Creative director Dan Hay tells us how he and the team have worked to re-envision the series’ core ideals
The last time we visited the Far Cry universe, with 2016’s Far Cry Primal, Ubisoft seemed in an inventive mood, pushing its ‘trouble in paradise’ FPS series in some interesting new directions. And as we found out last week, its successor, Far Cry 5, is holding onto that pioneering spirit.
Transporting the action to the American Northwest has precipitated some pretty significant changes for the series’ core formula, with several design cornerstones being reinvented completely in the service of keeping things fresh and unexpected.
To find out more, we caught up with Creative Director Dan Hay and had him talk us through six of the biggest surprises waiting for you when Far Cry 5 hits the shelves on 27th March:
1. There’s no prescribed protagonist – you create your own
“You’re going to go out into the world and, for the first time in Far Cry, you’re going to be able to choose your character: your look, your gender, your clothes, whatever you want. Now, from a narrative perspective, that’s a really big change for us.”
2. There’s no fixed path – go where you want, whenever you want
“When you go out into the world, you’re going to be able to go in any direction – that’s a huge change for us. Typically, in the past, we’ve been fairly prescriptive about where we want you to go but this time, if you’re asking the question ‘where should I go?’, the answer is ‘wherever you want’ .
“If you want to go down to Fall’s End, go ahead. If you want to go up to the North and meet Eli and The Whitetails, then go ahead. If you want to go up against Jacob, if you want to go up against Faith, or against John – if you want to track down your bear companion Cheeseburger or your dog companion Boomer, go do that.
“Once you complete the opening of the game and you’ve cleared Dutch’s island – a sort of starting area to get your bearings – you go out into the world and you can do whatever you want.
“Fish, hunt… ignore major story moments for the time being, don’t do side missions if you don’t want to. We don’t have a prescription for how you’re going to build your story – it will be up to you to choose.
“As a dev, that’s super hard, because we absolutely love and care about all the different moments in the game and you absolutely not going to see them all. There are great moments in the game that I think are a travesty if you don’t see them, but some people won’t and I have to live that.”
3. Co-op isn’t a separate mode – the whole game can be played with a friend
“Whatever you chose to do, you can do it in co-op – the entire game is playable that way. And that was tricky for us as developers.
“We want to make sure we’re still protecting that core idea that, if you’re playing in single player, that’s your game. At the same time though, if you want to solicit the help of a friend and have that person join your game – at any point – you’ve got to be able to do that too. It was hard to balance, but we wanted you to have that option.”
4. Your reputation matters and it affects the world around you
“You step into the world where these violent cultists have seized control and you’ve got a single recourse: resist. And that’s what you do, you build a resistance- with an actual Resistance meter – and it means you have almost a reputation within the world that if you do something it has knock-on effects.
“Essentially, we don’t know where you’re going to go or what you’re going to do. So, what we had to do was make sure that everything a player does is building that reputation and Resistance.
“Let’s say you go to the town of Fall’s End and you decide to take it over – you can – or that you’re going to liberate it, you can do that too, or not. What’s great is that the people of Fall’s End can even liberate themselves based on your actions elsewhere in the world, because the world reacts itself.
“Say you dispatch an important cultist that has value, or rescue a hostage, discover a location or maybe find a prepper stash. These types of activities build the resistance and the cult’s response to it.
“The Resistance meter tells you how you’re doing against the cult and shows you that after a certain amount of time, the cult is going to push back.”
5. Each area of the map has its own distinct challenges and antagonists
“This was a big choice because you’re essentially making three games in one.
“For example, you have a region with John – Joseph’s younger brother – that is very physical and he is out there actively kidnapping people on behalf of the cult.
“Then you have region with Jacob – Joseph’s older brother – where the tone and the feeling are very – I would say – psychological. He’s the kind of guy that gets ‘in your brain’ and likes to play ‘games’.
“Then you have Faith’s region which is, tonally, very different again – ethereal and drug-based, it has a completely different feel from anything we’ve shown so far. You have three different regions with their own leaders and you can do them in any order.”
6. There are no more radio towers
“If you look at moment-to-moment details of how you accrue information and meet people in Far Cry 5, it’s more real than we’ve attempted before.
“When we were in Montana researching for the game, we weren’t climbing any towers to get our info. We were meeting people, shaking hands and talking to them about what they were doing. We picked up information simply by talking to people – that’s how it is in real life.
“So we said to ourselves, let’s do away with towers, let’s even do away with the mini-map and put up a compass, so that it feels a little bit more believable that you’re a part of this world.
“The second thing we realised was when you meet people they don’t give you all the information straight up. I think we didn’t quite get that at first: we’d have people say ‘here’s my name, this is what I’m doing, this all the information I have about the cult, and I need you to do this for me’.
“In real life, it’s different. So, in Far Cry 5, you’ll find someone who might need your help and who might have information or even dis-information based on what they may have heard within a reasonable proximity. If you help them out they might put a hint on your map – it’s simple, but essentially, we found that less is more.”
Far Cry 5 launches on PlayStation 4 on 27th March – you can pre-order now on PlayStation Store.