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Where to Next for Far Cry? Hope is on the Wagon
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 06:20pm 04/10/19 | Comments
In our long-running, never-consistent series around the future of Far Cry. We look at where to next for the franchise after post-apocalypse Montana in New Dawn...

Far Cry is a series of different values to many people. Pointedly though, the fantasy of a come-from-behind Batman-esque win against a Joker-level baddie (who pulls out all the stops), and his or her many cronies; checkpoints, outposts, drug-addled escapades and knowledge of ‘lay of the land’, as you power up and gain abilities and skills; helicopters and grenade launchers -- (mountain) lions, (sabre tooth) tigers and (Cheeseburger) bears… oh my -- is a thing of design beauty. It’s a seesaw design effort with player-agency and an open-world stacked alongside competing systems, married against a strict narrative with villainous leads who often steal the show.

Yeah, they can be buggy because that seesaw is stacked against itself from a weight of system numbers perspective, but when it all sings, it’s a chaos opera. Or at least a fun play in the park, on said seesaw.



I’ve had my fair share of say and discourse with the series over a number of years. Most recently, I sat in on a panel at the Ubisoft Experience here in Sydney with creative and franchise director, Dan Hay and Far Cry New Dawn’s narrative director, James Nadiger. The discussion with an enthused crowd was informative, intimate and engaging. In fact, it engaged me enough to continue my long-running intermittent series: “where to next for Far Cry?”.

Far Cry: Ye olde (modern) Timey Hope County.

"A prequel set in the age of the gunslinger, in the age of the gold rush, in the age of annexation, territory formation, state formation and the eventual formation of the United States..."



Revisiting Far Cry 5 after the panel experience to try and learn more about the game-world, from a world-building perspective, it dawned on me that the history riddled throughout Hope County (and the larger space of Prosperity) is still very rich. In fact, it was upon taking up the McHelen’s Whiskey barrel fetch-quest(s) that I decided to dive into the county’s fictional history. And it was deep in this deep-dive that the plainly obvious setting occured to me -- a third act in the Far Cry 5, Far Cry: New Dawn narrative arc would round out the story of the Seed family, (Project at) Eden’s Gate, the twins and the county itself. The creation of Hope County -- a prequel. A prequel set in the age of the gunslinger, in the age of the gold rush, in the age of annexation, territory formation, state formation and the eventual formation of the United States. In the age of taming the ‘Wild West’.

Up front: this is by no means a pitch for Ubisoft Montreal to try and tap into Red Dead Redemption territory. This would be standalone and rich with Far Cry gameplay (no towers, though). But before I get too deep into the larger narrative setup, here’s some history around why this would actually work in the context of the Far Cry 5 universe.



In the 1800s Montana was a destination state (though it wasn’t actually a state until 1889) due to the gold-rich hills that surround the valley centre. Numerous Native American tribes also surrounded neighbouring areas from the Crows and Cheyenne in the south, to the Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Gros Ventres throughout, among many others. Missionaries of varying faith (though mostly Roman Catholic) flocked to the area in hopes to ‘witness’ to those tribes, while also setting up for the influx of miners, prospectors, farmers, magnates and more who would help the territory grow. The railroad arrived in the 1880s which would have also brought a lot of so-called ‘celestials’ (mostly immigrant Chinese workers) meaning there was a cultural melting pot of characters and ideologies all attempting to mesh together, for the better.

"And through this company growth, like the indomitable George Hearst as portrayed in the seminal HBO series, Deadwood (a big influence on this piece, too), he had massive sway and impact in how Montana would shape..."



In fact the trapper world was among the first major trades to take hold in what would later be called Montana, to such a degree that the beaver fur was hunted so readily, it almost wiped out the species within the region.

That is until ‘beaver hats’ were no longer fashionable.

Gold wasn’t the only key pull to Montana, though (nor outdated beaver fashion), copper and other ores brought people to the mineral-rich location. In fact, mining magnate Marcus Daly’s company, Anaconda Copper grew into one of the world’s largest copper mining ventures. And through this company growth, like the indomitable George Hearst as portrayed in the seminal HBO series, Deadwood (a big influence on this piece, too), he had massive sway and impact in how Montana would shape in its formative years.



And that’s just a bite-sized chunk of a heady amount of history surrounding the area -- how the formation of law and agriculture came to be, while also serving first as a camp, followed by a territory and then eventually the state of Montana, is storied and rich in short and tall tales. So how exactly would all of this work?

Peer to Peer

During my panel with Dan and James, I asked a question about how they felt seeing other studios and gaming ventures who had borrowed, lightly or heavily, from Far Cry. Was it pride or frustration? The initial response was that in their formative years it would have been along the lines of “you sons of bitches, you stole our ideas”, but contemporarily, they see it as a boon -- though they were quick to point out that it would be creatively frustrating (in a positive way) to see a studio do something “better than we did”.

"Let’s consider a Far Cry experience centred around the formation of Hope County that began elsewhere -- as part of a wagon train with hopeful souls looking for a better future..."



To this point, I posit that the studio maintains this more contemporary disposition and equally borrows from elsewhere -- just foundationally, for at least the first part of what I propose for Far Cry: Hope County. And where I’d be looking is Metro Exodus… bear with me here.



Let’s consider a Far Cry experience centred around the formation of Hope County that began elsewhere -- as part of a wagon train with hopeful souls looking for a better future. Part of this wagon train would be people who would become descendent to many of the souls we’ve encountered in Far Cry 5 and Far Cry: New Dawn. Literally planting the history of the spaces we’ve already played through. And central to this, from the aforementioned is the missionary component of Montana’s history and formation. What if the Seed family was part of this adventure to spread “The Good Word”?

Now, the (apt) Exodus part of the game would be the wagon train leaving its port of origin -- say, California (San Francisco, perhaps). From there we experience a series of stops featuring sandbox locations -- Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and then South Dakota (for true history reasons) before landing in what will eventually become Montana, and then Prosperity before Hope County. Along the way, characters mingle and build upon (historical) narrative exposition. The player-character is a hired security member of the wagon (and who potentially becomes Marshal of Hope County in our fictional timeline, which would tie perfectly into Far Cry 5’s player-character “Dep”), while new characters join the wagon, or leave, along the way.

"It’s here we could also pit the Jessop family against them (Rachel Jessop being “Faith Seed” in Far Cry 5, but not an actual blood relative of Joseph, Jacob or John)..."



Importantly in this setup is that the Seeds -- a Catholic family of dedicated missionaries, splinters with each stop, learning more and more about the expanded nature of religion in the country. It’s here we could also pit the Jessop family against them (Rachel Jessop being “Faith Seed” in Far Cry 5, but not an actual blood relative of Joseph, Jacob or John), where a dedicated switch to sect life forms the creation of the “Church of Eden’s Gate” (™) -- though they’re not a doomsday cult by any measure, rather a religious outlier like Mormons or Seventh Day Adventists; created in chorus with activities and interactions through numerous camps and individuals along the wagon train ride -- all dictated by you, the player-character. So not so much an Exodus, rather a pilgrimage of sorts.



Obviously from here, it actually makes sense from a narrative plant. This is almost fan-fiction at this point. But a game needs to exist in here somewhere. Montana is a big state, with a lot of real-estate. It’s called “Big Sky Country” for a reason. So Ubi could work on the formation of that state and plant some of the aforementioned biomes as part of the wagon train journey. Obviously we’d need crucial stops at different places to ‘sell’ the journey, but within each ‘stop’, the player-character could experience adventure that shapes the train and its passengers. All the while shaping the history of the Seeds and the eventual expansion of the Church of Eden’s Gate into Joseph’s “Project at Eden’s Gate” doomsday cult. The sandboxes would allow for open-world play, but in a structured way, allowing for Ubi to test new mechanics and ideas.

For example, planting riches from any one of the families aboard the train within the greater Montana space, playing to Far Cry 5’s paranoia, which is a permeated US tradition within deeper states, as a result of annexation and the riches many found, could lead to a cheeky update in Far Cry 5 or even New Dawn where those riches still exist.

"Far Cry 5 had a very ‘western’ vibe to it anyway..."



Moreover, the formation of law and order in a camp still on the build (yep, super-borrowed here from Deadwood, but hey Seth Bullock’s character in Deadwood was nicknamed “Montana” by the real-life gun-slinger, Wild Bill Hickok, so… sorry, not sorry). Also, to be able to switch up first-person gameplay from driving four-wheelers to four-leggers would just be super-cool. And let’s be honest, Far Cry 5 had a very ‘western’ vibe to it anyway.



The numerous Native America tribes among the incoming riff raff and collision of cultures also fits in an open-world/sandbox sense, and more deeply around quest creation. There’s a lot of a sensitive area here to pull from, but if done right, could truly craft a conflicted, chaotic world trying to keep itself together. It’s almost a metaphor for Far Cry game-design on the whole, really. But importantly what stems from all of the above is a world on the cusp of simply being. The living, breathing parts of everything mentioned above is like the series’ myriad systems -- seesawing to try and play nice together, but at any given moment, any one of them can just jump off the seesaw when they’re at the bottom, leaving you momentarily in no-person’s land.

This would work. Trust me.

Additionally, it’s time for a new engine with another technological leap ahead of us anyway, so why not use this as a chance to round out a great narrative, while also toying with new concepts? I harp on about towers as a joke -- the truth is they’re all but non-existent now. The series is capable of growth and evolution, and while some reading this might proclaim “but it’s not open-world, so it wouldn’t be Far Cry”. And you’d be right. But remember, I didn’t call this concept Far Cry 6. This is Far Cry: Hope County -- an outlier in the series tasked with two jobs: expanding gameplay concepts within the Far Cry stable, while also finally giving us much-needed (opening) closure to the psyches of the Seeds.

Also, there could be a Johnny Appleseed Easter Egg, or even side-mission -- which would be worth creating this concept alone.



Latest Comments
BladeRunner
Posted 02:57pm 11/10/19
I think Farcry is stale at this point, same s***, different bucket. Perhaps they need to come up with some new game ideas for a while.
Spook
Posted 05:41pm 11/10/19
i disagree. Far cry 5 was awesome. one of the best immersive games ive ever played.
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