Dear Far Cry team of Ubisoft Montreal,
Welcome to Australia.
Yes, Far Cry 4
has shipped and yes you’re likely not really thinking about anything but
supporting the game post-release, but I’m here today as an ambassador for Australia, urging you to set Far Cry 5 in our homeland. I have a very strong case as to why you should heavily consider this request, too.
Did you know, seven of the top 10 deadliest snakes in the world are Australian? The inland taipan (or Fierce Snake
), the world’s most dangerous snake, was first encountered in the late 1800s but remained an elusive animal until its rediscovery in the early 1970s. The indigenous Australians call it “Dandarabilla” and its bite is so lethal, a single nip has enough venom to drop 100 grown men. It is especially adapted to hunting mammals. Humans, as you know, are mammals.
While Fierce Snake is an elusive predator, the Eastern Brown Snake is far more common, and runs into the paths of humans relatively often, both rurally and in more built-up urban settings. They’re also known for their aggressive tenacity and can paralyse a victim with a single bite. They’ve been recorded as having the second-most toxic venom of any land snake in the world, and they have a bad temper around humans.
We have others, too. But we’re not just a land of deadly snakes.
Next-gen power should mean a greater emphasis on the little things, right? We have lots of little things in Australia, lots of little things that bite, crawl and sting. The Funnel Web Spider, for example, is one of the most toxic spiders in the world. They also thrive in urban settings, and are often found in the back gardens of Sydneysiders. Back gardens where children play, adults toil and humans go about being human.
Australia has plenty of its own monster legends and sightings. Perhaps the most famous creature lurking in our country though, is the Yowie. The Yowie is comparable to the Himalayan Yeti and the North American Sasquatch and is most often sighted in the eastern states of Australia. NSW's Blue Mountains region - some 90-minutes outside of Sydney is a hot-spot for encounters with the creature.
Although more venomous, the Funnel Web is really only found in Sydney, but our Red Back Spiders are spread all over the country. They’ve been found in sheds and garages, dog kennels and mailboxes. They’ve also been found under toilet seats.
The Australian Paralysis Tick, an eastern native blood-sucker is also a dangerous groupie -- following you around, sucking your blood sometimes for days before you even realise it’s there. The tick’s saliva -- its most dangerous part -- has the ability to trigger severe allergic reactions with some unsuspecting victims even going into anaphylactic shock. This tick, which starts feeding time the size of a small grain of rice, will bloat to the size of a large garden pea and has claimed plenty of victims since its discovery, though none in modern times. Still, death isn’t the only thing to fear from any nips from our creepy-crawlies meaning danger could still lurk in ways your series explored way back in Far Cry 2. Healing shouldn’t just be a matter of holding down a button in a game fraught with danger at every turn.
At sea and in our waterways, of course, things remain as bullish
on the danger front as ever. Great White Sharks are obviously an apex predator not specific to Australia but populate our coastal water more than almost any other country, while our local Tiger Sharks have also been known to show heightened aggression towards anything that moves
in their home turf. And while a bite from either is not something anyone wants to deal with, you can at least know that they’re confined to the open waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The same can’t be said of our Bull Sharks though, which often manage to find their way into our freshwater rivers and inland waterways. In fact, Australian Bull Sharks have even been found at Brisbane’s Carbrook Golf Club
, living in its (fresh) water-feature lake. It’s believed a flood in the 90s saw two major rivers (obviously housing Bull Sharks) overflow into the course’s lake where the animals now live and thrive with no access to salt water anywhere (completely debunking a debunked myth
from Aussie shark experts Ron and Valerie Taylor that sharks aren’t capable of surviving in fresh water).
Have you heard of “Salties”, Ubi? You might have, given that Far Cry 3 featured crocs. In Australia their abundance is fast becoming an issue, even for urban residents in our more northern provinces as a result of it being illegal to hunt or cull them. Each year the largest reptile on the planet kills an average of two people, but has been known to stalk and ‘hunt’ many more. While it’s arguable sharks don’t have a predilection towards humans as far as feeding goes, Salties are known man-eaters and many tourists have fallen prey to their millenia-perfected hunting techniques. They also have the strongest bite of any animal in the world, measuring an incredible near two tons of pressure. By comparison, the Great White’s bite force is measured at just over 2000lb of pressure. Also, unlike the shark world, the more aggressive males in the crocodile family are also the largest, with the biggest Saltie in Australia ever caught (and kept in captivity) coming in at 5.48 metres long. He is also believed to be 110 years old. We call him Cassius
Mad Max is perhaps the best poster-child for Australia's obsession with vehicles, but it should be known that car culture runs deep in our veins. Our V8 Supercars are things of legend, while our modern and classic cars are points of pride to the average Aussie.
There's a lot that could be explored in this space given the vehicular nature of the Far Cry series, and it's something that would really help a game set in Australia stand out.
Sharp teeth aren’t the only hazards we face in our waters though, with nasties like the Blue-Ringed Octopus (the only octopus known to use venom on its victims -- a venom so deadly it’s roughly 100 times more poisonous than cyanide), the Reef Stonefish (whose venom is so toxic and painful, morphine is reportedly incapable of even taking the edge off -- it is the most poisonous fish in the world) and pesky jellyfish including the Irukandji Jellyfish and the deadly Box Jellyfish -- affectionately known here as a “Stinger”. Stingers have roughly 15 long tentacles and each of these contains thousands of stinging cells. Stingers also have sophisticated vision, with an array of eyes on either side of their signature box-shaped body -- some of those eyes even have a lens, cornea and an iris. Some marine biologists believe this ocular set-up, alongside the Stinger’s deliberate propulsion around potential prey, means they actively hunt, bucking against the regularly accepted notion that they’re just hapless, floating opportunists. Both of the aforementioned jellyfish can easily kill a human.
Our sunburnt country is perhaps an overlooked danger of its own though, and diversity here is key -- especially in the consideration of building an open-world game around our ancient land.
Anecdotally, a young man was recently bitten by a shark while surfing. That man had to take “the long way around” to be airlifted to the closest hospital for help, because the shortest route from the beach he was surfing at to civilisation was across a large stretch of sand dunes -- dunes riddled with sunbaking snakes. Think about that for a moment -- from beach to desert, in a hop, skip and a jump, with the first two legs of that journey carrying life-threatening dangers. While our country is large, it’s not uncommon to not have to travel far to go between landscape extremes like tropics, bush, swamp, mangrove, desert, waterways, cliffs and canyons, as well as urban areas.
Australia's wild history could make for a compelling narrative for a Far Cry game. Bushrangers were Robin Hood-like social misfits who turned their backs on authority. Using the bush as their base, they robbed banks and coaches, and are romanticised today as warriors who fought injustice. Our most famous Bushranger is Ned Kelly whose signature metal helmet is recognised the world over.
We also don’t have danger-locked radio towers in Australia -- a good thing that will benefit
the design of the next Far Cry, Ubisoft. Trust me.
There’s a native plant that grows mainly in the northern-easterly parts of Australia called the Gympie-Gympie. It’s one of four
known stinging plants that grow in Australia and its sting has been described as feeling like you’re “being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time”. The plant is laced with tiny stinging hairs that essentially become hypodermic needles once they’ve been removed from the plant. Brushing up against its innocent-looking large heart-shaped leaves is enough to do this and there’s very little you can do to alleviate the pain, or even remove the stinging hairs -- often a brash response to this breaks the hairs off at the skin, leaving tips embedded in whatever part of your body you brushed up against it. This could be the beginning of a true game-changing element to movement through your lush, gorgeous game-worlds in the series Ubisoft, making traversal a point of care and skill for players.
It should be said, however, that it’s not all about danger Down Under. We have one of the most diverse animal populations in the world, with myriad mammalian and marsupial animals the rest of the world adores, that aren’t all that aggressive. Kangaroos are capable of hurting people, but often ignore humans despite coming into cities and towns regularly. The cuddly Koala is also a signature animal of our great land, but spends most of its time atop trees high on the eucalyptus leaves it consumes at a steady rate (though when not, they’re quite tenacious). Wombats are more dangerous through the burrows they dig deep in the ground, leaving traps for unsuspecting hikers and walkers to fall or trip in. Dingoes -- a non-native dog breed introduced to Australia upon white settlement (the facts around this are still debated though), is the largest terrestrial predator we have, and hunts and moves in packs. Legends do exist of puma and mountain lions that escaped captivity from circuses or private collections, now living wild in Australia, but none of these legends have ever been proven.
Thanks to our 40,000 (+) year-old native aboriginals though, Australia is actually full of legend and myths. Indigenous Australians have passed down stories and art for tens of thousands of years and speak to, and passionately believe in, the “Dreamtime” -- a magical, ethereal place where the land and its people are effectively one; sharing a symbiotic relationship of mutual give and take and where the past, present and future exist as one. It could be visited during sleep in your dreams or through other altered states and is also considered the final stop in your lifetime upon death, before reincarnation.
And “reincarnation” is an apt place to round this all out. Above is a (small) list of tantalising ingredients that could bear wonderful design returns for your much-loved series, but what’s left is how you decide to approach it. The past two games have, for better or worse, been built on the same formula -- some of that works, and some doesn’t. In Australia there is no militant group you could apply to the open run and gun play the series embraces, but mining is huge here, and it could be a chance to Bond the experience out. A ruthless, rich powerbroker as your tried and tested bad guy, running illegal mines or scaremongering a small town surrounded in all corners by a mix of the terrain above would make for a brilliant setting. It’s not my place to assume I know how to make Far Cry 5 better
, I can just tell you what isn’t working anymore in the series, and hope that with the right approach in what the team nails, a more ambitious and universally-accepted game could be the result.
Making the environment a character that is both friend and foe would be a huge step in open-world games in general, and while Far Crys 3 and 4 upped the aggro animal ante (and then some), traipsing about the jungle or Himalayas with no other concern tends to deaden the lush worlds you’re attempting to bring to life. And your worlds need to be about character.
A quick glance at Australian media can give you a seriously important look and spin on how we reflect our own place in the world. Mad Max, Chopper, Red Dog, Rogue, Razorback, Malcolm, Wake in Fright, Wolf Creek, The Man from Snowy River, Animal Kingdom, the recent The Rover, the upcoming Wyrmwood, and even Crocodile Dundee are all great examples of how the Aussie personality is a larger-than-life one that we celebrate for good and for bad. In fact, in listing and thinking about those representations and your ‘psychos’ throughout the last two games, it’s almost written in
Ayers Rock (or, Uluru) that you should be looking at Australia for inspiration where the series’ characters and personality is concerned.
The Far Cry experience is usually one about a fish out of water, and I can’t imagine a better platform for that concept than the land Down Under. If you want to hang on to your spiritual, visual tangents, there’s no better place to start than with the Aboriginal Dreamtime. If you want the game’s animals and ecology to be a peripheral -- but important -- focus, our unique fauna and plant-life is perfect. If you want varying, challenging and visually stunning landscapes, watch any tourism advertisement featuring Australia. If you want to connect an environment with the world, that it both fears and acknowledges, speak to any Aussie-bound Pom leaving the dreary, rainy cobblestones of the UK. And if you want a game wrapped in character, personality and a theme untouched in the world of games, you really cannot go past our great Southern Land.
There is no more unique place in the world than Australia and what Far Cry needs in moving forward is something new and fresh; challenging and beautiful. An inviting place full of hidden and glaring dangers, like a real-life videogame dungeon, sans structure. How a game hasn’t been built around Australia yet baffles me, and this feature has highlighted effectively how wrong that is. Please broach this travesty, Ubisoft. You’re our only hope, mate.