Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Far Cry 3

Post-Launch Review
Far Cry 3 (PC)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Released: November 2012
Played: story complete with most extras in 19h


Jason Brody, his brothers, his girlfriend, and some friends are skydiving while on vacation and land on the wrong island. They're captured by a group of violent pirate slavers led by a charismatic but crazy man named Vaas. Jason manages to escape and is initiated into the native Rakyat tribe. Given a mystical tattoo and guidance to develop his skills as warrior, Jason sets out to save his friends and defeat Vaas.

At Launch

Far Cry 3 was praised with average review scores of 90%. Reviewers loved the large open world, extensive story missions, weapons and unlocks, and array of characters. Some critics felt that the story was unrealistic and the characters unsympathetic.

Post Launch

Various pre-order DLCs were later made available for purchase, included in deluxe editions, or added as free UPlay content on PC.
The Forgotten Experiment and Ignition in the Deep add two optional missions and a multiplayer weapon.
The Monkey Business pack adds four optional missions with a new character.
High Tides adds co-op maps and multiplayer skins.

For a few years now I've been reading complaints of "the Ubisoft game" - that Ubisoft's big games/series follow such a similar structure that they feel the same, or at least annoyingly similar. I've played all the Assassin's Creed games through Liberation, as well as Far Cry 1 and 2, and now that I'm playing Far Cry 3 that structure is finally starting to get under my skin. There are so many towers, outposts, and collectibles that even the useful or interesting features begin to feel repetitive, especially when climbing a tower to unlock a map section has been such a long-running staple of the Assassin's Creed series. At first I resolved to climb all the towers and liberate all the outposts, but I got tired of them and ignored the collectibles.

The gameplay and the world can be repetitive, but very well put together. The island looks great (mostly, with some bad textures for steep hillsides) due to the density and quality of vegetation. This is where a powerful PC really excels, thickly covering surfaces and space with swaying leaves. There's a wide array of weapons that all work well, and Far Cry 2's impressive environmental fire spread is back (if less emphasized). I was more impressed with the hunting and pouch upgrades. Your weapon, ammo, and backpack capacity start out quite small and restrictive, but by hunting and skinning specific animals you can upgrade your gear with a higher capacity. The final ultimate upgrades can only be acquired with the pelts of rare animals from special hunting challenges. I enjoyed the process of hunting and upgrading, and my only criticism there is that it was too easy - save for the final upgrade level, you can find all the animals and skins you need almost right from the beginning, and I had almost finished my upgrades three hours into a 20-hour playthrough. 

The main thing that bugs me is how I keep flip-flopping on who's right and who's insane between Jason and his friends. Sometimes there are bits where Liza talks about how great it'll be to get home and how she's got this job opening for Jason, and it seems completely appropriate for Jason to be confused with her priorities when they're trapped in a life-or-death situation on an island full of murderous pirates trying to ransom them and then sell them into slavery. But on the other hand, you also get times where Jason is talking about having finally found his place and his people, and can't help but think what the hell are you on about, you're some random rich kid who's become a mass murderer and tribal leader in the span of a couple of days. 

Everyone seems insane at one point or another, often in ways that make me really unsympathetic. But then, the game seems to realize this, too - certain loading screens present quotes from Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, all focusing on madness and lack or loss of identity, and the disturbingly patriotic American spy also brings up the possibility of losing one's self to the island. So I'm not entirely sure whether the story and characters have gone too far or they're extremely cleverly written.

But I'm glad that I got to choose, in the end, between staying on the island and leaving with Jason's friends. Actually, I get the feeling that you're supposed to leave. The game does some work to point out how insane everyone is, but more importantly there are all those quotes from Wonderland - which ends with Alice waking up to realize it was all a crazy dream. Even if you don't buy any of that, what Jason is asked to do in order to stay is a real big push towards leaving. Massacring pirates and slavers is one thing, but the final choice is quite different.
I don't have too much else to say about Far Cry 3, actually. It's top-notch shooter gameplay with a lot of world to explore (which can feel repetitive if you've played a lot of Far Cry or Assassin's Creed already). I'm still undecided on whether the story is really good or completely crazy, but I wouldn't be dissatisfied by pegging it halfway between.

Recommendation: play it.

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