their particular questions.

      I mean, is “people seem to like that game, even though it does not interest me” too much of a stretch? Does some kind of conspiracy theory of paid reviewers and crooked corporations makes more sense than that simple and perfectly valid answer?

      People get screwed over every day, plain to see for everyone, yet internet folks are fighting windmills, be it paid reviewers, the feminist agenda, social justice, leftist media or what have you.

      There is no need for conspiracy either. The combined deeds of individually acting assholes are all that is needed to turn this world to shit, always was like that and always will be.

      Seriously, I am in my early 30s and I already seem to lose my grasp. Did I miss out on something that made everyone else see the light, or what the hell happened? :(

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Valid points! At this point, I assume that there’ll always be a percentage of the RPS commentary that has their heads so far up their own asses that they are unwilling to accept anything but their own viewpoints as reasonable or okay… or as you say, that anything contrary to their own alarmist viewpoint is the result of a malicious machination rather than dumb luck or other people acting as paranoid/dumb as they.

  8. Zenicetus says:

    I don’t have high expectations for change. The template for the series (and the genre as a whole) is that the game’s play time is extended by killing hundreds of enemies. Every point of reference for something that would be fun to see in this setting, like “No Country for Old Men,” is based on a few meaningful deaths. Not wading your way Rambo-style through a few hundred dead bodies.

    If the game doesn’t include aliens or zombies (and it shouldn’t), then it will probably be something stupid like going up against a religious cult, where local law enforcement isn’t noticing the carnage. They’ve kidnapped your sister or something, and that’s all you need for a plot.

    I hope it’s more than that, but the series is boxed-in by the amount of killing used as filler. It’s what people buy these games for.

  9. Flopdong says:

    You are getting Far Cry and Crysis confused. There have never been aliens in a Far Cry game. The first game had you fight Dr. Kreiger’s mutant experiments.

    And while certainly flawed, Far Cry 2 was the best in the series

    • jeremyalexander says:

      I wanted to like Far Cry 2 so much, but the near instant respawn and the stupid sickness mechanic made it unplayable for me. How nobody has ever modded those things out, I’ll never understand.

      • Al_Scarface_Capone says:

        Someone has actually modded those problems out – link to moddb.com

        It doesn’t eliminate the sickness, but makes it happen much less frequently. Base respawn times are extended to like five or ten minutes (and they don’t just respawn, you see the enemies drive in, and can take them out at that stage). Additionally, it changes the damage modelling a bit, so that there are one hit kill headshots on both sides – enemies can one hit you, you can one hit them.

        Far Cry 2 is probably my favorite game, but the first time I played it I only got like ten hours in before getting frustrated with those issues. It was only playing with Dylan’s Mod that let me enjoy it so much. I replay it every year now, always with the mod.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Mutants, aliens, same thing.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      What if we were the aliens all along?

  10. Bostec says:

    Horizon: Zero Dawn has a similar open world design like your usual run of the mill Ubisoft title but thats where it ends. Horizon just had so much going for it! A decent story, characters, game play that oozes class and superb ideas that far dwarf a Ubisoft game. More importantly the game has soul, something that Ubisoft have lacked and failed into putting into a game since…I can’t even remember. Something seriously missing in their games and its just a little bit sad.

    • KenTWOu says:

      As far as I’m concerned, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag has soul.

  11. Kefren says:

    I’d like:
    – Remove uPlay if it is bought on Steam.
    – Make sure you have settings to turn off all the pointers, mini-maps and so on.
    – Remove silly (and slightly repulsive) stuff like killing animals to make a backpack when you’re probably raiding bases packed with fully-equipped soldiers. Erm, just take one of their backpacks. Or make one from a shirt or something.

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      Damocles says:

      Option to turn off the GPS and do some real navigation. This is what I have long hoped to see in open world games. Of course it would require detailed quest descriptions and proper maps but should be doable without too much development effort.

  12. jeremyalexander says:

    I don’t know, the setting is interesting, but without drastic gameplay changes, it will just be the same game we’ve played 5 times now.

  13. shocked says:

    From wikipedias FarCry 4 article:

    Ubisoft expected the game to sell at least six million copies in its first year of release. […] As of December 31, 2014, the game has shipped seven million copies.

    Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I think that’s it, really. It’s a working formula, and I don’t believe that Ubisoft is interested in this risky and dangerous concept of change.

    • LewdPenguin says:

      Sadly I feel much the same, just because others have taken the concept and moved on with it wont matter a bit to the Ubilords if they think they can make the same game again with slightly prettier pretties and automatically collect another big pile of cash.
      I don’t really care where they do it, whether it’s Far Cry Next or AssCreed Next or in an ideal world both, if they take enough of a step away from the formula they’ve kept on regurtitating and make an Ubilike that manages to feel fresh and interesting again I’ll buy, otherwise I’ll keep on picking up other developers variations on the theme instead, because at least on occasion other people manage to add a bit of variety into their iterations of the style.

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    goodpoints says:

    Since when did Far Cry ever have the “open world crown”? I love-hate FC2 as much as the next sensible fellow but GTA IV came out earlier in the same year. If we’re talking strictly open world FPS, well Operation Flashpoint came out in 2001.

    • Abacus says:

      Even at it’s most popular the series was described as ‘Skyrim with guns’.

      • klops says:

        Wasn’t that Fallout? “Oblivion with guns”

        • April March says:

          Fallout 3 was Oblivion with guns.
          Then Skyrim was Fallout 3 without guns, that is, Oblivion with guns without guns.
          Then finally Far Cry 3 was Skyrim without guns, that is, Oblivion with guns without guns with guns.
          That’s just how it is. I don’t make these rules.

    • warenhaus says:

      well Operation Flashpoint came out in 2001.

      and it was so good!

      However, due to it being a soldier sim, the feeling you could do anything you wanted to was not as present for me, compared to games like FC or GTA.

  15. Penguin_Factory says:

    As much as I’m hoping otherwise, I’m guessing the tone of the actual game will be much closer to the title-with-guitar-riff from those teasers, as oppose to the eerie, quiet videos that play before them. We’ll probably have a generic story where an evil militia (led by an oh-so-wacky “insane” leader) fight against a band of plucky rebels who turn out–uh oh!–to not be as good as they seem, and there’ll be a drunk cowboy guy for comic relief and some unfunny dipshit on the radio.

    Again: I would love to be proven wrong, but knowing how Ubisoft write stories doesn’t make me optimistic.

  16. Daymare says:

    Glad to read some of your thoughts on HZD, John! I was curious what you thought about it.

    Now I’d like a seamless version of Prey, no loading between levels.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    Played Far Cry 4 half a year ago and I liked it. But yes, it felt like playing Far Cry 3.5. That’s OK if you leave a decade between two games (like Fallout 3 & 4) but it’s not if you release a game a year.

  18. OmNomNom says:

    As long as I don’t have to climb any fucking towers to reveal a new map area, I’m good.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Again BotW did it better. There were towers revealing only the map for orientation not spoiling every secret.
      Also they had map markers for PoI but not breadcrumbs or arrows pointing the way.

  19. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I guess Primal while flawed was a step in the right direction by being weird, they had no guns and spoke a strange language throughout. Somewhat bold.
    Also recent Syndicate was one of the better ACs despite having the usual formulaic icon clutter of useless collectables.
    The rest of the industry goes ahead and I can see no reason why they shouldn’t produce something nice given good personal and time.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Also: open world game Xenoblade Chronicles X basically how they should have made ME:Andromeda, five huge offworld planet continents which you would travers in a flying transformer-mech later and you’re basically stompkilled by the alien wildlife 50 levels above yours the moment you exit the safezone, lol.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Primal is my favorite Far Cry, short of the first (I actually liked the mutants). They created an interesting, fun world, actually put the effort into not having everyone speak in english, gave a solid survival mode with increased difficulty, and even put the “harvest rare animal skins for new wallet” Ubi trope into an actually believable context. And perhaps best of all they gave us a setting we’ve not had a chance to play in before.

      It was a big, fun, silly and super-satisfying game.

  20. haldolium says:

    Ubi never held the “open world crown” so they cannot reclaim it. Before it became an abused sandbox excuse for compliant game design following the least common denominator, open world has been good in games like GTA. Since then, it’s a curse rather and seldom works out.

    Unless Ubi decides to kick out their icon hunt core dynamics and trying to please everyone, all their games will be the same.

    Most of your points really don’t matter much to me. Be racist even (they won’t, see Watch_Dogs 2 where they went SO FAR to battle everything with stereotypes, they could not be called racists anymore) – I wouldn’t care as much as I care about the blunt, overused core mechanics all their (3D, AAA) franchises share.

    Although after a decade of this, I think there is absolutely no way whatsoever for Ubi to turn around. Especially not with a popular franchise. They don’t even get their artistic side-franchises right (except Rayman maybe).

  21. Tom Servo says:

    Good to see someone else like the Leftovers, I really need to start watching the new season. You’re wrong about Far Cry 2, that game’s fire mechanic was insanely entertaining and I haven’t seen anything match it yet (admittedly I haven’t played a Far Cry since Blood Dragon). Nothing like setting a wildfire to smoke out enemies and then have the wind change so it starts blowing towards you!

  22. krikitarmy says:

    I know I’m being That Guy, but there’s some beautiful irony to there being a typo in this piece sandwiched between two comments from the editor. “It was in far a clown car”.

  23. tslog says:

    Horizon had fantastic dinosaur combat and frequently looked gorgeous, but everything else was garbage. Nevertheless Those two positive aspects I enjoyed thoroughly throughout the 70 hours to finish the game.
    That combat against humans I wouldn’t wish upon my enemies.
    Horizon zero Dawn has the best bow and arrow combat ever made by quite a distance.
    Main plot was decent, but everything else surrounding the narrative was garbage.
    In the second half of the game during main missions you have to do so much pointless fucking traversesal for the next story beat, which was filled with 2nd rate world building and story filler in the audio logs and text. Never again, thanks.

    The map wasn’t too big was a positive, but my god was it filled with fetch quest BS nonsence for side missions. Nearly All of it having truly awful voice acting and Mostly involving insane amounts of pointless traversal.

    Far Cry’s Open world setting has always been generic, with slight exception for FC2 feeling convincing enough, and Primal ( really boring play ) having a more detailed setting taken from FC 3 and 4.
    None of which matched the quality of horizons setting. Which made the long traversal parts slightly less painful.

    I still want outposts in Far Cry because they are the most fun not only within Far Cry series, but even within games generally. Nobody has match them in that area of conquering outposts. Why throw that away ? Sure it needs mixing up maybe through new enemy design/ placement, improved AI and tactical play and involving more diversity through new weaponry….

  24. ffordesoon says:

    What I don’t understand about all the post-FC3 Ubigames (and many, many other open-world games, to be fair, but Ubi and Bethesda are by far the most acute cases) is their attempt to tell one overarching story instead of many short stories with the same setting and protagonist. Because the main plot is always the worst part of those games by far, right? Whereas the side quests are generally pretty solid, at least writing-wise. Even WatchunderscoreDogs, which is about as gormless and lazy as a AAA open-worlder gets, still has some nice stuff in the side missions.

    I suspect this is because it’s virtually impossible to prebake a coherent and interesting story stretched out of dozens of hours which involves both traveling to every place on a map and killing a shitload of nameless disposable mooks in every location. A great Dungeon Master can get away with it because she can build her narrative one week at a time in response to the players’ actions, and even then it’s always going to feel a bit silly. Great stories have only as many characters and locations as necessary, and as others have rightly noted, they don’t rely on violence for violence’s sake either. If there are lots of stories the player can engage with which are explicitly not presented as part of some overarching story, this suddenly becomes much less of a problem.

    Ubi’s production model is actually perfect for the short-story approach, because it allows specific teams to focus on telling specific stories which illuminate something about the setting, the protagonist, or a small group of characters without worrying about whether it serves to advance John Everyman’s Hero’s Journey (which sounds like a Ubisoft game title) in some meaningful sense. It would be so much better for everyone if Ubigames just gave us a premise and a large number of small stories to engage with, right?

    • gunny1993 says:

      The dungeon master comparison is an interesting point. My favourite DM style is one where the player is free. i.e not railroaded into a story, but that doesn’t mean there’s not ‘main’ a story if the players choose to ignore it.

      So in tabletop the ‘story’ can progress quite independently from the players ‘story’, that’s something that doesn’t really happen in games. Take skyrim, you can complete every sidequest without even doing anything beyond the first mission. Whereas in tabletop, the queen being overtaken by the evil viceroy WILL happen unless the players influence events.

      I’d like to see a game that does that, with some soft time limits (or something) that change the nature of the world if the players fail to do things.

  25. vorador says:

    I think what the Far Cry brand needs is to make fun of itself. Far Cry 3 trying to deliver that completely ridiculous plot in a straight form killed it for me. It was so absurd it kinda parodied itself.

    But sadly, the last time Ubisoft has tried to have a little fun (Watch Dogs 2) it didn’t work saleswise. A pity.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      And yet straight after, they managed to do the best one in the series (at least in tone,) Blood Dragon. Honestly, I don’t think even the developers know what Far Cry ‘is’ at this point.

  26. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Until they take out the mandatory poaching I won’t touch these games anymore. Game devs need to get their heads out of their asses and stop presenting animal cruelty as super rad.

    • klops says:

      When I can kill a million virtual people in a game I can also kill a couple of virtual tigers in a game.

      • April March says:

        But people are bastards, while animals, by and large, aren’t. (You might have a case for, like, dolphins and some great apes, but tigers certainly are not bastards.) Animals kill other animals, brutally at times, but they don’t think about it. Animals aren’t mean.

        As for the claim that it’s just virtual animals… if an otherwise great game stopped every so often to inform you that your character had shat their pants and you had to stop and complete a minigame to clean shit off their pants, the fact that it was virtual shit and not real would not mean that it was an OK addition to the game. Cleaning shit is something I’d not find interesting, so I have no interest in doing it even in a simulated environment.

        • klops says:

          While it is always risky to speak on behalf of others, I’d bet a lot of money that DoD’s issue with the game was a moral one. Moral there being “I can shoot virtual people with a rifle and loot them, but I won’t shoot a virtual deer and skin it”. Your example of “virtually shitting your pants is boring” is not a moral issue, I’d also dare to say. But that’s just me.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It did make perfect sense in Far Cry Primal, where hominids are just one part of the eat-or-be-eaten environment. But I agree this is something they need to get rid of. Not just for the reason you mentioned, but also because as a game mechanic, it’s getting tired and played out now.

      • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

        Also worth noting that while in the early 2000s, hunting games could be AAA level, the only hunting games I see these days are shovelware.

  27. April March says:

    Saying that Far Cry 2 was bad because its complete freedom doesn’t work is like saying that I’m bad at chewing gum because I always spit it out at the end. (Especially when there are so many reasons why it’s bad that even those who love it will agree.)

    But yeah, a Nemesis system would be brilliant. The problem is that for a nemesis system to work it needs to be in a proper difficult game (otherwise you just mop up every single stronghold with no problem, every time) and Far Cry is already pegged as safe power fantasies.

    I’d have more hope for the off-branch series, because Ubi allows itself to go a little crazy on them, and that’s what AAA games need the most.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Well, saying you are bad at EATING gum because you spit it out would be a far better metaphor.

      • TheSplund says:

        Careful, all this gum chewing talk is getting dangerously close to Duke Nukem territory

  28. Flavorfish says:

    Far Cry 2 might not have been the best game in the series, but it was the best vision for a what an open world game can aspire to from the series. Really, almost everything people loved about Far Cry 3 were iterative improvements on ideas created in 2 (the emergence, the open approach, the sandbox nature of the game) , and everything people hated (the story,the joyless collectathon, the radiotower formula) was the product of 3.

    Plenty of great ideas were also lost in the transition from 2 to 3 (the focus on immersion, the level of challenge, the buddy system)

    • TheSplund says:

      Perhaps we might be about to witness a return to something a bit more Far Cry 2? There’ll be a lot less ‘bitey’ animals around, and plenty of stuff to set fire to, for starters.

    • maninahat says:

      What Far Cry 2 also did was set the precedent for having the story led by a crazy, “charismatic” villain in a violent, crazy world. And because Ubisoft are tremendously un-innovative once they’ve found what they think is a winning formula, they’ll almost certainly try to work the exact same things into Far Cry 5. The developers will have said “what setting will allow us to feature a crazy leader of an evil army?” Having done a pirate and a despot, crazed cult leader of a militia seems like the next obvious choice. I’m calling it now – the villain is going to be a stereotype religious fanatic who leads an army of coolaid drinking, gub’ment hating rednecks.

  29. pwalnuts says:

    Being set in Montana I demand there be a fly fishing mini game. Also, I want be able to craft an arrow quiver from a trout.
    The Leftovers is indeed the best!

  30. Premium User Badge

    alphager says:

    I see a chance that is just slightly larger than zero that Ubisoft will alter the formula in a significant way. Given the realities of software development projects and of the timeline (release date is rumored to be September this year), there is zero chance that Zelda or Horizon had any influence on the game. There just wasn’t any time to take them into account.

    Witcher 3 might have influenced it a bit, but from my pov Witcher is in a separate genre. Witcher games are about the story whereas Farcry games are about the shooting; the story is just a backdrop.

  31. dripgrind says:

    The basic “map-clearing” framework may be a bit tired, but it’s not like the actual gameplay isn’t evolving.

    Far Cry 2 introduced the emergent possibilities of spreading fire, the dynamic companion system, and had the best AI barks of any FPS.

    Far Cry 3 introduced the towers that apparently are the thing everyone now hates about Ubi games (even though Watch Dogs 2 and the Division don’t have them, and both BOTW and Horizon:ZD do, albeit done with a twist), but this installment is where they really nailed outpost design.

    Far Cry 4 was the iteration that didn’t do enough to change things up, and the “emergent” world felt incredibly fake at times, with heavily armed militias who seemed to be in life or death conflict with eagles most of the time. Even then, the autogyros and hostage rescue missions stood out.

    Far Cry Primal was a fairly bold change in terms of the actual combat and ambience, although not in terms of the map-clearing framework or even the actual map.

    What can they do to make the formula feel fresh in Far Cry 5? The real problem with the “map-clearing” framework is that it quickly destroys the illusion that you’re in a real, connected world with emergent events, instead of shuttling between various canned challenges.

    By giving you a little less information on the map, Zelda BOTW makes the world feel fresh and exciting for much longer. Even when you’ve conquered a tower, many quests aren’t just indicated by a map icon, but by a riddle you have to solve, a picture indicating a location (was the first game to do this Red Dead Redemption with the treasure map drawings?), or just an intriguing terrain feature like a labyrinth, a distant flying dragon, etc.

    To get away from the stale feel of “map-clearing”, the obvious move is to put more emphasis on the act of traversing the world. Instead of a mission starting at an icon, the mission would be to get to a certain point, or find something from ambiguous information pointing to a general area. But there’s a risk of falling into the Far Cry 2 checkpoint trap, where you end up clearing the same baddies again and again.

    The solution lies with two sources of inspiration that people have already mentioned: the Shadows of Mordor Nemesis system and No Country For Old Men.

    The details of the Nemesis system (leaders with specific vulnerabilities, and memories of when you tried and failed defeat them etc) don’t really apply to a setting with guns, but what they should take from it is the general concept of adaptive AI.

    Have enemies patrol and look for you and actively set up ambushes and roadblocks at choke points. Remember the scene in No Country For Old Men when he goes back to the scene of the massacre, and suddenly there are headlights on the horizon and he’s in a chase?

    For this to work, you’d have to make sure that combat is deadly enough that just blundering into an encounter and killing everyone is not the best option. To offset that, the player should have a radio tuned to the enemy frequency, and should be able to hear their chatter as they find bodies, set up the next ambush, send out patrols etc.

    Moving around the world therefore becomes more engaging: you’ve heard some chatter that they’ve set up to ambush you on a bridge, so at the next bridge, you know to scan the area for the presence of hidden ambushes. You spot a sniper on the bridge structure, a spike strip deployed across the bridge, a gun truck parked and covered in camouflage netting, two guys with shotguns lurking under the bridge… it’s an outpost level problem, but dynamically generated (and if you die and respawn or they’re setting up the next bridge ambush, the disposition of the enemies will change; maybe this time they’ve wired the bridge to blow, or there’s a team waiting to throw a spike strip, or there’s a heavily armed boat lurking in the river with the spotlight and engines off).

    This shouldn’t be a generic “heat” system where enemies just spawn and spawn until you escape. The enemy would be organised into squads with a specific geographic location. Each ambush would be a set number of men and vehicles, and if you kill them all, reinforcements don’t turn up magically. Instead you hear the central base asking them to update their status, then sending a patrol (or a chopper, boat etc) to investigate.

    Of course, there would still be smaller dynamically spawned groups of enemies, so you could never totally relax.

    The “listening in to the enemy radio” idea would make all the systems in the game more interesting. For example, if you steal an enemy vehicle, after a while they should realise and put your license plate out on the radio, so while before you could have driven past anything short of a roadblock unchallenged, now everyone shoots you on sight, so you have a reason to ditch that vehicle and try to steal another, undetected.

    Of course, you’d need to limit fast travel to make this dynamic work. Maybe restrict it to moving between the major quadrants of the map. By eliminating canned missions and challenges, you’d have less reason to keep ping-ponging around the map anyway. They could also add a secret network of tunnels and bunkers to give you a wider variety of alternative ways to get to the same area. After the story is over you could add easier fast travel for completists.

  32. second_hand_virgin says:

    FC2 is of course only game in this franchise worth playing and replaying (and maybe Blood Dragon if you need some brainless fun with guns). Freedom aside, it has most engaging story and perfect no-hero as a protagonist, and all the little gimmicks like sickness mechanic, rusting guns and constantly respawning enemies makes every playtrough unforgetable panic_and_improvise_fest.

    • KenTWOu says:

      There are mods that could make both Far Cry 3 (Ziggy’s mod) and 4 (Open World Mod) worth replaying, because they bring back panic and improvisation to the games.
      Besides, I never understood people recommending Far Cry 2 and Blood Dragon, but not the other games. Blood Dragon was really great as some kind of expansion pack, but that’s it. Compared with Far Cry 3 it was nothing but the bare bones. It lost way too many really important elements and systemic interactions, so its emergent gameplay never had a chance to really shine.

  33. GameOverMan says:

    “I would like to have seen Montana.”

  34. dashausdiefrau says:

    “At £60 launch price, that puts it at around £120 million. HZD is slightly more confusing because the developers gave a figure to a Dutch magazine, and it’s clearly far too low. Despite a team of 250, plus another 100 outsourced, and at least four years development, they claim it cost €45m (£39m).”

    I think this was told by a number of sources in recent years, but of that 60$ game, only 1/3 goes directly to finance game development. You have a 1/3 cut of the seller, then distribution, publishing costs, console makers share, advertisement and so on, so that $45m is rather accurate actually.

  35. jhk655 says:

    “it contained some absolutely embarrassing crap. With some homophobia thrown in. And an extremely badly handled rape plot. And magical Negros. And a colonial mindset.”

    Nice Social Justice warrioring. The game contained none of those things. Maybe pull your head out of your ass and start to look at the world (or maybe just games) for what it is, instead of through the prism of your own warped ideology?

  36. VeggyZ says:

    Hmm, I’m surprised to see such harsh opinions on the plot in Far Cry 3. It might not be unbelievable, groundbreaking, mind-blowing amazing, but to call it that bad seems like not giving it enough credit for what it does do. A lot of the opinion seems to fault it for simply being ridiculous and unrealistic, but I argue that these ARE video games after all, and the plots weren’t bad to the degree that it made me want to stop playing them. Predictable in parts, but you’d be hard pressed to find many games that aren’t. There have been plenty of games whose generic plots leave a bad taste in your mouth, and Far Cry 3 was not one of them – not even close. The Far Cry games in general are about the furthest thing from generic.

    They had interesting enough character interaction and motivations that combined with the rest of the mechanics in the game, made it a unique and unforgettable experience. It compares well with any game… Well, I guess I’m just surprised to see it garnering this level of hatred around the internet. People seem repulsed by it, and I’m glad I don’t see it that way.