A revolution held together by nails and duct tape.
The first time I shot down a military helicopter with a barrage of colorful fireworks, I felt invigorated. After all, when it comes to starting a revolution, you use whatever tools you have at your disposal to fight, whether it be a makeshift flamethrower, a harpoon launcher, or even a trusty nail gun. Far Cry 6, the latest entry in the long running open-world shooter, emphasizes this power of improvisation, encouraging players to experiment with a huge variety of weapons and vehicles outfitted with unique modifications to quench the thirst of any wannabe rebel soldier. With these tools of destruction, you'll take on a brutal military regime led by a smooth-talking dictator (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito). But a horrendous progression system quickly dampened my revolutionary fire, leaving me bored, uninspired, and void of fighting spirit.
Credit where credit is due, Far Cry 6 has an incredibly strong opening that introduces an open-world brimming with tropical beauty and stunning and dangerous wildlife, both of which serve as a stark contrast to a society plagued by violence and propaganda. You're a guerrilla fighter with a personal vendetta against the murderous dictator Anton Castillo, and after teaming up with the Libertad rebels in an effort to bring peace back to the island of Yara, you set off to spark a revolution. And while the setup, concept, and visual presentation might be the strongest of the entire Far Cry series, it's disappointing that the gameplay doesn't carry the same level of polish. There's an unnatural stiffness to a variety of the weapons, including many of the vehicles that slip and slide like the roads are paved with butter.
Although the enemy A.I. is about as smart as a jar full of raw beef, they pack a serious punch and will send you to an early grave with a few quick bullets (or a well-timed grenade) if you're not tactical in your approach. Tough enemies are by no means a bad thing — after all, the relentless challenge requires more focus and strategy, something I tend to enjoy in games. But when the reason I get mowed down is because I can't control the weapon I'm holding, or because I still haven't found the correct gear or ammo mod, it becomes frustrating. This bit of stiffness with the weapons and vehicles makes engagements taxing if you're not well-equipped. And even so, with the game's use of vague upgrade descriptions (such as "slightly increase" or "greatly increase") it's difficult to understand how much of an improvement one piece of gear is over another. This led to me blindly experimenting with different combinations to only get blown to smithereens over and over.
Additionally, the core progression system favors a swap in/swap out method over a more traditional skill tree, and often forces players to give up powerful buffs in order to adopt new ones. New gear, especially because none of it can be upgraded or improved, doesn't have the same allure as a permanent perk, and hinders steady progression against the game's very difficult enemies. You don't become stronger the longer you play, so what is the player supposed to be working toward? Sure, you may be showered in new weapons and gear around every bend, but if you want to play stealthy for the majority of the game, why would you get excited for yet another piece of clothing that reduces your damage to fire? There's no reward for players who want to stick to a single play style throughout. In fact, the swap system punishes players for not varying their methods. Whether this was an intentional decision or not, it feels overly restrictive.
Ironically, there is a leveling system at play here, too, where a skill tree would've easily made sense. This is where players could have invested XP into passive effects that boost the effectiveness of your preferred play style and taken some of the responsibility off the gear. However, the rewards only affect products offered at shop vendors and don't impact gameplay. It feels like a huge missed opportunity.
The only saving grace for the gameplay comes in the form of specialty resolver weapons, including the aforementioned harpoon launcher and flamethrower, as well as the ability to equip supremos — the craziest, deadliest backpacks you've ever seen, the ones too explosive to be found on the shelf at Target. These weapons pack a mean punch that level just about any fight, even though the functionality of them is limited. The ballistic tools, however, are bogged down with a much too slow progression system that rewards underwhelming mods and attachments, all of which share similarly vague trait descriptions. And when you combine these issues with a user interface that looks and feels like it was designed by someone with a deep hatred for video games, the tediousness of it all eventually becomes too much. The revolution, no matter how profound the narrative might be around it, just isn't worth fighting for.
- Final Thoughts -
At its core, Far Cry 6 is a novelty, for better and for worse. It might share the name with some of the most innovative games of the past ten years, but it doesn't come close to the level of polish and memorability of its predecessors. Unique weapons, characters, and locations will hypnotize you for a handful of hours but it'll take the strongest willed guerrilla fighters to look past the terrible progression system and see this mission through.
(Image courtesy of Ubisoft)