This generation has seen no lack of open-world games ever since The Elder Scrolls series showed devs the ropes with Oblivion. The biggest problem that open world games face is that the world often feels empty with only a few missions or a couple of side quests to do at any time. Ubisoft has tried to remedy that with its latest offering, Far Cry 3. Does it manage to succeed where many others, including the previous game in the series, have failed? Let’s find out.
The answer, to put it simply, is a resounding yes. Far Cry 3 comes packed to the brim with stuff to do and places to explore, and you’re rarely left with a lack of rewards. With FC3, Ubisoft has gone back to the series’ roots, the tropical island setting. While the first game had a similar setting, Far Cry 2 ditched it in favour of the more serious setting of a war torn African country. Far Cry 3 goes back to the jungle on a tropical island and gives you new tools, along with new flora and fauna, with all the dangers associated with them.
The game brings the tropical jungle setting to life with wild animals running everywhere and trees as far as the eye can see (well, not really that far, but you get my point). The graphics are gorgeous and the only problem I found with them was that the PlayStation 3 (the system used to test the game) couldn’t handle the draw distance like a PC could. This isn’t really a fault of the game as much as it is the fault of the aging hardware in the seven year old consoles. The aesthetics are really beautiful too, with lush green forests and blue oceans. There’s also a dynamic weather system that might need you to change your play, depending on, for example, how heavy it’s raining.
On the gameplay side of things, Far Cry 3 has ditched many of Far Cry 2’s idea while retaining others, for better or for worse. The major idea retained is that of enemy checkpoints. Only, instead of like FC2 where the enemies would just respawn after 15 or so minutes, this time, once you capture an enemy outpost, you keep it for good. This completely removes the presence of enemies (pirates or privateers) in the area and gives you new side-missions to do, like the Wanted Dead quests or the Trial of the Hunter quests. .However, this gave way to a new problem in the form of lack of anything to fight once you capture everything. This takes away a lot from what makes the game fun when you first start playing it, as there isn’t anything to fight or hide against anymore after you capture every outpost.
When it comes to the story, the game has a simple revenge plot that manages to become thoroughly deep thanks to the excellent writing. While there are issues with the typical “white man saves natives” story, the redeeming factor is mostly a major antagonist, Vaas. Vaas is like the Joker as a pirate. He’s got some great moments and is basically one of the best antagonists that gaming has seen since the likes of GlaDOS. Vaas is what makes the otherwise horribly linear and sometimes boring story missions of the game worth playing. The game also has some great music, which can occasionally cause some dissonance. The soundtrack ranges from moody ambient music to catchy dubstep.
The game has a very deep crafting system that lets you upgrade your stuff. For example, you can only carry one weapon with you in the beginning of the game. But, spend enough time hunting and you’ll basically be a walking arsenal. Don’t be fooled, though. This is not a survival game like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. This is a straight out action game where you’re basically John Rambo. Even the leveling system is built specifically to support this. Levelling up lets you pick a new skill from one of the three skill trees – the Heron, the Shark and the Spider. They stand for raw power and damage absorption, high-caliber distance fighting and mobility, and stealth and hunting, respectively. It also seems like the trees aren’t mutually exclusive and you can eventually get every skill in each tree.
Most of the fun you’ll have in the game comes not from the story missions. In fact, the most epic moments come from the open world. You can go around taking out enemy outposts in the most badass ways possible, including being completely undetected and killing everyone with a knife. Another way to do this would be to just run in with a flamethrower and burn everything and everyone you see. Yet another way to do this would be to somehow lure a tiger or bear into the enemy outpost and let the animal take them out. The game’s mechanics are specifically built to make you look as badass as possible. It benefits from having mechanics that seamlessly meld into each other, letting you switch between stealth, action and exploration at will.
The story missions are where the game falters due to their extremely linear nature. Very rarely are you left to your own devices in the story, and many missions are plagued by what seems to be a standard in Ubisoft’s games these days – the instant fail condition. An early mission comes to mind where you have to sneak round a boat graveyard. The moment you are spotted, you have to restart the mission.
All in all, Far Cry 3 is the perfect example of what an open world game should be. It never leaves you without things to do and lets you tackle most of the objectives in whatever way you may want. Despite the weak main story, the game does have some deep meaning when you consider that it is essentially about a normal person’s descent into madness. One of the best games of the year, it could definitely teach Bethesda a lesson about how to do open world games. Far Cry 3 is a definite must-buy.