Whatever stories they've told, Far Cry games have long been connected by a number of shared factors. Gradual map reveals gated by climbing towers or other methods is one such example of mechanical connections, but there's also been a shared aspect of humor between the games, a humor that lightened up whatever chaotic situation players found themselves in. After spending around five hours with Far Cry 6 during a hands-on gameplay session, it became evident that striking a balance between the series' signature humor and more serious themes will be more difficult than ever in the new game.
Past Far Cry games have dealt with controversial topics themselves, but Far Cry 6's renewed focus on the fictional country "Yara," its people, and its ongoing revolution puts the Far Cry formula under greater (justified) scrutiny. The game still looks for ways to inject goofier moments into the experience, but it can be jarring when those run right up against a third-person cutscene showing your character in the middle of the revolution itself.
Ben Hall, the world director for Far Cry 6, spoke about the third-person cutscene decision again in our interview following the hands-on gameplay session. He reiterated that it was a "creative decision" and said it was meant to show the game's theme and their impact on the people of Yara – the protagonist included – through a different perspective.
"With this game, what we wanted to do was to really have people experience through the eyes of Dani while they're playing, but then through cinematic realization when they see the cutscenes, the impact that everything that's going on is having on Dani and being able to see that through the performance and also see that through the acting, but also to the cinematography, really brings a cinematic feeling to everything that we're trying to create when it comes to the overall narrative of the game," Hall said. "It really was a creative decision to really allow players to be able to see this story play out in a cinematic way, rather than always being a first person."
The cutscenes serve their purpose and actually work well despite some reservations people might've had about the creative decision, especially since customization of the playable character Dani is limited to things like clothing and weaponry. Both of those elements solidify Dani as a person of Yara, not a player-made creation, which further puts the focus on Yara as Ubisoft intended.
But when you couple those more serious moments with Far Cry antics, it felt like the game at times had a difficult time keeping the focus on its story. Things like the animal companions known as the Amigos, for example, are indeed fun to have around, but they can be distracting when you're trying to appreciate or digest parts of the narrative. Exiting a cutscene to see a shirted gator named Guapo or a punk rooster named Chicharrón scurrying about is Far Cry-centric to be sure, but it's also pretty jarring when they cap off a serious moment. With such importance being put so strongly on the setting, having the Amigos companions consist only of animals and not the people of Yara feels like a missed opportunity.
So, how much "fun" should you have in Far Cry 6 be it completing these zany quests or fishing in your downtime when you're not actively taking part in a revolution? It's a question Hall said he and the team have been constantly asking themselves.
"It's a balance we've been working with for quite some time now," Hall said. "We've got this core DNA of the game being a Far Cry game. It's something that we could never give up. There's something about Far Cry games that inherently have a sense of fun about them. It was something that we did actually discover when we were speaking to different guerrilla groups and people that experienced that sort of scenario, as research and references being done."
To the game's credit, Far Cry 6 did seem to get that balance right at times. Bases such as "Patriotas Peak" switched the player to a third-person perspective again to show how Dani existed alongside others from Yara's past. People arm-wrestled, listened to music, played dominoes in areas as comfortable as they could manage. Veteran revolutionaries such as a character named El Tigre and the rest of "The Legends of '67" debated with the more modern freedom fighters known as "La Moral" about what actions to take. These moments felt like some of the best intersections of Far Cry 6's themes and its gameplay and were welcome breaks from the nonstop action of combat-filled quests.
"There's still is this notion of trying to have fun with everything that you're doing," Hall added. "People are still trying to try to live, even though there's things happening around them. It was important for us to try and capture elements of that within the game, and then make sure that the topics that are difficult, are talked about and they're dealt with in a mature and well-crafted manner."
Though five hours is a long time to spend with the game, much of the session focused on the game's opening moments where the narrative would naturally be frontloaded to set things up and hook players. The opening was indeed dramatic and eventful, but the Far Cry-isms like the introduction of Guapo weren't far behind as if there was a rush to remind players that this was still a Far Cry game at its core. Dani's arrival at Patriotas Point, by comparison, was experienced after being fast-forwarded to a later point in the game which gives hope that the narrative will only strengthen and find its footing between "fun" and more serious themes as the game goes on.
"There's always opportunities through the characters that you meet, the people that you'll speak to," Hall said. "Some of the things that you'll see and find in the world are where we really try and capture the elements of fun."