Far Cry Beyond - You're a Far Cry from Earth, Human
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:20pm 30/03/16 | Comments
We posit the potential future of Far Cry now that the past and present has been nailed, is space the next frontier?
A little while ago we wrote a feature asking Ubisoft to set the next Far Cry, after Far Cry 4, in Australia. It went gangbusters. It also resonated with people because we questioned a few design pitfalls the series had been repeating for far too long. Obviously the next game wasn’t set in Australia, though boldly Ubisoft chose to take us into the Stone Age where we would learn to master ancient beasts such as Sabretooth Cats, Wooly Mammoths, Lions, Tigers and Bears… oh my.
Some of those design pitfalls were still front and centre in Far Cry Primal, but as I discussed in our review, they worked more fluidly because of the context of the game -- the main character, the world itself, the progression and crafting systems and so on. But having devolved the series -- in aesthetic -- the question now arises as to where should Ubisoft take players to next? And just like our Far Cry Australia feature, we have a pretty good idea. And it’s not anywhere you’ve been before.
Space… the final frontier.
Well, not really in games, but it’s a hotbed for creative design and story at the moment, and when we breakdown just how a Far Cry game set in space could work, you’ll agree (I hope). This feature shouldn’t be initially confused with just taking players into the future -- other shooters are already wearing that setting out -- we’re talking about space. Like, other planets with aliens, spaceships and all that jazz. It would be as bold a move as Primal, if not more so because for a change Ubisoft could finally play with Far Cry’s mechanics in ways no one else ever really has before, and it would work by embracing a much-maligned design principle right off the bat.
No one really ever liked Jason Brody or Ajay Ghale. Their fish-out-of-water stories where they managed to single-handedly take down oppressive regimes because the locals couldn’t, consistently rubbed players the wrong way. It’s why Primal’s Takkar has so evenly been embraced, because he’s one with the game-world, and his plight for that reason is a much easier foundation to bite into. But in a space-based Far Cry, where you play as a human -- maybe the only human -- the fish-out-of-water story becomes relatable, and every player would be able to suspend themselves as the player-character.
You could go about this in numerous ways, too. Alien abduction would be the obvious starting point and would allow the character to be of modern-day origin, but you could also go that future route I mentioned before where maybe a scientist has built a portal device, or an astronaut has been sucked through a wormhole. It could be Matt Damon not getting home from Mars; rather, he finds ancient ruins from an alien species where he’s teleported to their galaxy -- it might be the first plight he finds himself in where no one can come to save him. But I digress.
At this point, you could be thinking “well that just sounds a little bit like Prey 2”, and hey you’d be right. But it’s not a bad starting point to look at given that game will never see the light of day, but that we all wanted to play the shit out of it. And the differentiator here is that in Prey 2 you were playing as a US Marshall-turned-Intergalactic Bounty Hunter -- essentially the sort of character you’d want to end a space Far Cry game on, not necessarily begin as.
Prey 2 from Bethesda and Human Head looked oh-so-sweet
That’s a good segue too, because outside of some of the more obvious things a game like this could offer -- crazy alien weapons, spaceships, planets and more -- it could also allow Ubisoft to rewrite the series’ character progression system. Be gone Death from Above ability, let’s drop in something relating to being able to blink through time and space to zip around and take out enemies, for example. You could have unique ways in which the player-character even earns abilities by doing away with the basic XP and ability points service, replacing it instead with earning knowledge from various alien races. And think of the cool language possibilities -- having to learn the various dialects and languages of said alien races. We know the language factor in Far Cry Primal was a heavily-celebrated design decision, so the basics are already there.
You could also start thinking in 360 degrees for combat. Maybe some takes place on planets, and maybe some takes place in space. Imagine being able to use gravity to plot your attack on an alien enemy stronghold. I think it would be amazing. You could control gravity-defying vehicles, too. Does anyone remember Acclaim’s Forsaken? So many possibilities.
You could also do away with the traditional crafting component and replace it with a modular system where our hero combines interchangeable alien weapons, armour and more. It would make for a unique experience where systems pile on top of one another in a world where Ubisoft can write its own rules, no longer tied to our own real-world rules, because these aren’t real worlds. This fact would also allow the studio to get really crazy with ecology too. One of my favourite moments from Far Cry 3 was jumping into a river in an attempt to break line-of-site with the enemy only to be confronted -- for the first time, and with no knowledge of their existence in the game-world -- with a croc lying in wait for any unsuspecting prey. I literally threw the controller and shrieked like Ned Flanders. You could have so many more moments like this in a world we, and our human character, have no idea about.
If crafting had to remain though, you could also play with the dangers of toying with an eco-system you know nothing about. Upcoming indie roguelike Brut@l has a potion-brewing mechanic that doesn't tell you what potion is being made once you brew it for the first time. You have to test it by drinking it or throwing it at an enemy, but that might mean poisoning yourself, or buffing an enemy. And so knowledge is power, and in more recent Far Cry games it’s been less about discovering new and unique worlds, and more about having them presented to you as sandboxes to use tried and tested gameplay mechanics in. Climbing challenges in towers, wingsuiting, swimming, using the grapple hook (one of my most disliked because points are dictated by the devs and you’re not free to use the tool wherever, and whenever you want, ala Dying Light’s grapple hook for example) -- they’re all repetitive at this point, and the series needs to mix it up. It should be said in earnest, however, that some pillars the series is renowned for should remain, it’s why I’m emphatically suggesting all of the above under the Far Cry banner, because it would absolutely work, but the gameplay that follows such a monumental shift in setting would have to change in kind.
Our Far Cry Australia pitch was about specifics and facts on our Great Southern Land, but with, let’s call it Far Cry Beyond, or something, there are no facts except that we can finally relate to the human and his or her plight. Far Cry Primal was an aesthetic departure from our modern-day Far Crying, but so many of the series’ pillars are getting old and repetitive now -- something that is at odds with the very idea of open-world games that promote true player-agency.
Moreover, as open-world games become more detailed and more complex the Far Cry series is in serious danger of fatigue due to those older pillars. What makes Far Cry great is player-progression in a foreign space, or at least against all odds. We can’t imagine a lone human stuck in another galaxy surrounded by numerous alien races with almost no Earth-relative laws being any better place than to take us.