I’ve had a couple of opportunities to hands-on with Far Cry 5 (admittedly, both times on PS4 Pro), and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. As a fan of Far Cry from the first game, I’ve long seen the series as a guilty-pleasure franchise that’s yet to reach its full potential. If what I’ve played of Far Cry 5 is any indication, the series is poised to hit full stride.
Before I had a chance to play Far Cry 5 a second time, I had the opportunity to send off some questions for Ubisoft Montreal to answer. Read on for the full interview with lead programmer Raphael Parent and lead game designer Clark Davies.
PCPP: What were the learnings from Far Cry Primal and Far Cry 4 that you were able to fold into development of Far Cry 5?
RP: One of the things we learnt from Primal and Far Cry 4 is that people love the freedom Far Cry brings and they also love the stories and the characters that told them. So, we really worked hard to make sure the players in Far Cry 5 had complete freedom to go everywhere on the map from the start and do their missions in the order they wanted to. We didn’t want to hold their hand; we wanted them to discover the world on their own.
We also worked hard to create a tonne of inspiring and meaningful characters, not only bad guys but good guys, too. We even have some of them following you and helping you. We improved upon the formula for Guns for Hire in Far Cry 4 and Fangs for Hire in Primal. It is now a full-fledged system with characters that we hope you will care for, love and that will help you in your adventures. We also improved a lot on the co-op offering from Far Cry 4: you can now play all missions in the game in co-op and share Far Cry 5 from start to finish with your friend!
PCPP: Where did you start for inspiration for the cultists, because that seems like a pretty scary rabbit hole to tumble down?
RP: Far Cry 5 is about dropping players in a plausible world with an immersive narrative. When Far Cry 5 began development over three years ago, when we started to create this fictional doomsday cult—the Project at Eden’s Gate—we talked to a lot of cult experts and were inspired by real cults and real-world events. We know that reality is far stranger than fiction, so we took inspiration from that and built upon it to create The Project at Eden’s Gate cult for Far Cry 5. We wanted to make sure it was plausible that a cult like Project at Eden’s Gate could exist in a remote place like Montana. So, we did our homework!
PCPP: I played about an hour of the preview code, and it already seems like there’s so much more to do that’s not shooting. Why was it important to add non-combat activities to this particular hot zone?
RP: Far Cry has always been so much more than a shooter. To me it’s a first-person adventure that involves shooting. You talk to people, gather intel, do some fishing, discover hidden treasures, make new friends, hunt some animals, then hunt some bad guys, too! Fly over wide-open spaces in your hydroplane. It’s important to us that the player has fun in this vast world and has the freedom to do whatever they want to do.
PCPP: How deep is the fishing mechanic, and are you worried that players will spend more time fishing than shooting?
RP: Our fishing system is really deep. Different locations have different types of fish. And different types of fish are more easily caught using certain lures. And we also have different types of fishing rods that make fishing easier. If people spend more time fishing than shooting, then our fishing designer will be VERY happy.
PCPP: With such an open approach to combat, do you find that the campaign is less about designing set pieces and more about offering players the tools to create their own Michael Bay moments?
RP: One of the key things we do when we design a mission or an outpost is to make sure it is approachable via all different play styles: stealth, action, Guns for Hire, heavy, co-op, air. But we do have to tell a story and we do want to put the player in certain situations, like driving a semi-truck with guns through barricades of bad guys [that mission is particularly awesome!]. But you are correct. Our ultimate goal is to give the player the tools and the opportunities to express their creativity and ultimately to have a tonne of fun doing so.
PCPP: How have the stealth mechanics been improved in Far Cry 5? Is it the two main states—loud-and-proud or quiet-and-deadly—or are players able to mess around with the grey area between all-out action and playing it ninja?
RP: We have made a lot of tweaks to the formula but, ultimately, we really didn’t want to mess too much with a winning recipe. The detection meter still indicates how much bad guys see you, and once bad guys see you, you have a small opportunity to take them out before all the NPCs go into a combat state. Once in combat, if you are not spotted after a while, the NPCs go back to an alert state.
We added a lot of new states to the NPCs to make them more interesting in combat, they now have a chance to go into a downed state when shot, which gives their partners a chance to bring them back to life. They can also have their morale broken and decide to make a run for it! Stealth is a very important part of Far Cry and I personally think that it’s never been as good as it is now in Far Cry 5.
PCPP: How easy is it to balance the darkness of the setting and story with the lightness of the fun tools players can use to play the game?
RP: That’s the real trick isn’t it? Thankfully we have an amazing narrative team that found ways to give you both of these types of moments in the highest possible quality. Far Cry is a lot about those contrasts between a more serious and complex story and those silly funny anecdote factory moments which clash together for a unique experience.
The player will get to choose which experience they want to play at a certain moment, like, roaming the countryside hunting wolverines with a blowtorch when they want to and taking on Joseph Seed and his crazy doomsday cult when they want to. We believe that choice we give to players to be what makes Far Cry special. We also have systems in place to remind the player that there are a lot of crazy people killing lots of nice people that they should be taking care of. What the player does then, is up to them.
PCPP: Why was it important to include full campaign co-op, and what challenges did this present?
CD: Far Cry 5 is the most open game we’ve ever made. We’ve completely blurred the line between the traditional campaign and the rest of the open world. So, it made sense for us to ensure that co-op could support all our content in whatever order you want to tackle it. Of course, there were a lot challenges to overcome, both design and technical. I’m really happy about how we’re able to have two players running around and still have one of your Guns for Hire join you as a companion. There’s nothing better than taking down an outpost in co-op with a friend and with Boomer by your side, and then petting him afterwards and telling him what a good dog he is.
PCPP: Assassin’s Creed Origins had an expansive skill tree, which really pushed the series deeper into RPG territory. Does Far Cry 5 have a similarly deep skill tree that makes this even more of an FPS/RPG?
CD: For Far Cry 5, we focused on making our perks be about more than just player stats. We have several cool new abilities for the player to learn like Saboteur and Booby Trap, which let you turn vehicles into time bombs. We also found new ways to make our gadgets fit into the world, so for instance the blowtorch can be used to crack open safes or repair vehicles. And each of the Guns for Hire has a perk to help them recover more quickly if they go down in combat.
PCPP: What impact will the player have on the game world? For instance, will conquered outposts remain the property of the player, or will Eden’s Gate attempt to retake them?
CD: Your main goal in Hope Country is to build the resistance by striking back at the cult. So, what happens is, each time you increase the resistance level, the cult fights back, and the region becomes tougher with new enemy types. It’s about escalation. You’re trying to drive each of the Heralds out into direct conflict with you. But before you’ll get there, you’ll have to work your way through the cult’s security forces, and the super tough Chosen fighters. The more you raise the resistance in the regions (by liberating outposts, completing resistance quests, disrupting cult activities), the more the cult will fight back even harder.
PCPP: What kind of twists and turns can we expect from Drew Holmes’ storytelling?
CD: We don’t want to spoil anything, so you’ll have to play the game to find out for yourself!