Far Cry 5’s Montana is my favourite Far Cry setting yet

far-cry-5-montana

Whenever I talk to anyone I know about Far Cry 5, all I hear is frustration. Frustration at the embarrassing and cowardly storytelling (I agree). Frustration at the weirdly functional crafting, shopping and perk unlock systems (I agree). Frustration that there aren’t many mountains to basejump off (I agree). Frustration at how the near-constant arrival of roadside enemies, sometimes in all-seeing helicopters, is deleterious to playing it as a stealth game (I agree). Hell, I agree with every single criticism I’ve heard or read.

But I’m having a fantastic time. I don’t mean this in a straightforward “lol but the guns are fun” way – fundamentally, Far Cry’s setting and pace clicks with me in a way the even more outlandish 3 & 4 never did.

Superficially, this is more of the same, but in a forested part of America rather than Indonesia or Nepal. Which is to say, a sandbox warzone in which you broadly have the choice of all-out action or stealth and often get told what to do by obnoxious characters. Far Cries 3 & 4 are perhaps the most warmly-received examplars of the Ubimap to date – icons everywhere, activities everywhere, never the faintest risk of having nothing to do.

far-cry-5-america

They both drove me spare. 4 less so than 3, partly because it avoided the same disastrously-executed satire of white saviourbro tropes, but it retained the same grating sense of sugar-high mania, of extreme unreality and excessive mugging to camera. I felt too much that I was in a playground rather than a place, and even the animal hunting to build more capacious wallets systems that enraptured many was too obviously a dopamine hook.

I expected the same again, but it turns out I’m hooked on Far Cry 5’s woodland mayhem in a way I was not on Far Cry 3’s tropical beaches or Far Cry 4’s Himalayan spires, primarily because it reminds me variously of Twin Peaks and STALKER. You’re gonna have to hear me out here.

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Glossed-over socio-politics aside, in some quarters there’s been a feeling that Montana isn’t the richest setting for a Far Cry game, given it’s a lot more uniform and a lot less mountainous than the Nepalese and Indonesian environments used in 4 and 3 respectively. This is exactly why it’s working for me.

It doesn’t feel quite so much like a theme park – the narrowed focus means there’s a greater sense of internal cohesion to its farms and factories and trailer parks and churches and police offices. It can also do a quiet, moonlit road or sparkling lake par excellence.

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Essentially, this is a superior place for the simple act of looking around, whereas 3 and 4’s environments I found acted solely as facilitators for hijinx.

Clearly, most actions I might take in this place are wholesale cartoonish and, unless I spend every moment crouched, the game rains angry men on me on such a frequent basis that taking a lovely walk in the woods is entirely impossible, but nonetheless I find that the look and feel of the environments is at least within touching distance of something like reality (the same cannot be said for its people or politics).

And man, smell those trees. Far Cry 5 does good trees, towering and noble, remarkably effective agents in giving the whole game a sense of scale. Helicopter rides over them – which are about as untroubled by enemies as you can be in this game – are blissful affairs, strongly evoking a Lynch-eye view of Washington State. Hence, I couldn’t resist knocking up this:

When I traversed by air or tyre over FC3 or 4’s world, I did so looking for specific objectives, for forts or side-missions or anything else that might fill my purse or increase my rank. I didn’t care about what I was looking at if it wasn’t an icon. When I explore in FC5, I actively steer clear of trouble (easier said than done, admittedly) – I do it to see this woodland world laid out before me so beautifully. The size of it takes my breath away.

It’s not just the trees, either – it’s the way a huge lake or iron bridge will suddenly appear between their endless expanse of green and brown, or the wilderness unexpectedly giving way to fleeting civilization, or the deer scattering when I fly in low. Best of all, the helicopter doesn’t seem to run out of fuel, so I can do this for ages.

I do wonder how Ubisoft’s artists feel, creating such a remarkable landscape, only to have it filled with shouting and murder. On land, when I toggle crouch on or off, I switch between two different games – one sedate and moody, the other unending chaos. The most vital unlockable skill for me has been the one that increases crouch speed – now I can see more of the world while still able to make my own decisions about whether I want trouble or not.

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There is so much more ambience to this Far Cry if one can resist the chaos. I noodle about, sometimes wandering through dark woods rescuing a prisoner here or delving into a subterranean bunker there, sometimes dodging bears and cougars on the sunlit hillsides. Sometimes I stumble into some significant structure or encampment that looks simultaneously filmic-familiar and deeply strange, and then things kick off with what can be massive setpiece fights.

This is where the Stalker comparison comes in. I was always conscious in that game that I was being pushed in specific directions and triggered specific scripts, but it felt nonetheless like my own personal voyage of discovery and a horror, in a world that kept on turning whether I was there or not. Far Cry 5’s bellowing attitude couldn’t be more different to Stalker’s maudlin introspection, but something of that sense of being pleasantly lost in a dangerous place remains.

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There’s plenty to undermine it, naturally. There’s the aforementioned excessive frequency of new enemies arriving from road or sky, ensuring every junction becomes a slaughterhouse. There’re forced capture sequences and cutscenes that can drag me back into the cowardly vacuum of the plot if the game decides I’ve idled too long. There’s something weirdly functional, even unfinished-feeling, about looting and shopping, which can leave me feeling restless about whether I’ve got everything I need or not.

But I keep finding myself running through those wonderful and strange woods with my selection of silenced weapons and my pet mountain lion by my side, and I feel so content.

50 Comments

  1. LennyLeonardUK says:

    ‘There is so much more ambience to this Far Cry if one can resist the chaos’.

    And therein lies the problem with this game I am afraid. Avoiding the chaos in this game is akin to avoiding sand at Bombay beach.

    I have been playing Far Cry 5 for around 5 or 6 hours now and I have been left hugely disappointed. The setting is fine and even the story seems passable for your typical modern open world shooter. But what lets the game down most of all is it’s relentless pursuit of entertainment. The game seems scared that the player may lose interest if they aren’t shooting something for more than 10 seconds.

    Constant encounters with both wildlife and bad guys have sapped all my enjoyment from the game. The simple act of exploring the world at your own pace (something I came to love about the original STALKER funnily enough) is part of what makes this type of game special to me. But the game seems to go out of it’s way to stop you from doing so. Instead we are left with what feels like a Call Of Duty campaign stretched over 50 hours of gameplay.

    • khamul says:

      Lots of people have said lots of snarky things about Skyrim – but the thing is, right now, after how many years, I still want to go back and play it a bit more.

      And one of the reasons for that is the pacing, which they got just right. There’s fights out there, in the wilds, for sure. But there’s also plenty of chances to just explore, and enjoy the beauty of the world they made.

      Yeah, you know what? I’m gonna go play it again.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I know it’s a different studio, but since it’s under the same Ubi umbrella, it’s interesting that this is designed so differently from Assassin’s Creed Origins.

      In that game, the player character isn’t constantly attacked unless you intentionally get too close to a garrison or thieves den, and it’s easy enough to avoid the few hunters that are after you. You can spend as much time as you want just exploring, enjoying the setting, and doing a little tomb raiding on the side. When you’re ready for some action there is plenty of it available, but it’s your choice most of the time. It’s a great balance.

      I guess the timing wasn’t right to gauge the AC Origins reception in the market, and then balance FC 5 to allow a little more exploration. Or else they felt the FC fans wanted this much constant action? Anyway, it’s a shame, and it’s keeping me from buying it for now.

  2. The Regulator Guy says:

    “Cowardly storytelling” seems a rather harsh way of saying “storytelling that’s not what I wanted.”

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      There’s something to be said against a story that clearly wants to unload with both barrels at a certain group, but holds back purely because it might offend a market segment.

      Beyond that, I can agree with Alec here. There’s something to be said for a game world that lets you meander and poke around. I had a similar experience with GTA IV, where I’d ignore the phone calls and general prompting of the game world to continue on missions to just wander through the city streets, looking for the neat little nooks and crannies and experimenting with the physics engine. Despite the somewhat badly-aged visuals, there’s a certain weight to that world, and exploring on foot really makes you see the detail put into everything, and the ambiance is probably the closest I’ve felt to a truly major city in a video game.

      • The Regulator Guy says:

        > There’s something to be said against a story that clearly wants to unload with both barrels at a certain group, but holds back purely because it might offend a market segment.

        Fair enough, but I’m not convinced this story wants to. I think a lot of reviewers wanted Unforgiven when the developers wanted Blazing Saddles — which did include quite a bit of implicit commentary, some rather pointed, but never at the expense of the comedy or appeal to a broad audience.

        I agree completely about the article as a whole; it’s good and I should have mentioned that in my initial comment.

    • funky_mollusk says:

      Yes. So maybe you could gather that that was not what was meant by that statement.

    • April March says:

      “Cowardly storytelling” is exactly what I’d call the stories of Far Cries (???) since 2. And “frustrating” is exactly how I’d define it. They have the guts to go to where no other AAA dev will thread, but not only believe that merely going there is enough (and thus do not do anything interesting while there), but also believe that this turns them into the sole saviors of video game storytelling.

    • Kial says:

      It’s a pretty cowardly way of saying “I hate trump and wish the game would as well”.

      • Jimbo says:

        You could argue it’s braver not to do the predictable “Lol Trump amirite??” routine when the game review bubble is overwhelmingly dominated by Trump-hating leftist groupthink.

        They would have known game reviewers would lap it up and reward them for going that route, or -as is apparently happening- punish them for not doing so.

        • shitflap says:

          As much as I hate Americans and the assumption that people in the UK give a fuck about their politics, or any of this shite about the “left wing media”, I sadly have to agree.
          No Far Cry game has had any kind of story that would indicate that this one would be some kind of searing takedown of American culture, and as far as I’m aware, no indication that’s what they were aiming for anyway.
          Instead of vague criticisms about how the story is cowardly, I’d like to see an attempt at someone outlining what the story should have been instead.
          I’m playing the third one, and the story is enjoyable trash, but it’s just a loose framework for the fulfillment of shooting set-pieces and splosions. Who the fuck expected this one to be The Wire?

          • Premium User Badge

            phuzz says:

            Far Cry 2 wasn’t quite a “searing takedown of American culture”, but it was close (if your replace “American” with “western”).

          • shitflap says:

            I admit, I was only thinking of 3 & 4 there.
            When I’ve finished 3, I’m gonna replay 2, as I recall enjoying the constant gunfights but not one bit of the story.

      • mrbeman says:

        What in the name of god are you talking about? You think the far-right anti-government religious militias of the US are fans of any aspect of the federal government, regardless of who’s occupying the office of the POTUS? You think the ones in the real world got behind the bump stock ban or liked Trump saying “I like taking the guns first, then doing due process after”? These are the Timothy McVeighs of the world, using Waco and Ruby Ridge as rallying cries. The federal government is the ultimate villain to them, period, and they don’t like ANY President.

        Or at least that would have been the case had the game attempted to sincerely engage with any aspect of the militia movement. Which it didn’t.

        Good lord.

        • yoggesothothe says:

          It’s rather disturbing that extreme anti-government rhetoric in the US has become so mainstream that the sitting President is equated with the militia movement not only in the minds of his detractors but his supporters as well.

  3. Werthead says:

    One of the best things about the original Far Cry was stealthily reconning enemy bases, marking enemies on the map with your magic binoculars and spending quite a lot of time stealthing through the jungle before firing a single shot (at which point all hell invariably broke loose). None of the other games seem to have made this work as well, despite the original not having any kind of stealth kill or silent takedown mechanic.

    Something that I’d also like to see would be a comparison between FC5 and Just Cause 3. My sense is that Just Cause took a long look at what Far Cry was doing and just took it to eleven: absolutely massive worlds (much larger than any of the FCs) filled with lots of stuff to blow up, rebels to lead into battle, bases to destroy, far more vehicles, more intense combat, all done much more tongue in cheek (FC1, 3 and 4 all had some fairly notable comedy stylings, but nothing lik Just Cause) and with an emphasis on fun. Although I enjoyed FC3 and 4, 4 in particular felt a bit anaemic compared to JC2, and given how much better JC3 was, I’m wondering what more FC5 has to offer, especially since the story sounds bobbins.

    • onodera says:

      > given how much better JC3 was, I’m wondering what more FC5 has to offer, especially since the story sounds bobbins.

      Hopefully, stealth and enemies that do not literally respawn behind your back.

      • Werthead says:

        Well (having played 10 hours or so now) FC5 definitely spawns in enemies behind your back on a fairly depressing basis. The stealth is okay, but surprisingly less robust than Mafia 3, which I just finished playing a couple of weeks back. The enemies in FC5 have insanely good vision, even through foliage and trees.

    • fish99 says:

      That’s exactly how I played FC3&4 though, as a recon/stealth game, something you couldn’t do in Just Cause (at least AFAICR).

    • punkass says:

      I think the game in Far Cry 1 stands up surprisingly well. Every time I found a part too hard, I could take another path, spend 10 minutes really working out what was the best way to take out the enemies, and do fun things like snipe a few before legging it to another location as everyone spread out to trap me in my original position.

      Unfortunately the characters are abhorrent, the story is like the fever dream of a 15 year old who can’t stop touching himself, and the mutants were a horrible aberration.

    • Cunuroi says:

      Wow, I’ve read your blog and read your discussions of TSA on Westeros and elsewhere @Werthead

  4. robotslave says:

    I suppose this is fair if you’ve never been to Montana, but for those of us familiar with the place, holy crap did they ever miss the mark.

    Most of Montana is grassland or scrub, not forest.

    Its poor rural people do not have southern accents.

    Something like 7% of the population (and a higher percentage of the poor, rural population) is Native American. These people have been completely erased from the game.

    The poor, rural people in Montana don’t complain about “liberals.” They complain about Californians, who are often conservatives, buying up ranches as vacation homes.

    It’s as if the dev team took a week’s research-vacation in or just outside Glacier National Park, mistook some motor-camping tourists from the South for locals, then went home to San Francisco and never looked up from their desks again.

    I suppose they got the Meth problem approximately right, at least, so that’s something. They whiffed on the heroin problem, though, unless a lot of those bodies strewn all over the place as set dressing are meant to be nodded-out junkies rather than corpses.

    • brgillespie says:

      Fair enough, but the game seems set in a single county within Montana, so the devs wisely chose to represent the picturesque part of the state.

      After all, if somebody makes a game set in Colorado, they would never use our state’s eastern plains as the game’s setting.

    • mitrovarr says:

      1. There are parts of Montana that do look like that (mostly in the western part of the state, by Idaho).

      2. Yeah, western people have a very generically American accent. They probably did that so the voice acting didn’t sound like they just grabbed random people off the street.

      3. While the western states in general have a lot of Native Americans, they aren’t evenly distributed. There are often large areas with few/none. An area filled with a fundamentalist cult, which would probably be virulently racist (at least in real life), might have driven them off.

      4. Every place I’ve been in the west, many of the poor rural people are rabidly, frothingly conservative and absolutely do complain about liberals. Everyone complains about Californians too, though (including less recent Californians).

      I will say that both in terms of appearance and theme northern Idaho would have probably made more sense as a setting.

      • robotslave says:

        Totally agree that northern Idaho would have been a far, far better fit.

        Northwestern Montana, though, is close to both the cultier parts of Idaho and to two huge reservations, home to the Blackfoot Confederacy and Confederated Salish & Kootenai. If racist militia types were driving members of the tribes off of their land, it would be international news, and a rather significant part of the lore of your fictional setting, if that’s the backstory you wanted to go with.

        The western part of the state is also chock full of the kind of mountain-rimmed scrub/grass valleys that gave the place the nickname “Big Sky Country”, a phrase that you easily get the full measure of once you’ve been through that kind of land. If the devs made any effort to convey that at all, they failed miserably– but then I never got the sense that they were even trying to begin with.

        It’s a game. It’s a Far Cry game. Regional and cultural accuracy are just about the last things the studio, or the fans for that matter, care about.

        All I’m saying is that most of the rural Montana that I fondly remember looks, sounds, and feels nothing like the video-game “Montana” that Alec finds so fetching.

        • mitrovarr says:

          I think there’s room in Montana to have both the game’s version and the one you remember. I mean, there are places in Wyoming that are dead ringers for the game but the place I grew up is all wide open sagebrush steppe.

    • ludde says:

      … went home to San Francisco and never looked up from their desks again.

      Developer is Canadian?

    • gtb says:

      Having grown up in Montana, I can say for sure there isn’t nearly enough casual racism, as long as we’ve decided to strive for realism.

      Also, I have never seen anyone in Montana with a mullet. Maybe I just missed all the good parties.

  5. Spuzzell says:

    I enjoyed Far Cry 3 and 4, but I’m waiting for what I believe to be the inevitable patch that dials down the constant attacking of the player by human and beast before I buy into Far Cry 5.

    It just sounds far too one note as things stand.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      The game is a lot of fun, and in my opinion is doing a lot of things very well.

      But yes, I also think a patch to tone things down is inevitable (or at least, should be…) because it’s almost like someone in a position of power played the game five minutes to midnight before launch and panicked, making the devs turn the volume up to eleven. It’s crazy.

  6. tslog says:

    I really liked Far Cry 3 and 4 for the gameplay.
    But Both of those game environments where severely underdeveloped with vastly ignorable settings, with 4 being especially generic.

    Far Cry 5 has a much better setting that is actually reasonably convincing for a reality based place.
    5 has a variety of flora that obliterates what came before it, instead of the computer generated similarity of chronically obvious computer generated low rent landscapes ( more so with FC 4).

    Sadly for the combat here in 5 , the AI is worse which makes encounters less enjoyable. The enemies and character animation is very poor too.
    But the simple puzzles, natural discovery of new objectives, and increased variety of side missions… makes up for the lack of better combat….just a little.

  7. Skidlz says:

    “Helicopter rides over (Montana’s trees)… are blissful affairs, strongly evoking a Lynch-eye view of Washington State.”

    Yes, I also describe Nevada by saying how much it looks like New Mexico, and New York by how much it looks like Connecticut.

  8. Zombiwan Kenobi says:

    Sadly recent games share this exact same issue. Beautiful vistas and well polished open world but empty, dull, repetitive and boring games.

    Hopefully most players only need explosions and bullets to not get bored really fast so my only hope so far is to wait for Cyberpunk to change a few things about all of this boring and brainless waste of creativity. Modern devs have become quite lazy and uninspired when it comes to actual gameplay, story and how to entertain the player aside from killing endlessly spawning stuff.

    For reasons i’ve been enjoying Subnautica way more than AC origins, Far Cry or any other EA/Ubisoft AAA jaw dropping graphical creations. I didn’t even finish any of them since repetitive tasks/spawns combined with the most boring stories ever kill all the fun. You can’t even play the game your own way nor create anything ingame cause everything is set in stone, you have no choice and at some point you’re kind of a prisoner in a freeworld which is even more frustrating.

    • MajorLag says:

      > Modern devs have become quite lazy and uninspired when it comes to actual gameplay

      Devs are molded by the consumers. If they’re producing vapid games it’s because gaming culture isn’t demanding better of them.

  9. barelyhomosapien says:

    Far Cry 5 feels like a perfect polishing of the Far Cry formula, to me.

    The (all but) removal of the pointless gating crafting system, the opening up of the perk system, the change to the way you explore the map and the various customization of character, weapons and vehicles all change things enough to just make it work. Removing superfluous busywork

    Yes the encounters are maybe a bit too prevalent, currently and hopefully get tweaked though I’m really enjoying the chaos.

    I think it’s unfortunate how the promotional materials around the game seems to have been designed to give people the impression that it would have something brave to say about modern middle american politics and society when, it is very much just another shallow story framework designed to give your open world play a goal.

  10. rickenbacker says:

    I love to just noodle about in the woods in FC5, but what the HELL is up with this constant Redneck Rush Hour as soon as I go anywhere near a road, building or random blade of grass?

  11. skyturnedred says:

    Still waiting for Blood Dragon 2.

  12. haldolium says:

    I found FC3 (or the original for that matter) still the best environment-wise. FC5 seems… boring. Reminds me of a few parts on the GTA5 map, without the diversity.

  13. empty_other says:

    FIRE! Proper spreading fire. I’ve been missing being trapped by burning grass since Far Cry 2, and yesterday i got trapped in a burning house! That i myself put on fire by throwing a molotov cocktail at somebody outside right before i entered the house. Didn’t expect it to spread that quickly. Beautiful.

    I’ve also missed being revived by friendly NPC’s but FC2 is still doing it best: You black out but suddenly hear a lot of screaming and shooting in the background, and someone rushing over to you, and find yourself having been dragged to safety by a friendly face. Your saviour even gives you a new gun.

    What i DON’T miss from FC2 was the constant enemy spawns. But it does calm down somehow after you’ve “liberated” areas.

    Conclusion: FC5 is so far the best since FC2, imho.

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  15. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    The location and landscape and politics of this game looks almost as dull and boring as it did in Assassins Creed III: Who The Fuck Cares Deluxe Edition.

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