Created by Ubisoft, Far Cry 4 was originally released in 2014 across various platforms. The series is a thematic one, meaning that other than a few reoccurring ideas and throwaway lines, it has no storyline connections with the games that came before it. The setting is much different from the previous three games as well; rather than taking place in a tropical climate, Far Cry 4 is set in a mountainous region. Owing to the success of Far Cry 3, this game wound up being the series’ fastest-selling installment, selling seven million copies a little over a month after its release date.
Playing the Game
Like every other game in the series, Far Cry 4 is a first-person shooter. The array covers the basic gamut of FPS weapons, featuring many different types of pistols, rifles, LMGs, and explosives among other things. Unlike its predecessor, one of your weapon hostlers can only hold a sidearm, meaning that you cannot elect to carry four two-handed weapons. Far Cry 4 is also what is known in the industry as a sandbox game. This means that there is a heavy emphasis on exploration and completing sidequests. While there is a story campaign that features a linear progression, only when you accept the missions does the plot advance. Otherwise, you’re free to explore the environment at your leisure.
The hunting and crafting system features in this game as well, with two major changes from the previous game. First of all, when crafting medical syringes, you no longer have a single limit. Instead, you are allowed to craft a certain number of each syringe. This means that you no longer have to choose between which ones you want in your inventory. Secondly, when hunting animals, the weapon you use will determine your yields. Using a bow will allow you to skin the animal and get two pelts instead of one. Should you decide to hunt with firearms, you will only be rewarded with a single pelt or an unusable one depending on the weapon you use (don’t hunt animals with a rocket launcher).
RPG elements also make a return. They function similarly to how they did in Far Cry 3; roughly half of the abilities are locked at the beginning. They are unlocked by completing story missions, using certain abilities, and partaking in sidequests. Far Cry 4 also introduces a karma system. Occasionally, a random event will occur such as a skirmish between factions and you are awarded karma points for gunning down enemies or otherwise aiding allies. The higher your karma, the more rewards you get.
The story missions in Far Cry 4 have a great variety to them – some are intense action sequences while others serve world-building purposes. When you’re introduced to certain characters, you can accept their quests, with each one continuously building a short, self-contained story. It’s an effective way of providing some much-appreciated characterization to both the cast and the setting.
I also liked the new way syringes are stored. In Far Cry 3, I usually crafted nothing but healing syringes because the other ones were too situational to justify including them in my inventory. Because you’re allowed to craft a certain number of each one, you can use the other syringes when the appropriate time arises much more easily. My least favorite aspect of Far Cry 3 was the existence of quick-time events. I was very pleased when I encountered zero such sequences in Far Cry 4. Instead, each main antagonist is dealt with in a way that meshes better with the plot. So with some new features and the removal of the quick-time events, Far Cry 4 is logically the superior game, isn’t it? Unfortunately, I am not quite sure about that.
To start with, animal hunting is much more tedious than it was in Far Cry 3. Like its predecessor, Far Cry 4 reveals the spawning point of animals on your map once you’ve unlocked the appropriate regions. However, this time, it only gives you a very vague idea of where these animals might be. I’m not sure if it was bad luck, but I found that I had to scour the surrounding area anywhere from ten to thirty minutes for the animals I needed to skin. Furthermore, I don’t like how the hunting system rewards you for using the bow. In Far Cry 3, the ability to skin animals and gain two pelts instead of one was an ability you had to grind for. While bows aren’t completely worthless in this game, I still thought it was annoying having to swap them out of my inventory whenever I started fighting serious foes again.
However, the main problem I have with Far Cry 4 is that the level design doesn’t seem to be as good as its predecessor. It’s difficult to explain, but I didn’t think the world of Far Cry 4 was very fun to explore. Perhaps it’s because the greatest appeal of the Rook Islands is that they were far from civilization, giving a feeling of liberation when it comes to exploring while creating a world that runs on its own logic. The setting of Far Cry 4, on the other hand, is on the mainland and has a culture analogous to its neighboring countries, making it more subject to, and restricted by, the rules of the real world. Although both games have a heavy emphasis on exploration and discovery, I find it intriguing how changing a few seemingly superficial details can impact the sense of grandeur a fictional world can have.
Analyzing the Story
Far Cry 4 takes place in Kyrat, a fictional country near the Himalayas ruled by the despotic dictator, Pagan Min. Ajay Ghale, a native to this country, but raised for most of his life in the United States, has recently lost his mother to cancer. Her final wish was to have her ashes brought back to Lakshmana. Though the significance of the name is unknown to him, Ajay embarks on a journey to Kyrat. While there, his bus is besieged by the Royal Army. A helicopter lands and he soon finds himself in the company of Pagan Min himself, who claims to have been romantically involved with Ajay’s mother.
With the aid of Sabal, one of the primary figures of the Golden Path, Ajay is able to escape the dictator’s mansion, only to find himself amid a civil war. The Golden Path, denounced as terrorists by Min’s propaganda campaign, is a faction of rebels that seek to overthrow the oppressive government. They were formed by Mohan Ghale, thought by the locals to be the father of Ajay. However, Mohan died nearly twenty years prior. Since then, the rebellion has stagnated – their fights are merely struggles to stay alive. Though united by a common goal, the rebellion has two distinct faces fighting for control. The first is Sabal, a man who firmly believes in tradition and seeks to bring the Kyrat that Mohan Ghale envisioned into reality. The other leader is Amita, a woman who prides herself in her pragmatism. Her goal is to bring Kyrat into the modern age, casting aside the traditions that Sabal holds dear.
I remarked in my review of Far Cry 3 that the worst part about its story was that there were too many instances, especially in the first half of the game, of Jason getting captured when not in direct control of him because the plot says so. Along with the aforementioned quick-time events, I was pleasantly surprised because Far Cry 4 excised that flaw. The times Ajay gets captured or ambushed are far and few in between.
My favorite thing about the story of this game is that it presents a legitimate moral dilemma between the two leaders of the Golden Path. Both Sabal and Amita present very good arguments as to which of them is in the right. It even influences gameplay, as the goals of the campaign missions change depending on who you side with. The discrepancy between their philosophies was so convincing that I was second-guessing myself at every turn. It’s an effective way to let players shape the story themselves.
I also liked the contrast between Vaas, the primary antagonist of Far Cry 3, and Pagan Min. Both characters are crazy, but they represent different kinds of psychoses. Whereas Vaas represented a violent, chaotic form of insanity, Pagan Min is a megalomaniacal king in charge of a corrupt regime. The difference is reflected in the campaigns as well. In Far Cry 3, Vaas constantly got the drop on you, delivering borderline-incomprehensible rants every time he did so. Conversely, Pagan Min operates largely in the background. Though you don’t see him for most of the game, thanks to his watchful eye and omnipresent propaganda, you can never escape him – not even the in-game character bios are free from his tyranny. It’s because of this that I thought Pagan Min was the more interesting antagonist; he may not have as much screen time as Vaas, but he has a more commanding presence.
However, despite all of these improvements, I ultimately thought the story wasn’t as engaging as that of Far Cry 3. The character that made Far Cry 3 for me wasn’t Vaas, but Jason Brody. What I liked about his character is that he underwent an arc; he started off wanting to save his friends, but through his trials, his goals decayed until the end of the game where he fought to satiate his bloodlust. Ajay, on the other hand, doesn’t evolve; he’s almost the exact same character from beginning to end. While I do appreciate Ubisoft not wanting to do the same thing twice, this just means that Ajay is less of a character and more of a means for the player to interact with the game world. This also means that unlike Far Cry 3, the RPG elements don’t tie into the plot – they’re only there because the previous installment had them.
Speaking of which, one thing I find jarring about some games I’ve played over the years is when the player has more motivation to advance the plot than the main character. To wit, Ajay doesn’t really seem to have a personal reason to participate in the civil war. He’s not on a mission to save someone or something he cares about; he fights in the war because it’s there. In fact, it’s not even clear why he left the mansion at the beginning of the game. Yes, Pagan Min is demonstrably insane, but at that point, he wasn’t a threat to Ajay’s life. What can be extrapolated from this is that Ajay left the mansion because the person controlling him needs a game to play. |In fact, if you stick around in Pagan Min’s dining room long enough, he returns and you’re treated to an alternate ending, thus completing the game in fifteen minutes.|
So even though the game wasn’t amazing, I did enjoy what it had to offer… and then I finished it. The ending of Far Cry 4 felt rushed and almost all of the plot threads lingering throughout the game were resolved in unsatisfactory ways, including, worst of all, the moral dilemma between the two heads of the Golden Path. |No matter who you sided with, the leader of the Golden Path will instigate a purge of the other leader’s followers along with committing another atrocity (either reinstating a tradition that subjugates women or forcibly kidnapping children to make them soldiers depending on who you chose), all while acting condescending and ungrateful to Ajay, the very person responsible for almost single-handedly wiping out the Royal Army. Luckily, you can gun them down if you so choose. However, it doesn’t change the fact that all you did was trade one dictator for another.| I appreciate the desire to implement a complex, gray morality, but you have to be careful when doing so, otherwise the driving conflict will be rendered meaningless.
Drawing a Conclusion
The best sequels are the ones that use the original game to ascend the story and the gameplay to a new level. As a token sequel, Far Cry 4 fails do this. I could tell when playing this game that it wasn’t made to further the series, but because Ubisoft realized they had a hit on their hands with Far Cry 3 and effectively made the same game again to capitalize on its popularity with minimal effort. Consequently, I found the gameplay of both installments to be largely interchangeable.
Playing Far Cry 4 is a strange experience in that the most glaring flaws of its predecessor were eliminated only for new, worse ones to be introduced. A lot of fans claim that Far Cry 3 is a game where the antagonist is more interesting than the protagonist. Far Cry 4 demonstrates what happens when that’s actually true – it makes for a boring experience. After all, the protagonist is the one you spend more time with. If you really like Far Cry 3, maybe give this game a shot. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but the characters and the story just weren’t engaging despite the moral dilemma that runs throughout the game. As a whole, it simply doesn’t measure up to its predecessor, warts and all.
Final Score: 5/10