Far Cry 5 Outrage Hype!

Hey look, I downloaded the fan kit with ready-made images for blog posts!

There wasn’t much happening Friday the 26th except some kind of Far Cry 5 reveal, so I’ll see if I can summon up some words about it.

From what I can tell, Far Cry 5 is going to be essentially the same gameplay as Far Cry 2, 3, 4, and Primal, except it will be set in America with a Christian cult as the bad guys, and of course, that’s where the controversy begins.

The controversy seems to be the only reason anyone is talking about this game, though. And actually I’m only assuming there is a controversy,  because I’ve read repeated headlines which have told me something to the effect of, “You won’t believe how much controversy Far Cry 5 is stirring up! Click here to find out!” (I haven’t clicked on any of them.)

I admit, though, that I personally have not seen anyone in my circles arguing over this game, which makes me wonder if the “controversy” is made up out of thin air just to sell more games. (It’s probably just that I’ve successfully curated my social circles to exclude the kind of people who would get upset over this kind of thing.)

Late-breaking news: I saw someone retweeted a Change.org petition to cancel Far Cry 5. It’s probably legit, but would I be surprised to find out that Ubisoft PR was behind that? Nope. We live in a time when it’s incredibly easy to social engineer people.

[Note: I tried to look at said petition Tuesday night, but Change.org was down. Did somebody DDOS the petition to death? I think the petition is silly, but I think trying to DDOS away unpopular viewpoints is worse.]

I watched the reveal trailer. I’m guessing Ubisoft has taken the Branch Davidians–David Koresh’s heavily-armed Adventist sect from Waco, Texas–lifted them out of the headlines of 1994, and put them into Montana under a different name. Supposedly we’ll be playing a character trying to “infiltrate” this sect, and there will be local residents which form a sort of resistance to the sect, who will fight by our side.

What do I think? The short version is I find it a bit unrealistic as a setting (I’ll explain that later), but I’m willing to give it a shot. I doubt if I’ll buy it on day one, though. Far Cry is an easy series to wait for. Once you’ve seen one Far Cry game, you’ve basically seen them all.

As an American, what do I think of making Americans the bad guys? It doesn’t bother me in a broad sense, since I’m well aware of the extreme diversity in cultural opinions across these United States. But I don’t particularly enjoy the prospect of being lumped into the same category as a bunch of zealots. It should be really obvious that folks of the Branch Davidian ilk do not represent mainstream America in the slightest. (Even mainstream right-wing America.) But I suppose it depends on how the game handles it.

I mentioned that I thought the Far Cry formula was “unrealistic” in an American setting. That’s because, if we go by previous Far Cry games, the bad guys have always taken over the section of the country in which they reside, essentially replacing or becoming the government. They allude to that in Far Cry 5, too, since your character will be meeting part of a “resistance” fighting against this cult militia. It appears that this cult has taken over the entirety of “Hope County.”

That formula works if your setting is in the Third World–in a lawless country where whoever is in power is the one with the biggest guns. But that does not work for me in an American setting, certainly not in a post-9/11 setting. Here’s a hint: The U.S. Government always has the bigger guns. Not to get too political here, but we live in a near police state these days, at least when compared to our past.

So I’ll be curious to seehow they’re going to spin this story in a way where it makes logical sense for a (presumably) criminal militia to control part of Montana.

Montana is a huge, remote wilderness, but they still have laws and law enforcement there. The only thing that a militia could actually control–anywhere in the U.S.–is their own “compound” (ie. private property). But the idea that there might be a “resistance” on said private property, or that the militia’s influence extends beyond the borders of said private property to a whole county–that’s very unrealistic. If there were armed militia gangs roaming the streets of Montana in the way that they tend to do in Far Cry games, I imagine the Feds would get involved pretty fast.

The Prestigious Endgame Viable Awards 2016

It occurred to me that the end of the year is approaching, and it’s time to do one of those year-end posts that bloggers love to do. Unfortunately I kind of hate doing them. It’s a lot of work. You have to actually look things up and think and count and multiply and divide and things like that. That goes against my normal principal of blogging by “just typing words into a text editor.”

Here are the 2015 awards. This year I’m going to award Biggest Disappointment of the Year, MMORPG of the Year, MMORPG Expansion of the Year, Game of the Year. In another post I’ll also be revealing my Most-Played MMORPG, and Most-Played Game.

2016 Contenders

As I defined it last year, my selections are based on the best game that I bought and played in 2016 which was also released in 2016. I also consider Early Access releases, to punish developers for releasing their game too early. You can have money, or you can have an award, but not both. :) Anyway since I only buy a handful of new games every year, the pool from which I can pick is often very small. Based on my extensive research of Steam emails, these are the 2016 released games that I’ve bought and played:

Battlefield 1
Black Desert Online
Blade and Soul
Civilization VI
DarkMaus
Dark Souls III + Ashes of Ariandel
Devil Daggers*
DOOM
Far Cry Primal
Riders of Icarus

* I can’t find out if there was an Early Access version available before 2016. Steam does an admirable job of “hiding” that games were released in Early Access before they were actually released.

Note: I could conceivably add The Division, but I only played an hour of open beta, so I’m discounting it. Same for Overwatch. Neither would have won anything anyway.

And these are the MMORPG expansions I’ve played this year:

Rift, Starfall Prophecy
World of Warcraft, Legion

These are some games I bought and played in 2016 but were disqualified from contention:

Bastion (Released Aug 16, 2011)
Black Mesa (Early Access Release May 5, 2015)
Immune (Early Access Release March 25, 2015)
Miasmata (Released Nov 28, 2012)
NEO Scavenger (Early Access Release Dec 15, 2014)
Novus Inceptio (Early Access Release Oct 5, 2015)
Salt (Early Access Release Aug 22, 2014)
SOMA (Released Sep 22, 2015)

On to the awards!

Game of the Year: Dark Souls III

I mean, come on. Not even a contest. Other games on the above list are play-once-and-forget-about-it games (yes, even Civ 6, in which I have not even completed a full game, and kind of wish I’d waited for a sale), whereas I could replay Dark Souls III an infinite number of times and not get tired of it. I’ve played it through at least six times already.

MMORPG of the Year: Black Desert Online

Riders of Icarus barely rates a mention. It was between Blade and Soul and Black Desert, and to me the easy winner is Black Desert Online. I had a lot more fun with BDO. I’m not sure I even made it out of the tutorial area with Blade and Soul.

MMORPG Expansion of the Year: Legion

This was a tough one because I played both Legion and Starfall Prophecy for roughly the same amount of time: Less than a month. Both expansions are basically more of the same in their respective MMORPGs. It’s a toss-up, but I gave the edge to Legion. Legion had less bugs and an impressive array of cut scenes, while Rift had more friction with some frustratingly difficult gameplay.

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year: Far Cry Primal

I was really hoping that Far Cry Primal would have more survival elements. I was hoping it would be the first AAA survival game that wasn’t just a rushed-out-the-door indie train wreck. But it wasn’t a survival game. It was a Far Cry game, set in prehistoric times. It was fun, and they have a good formula, but it was essentially “more of the same.” (I have the same expectations for Conan Exiles now: That it will be the first AAA survival game.)

Low Energy Gaming Week in Review

The past couple of weeks have been really trying at work. I’m in the process of training other developers, writing documentation, and frantically trying to tie up loose ends before moving to another project in May. It involves spending pretty much all day every day doing things that I’m not particularly good at, i.e. interacting with people, leading, making decisions, and generally trying to be a role model for everyone who stares at me with big round eyes wondering what to do after I’m gone. It feels a bit like acting in a play.

The point is that I haven’t had much energy for gaming. I haven’t given up on Black Desert Online per se, but I don’t login very often and I don’t do any offline activities which means that I’m falling farther and farther behind. It’s not a big deal of course since it doesn’t cost any money, but the less I play, the more I realize that I don’t “need” to play it and the less inclined I am to log back in. (To be honest, it’s hard to see what to do next even if you just want to go hit some monsters for a while, so I just stand there staring at the quest list for a while and then log out.)

BDO Harpy Castle

For the record, at last count I was level 33, and the last story location I saw was the harpy-infested Delphe Knight’s Castle. That was a pretty amazing place. I can’t think of any other MMORPG I’ve seen with such a visceral depiction of a battle zone. (Except that the harpies completely ignore you unless you attack them.)

Instead of the brain-draining BDO, often I’ve chosen to play more “lightweight” games like Far Cry Primal. I like the Far Cry games overall, and this one is definitely a refreshing change of pace, but it’s nowhere near the “survival” game I was hoping for. (One day I will publish a post on the essential ingredients a game needs in order to call itself a survival game.) Still, it’s fun, and doesn’t require much thinking.

Far Cry Primal

I tried to get into Terraria for a few days, but I still don’t understand why that game was so popular a while back. (Someday, after a future Steam sale, I will probably say the exact same thing about Stardew Valley.) I find the interface and controls very clunky. I generally dislike overhead or side-scrolling games where you move with WASD. As far as the look of the game, I kept waiting for Lemmings to drop in and start walking back and forth. Anyway I managed to dig a big hole and lengthen my playing time from about 30 minutes to about 2 hours.

This week, I also returned to another low-energy game I picked up on Steam for $5 last year: Enslaved. One day I’ll write a post on it, or post the videos I’ve been recording of it, or something. It’s a fun, Tomb Raider-eseque puzzle-solving, jumping, button-mashing game with a dumb story, but I find it charming.

The highlight of this past week by far was the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray. Coincidentally, a new Blu-ray player arrived at the same time, since, in this modern disposable world in which we live, it was far more convenient to buy a new player than to try to find and hook up my PS3. It’s the first time I’ve watched a Blu-ray in many, many years, and holy jeepers do those things look amazing compared to Netflix, Amazon Video, and the blotchy, grainy, distorted jumble of pixels known as Verizon FIOS Video-on-Demand. I recommend them. :)

Far Cry 3

Continuing my journey through cutting edge games from two years ago (also games I’ve already paid for), I’m finally playing Far Cry 3, previously purchased in a Steam sale.

I enjoyed the first Far Cry. Well, I say that now, but when I look back on what I wrote about it in 2009, apparently I only thought it was “okay.”

I picked up FarCry from Steam for $9.99 a couple weeks ago.  It’s pretty cool, but it’s not blowing me away.

I’m not sure why X-Play gave it 5 stars.  It looks like it’s mostly a demo of the rendering engine, which is admittedly pretty nice.  However the gameplay is quite ordinary, and the acting and storyline is just terrible.  You’ve got your basic running, crouching, shooting and reloading (that always seems to be necessary at just the wrong time).  And sometimes you can drive around in boats and vehicles.

The best feature of the game is the wide open, huge islands you get to run around on.  There seems to be an emphasis on sneaking around, although I don’t see the point since there aren’t any sneak attacks, silencers or knives.  I can’t say I’m fond of sneaking around in the jungle though because you literally can’t see anything – the foliage always blocks your view.  Maybe that’s supposed to be a “feature.”  On the plus side, it’s kind of fun to take out camps of bad guys by popping them off one at a time from the edges, instead of charging into the middle with guns blazing.

I’ll give it a 3… out of 5.

Ah, remember the good old days when I watched X-Play? Well, you probably don’t because you weren’t there. Moving on.

I only played Far Cry 2 on the PS3, one of only a handful of console games I’ve bought in the last ten years. I remember thinking it was “okay” but I didn’t much like the openness of it and I didn’t care for the console controls. Here’s what I wrote later in 2009:

… I’ve also started FarCry 2 for the PS3.  The story is nothing like the original FarCry, sharing only a name that honestly has nothing to do with anything.  This time around you’re running (and driving) around an enormous chunk of Africa.

It’s one of those open-world style games, so you can do the missions in any order you want.  I actually find this style of game a little annoying – I get a better sense of accomplishment from linear games.  With open games I usually feel like I’m wandering around aimlessly for no particular reason.  FarCry 2 is not so bad, though – it actually feels a little like an MMO.

I tried some multiplayer but I was not impressed.  The lag was pretty intense so it felt like playing on a dial-up connection (maybe nobody was running servers near me).  Plus most of the maps that came up were user-generated, which means they pretty much sucked.

Much later I bought Far Cry 2 in a rock-bottom Steam sale so I could compare the PC version. Naturally I’ve never even installed it on PC, let alone played it.

Which brings us to Far Cry 3, nearly five years later.

Honestly I feel like the game is virtually identical to what I remember of Far Cry 2: Running and driving around a jungle capturing control points. It’s just that now we’re in a South Pacific jungle (I think) instead of an African jungle, and now we can hunt animals and rip their guts out to make things. All the NPCs sound like they have a weird mixture of African and Australian accents. The story is still stupid and uninspired, but I do enjoy roaming around capturing the Bad Guy outposts. I associate Far Cry with stealth tactics more than running-and-gunning, but I feel like I’m doing even more stealth in this version than any previous version. I hardly ever charge into any situation with guns blazing. I mainly use a silenced sniper rifle, a bow, and “takedowns.”

I started out playing with a controller just for simplicity of it, but I wasn’t happy with my inability to hit anything. (I haven’t played a shooter with a controller in ages.) So I went back to the ol’ mouse-and-keyboard setup.

Also, to prove to the world that I’m still a “real gamer” and not just some dirty casual old man, I am playing on the Hard setting. So there. Suck it, people-who-thought-I-wasn’t-a-real-gamer! Not that anyone ever did. (Actually I’m playing on Hard because the gameplay is more fun than the story.)

I doubt that I will “finish” the game. Like Far Cry 2, I’d be fine putting it away without finishing the story. One day I will simply not want to play it, and I’ll pick something else from the library.