With the stellar execution of Far Cry 3, Ubisoft believed they have hit gold by copying the formula for their follow up in Far Cry 4. Though the game was well received, many took note of the familiar attributes that seemed to follow from the previous iteration, and in many ways it felt like a less innovative product compared to its predecessor. However, with the recent announcement of Far Cry 5, it seems as though Ubisoft have changed up the formula and are finally ready to made the series its own again.
Gamingbolt had a chance to talk with the game’s writer Drew Holmes at this year’s E3 to find out just what has changed and what steps Ubisoft took to differentiate this game from previous entries.
What is the biggest change in Far Cry 5 compared to previous entries in the series?
A lot. We call [the change] the 360 degree approach. I can go, I can scout around posts, and I can see were guys are going in and out, and I can plan whatever sort of tactic there’s going to be. I can go in stealthily or I can go in guns blazing. That’s systemic approach, I think this is what makes Far Cry stand out to a lot amongst a lot of other games. The goal this time around was to say, “is there a way that we can take that style of play and put it in the entire game?” Three and four, in particular, were set along a little gated paths. You got missions that were very linear and you go and do them in order; then you’ve got the open world; you’ve got the outpost, you’ve got hunting and you got all the exploration stuff you can do. And it felt sort of separate.
So the idea was: how do we allow you to drop into the game at the beginning of the world and go anywhere you want, explore any stories that you want; and have that be the driving force of the narrative of the game, rather than say, “here’s our story time and here’s your exploration time.” We came up with this idea of the resistance meter. As you’re going through the world – in each region you’re trying to build up a resistance. I may do a quest and that will fill up my resistance meter. What that’s doing is that the game is becoming reactive to the things that I’m doing. So the people that are on the side of the resistance, rallying to me, helping me take an outpost, I’m getting new followers, and at the same time the cult’s paying attention to this, “We’ve got to squash this rebellion. We’ve got to change about tactics, send in fresh enemies.”
And it’s also how the bad guys, the stars of the show are asserting themselves into the story. I’m not going along and saying, “I’m going to do a story mission now. I’m exploring and clearing all of the stuff out,” and then boom the story’s happening to me. I think it feels much more reactive. I am choosing to set up whatever experience I want rather than us dictating the narrative to the player.
"We really wanted to focus on exploration with a sense of, “I’m not sure what to do or where to go.”"
Why were the towers and mini map removed?
I think it’s because it helps increase exploration. I think inn Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 you got into a rhythm of, “the only way that I can find out what to do in this area is to go climb a tower, hit a button and all of these things pop up.” We really wanted to focus on exploration with a sense of, “I’m not sure what to do or where to go.”
I think when you set a game in a more familiar setting like Montana, we wanted to compare it to, “what would I do in this situation?” I’d have to go and try and meet some locals, see if they’d do anything. Or go to a town and see if there’s anything to do around there. So the goal really was to get rid of the towers as a way of forcing me to interact with the people, pay attention to my surroundings. And sort of intuitively figure out, “well, if there’s a town here, there’s a gas station down the road,” so everything sort of feels like a believable world. The removal of the mini map was so you’re not staring at a little corner of your screen saying, “what’s new in the world?” You’ve got to actually pay attention to the world and making sure that the art side is doing a good job of making sure there are good landmarks to orient yourself. That it becomes more of less the game guiding you on where to go, and more of you saying, “where do I want to go, what do I want to do today?”
What was the decisions behind choosing Montana out of every other place in the world?
We had a few ideas on where to take the franchise. But Dan Hay (director of the game) always talks about bringing Far Cry to America, pretty much since they’ve done Far Cry 3. The first place that everyone went to decided to check out was Montana. I think that there’s a great sense of frontier, great sense of wilderness, of danger, wildlife, there’s mountains, there’s big sky country. There’s lots of places that feel unknown even though it is in the backyard.
So I think as soon as the team went there, they started to meet the people there, and get a sense of, “Montanans are a very self-reliant type of person. They don’t like to be pushed around.” There’s a history of standoffish-ness and leave-me-alone with the state that I think worked really, really well with Far Cry. The list of places that Far Cry wanted to go after that just fell off the table. We said, “this is the spot, this is where we want to go. Now let’s think of an interesting villain that could populate that space.”
"There’s going to be lots of weapons to play around with. We’re going to go into it later. But expect improvement and stuff you have see in previous Far Cry games."
Given the criticism about Far Cry 4 being a little too similar to 3, was there a desire to really shake things up mechanically, story-wise, etc?
I think going back to the 360 approach, making sure that going to this nonlinear story, I don’t have to go down the same…you and I, if we are playing, don’t have to go down the same set of missions to get to the next beat in the story. We can sort of go around.
So from writing standpoint it’s super challenging to say, “here are the beats that we know we have to hit in the story. This is the rise in action that we have to be.” But as a writer you have no idea where the players going to be at any given time. So it’s about making sure you’re building the world and characters that are sort of giving you proper feedback to the beats of the story. It’s about people in the world saying, “John is doing this. He’s taking people and this cleansing is making people confess.”
We wanted to make sure that the player understands that, and understands the context of it without saying, “sit down and watch our cinematic.”
What can you tell us about the school system and weapon customization in the game?
It has a robust school system. And there’s going to be lots of weapons to play around with. We’re going to go into it later. But expect improvement and stuff you have see in previous Far Cry games.
How long is the game compared to the previous entries in the series?
It’s going to be very similar to what you’ve seen previously.