Does Far Cry 3 Really Need a Story?

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A lot of critics have said that Far Cry 3 has one of the better storylines (or at least cast of characters) in a game this year. That may be true, but playing it has actually made me almost wish it didn’t have much of a storyline.

As of this writing I’ve actually only played maybe three of the main story missions in roughly 10 hours of gameplay, but that’s kind of the point. This being a good open-world game, I don’t really need the directed narrative to get my money’s worth out of Far Cry 3.

Whether or not video games can tell stories or even need stories is an ongoing debate, but I think Far Cry 3 has finally convinced me that, at the very least, open-world games don’t really need that much of a story. Not a linear, conventional one anyway. It goes counter to the biggest advantage of the genre.

Just look at how people play the Grand Theft Auto games. Rockstar may do a great job with characters, voice acting, and cut scenes, but most of the people who buy GTA really just spend most of their time causing mayhem in the city instead of doing missions. I even remember hearing a lot of disappointment at how directed GTAIV’s missions felt in comparison to the last generation games.

I think the first Assassin’s Creed game realized this to some extent and tried to build itself around the idea of giving players little more than a place, a goal, and some tools for each mission. That game’s problem was that Ubisoft couldn’t deign enough variety within that setup. Assassin’s Creed II on the other hand has a much more defined story, but as a result most of its main missions are quite linear, and most of the time you’re truly free in the game is when performing side missions.

When talking about Far Cry 2, design lead Clint Hocking said something about how games don’t really need storylines to be good at all, and I can at least agree with him when it comes to games like Far Cry. FC2 had a storyline but I honestly didn’t pay attention to it at all in my 30-plus hours with the game. I loved FC2 because its main missions gave me nothing more than a place and a goal, allowing me to plan almost every detail of each mission myself.

One game that I think has about the right amount of storyline for an open-world game is Dark Souls. That game actually has a some deep lore behind it, but the game feeds virtually none of it to the player directly, instead letting you choose whether or not to gleam the world’s history from item descriptions, dialogue, and the environment itself.

I understand that FC2’s main flaw was that it didn’t have enough substance and FC3 has done a lot to alleviate that. However, the best moments of FC3 for me have all been periphery to the main story. Things like how I planned the takeover of each enemy base or the hunting of an elusive animal are what make FC3 worth its full price for me. On my way to a story event for instance I ended up hang-gliding over a battle between tribesmen and pirates, landing behind the pirate lines, and freeing a tribesman from captivity. That emergent event sticks out in my mind more than the main mission that followed.

BULLETS:

  • Paint the Line: Robot Edition http://youtu.be/x7nE0QsnbJw
  • Apparently Epic games saw fit to give the Dead End Thrills guy a debug build of Gears of War 3. Here are the results: http://t.co/XB6zRZzX
  • Did a quick custom box art for Hitman: Absolutionhttp://t.co/cHSsKorb
  • Persona 4 Arena is $22 at Amazon as of this writing: http://t.co/8M7fdT9G
  • Square Enix is having a pretty good holiday sale at their online store. A lot of decent older titles are at really good prices. Bet you didn’t know you can still get brand new physical copies of games like Final Fantasy VIII, Chrono Cross, or Front Mission 4. All of those are at great prices until January.
  • GoodOldGames.com has also started a holiday sale in Steam fashion. Duke Nukem 3D is free (and even Mac-compatible). Legend of Grimrock is $4 today.
  • Last I checked, the top paid app in the “games” section of the Windows 8 store was a $1.45 app that pins Steam and your Steam games to the Windows 8 front menu.
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