The other part of Far Cry 4 I want to speculate about is of course the actual game. Far Cry is potentially one of the most interesting franchises in today’s AAA gaming landscape, but I really hope Ubisoft doesn’t rest on its laurels and just put out Far Cry 3.5.
Far Cry is so interesting to me because it’s the only true open-world first person shooter on the market right now. Well, the mainstream market anyway since PC gamers have access to STALKER and ArmA. You can draw comparisons to Fallout and Elder Scrolls but those are RPGs. Far Cry right now is the only true straight-up sandbox FPS being made for mainstream console gamers, which means it can take that market in directions dramatically different from the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield. I’m just wondering if Ubisoft actually plans to do that.
I like Far Cry 3 a lot, but only because there’s so much sandbox stuff I can do in the periphery parts of the game. I can spend hours just driving from place to place, running into random events, carving my own path through its world as I explore and destroy enemy bases. Almost all the actual structure FC3 applies to this though is terribly conventional, and I don’t think it lends itself enough to the fact that it’s open-world.
The main missions are linear for starters. They may as well not even take place in and open-world environment. If you focus on the story, the open-world part of FC3 basically turns into a transit system between missions. The extra missions FC3 does give you are either odd conversations with locals or open-ended but very basic assassination and hunting missions. FC3 employs some interesting dynamic systems with its vehicles, animals, and environments, but that stuff almost never actually feels dynamic when it counts. My most memorable moment in FC3 wasn’t even a part of any mission.
Contrast this with the flawed gem that is Far Cry 2, which gave itself over wholly to the dynamic nature of the sandbox. The one thing I love about FC2 is how its missions are little more than places and goals. I love how actually figuring out a plan for each mission is totally up to you. That lends itself much more to the idea of a sandbox game.
FC2’s problem is it’s too shallow a game. There isn’t much to do outside shooting people in those missions, which is almost certainly why Ubisoft made FC3 so much more structured. I just think the company went a bit too far with that sequel. It’s sort of the same problem they had with Assassin’s Creed.
The first AC game tried to be a dynamic open-world stealth game but it also ended up being too shallow with odd constraints and not enough variety. Assassin’s Creed II offered much more flavor and structure, but with it less freedom, and Ubisoft has basically been building on that game’s formula for almost everything it’s made since.
While playing Assassin’s Creed III recently I found it ironic how restrictive it can be for an open-world game. ACIII’s main missions can be quite linear and even contain tricky automatic fail states. Its more open-ended elements include simple base captures (like those in FC3) and small random events throughout the world like hunting and convoys. It and FC3 are quite similar actually. It even looks like Watch_Dogs might follow a similar path. To me its gameplay videos show off base infiltration and small emergent events similar to AC and FC3, but what of the main missions?
Basically, I’m looking for any kind of proof that FC4 will be different from Ubisoft’s recent open-world games, that it will try something bolder, if only just a little bit bolder.
Ideally I’d like to see FC3’s sense of structure but with a return to FC2’s totally open-ended main missions. I want a game that just gives me objectives and doesn’t care how I do them. This makes for a huge contrast from how almost every other shooter these days is a straight line.
Generally I just want to see a Far Cry that gives players the freedom a sandbox game should. The only ray of hope I have this might happen are a few words out of FC4’s North American press release: “Players will write their own story across an exotic open-world landscape.” It’s just a matter of what “write their own story” actually means.
A little while after FC3 came out and before Assassin’s Creed IV came out I think Ubisoft producer Jade Raymond talked about how Ubisoft was learning the lesson that gamres want to “define their own experiences.” FC3 has been a success for Ubisoft and I can only hope it’s learned from this that players want more agency in their games. But it could also use that success as justification to create more intermittent sequels that just barely improve upon FC3’s formula.