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Far Cry 6

Far Cry 6

Written by Eric Hauter on 10/6/2021 for PC  
More On: Far Cry 6

Every time I sit down to review one of Ubisoft’s open world extravaganzas, the first thought that goes through my mind is, “How could I give this thing any score less than a 10?” Ubisoft games are so complex, so rich in content, with such ridiculously high production values that it can be difficult to see the beautiful forest for the beautiful trees. These games represent such an amazing amount of work by so many people that my mind always seizes at the idea of doing anything than offering the utmost respect to their efforts.

And indeed, there is a lot about Far Cry 6 that commands respect. Every time I hop on a four-wheeler, or hijack a baddie’s horse by putting a machete through their skull, or paraglide off of a mountain into a gorgeous sun-kissed vista, I think, “Somebody worked for years to make this so smooth.” There are so many working parts all jammed together, so many systems and engines and menus and subroutines that all whir soundlessly beneath the hood to bring one of these games to life, that even thinking about the effort that must be involved is mind-boggling.

I played Far Cry 6 on PC, and the game looks absolutely stunning. I love looking at the clothing textures, and watching each individual blade of grass wave in the wind. And yet, with all of its glorious lighting and top-notch storytelling, there are a few things that nagged at me while playing Far Cry 6. This is a series that has never been afraid to take chances, regularly making changes to its gameplay to push things in new directions. And so there came a moment while playing, maybe 20 hours in, when I sat back in my chair and realized that there were aspects of this game that just weren’t working for me.

But first let’s get some of the good stuff out of the way (and there’s a lot of good stuff). Far Cry 6 puts players in the role of Dani Rojas (“Football is life!” never comes out of this character’s mouth, though it would have been great if it had). Dani is an orphan from Yara, a Latin-Pacific “paradise frozen in time.” Is Yara a thinly veiled take on Cuba, which had its trade cut off from the rest of the world after a revolution in the late 1950s? You bet your sweet cigars it is. Old cars, old buildings, and a dearth of modern technology—though somehow, characters have cell phones, so the approximation of Castro’s country isn’t quite spot on.

Dani can be played as either a male or female character. I chose to play as the female Dani, who manages to feel like a fleshed-out character, despite the fact that dialogue referring to her is clearly gender non-specific. Much like Cassandra in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I like my female Dani so much that I can’t imagine playing the game with her male counterpart; she feels as much a part of this world as any of the other characters.

Yara is ruled with an iron fist by “El Presidente” Anton Castillo (Giancarlo Esposito). Scientists in Yara have discovered a revolutionary treatment for cancer, which is grown in the local tobacco plants (okay…). Unfortunately, the methods for creating this cure make everyone involved with growing the tobacco deathly ill, so Castillo has taken to conscripting Yara’s less-fortunate citizens into the army to do the growing and the dying. This means that not-so-little orphan Dani is on a direct course for the tobacco fields at the beginning of the game, when a turn of events introduces her to Libertad, a revolutionary faction of guerilla fighters plotting against Castillo.

Despite the wack-a-doodle sci-fi-meets-real-world-politics premise, the story plays out nicely, with solid performances all around. The motion capture and performance directors of Ubisoft games don’t get nearly enough credit. Their work is consistently industry leading, often beyond what you would see in a prestige television series. If you were expecting Giancarlo Esposito to be anything less than stellar, prepare for disappointment. He is his usual bone-chilling self, radiating evil on the rare occasions you see him on screen. Far Cry bad guys are not nearly as present as one might think; they disappear for hours on end.

Far Cry games tend to be somewhat episodic, and this one is no different. If you’ve played one of the recent entries, you know how this works. There are several large geographic areas on the map. Travel to one, meet the local faction, follow a series of quests until you have a showdown with the local sub-boss, rinse and repeat. Take down all the local leaders, and you get a shot at the big bad: Castillo himself. Along the way, you meet a variety of colorful characters, are treated to a ton of intriguing story, and have more than a few wacky misadventures.

And while those wacky misadventures are in the game, the overall tone this time feels a bit more serious. Missions in Far Cry can always go spiraling off the rails with impromptu complications, but Far Cry 6 seemed to have fewer instances of random weirdness than usual. No panthers wandering into the middle of a firefight, for example. Everything felt a little more locked down, and ever-so-slightly more “real.” Of course, there are the usual side activities available to add some levity, including the dubious addition of cock fighting, which plays out like an arcade fighting game. I guess Far Cry was never gonna win PETA over, so why start trying now? A few other new mechanics stir the pot a bit, including "Supremos," which are customizable super weapons that feel almost like ultimate abilities. There's some fun stuff to explore here.

The mechanic that had players climbing towers to open up areas of the map and gain fast travel points went the way of the dodo in Far Cry 5, and I’m relieved to report that it does not return here. This time around, players receive info about military installations from folks wandering around the map. Make your way to one of those chokepoints, engage in short battle, take over the site for Libertad, and you have a shiny new fast travel point. This feels pretty organic to the experience, and far less “gamey” than the tower-climbing did. You also receive missions to take down anti-aircraft units, which opens up bits of the sky for helicopters and planes; it’s highly recommended that you make time for those. As usual, the map is enormous, and it’s much easier to jump into a helicopter and fly to your destination than it is to hoof it there on a horse.

So yes, the world-building, performances, visuals, and exploration mechanics are all top-notch. So what was the big beef that I had with Far Cry 6 that was holding me back from delivering a review that salivated with unending praise? Boy oh boy, do I dislike the way my skills are now tied to gear. Like, really, a lot.

Far Cry 6 has removed any real sense of character development. Sure, you “rank up” when you finish quests, but the only real impact that has on the game is that the enemies occasionally become tougher across the board. What you don’t get is any sort of skill tree. And no skill tree means that you can’t customize your character the way you want. Did I mention that I don't like it?

In the past, I’ve played Far Cry games like this: I start out running and gunning with the most powerful weapon I can find, but as I level up, I also start sinking all of my skill points into stealth. As soon as I am able to, I start creeping around with a bow, cleaning out camps of guys before they even know what hit them. By the end of the game, I am a ghost, a silent bringer of death, avoiding direct combat in favor of sniping and sneaking. I love it.

In Far Cry 6, I’ve had none of that. All of your skill boosts are tied to gear you find. These gloves boost small arms ammo. And these pants make you kinda fireproof. None of these boosts feel terribly noticeable, and none of them make you feel more powerful than when you started. Strip Dani of her gear at the end of Far Cry 6, and she’s the exact same Dani you started the game with.  And if you don’t find or buy the right gear, you don’t get the skills you are looking for. And even if you do have the gear you want for a particular situation, equipping it takes away some other skill you might have enjoyed, because it was tied to the gear you are taking off. So why do I dislike the character advancement? Because in all practical terms, there is none.

Additionally, you can now customize your weapons to shoot different types of ammo; soft target, armor piercing, explosive, etc. And different enemies are resistant to different ammo types. Fine and good. But in practice this means that you have to carry around a ton of different weapons, switching them out on the fly to maximize damage on different enemy types. Just…whatever. I’m not doing that. In the actual heat of battle, it’s just too much to manage and remember.

I ended up gearing up in the Blood Dragon outfit because it looked cool, and running around for over half the game with a machete, knifing everyone in the skull. I killed more people with a combat knife than I did with any other weapon—including my beloved bow, which turned out to be useless in most situations. When things got too intense, I turned the difficulty down to Story Mode and just ran through slaughtering any dudes that got too close.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the combat in Far Cry 6; it’s not a complete loss. I did have fun. But the new way the character advancement in the game is structured did not allow me to play the way I wanted to play. It forced me to be sloppy, when I prefer to be precise. It forced me up close, when I wanted to maintain distance. And worst of all, it made me play according to what I had on hand, not allowing me to build out a character to play the way I wanted to.

Far Cry 6 is an unbelievably gorgeous game. It tells a rich story through amazing performances. It is an industry-leading visual achievement. But in exploring new ways to structure the experience, Far Cry 6 has wandered into an area that takes agency away from the player, which feels like a bridge too far. I wanted my Dani Rojas to be a stealthy jaguar. Instead, I played her as a bumbling murder clown, because it was such a hassle to create the character I wanted. All the red tobacco in Yara can’t cure that.

Far Cry 6 excels in a lot of ways, with stellar visuals, performances, exploration, and story. But the character advancement mechanics have been reworked in a way that takes agency away from the player, forcing them to use the skills they can scrounge up instead of building the character they want. There is a mountain of fun to be had here; this pivot away from skill points doesn't ruin the game, but it also doesn't feel like the right direction for the series.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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