Montana is prepper country. Wild animals, low population density, fresh water and many places to hide away a bunker or a bug-out bag in the mountainside has attracted a lot of preppers. It has also attracted gun nuts and people trying to get out of view of government, away from the city. Cut off from the outside world, people ignore for too long a charismatic family with a message of belonging, of preparing for the end times. Before they know it, that family has taken over and there is no way out now.
On the weekend I got to play around four hours of so of Far Cry 5 and see for myself what the world was like. Ever since the first trailers I was interested in how the game would tackle being set in the US and a religious cult that takes so much imagery from the extremist, gun-toting Bible bashers we have seen, like The Children of Thunder. I wasn’t disappointed.
Montana is a place of beauty. Verdant forests full of thick old trees, picturesque rivers and lakes with small waterfalls. Sharp mountains that eventually end in small parcels of bright green land. But that beauty is marred by something dark that has taken hold of the people that live there. The faithful of Project Eden are sick, twisted individuals given a community, a promise of salvation: an excuse to let their darker natures out. I find a cabin in the woods halfway up a mountain pass. It has a view that would easily make its way onto a postcard. It looks like the perfect retreat for a holiday or to live a retired life away from the bustle. The owner seems to live off the land, judging by the animal hides and haunches of meat just outside the property. Then you see the graffiti. Someone has painted SINNER onto the wall, and the house has signs of a scuffle. Outside I find the owner of the house. He has been tied to a crucifix with a bag over his head and his body was used for target practice. I will never know who lived in that cabin, all I know is that the man liked baseball, he had some limited memorabilia in his house. I find a bug out bag nearby, the contents packed for just in case something goes wrong. Seems he never saw this coming, or it was too late to run and hide.
His corpse isn’t the only one I stop to take a look at, wondering at the evil that these people are inflicting in the name of religion. People are strewn all over the countryside in Montana, painting a macabre picture of what has happened here in the last few weeks. Just like in The Division, Far Cry 5 deals with people involved and reacting to a collapse and just like there, Ubisoft has put a lot of painstaking detail into creating a believable environmental narrative. This ties in well with the game’s new focus on breadcrumbs leading to discovery, rather than making use of radio towers or random question marks appearing in your view. Far Cry 5 ditches the minimap for a compass tracker, making you pay attention to your surroundings a lot more. Driving along the road, I saw two peggies (what people call the cultists) tying up a woman, who was begging for help. After saving her, she thanked me and told me about a nearby factory that people were being taken to.
In that area I slowly worked my way through enemies, using stealth to whittle down the numbers, saving a small group from being drugged, killed or worse. In the factory I found letters about shipments of the Project Eden narcotic called Bliss, mentions of patrols and voice messages that fill in the background story of the various high up members of Seed’s cult. This opens up more missions and places for me to search, and some of the survivors want to help take the fight to the enemy, joining you as a wingman in combat. It creates a satisfying loop in the exploration, with a mixture of you stumbling onto things worth exploring, or finding information that leads you to places to knock the cult down a peg or two.
Playing with a wingman means you have someone to help you up if you take too much damage, or someone to distract an enemy while you go about killing people. I spent some time with Cheeseburger, a celebrity brown bear with diabetes. His abilities allow him to maul enemies and he draws fire, letting you take those headshots. Or you can partner up with someone like Jess Black, who is armed with a bow and is harder to detect than the other NPCs that can join you. Or you can have someone who uses a rocket launcher to solve all his problems, depending on how you feel or like to play.
The lack of a minimap changed the whole way I played the game. Instead of staring at a small circle on the bottom of my map, I was paying attention to what was around me and the lay of the land. I sometimes didn’t know if the place I picked to travel towards had anything worth seeing, but the game’s density of events and interesting things to do meant I generally found something of interest, or reached a point I could see something that looked interesting. From collecting herbs to following enemy movements while in stealth, my eyes were focused on the game and all the information available in the world, rather than that handy top down map with its little arrows showing where everyone was or what herbs were nearby and it felt pretty freeing to play Far Cry that way.
The bulk of my playtime was spent in the Whitetail Mountains, a place where Jacob Seed “recruits” and trains the soldiers of Project Eden’s Gate. Jacob believes that we have lost our way and forgotten that the strong control the weak and that strength is the most important thing. His iconography is about wolves and hunting, about culling herds and surviving. He believes that there is hunter and prey, and that weakness is only there to feed the strong. His training methods involve torture, narcotic substance abuse and audiovisual aids when subjects are drugged and in pain. Those that survive the process are brainwashed to believe that his dogma is their dogma, and those who don’t survive are tossed out like rubbish.
To take on these trained soldiers with air support and stealthy trackers, you will need help. Luckily you bump into the Whitetail Militia, a group of people who saw the signs of what was about to come years ago, and started preparing when everyone else saw the Seed family as a bunch of “harmless nut jobs”. The militia have been holding their own, but fighting against a man who kidnaps people and then brainwashes them means the militia is on edge and it is only a matter of time until Jacob Seed finds someone who knows where their bunker is situated and then everything is over. Jacob Seed is only one of the major obstacles in your way to get to Joseph Seed, the charismatic proselytizer who everyone calls Father. Just like in Ghost Recon Wildlands you are going to have to weaken the protective barrier around Joseph. Besides Jacob the soldier, there is Faith, who uses the drug Bliss to manipulate people and make them feel rewarded and Joseph Seed the baptist who believes that everything belongs to the cult. Far Cry is a game about villains and the Seed family brings villainy to the table in pickup trucks.
If you want to know more about the gunplay, weapons and vehicles being used in the game, Dave’s coverage over here and here will tell you more. Once this releases I can see myself slowly getting rid of every trace of Project Eden’s Gate, one takedown or rocket launcher round at a time. They deserve it. Who am I kidding, I will probably spend a lot of time fishing instead.