Beautiful, tranquil bliss. At first glance the fictional Himalayan state of Kyrat is a gorgeous remote paradise – towering snowy peaks neatly frame a land of verdant forests and rolling plains dotted with rural farms. Appearances can be deceptive though, remove this brides delicate veil and you’ll reveal the face of a bloodthirsty shark lurking beneath. Kyrat is rife with dangers, and not just those posed by a bloody civil war waged between dictator Pagan Min’s hellish regime and the Golden Path rebellion. Kyrat’s very land and the wildlife which inhabit it pose a very real threat. Untamed, savage; wild – Kyrat is a land that favors the strong.
For what purpose would someone willingly elect to visit Kyrat then? Simple motivations are often the best, and protagonist Ajay Ghale’s are uncomplicated. Born to Kyrati parents Ajay was brought up in the States by his mother who left Kyrat when he was still young. Years later Ajay’s mother has sadly past away, her final wish? For her ashes to be in the country of her birth, in a location known as Lakshmana. Complying with her dying wish Ajay journeys to Kyrat but things quickly go awry when he has a run in with the country’s self proclaimed King, Pagan Min.
From Far Cry 4’s opening scene where Pagan has the bus Ajay is travelling over Kyrat border in stopped right until the games closing scene this antagonist is phenomenal. Equal parts funny and malicious Troy Bakers performance is captivating. Every time I met Pagan I would hang on his every word, even just sitting across from him at a table my stomach would nervously tie itself into knots. Other characters are well performed but none are so great, or unhinged, as Pagan Min. Far Cry 4 carries on the series tradition of great villains. Though Pagan’s overall screen time is woefully limited to a scant number of scenes cumulatively lasting 30 minutes or so every single one of his appearances hits the mark dead on.
Like it’s predecessor Far Cry 4 hangs it’s narrative hat on a thin story of moral ambiguity – with plenty of drug induced fever dreams peppered throughout, naturally. Story missions follow Ajay and rebellion group the Golden Path’s quest to retake Kyrat for the people and dethrone the flamboyant dictator. Campaign missions follow the standard uninteresting mold which tasks players with tackling set situations by following sterile linear paths. Objectives in campaign missions can be approached in a fairly free form manner but don’t ask players stray far from the intended path, that denies Far Cry of it’s greatest attribute, it’s incredible open world.
Ubisoft has tried to spice up the linear progression of Far Cry’s campaign missions by introducing branching paths based on player choices. The two leaders of the Golden Path are in disagreement as to how to approach numerous key decisions; it’s up to the player to determine which path the organisation will take. They’re only a handful of missions which offer a moral choice, but right and wrong are rarely clear cut making these choices the highlight of the campaign. Each choice boils down to two opposing options: a practical coldhearted approach or caring people first approach that may be detrimental to the cause. Ultimately the choices mean little but the conversations with those whose plans you rejected are incredibly tense.
Story whilst fine is not Far Cry 4’s strength. Like Far Cry 3 before it the exploration of the sprawling open world, taking part in the many challenges of the map, capturing fortresses and waiting for anarchic random events unfold are what define Far Cry 4. Kyrat is vast and somehow filled to the brim with things to do. Far Cry 4 is a completionists dream, just playing through the campaign and quickly tasting the various side mission types took me around fifteen hours. For myself the main draw of Far Cry is once again capturing all 24 enemy outposts and liberating the 16 communication towers.
Slowly liberating Kyrat region by region from Royal Army control and into the Golden Path rebellion is intoxicating. It’s incredibly addictive to travel from outpost to outpost taking them over, diminishing Pagan’s iron grip on country. As I freed propaganda spewing communication towers from Pagan’s influence the fog of war covering the map of Kryat faded. Freeing outposts on the other hand unlocked new quick travel points, towns for Ajay to visit and even more side-missions. Slowly the map was freed from a sickening red tinge.
Taking over outposts is easily the highlight of Far Cry 4, thanks to the freedom of choice in how you decide to take over each. Outposts are liberated by killing all enemy units stationed within. How players approach the removal of enemy forces however is up to them. Grab your biggest weapons and go in guns blazing or sneak silently eliminating enemies with bows and silenced weapons. The freedom is most welcome and the choices are truly diverse: to smash through a base on elephant back or silently assassinate every poor sucker on guard duty? Both have their own rewards, more experience for the stealthy sort, and lets face it, more fun for the elephant mounted mad man.
Regardless of your killing tool preference Far Cry 4 has an ample range ensuring there’s something for every budding freedom fighter. Bows, throwing knives and suppressor equipped firearms will be first pick for those who prefer to be as ghosts. There’s sub machine guns, assault rifles, grenades and Molotov cocktails on offer for the conventional killer. Finally if you like your murder sprees crazy there’s harpoon guns, light machine guns and of course the flamethrower for you. Pick the guns that tickle your fancy, clip on your preferred attachments and give them a cool lick of paint and your ready to commit atrocities – or stop them, which ever.
Upgrades aren’t limited to weaponry either. Other equipment like quivers, wallets and ammo bags are upgraded via hunting animals for their pelts, unlike Far Cry 4 there are no super rare animal types so your less likely to hit frustrating upgrade walls. Ajay can also upgrade his own personal skills via experience points earned through Far Cry’s wide range of missions. They are so many types of side mission I won’t list them here but suffice to say there’s more than enough to do, and no type is a dud. There’s plenty of collectibles or super keen explorers too.
Campaign and side missions add some structure to Far Cry 4’s world but randomness is still the definitive aspect of the series. I learnt that the day was walking down one of the countries many isolated dirt tracks, silence was shattered by a blood curdling skwak, and then a scream. Behind me was a merchant, an eagle had swooped down and began enthusiastically pecking at the poor souls face, naturally I shot it off niftily with my trusty assault rifle. No one will experience that same moment again, that’s exciting to think and there’s plenty of stories like that – each unique to one player. You never know when you’ll have the perfect plan for a base take over only to have a pack of wolves ruin the whole thing.
Far Cry 4 is very much a Far Cry 3: 2, not that there’s anything wrong with that – if ain’t broken, don’t fix it. It does differentiate itself with a selection of online modes however. First up the campaign is playable in either alone or in co-op. Teaming up with friends to tackle stubborn outposts is fun, and incredibly useful in the case of the games four larger fortresses. Additionally a whole competitive multiplayer mode makes good use of Kyrat’s scenery in some compelling three team deathmatch’s. Whilst all great extra content it was for me still the singleplayer that left far and away the largest impression.
Kyrat is a land rich with things to do. Explorers and completionists will have a blast experiencing everything the ancient land has to offer. Far Cry 4 makes sure there’s plenty of mission types, guns to collect, a ridiculous number of varied collectibles and makes sure no road is the same twice thanks to it’s random nature. Story fans might be let down with the basic tale and boring campaign missions, but at least the fantastic Pagan Min ensure’s things aren’t boring whenever her’s around. Exploration is the name of the game, and if you like that or Far Cry 3, well you’ll be right at home in Kyrat.