This week’s release of Far Cry 6 by French publisher Ubisoft will mark an important milestone for the franchise, as it will be the first title in the Far Cry games to follow in the footsteps of both Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Valhalla by offering the choice of a male or female gender for the game’s protagonist (both sexes are considered canon).
In the case of Far Cry at least, this feels like a natural evolutionary step, and I’m happy to see it. What I’m much more surprised about, however, is that it is 2021 and Far Cry is still using numbered sequels…what is with that? Few franchises these days dare to put a “6” at the end of their title.
All joking aside, with Far Cry it’s a whole different story. Despite the number six often being seen as a sign of unbridled samey-ness and/or outright stagnation for most game franchises, Far Cry 6 fearlessly wears the number like a badge of honour, and deservedly so. While I initially went into this review expecting to get more of the same Far Cry experience that I loved in Far Cry 3 and enjoyed to a lesser extent in Far Cry 4.
After playing the game for a week, I came away with the realization that what little of “the same” that actually remained from the previous games was only more of the good, and that even those familiar elements have taken on a new spin inspired by Far Cry 6’s new setting. Players who dare take the plunge back into Far Cry’s warm, crocodile-infested waters, as I have, are likely to find that the constantly evolving series hasn’t jumped the shark just yet.
If the above metaphor didn’t make it obvious, a huge part of Far Cry 6’s appeal is its return to its signature tropical island setting, a welcome sight after the harsh, Himalayan climates of Far Cry 4’s fictional Kyrat and the idyllic yet overly-familiar American northwest backdrop of Far Cry 5’s Hope County. Not that either of those locales were any less beautiful, but for myself personally, a big part of what made Far Cry 3 resonate so strongly was the bizarre juxtaposition between the inviting sun, sands and blue waters of the Rook Islands. T
The lawless, over-indulgent violence is enacted by the game’s villain, Vaas, his henchmen, you the protagonist, and the ferocity of the islands’ wildlife inhabitants that always want to kill or eat you (even the birds). Now set in the Caribbean, Far Cry 6 immediately gives off the same “war in the midst of paradise” vibe.
“Players who dare take the plunge back into Far Cry’s warm, crocodile-infested waters, as I have, are likely to find that the constantly evolving series hasn’t jumped the shark just yet.”
This time around, though, Ubisoft has trained its increasingly political lens towards the largest and potentially most controversial playground that the Far Cry franchise has built to date, the isolated island nation of Yara, which, by the end of the game’s opening cinematic cannot be mistaken for any other real-life location than modern-day Cuba, with some caveats, of course.
In Ubisoft’s alt-history version, the recent death of Yara’s leader (as well as former revolutionary and guerrilla legend) Santos Espinosa sparked an economic collapse that resulted in calls for a national election. Anton Castillo, a descendant of the aristocratic family that previously ruled Yara before Espinosa overthrew it in 1967 and erected a trade blockade that cut the country off from most of the international community for nearly 50 years, was elected on a platform to lead the revolution-weary nation “back to paradise”.
Unfortunately for most Yarans, the cure has proven to be even worse than the disease. Viviro, an experimental yet effective anti-cancer drug derived (ironically) from tobacco leaves and developed by Yara’s top scientists, is being hailed by Castillo as the country’s path to salvation, and all the world’s developed nations are waiting in line not only for the drug itself but also the rights to purchase the lucrative patents.
But while the birds-eye view of Castillo’s Yara looks rosy, the reality on the ground is horrifying. Since taking power, Castillo has frozen further elections, established a brutal, military regime and has had a direct hand in the imprisonment and execution of countless Yarans, citing a group of revolutionaries called Libertad as the justification for his measures, labelling them as “Fake Yarans.”
Anyone who speaks against him is either killed or shipped off to prison camps where they are used as slave labour to produce Viviro, a highly toxic process produced through inhumane methods, and falling ill to the poisonous pesticide is a fate potentially worse than death. Perhaps what’s most chilling is that Anton (played to perfection by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) is grooming Diego, his 13-year-old son, to follow in his bloodied footsteps as Yara’s future El Presidente, and insists on having the young and impressionable teenager at his side to bear witness as he commits atrocities in the name of protecting Yara. A complex, terrifying Far Cry villain that you’ll both love and love to hate? Check.
Enter the player, Dani Rojas, a former military academy graduate whose plans to “emigrate” to America quickly change when an unexpected meeting between Castillo, Diego and herself (I played as female Dani) on an ill-fated migrant ship ends with Dani washing up on shore nearly drowned and left for dead, with her only friends shot to death by Castillo’s forces. Luckily, the island Dani finds herself on just happens to be the home base of Libertad, and after stumbling across the struggling movement’s leader, Clara Garcia, as well as the charismatic guerilla master Juan Cortez.
“A complex, terrifying Far Cry villain that you’ll both love and love to hate? Check.”
It doesn’t take much convincing for Dani to come around to their way of thinking (especially after they put a machine gun and resolver weapons in her hands and let her release some frustration against Castillo’s forces in the form of missions). As Dani, the player must build Libertad up into a revolutionary army strong enough to retake Yara back from Castillo’s army and launch a final assault on the country’s capital city, Esperanza, Castillo’s seat of power.
Similar to Far Cry 5, there is no longer a fog of war on the map, or an invisible barrier standing in the way of players’ movements in Far Cry 6. Once players complete the required opening missions, the map fully opens up and players can technically go almost wherever they like, but they won’t get far without first spreading Libertad’s influence to Yara’s five regions, Isla Santuario (your starting area), Madrugada, Valle De Oro, El Este and finally Esperanza.
That, of course, will involve meeting with and gaining the trust of the local freedom fighters entrenched in each region, and each faction will naturally have their own favours that they’ll ask of you before they are willing to get on board, or conversely let you on board with them. Each region has its own Castillo-backed leader or figurehead that you’ll need to overthrow with that faction’s help before that territory can be claimed, and that won’t happen until you’ve completed enough missions to rank up and gain notoriety, which in turn will increase the strength and number of your forces. And as you become stronger, you can expect Castillo’s forces to ramp up their efforts in an attempt to maintain control of Yara.
You might recall that I mentioned “resolver” weapons earlier. Well, that wasn’t a typo. Resolver in Spanish directly translates in English as “to solve” but refers to the Cuban spirit of providing solutions to problems using the limited resources that one has on hand. It’s this “DIY philosophy” that drives the three of the biggest changes that Far Cry 6 makes to the series formula: Resolver Weapons, Mods and Supremos.
Keeping it brief, Resolver weapons are effectively Frankenstein’s Monster inventions designed by the aforementioned guerrilla master Juan to cause maximum carnage with unconventional parts, such as a harpoon gun fashioned from a makeshift crossbow and bicycle handlebars, a flamethrower that was undoubtedly a gasoline pump in a former life, or an everyday nail gun that’s been modified with an air compressor to fire “silent” nail rounds.
Meanwhile, Supremos are mechanical backpacks that take the same resolver philosophy and dial it up to a hundred, allowing Dani to perform superhuman guerrilla feats, such as firing a volley of heat-seeking rockets at ground-based or airborne targets, setting nearby enemies ablaze in a ring of fire while floating safely(?) a few feet above the ground, or even “jet-pack jumping” by performing a forward thrust in mid-air (but be careful, nearby objects or people may catch fire too!).
“Similar to Far Cry 5, there is no longer a fog of war on the map, or an invisible barrier standing in the way of players’ movements in Far Cry 6.”
The mechanics, physics and science of these contraptions make no sense and even if they could work in real life, they would maim, kill or burn the person wielding them to a crisp, but they are a deliciously cartoonish wonder to behold on screen. As you can probably guess, Mods are slots that allow players to add new functionality, attachments, and performance perks to all the weapons in Dani’s arsenal, including Supremos, the latter of which also provide special gadget mod slots for other ordinances, such as grenades, Molotov’s, distraction objects and the like.
To be clear, Far Cry 6 offers up plenty of standard, non-resolver weaponry as well and mods can be of either type, but either way, players will see any mods they equip rendered in immaculate detail and animation on screen. Mods also extend to custom rides, which are Dani’s personal vehicles that Juan has modified just for her, and as expected, the abilities of these vehicles and the modifications that can be performed on them only get more bizarre as the story progresses.
Naturally, there are other means of transportation around Yara, such as horses, vintage cars, ATVs and so on, but in the inevitable situation where Dani is stuck out in the middle of nowhere, she can pull out her cellphone and have one of her rides delivered directly to her. Even Far Cry’s now well-established mechanics of hunting and fishing now play into the Mod system, as Dani’s busy guerrilla lifestyle doesn’t leave her time to craft ammo pouches out of wolf pelts. Instead, the meat and resources that Dani collects from hunting and fishing can be traded at Libertad-friendly merchants towards materials needed for purchasing mods, among other things. Hunting fans shouldn’t worry though, as there are still rare animals in the game to hunt and special rewards that can be earned for their valuable pelts.
While I definitely enjoyed my time with Far Cry 6, if there is one major complaint that I can level against the game, it would be that the Mods and Gear aspects are a bit much. A major change in Far Cry 6 as opposed to previous games in the franchise is that there is no skill tree. On the bright side, this means that players won’t be spending hours unlocking stealth execution moves or multi-kill attacks since those sorts of abilities are already in Dani’s arsenal as a military graduate. However, this also means that Dani’s perks and abilities are now directly tied to the gear that the player is wearing, so players will be spending a lot of time in menus closely examining, comparing, and swapping out their clothing and weapons, especially in the early going.
This is exacerbated by the game’s limited weapon wheel, which only allows for three primary weapons in addition to a sidearm, even though Dani is literally carrying her entire arsenal of guns with her at all times. Even worse, if a gun in your weapon wheel is running on empty and there’s no reserve ammo to reload it with, you can’t swap a fresh weapon into that slot via the wheel, you can only do it via the game menu. So, during extended firefights, I frequently had to pause the game, enter the menu and manually swap guns from my inventory into the three primary slots just so I would have enough ammo to finish my enemies off.
This became less of a problem down the road when I was able to find or unlock mods, perks and items that allowed me to carry additional ammo, but still! Likewise, enemies in Far Cry 6 can be more resilient against or vulnerable to different types of arms fire (e.g. soft-rounds, armor-piercing rounds, incendiary rounds, etc.) but in the heat of battle I found it irritating to have to concern myself with which gun I should be firing at an enemy, especially when it was the only weapon I had left with enough ammo and DPS (damage per second) to take it down. Neither of these problems were necessarily deal-breakers, but I found the amount of time spent navel-gazing my weapons and gear at workbenches and juggling weapons while in combat a bit of an annoyance that often interrupted the flow of both the narrative and the game’s trademark action.
Now what I loved about the game would take another thousand words to properly express, but I’ll summarize it as best I can with two words: The Characters. Dani, Anton, Juan, Bicho and the various characters that Dani meets along her journey, not to mention the excellent work of the voice actors that breathed life into them manage to keep the story engaging, riveting, funny and exciting all the way through, and the desire to meet up with those characters again and again kept me motivated even when I got stuck on the occasional climbing puzzle (the radio towers of Far Cry 3 and 4 may be gone, but the climbing is still here, and it’s rather touchy, unfortunately).
A special shout out also needs to go out to the Amigos, the adorable (but deadly) animal sidekicks that Dani can befriend, bring along with her on missions and develop their abilities to make them even more formidable allies in the field. Guapo the Crocodile, Chicharron the Rooster and Chorizo the wheelchair wiener dog (dachshund) need no introduction as Ubisoft has already promoted the hell out of them in pre-release marketing at this point, but players should know that there are indeed more loveable Amigos to be found in the game, including one that apparently used to belong to an old friend (wink). Also, a kind word of advice, if your heart is set on adding the adorable Chorizo to your team as soon as possible, don’t make the mistake I did, be sure to visit the Madrugada region first!
Finally, the beautiful, dangerous and thankfully fictional country of Yara is Far Cry 6’s most important character, and although the Far Cry games are mostly about either creating wondrous chaos or having that chaos take place around you but not necessarily because of you, some of the most memorable moments I’ve had in this game are when the randomness of the game’s AI conspires with the surroundings for a few moments to reward my Amigo and I with a tranquil walk along the beach at sunset, or a peaceful, starry evening alone atop a mountain peak. I’ve even had a random wild dog walk up from behind me in the bushes while I lined up a kill shot with a sniper rifle, only to have the canine emit a lonely whimper and lie down beside me, bored. Now that’s a Far Cry game.
Truthfully, despite this review’s length, I’ve still barely covered all the things players can do in this game, as there are also vehicle races, base building elements, cockfighting (ahem), collect-a-thons galore and much, much more, not to mention an online co-op mode that players can enjoy with a friend straight through the entire campaign as well as in Special Ops modes.
In a nutshell, Far Cry 6 offers something for just about any gamer who craves action and adventure and doesn’t mind having most of their interactions with others take place down the barrel of a gun (just remember you can holster your weapon to look less menacing and hide in plain sight from the authorities!). If you’re looking for a new game to dive into this Canadian Thanksgiving long-weekend, make sure to leave plenty of room for this no-brainer purchase because you will definitely be in for a feast.