Because I was excited about New Dawn, I finally dropped back into the world of Far Cry 5 to finish off the last little bit of the game I hadn’t done yet. I beat the last mini-boss, liberated the third territory, and took on the big bad. Overall, the game succeeds at fun moment-to-moment gameplay while struggling with immature comedy that never quite works and a story that thinks it’s way more important than it is.
Moving into spoilers, what really frustrated me about finishing this game was how it didn’t seem to have any idea what it wanted to be about.
“Family” is the major motif of this game, with the evil preacher who leads the apocalyptic death cult you gun down throughout the game calling his three lieutenants, and his flock at large, his children/siblings/whatever, and with the player meeting all sorts of NPCs that are fighting against the cult with both actual and found families. The word comes up over, and over again, and most of the motivation for the game’s missions coming from helping those NPCs reconnect with their family members. At the end of each of the three major sections of the game, you work to rescue one of the three officers you started the game with, viewing them as your own family.
In the climax, the preacher tells you that he’s realized that you’ve taken his family away from him so that he can take yours from you. Heading to his compound, you confront the preacher who reveals that he has somehow recaptured all three of the officers you rescued (there is zero explanation for this), and offers to let you walk away with them or, presumably, he’ll execute them. Naturally, I went forward with trying to stop the madman, which takes you into a weird firefight where he turns those three against you, and you have to shoot them down and then revive them to get them on your side. Once you’ve rescued those three, more of the NPCs you encountered throughout the game join the fight, also mind controlled, and you do it over again, and again. In the end, there’s this triumphant moment where you’ve beaten the bad guy, surrounded by 12 or so unique characters that you’ve interacted with throughout the game. Your family one.
Then nuclear bombs go off, and the game lost me.
I actually knew that bombs were coming, because I heard that the end of this game was the set up for the post-apocalyptic Far Cry: New Dawn, so that wasn’t a huge shock to me… what was a huge shock is that the game didn’t end. Instead, it cuts from you standing around surrounded by your family, to just the three officers, the cult leader in cuffs, and you jumping into a truck to try to get to a nearby bunker.
What happened to the, like, 9 other friends you were with? I dunno!
They’re just gone.
So then you go on this chaotic drive through burning trees and crashing cars and animals on fire as everything gets swallowed by a nuclear blast while the other officers in the car with you all freak out but the bunker is in sight so at least you and these three people are going to be safe and then… a tree falls on the hood of your car and you black out.
You were so close to getting into the bunker with those three officers, your immediate “family,” but you don’t make it.
And then the game keeps going.
Your character fades in and out of consciousness as you are carried by the preacher, free from his handcuffs, and carry you into the bunker. He kills its occupant, handcuffs you to a table, and tells you how your his family now, and when the radiation clears, you’ll step into the light together.
And then the game ends.
And, I just… what the heck was that!?
This is a game all about family where you rescue your family and other people’s family while widdling away at the bad guy’s family and then, in the end, he kills all the people you rescued and plans to force you to become a part of his family as you live through the end of the world trapped in a bunker with the villain you’ve spent the whole game trying to stop. What was the point!?
I guess the game thinks it’s about how, you know, no matter who you think your family is or who you want them to be, at any moment you could be forced to become family with a nuke-toting lunatic?
I’m not opposed to down endings in media in general, but in a video game, where you’re actually a part of the story, you are the driving force trying to make things right, it sure feels crappy to spend all that time trying to achieve something only to find out that your character isn’t allowed to win.