Far Cry is one of Ubisoft’s leading franchises; at least when it comes to monetization. With stars such as Giancarlo Esposito starring in the latest installment, Ubisoft is obviously investing a lot in the franchise. Yet, those who have seen the very first Far Cry with their own eyes 18 years ago cannot appreciate the last few titles in the series much. After six main titles and nine spin-offs, Far Cry seems more like a milked-off trademark rather than the revolutionary first-person title it once was. Thus, the question arises: Do we need another Far Cry? To answer that question, it is better to look at the history of the franchise and see how it has fallen from the grace.
For those who do not remember the good old early 2000s, it was the golden era of PlayStation 2. Most developers were trying to expand the technical boundaries of the gaming industry. It was the time many franchises such as Call of Duty and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell were born. With the release of titles such as GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas in two years -yes, there was a time you could get two GTAs in two years-, the dawn of open-world games was on the horizon. That said, the first Far Cry hit the shelves in 2004. The game was developed by Crytek Studios which later raise to fame for their Sci-Fi series Crysis.
A Brief History of Far Cry series
Far Cry was born from Crytek’s technical demo for their CryEngine called X-Isle: Dinosaur Island. It was a game with superb visual fidelity and mind-blowing AI. Must computers at the time could not run the game on the highest graphical settings; a tradition that was later passed on to Crysis. The game followed an ex-soldier stranded on a tropical island that is later revealed to be a biological weapon facility. Far Cry was revolutionary because it set the players against an AI that could cooperate on a gorgeous open-world island that provided complete freedom in approaching the targets with a Sci-Fi plot that condemned genetic research for military purposes. All that in a game in 2004 meant a lot!
The second title raised the bar in 2008 with Ubisoft acquiring the rights to the game and developing their in-house Dunia engine based on CryEngine. Far Cry 2 was a more realistic and tactical game with more systematic gameplay elements. The game had a dynamic weather system and day and night cycle which affected the enemy’s vision and the game’s environment. The iconic fire propagation was also introduced in Far Cry 2. Getting the weapons wet would increase the risk of weapon jamming during combat and the AI was also a bit smarter. The game also added side missions that would build a friendship between the player and some NPCs, making them accompany the player during missions.
Released four years later, Far Cry 3 was the pinnacle of the series. Leaving the realistic features behind, the game added some of the features that are still used by many mainstream open-world games such as liberating outposts, climbing radio towers to reveal important spots on the map and a hunting-crafting system. Far Cry 3 was the first game in the series that provided the players with a skill tree and experience points. The game also added better stealth mechanics such as different types of stealth takedowns. Yet, the greatest achievement of Far Cry 3 was introducing a decent villain to the series; the pirate leader Vaas. Thanks to Michael Mando’s acting skills as the voice and face behind Vaas, it was like The Joker has come to the series to antagonize the players with sick monologues. Who can forget “The Definition of Insanity” monologue before being dumped into a death pit? The famous “burning marijuana crops” level that was almost copy/pasted in Far Cry 6 was also born in the third game.
From here on, the series ended up on a slippery slope. Far Cry 4 was released in 2014, just two years after the third title and brought little to no new features to the table. Players could now ride elephants and fly around in gyrocopters. The game added a small weapon customization feature as well. The antagonist of Far Cry 4 was a dictator and the players had to take him down with the help of resistance forces and free the country. Due to the success of Blood Dragon –a stand-alone DLC for Far Cry 3 that was like a Sci-Fi action movie out of the 80s- Ubisoft focused on a few spin-offs after Far Cry 4.
Far Cry Primal was set during the stone age and set the players and their tribe against a hostile Neanderthal invasion. The game added the animal taming system in which players could befriend animals and have them as their sidekicks. The feature later turned into the “Amigos” system used in Far Cry 6 and “Fangs For Hire” in Far Cry 5. Speaking of Far Cry 5, the game started to cut some features since there was not so much the devs could add to a decade-long yearly-released franchise. This time, a religious cult leader was the dictator the players needed to overthrow. The game provided more freedom in exploration and its most significant feature was the “Lieutenants”. The players needed to destabilize regions controlled by the cult leader and take down his lieutenants before they could face the big guy.
A follow up spin-off called Far Cry New Dawn was released the next year in 2019. The game tied up some plot loose ends from Far Cry 5 in a post-apocalyptic setting. Finally, in 2021, the latest installment in the series was released. Far Cry 6 tried its best to look original, but it was actually a reimagining of Far Cry 4 with some added features from the last couple of games. What was the plot? Overthrowing a dictator in a fictional country with the help of resistance forces AKA “guerrillas”. The “Fangs For Hire” was renamed to “Amigos”, the “Lieutenants system” was back without any changes and Giancarlo Esposito was responsible for the cheesy monologues as the evil “El Presidente”.
Falling From Grace
Far Cry, a series that once was the home of innovation and new concepts is now just like a broken record. The last few titles in the series all had little to no new features and that means the franchise is far from its roots. Even the story and worldbuilding of the game are being copy/pasted with just new names as mentioned above. In 2015, Ubisoft ran a poll about the future of the series and asked players in what settings would they like the next title to take place.
The first option was “a Far Cry game in remote Alaska about surviving extreme wilderness” that eventually and with some changes turned to be Far Cry: Primal. The second option was “a Far Cry game in a futuristic, sci-fi setting on another planet” which turned into Far Cry 5: Lost on Mars DLC. The next idea was “a Far Cry game set in the Vietnam war during the 1960s” which came to be Far Cry 5: Hours of Darkness DLC. The other option was “a Far Cry game set in the cocaine trafficking jungles of Peru” which is basically Far Cry 6. The next one was “a Far Cry game that is set during a zombie outbreak” which again turned into a DLC for Far Cry 5 called Dead Living Zombies. Another idea was to make “a Far Cry game set in a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic world” that gave birth to Far Cry New Dawn. Out of a total of 10 options from that poll, only half remain unused and that means Ubisoft is even running out of ideas for the franchise.
The game is clearly outdated on the technical side as well. As already mentioned, the Dunia engine was built around the first CryEngine. Although Ubisoft has improved it during these years and introduced Dunia Engine 2 in 2012, at its core, the engine is still the same software fork of CryEngine from 20 years ago. That’s why even when Ubisoft tries to add features such as Ray Tracing to the engine, the results are a game with outdated graphics. A good example is the plastic-like texture of almost everything in the game. Newer game engines such as Capcom’s RE Engine are much better at creating different texture looks using reflection and lighting techniques. For example, the in-game texture of skin, wood, cloth and stones are quite different in these engines but in Far Cry 6 everything either has a metallic texture or a plastic-like matt one.
The AI in Far Cry is also too dumb compared to its peers. There used to be a time when a simple reaction from the in-game crowd to player actions was considered awesome. Now, the game industry is years past that. Yet, Far Cry AI is still stuck in that era. Compared to games like Halo, the enemies in Far Cry lack any kind of meaningful collaboration to take the player out. They just storm the area, start shooting, knock back the player with melee attacks when close enough and that’s it. They are just like the infamous Stormtroopers from the Star Wars franchise when it comes to accuracy and intelligence.
So, Do We Need Another Far Cry?
The Far Cry series is suffering from multiple conditions. The settings, story and characters that used to be a source of inspiration for other games are now so underwhelming that it is difficult to sit through the cuscuses and resist the urge to skip them. The gameplay is so full of failed experiments and half-baked mechanics that it seems like a collage made from the previous installments. On the technical side, the title used to be a benchmark for high-end PC gaming in 2004 and now after 18 years, it cannot even be compared to some indie titles such as Bright Memory: Infinite or Black Myth: Wukong. Far Cry has turned into a shadow of its former self and in its current condition, the franchise is not going to last much longer.
The answer to the question at the beginning of the article is a solid no. We do not need another Far Cry before Ubisoft revamps the franchise with new ideas and a better game engine. Feeding the players with nostalgia is enough! The franchise should take a break and go through the same process Assassin’s Creed franchise went through after Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. This may not be an economically friendly decision for Ubisoft, but it is the best option for the survival of one of the best FPS franchises of the last two decades.