How Far Cry 5 is balancing its lighter and darker moments together

Anyway you slice it, Far Cry 5 looks fascinating. Its core gameplay mechanics may be familiar, but they’ve been streamlined to give players less time looting corpses and more time turning fanatical zealots into said grisly loot boxes of flesh and blood. It’s also a Far Cry game that looks at some heavy themes, as it spins a tale in America’s heartland. Guns, religion and blind faith do make for a dangerous cocktail after all.

The catch here, is that Far Cry games are traditionally silly. After all, one minute you’re being lectured on history by a madman that wants you in his flock of purified converts, the next minute you’re unleashing a trained mountain lion on unsuspecting enemies and asking a pal in the sky to drop bombs on them.

At first glance, that sounds like a game that is at odds with itself. It’s heavy, yet light. Thoughtful yet bombastic. It’s a caveat of video games, because that’s just how they are. That’s how games like Far Cry 5 are structured, as they need to not only tell a good story, but give players of multiple demographics something fun to play. “I think that’s Far Cry. When you look back at 3 and 4, it is that chaotic and dark story running through, but also fighting tigers and bears with a rocket-launcher,” lead writer Drew Holmes said to GameSpot.

to say to players that you’re running the show

You can’t separate that, that’s a part of what the game is. For us on the narrative side of that, it was trying to figure out how to embrace more of that. How to check our egos at the door, to give up more authorship to the players, to say to players that you’re running the show. We have all these little moments for you to discover and for you to meet these characters in the cult and across the county to progress in the game. But it’s up to you to decide when that stuff is moving forward, and the tone that it takes.

If you want to play it dark and brooding and serious, there are characters for you to seek out that offer experiences like that. But if you want a crazy open-world experience, that’s there too.

We aren’t dictating how the game unfolds. It’s challenging from the sense that we all understand in terms of traditional storytelling how things unfold, we’ve been conditioned to that by watching and listening to stories to understand that flow, and now [in this game] to giving control to the player where you start to play through the game, where the cadence and the pace of it is really up to you where you can just go out and explore the world and not engage in things, that’s still a part of your experience.

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Or you can seek out Hurk and have a ridiculous time, and that’s gonna cause the cult to come after me and then I’m gonna have to dip into Jacob Seed’s story and what that means for the Whitetail Militia. It changes the cadence of what unfolds.

But for me, it’s really challenging to make it all feel cohesive, but at the end of the day when you can sit down with the controller in your hand play through it, it’s just so enjoyable. It’s fun, it’s frightening, it’s scary, but also really f***ing funny in places. But that is really the special sauce that makes it Far Cry.

To me, the perfect Far Cry doesn’t lean heavily in either direction of storytelling. It takes its serious and light-hearted themes, mixes them together and runs wilder than Hulkamania. After all, life is unpredictable. A truth that Far Cry 5 embraces wholeheartedly. “How often does life follow a nice, tight tonally consistent narrative arc? It doesn’t,” antagonist Joseph Seed’s actor Greg Bryk added.

It’s absurd, it’s profound. We go from the birth of a child, to something absurd happening, to other catastrophes happening. It’s all like this [snaps fingers]. Life isn’t polite in that way. It intrudes and delights and terrifies, quickly.

Which is kind of cool when you think about it. I don’t mind my games having a message embedded within them, but having the option to turn off the tale and hunt bulls for their testicles? That’s a solid layer of choice right there.

Last Updated: March 6, 2018

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