I made it five hours into Far Cry 6 before I hit Alt+F4 and walked away. It’s not as if the game had a dearth of things to do; just the opposite.
I had made it to a major outpost in the Western expanse of Yara, a Caribbean island that’s a thinly veiled stand-in for Cuba, when I was confronted by a new set of systems and upgrade paths. Icons flickered on the UI calling me in half a dozen different directions. I needed to collect loot and crafting materials to upgrade the camp to make it easier to collect loot and crafting materials, I could also send lieutenants on errands to gather loot, I could spend time learning about cockfights, pet a cute wheel-chair bound dachshund and unlock a new quest line, or push the main story forward.
It felt like an exhausting chore list. I needed gasoline and metal to construct the buildings. Constructing these buildings would unlock new systems including a cantina where I could trade in fish and animal meat to gain temporary buffs. If I wanted to make the most of the fish meat, I would first need to use more gasoline and metal to construct the fishing hut to find the best spots. I closed the game.
Over the weekend, I attempted to go back a few times but I never made it past this camp and its list of activities. It’s not worse than past games, it’s very much the same. That’s the problem.
It was fun when I did the first time in Far Cry 3, which came out in 2012. It was a little better but the same when I did it in Far Cry Primal. It was entirely boring and unnecessary when I did it in Far Cry 5. The fact that Far Cry 6 thinks it can essentially deliver the exact same game a decade later is just depressing.
After a decade of iterations on the same theme, the Far Cry franchise is creatively and morally bankrupt. I’d say the franchise needs an Assassin’s Creed Odyssey-style reboot, but it feels as if there’s little worth saving.
Open world games are supposed to invite the possibility of exploration and discovery. In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the game’s various systems collide in fun and surprising ways. In Ubisoft’s open world sandboxes, and Far Cry 6 is no exception, the fun feels prescribed. If you’ve played an Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon, or Far Cry in the last ten years you know how Far Cry 6 will play out. You’ll climb a tower near an outpost, mark various targets within, then kill them.
Between these outposts is a string of inconsequential sidequests, characters, mazes, collectibles, and treasure chests. There will be chaos at some outposts, sure, but there’s no more moments of discovery or joy waiting in the jungles of Yara for me. The same old tired design has killed my ability to even attempt to find pleasure in Far Cry 6. Just the same game we’ve been playing for a decade dressed up in new skin.
The additions to the formula don’t do the game any favors. This time out, Far Cry is leaning into Ubisoft’s burgeoning live service model. In previous games, players would gain ability and trait points to improve their character. In Far Cry 6, all character progression is tied to loot. Instead of the player learning new abilities they must earn them by buying gear from a vendor that grants them. So if a player wants to tailor their character to their playstyle, they need to find or buy the requisite gear to do so.
It’s a small change on the surface that has titanic consequences for the flow of the gameplay. In Far Cry 5, perk points unlocked as the player completed challenges. Kill enemies with melee weapons or get a certain amount of headshots, say, and you unlock points you spend to upgrade your character. In Far Cry 6 all those upgrades are tied to gear. There’s no challenges to complete, just boxes to find scattered across the island. Unless, of course, you want to buy some of the best possible gear from Ubisoft’s in-game store.
Then there’s the game’s setting and story. Far Cry has always been self-aware exploitation. A hero jumps into a world they know little about and attempts to save it from a scene-chewing villain. The games are overtly political and weirdly crass. It’s always been an odd mix of tones, but the balance feels especially bad in Far Cry 6.
The basic setup is that dictator Anton Castillo (played by Giancarlo Esposito) is using slave labor to produce tobacco using a poison gas that turns the tobacco into a cancer treatment. His plan is to use the revolutionary cancer treatment to force the world to recognize the economic importance of Yara. It’s a fine setup for a video game that wants to play with themes of revolution of colonization, but any coherent message that might be percolating here is quickly undone.
The game’s opening movie is explicit. There are conquistadors, human bondage, and images of colonial oppression. Far Cry 6’s opening hour sets a grim tone as the player watches their friends get murdered by Castillo’s soldiers before fleeing a city in the dead of night. Then you wash up on a bright beach and recruit a futbol jersey-wearing crocodile named Guapo to your revolutionary cause. For 500 Far Cry Points, roughly $4.99, you can buy a cool outfit for Guapo in the in-game store.
To be fair, I didn’t see enough of the game to know it sticks the landing. But there’s little reason to see it through (Ubisoft, after all, recently equated street protests with terrorists in the marketing for a Tom Clancy mobile game).
I have pushed myself through several Far Cry games now because it always felt as if there were something there, just under the surface that I couldn’t quite reach. Fighting religious extremists in Montana is an appealing concept that Ubisoft didn’t pull off. So too with all its other Far Cry games. With their big maps, sprawling story, and big themes the series tricks the player into thinking there’s something interesting going on.
In reality, beyond the lushly-designed jungles, explosive firefights, and even beyond the confused and distasteful political dimensions, Far Cry 6 is just a storefront designed to sell you crocodile skins at 5 bucks a pop.