How to approach Far Cry 4? Having loved so much about the previous entry into the sprawling series, there’s the temptation to just dive in and play like a kid at a swimming pool, but that’s already nicely covered by Graham’s review. So I need an angle. But what angle?
There are a few that immediately spring to mind. Try to play as a pacifist – not particularly feasible in a game that requires death for progression. Play as an animal conservationist? Cute, but limited interest. Travel everywhere by foot? That’s for someone far more patient than I. Then it was suddenly obvious: play as a ranger. (The very opposite of an animal conservationist.)
Far Cry 4 knows itself very well. It knows that while some will care about the story of this fictional land and your character’s role in its fate, the real reason most want to play is to drive cars to the tops of mountains, paraglide down, then set fire to a town. They want to unleash mayhem, see what happens if you lure a rhinoceros into an enemy encampment, or kill an eagle with a Molotov cocktail. (Within an hour of playing the game, I’d killed an eagle with a Molotov cocktail.)
So rather than wasting your time with dribs and drabs of new equipment, this time out vast amounts is thrown at you straight away. It’s a sand pit, and as such it would be madness to sit you in the sand and not give you any toys to play with. And a whole better kind of madness to give you so many toys that you can barely reach the sand.
But how about I try to roleplay within this? My default class choice in any RPG is ranger. Bow and arrow, sneaky-sneaky, ideally a fine green hat. Obviously FC4 doesn’t have classes or such frippery, but it does have choice. And it’s my choice to take a bow, and eschew all other weaponry. Which is harder than it may sound.
FC4, rather obviously, expects you to fire guns. It gives you so many of them, often against your will. From the very start there’s absolutely no choice but to pop lead into the tummies and faces of men in red, before you escape its opening salvo of obligatory story missions. And mercifully, the acting’s so good that while this drags on, it’s at least independently entertaining.
But it sneaks guns in elsewhere pretty quickly too. A strange decision to immediately give you about forty-five different option wheels to muddle up, and yet only one slot in which to store a weapon means it desperately wants you to switch the bow out for whatever juicy new bangstick it’s trying to show off. Then it tacks on sidearms, which it turns out automatically replace your main weapon should you run out of ammo. And with a quiver only capable of holding ten arrows, that’s going to happen. In my attempts to Robin Hood my way through an enemy base, I’ve found myself involuntarily spraying bullets before I’ve know what’s happening. And then having to carry on in order not to instantly die.
The answer, I conclude, is that I need to heavily focus on improving my bow and arrow abilities, and perhaps most importantly, need to craft myself some better quivers. And to do that, I need to find that most exotic of animals – the pig.
I love that in Far Cry 4, I have found and senselessly slaughtered tapirs, rhinos, dhole, bright cheerful monkeys, peculiar rare species of which I’d never heard before... but pigs – not even seen one. So my game has become primarily about avoiding nagging main quests (I literally got a game over/reload because I walked across a tiny village to look at a door at one point – UBISOFT!), to look for porcine pens.
In my search for them, I’ve paraglidded to multiple deaths (I’m not well skilled with paraglides), picked many flowers, discovered hidden caves and sunken wrecks, gained karma for murder (videogames), and rescued hostages from red-clothed scoundrels, all using only my bow and arrow. A ranger I truly am.
FC3 and 4 both offer a lovely rangery option, with their caged animals in baddylands. Find a nice vantage point, hunker down, and shoot the lock off that elephant cage. Enjoy ensuing silliness. Like this:
And then there they were. Just snuffling about. My little piglets. Tempting though it was to fill them with ironic bullets, instead it was just a swift arrow to their piggy knees, before setting about creating an arrow purse from a sow’s rear.
And with this I shall persist. I will see how far it's possible to get through the game without firing a gun. Because guns are horrid, while sticking people with arrows so they agonisingly bleed to death basically makes me a superhero.