Reading the Far Cry 6 sales pitch makes for a surprising exercise in deja vu. Monologuing villains, a vast open world to liberate region by region, makeshift weaponry, guns for hire, and a tonal whiplash between its sombre, deeply political story and often outlandish first-person gunplay. These are the tenets of what makes a Far Cry game, yes, but it's what isn't mentioned about Far Cry 6 that's more concerning.
Far Cry has been following those same design tenets since 2012's Far Cry 3, and while Ubisoft has certainly iterated upon that formula with expanded features and peripheral mechanics, the Far Cry of today is by and large the same experience of the Far Cry of eight years ago. I don't blame Ubisoft for sticking to what ain't broke, either: conquering outposts, seeing the sights, and generally causing chaos as a one-man revolution is fun.
But recent iterations, most notably Far Cry 5 and Far Cry: New Dawn, are proving that these familiar ingredients are starting to lose their salience, whether it's their endless obsession with preachy, predictable villains, or surface level storytelling that never truly grapples with the political subtext of their setting. Far Cry 6, as the first game in the series to launch on the next generation, has the opportunity to change that, and it absolutely should.
Learning from the best
The good news is that Ubisoft now has a decent track record of taking its flagships IPs back to the drawing board for a soft reboot. Take Assassin's Creed's unexpected pivot into RPG territory, starting with Origins and now on its third evolution with Valhalla, which turned out to be exactly what the series needed to rediscover its relevance, with the last two titles in the franchise up there among its very best.
It looks like Watch Dogs is about to receive the same kind of turnaround treatment with Watch Dogs Legion, too, utilising an ambitious "play as anyone" NPC algorithm which, for better or worse, is guaranteed to transform the series' DNA forever. What we've seen from Far Cry 6 so far, however, suggests Ubisoft isn't ready to let this particular IP outgrow its roots in the same fashion.
While I like to enjoy watching Giancarlo Esposito chew up the scenery as much as the next person, for example, I'm not sure I can take another Far Cry game that repeatedly shoves its villain into my character's face for a diatribe about the meaning of power, without ever posing a tangible threat within the game world itself. I'm also not too enamoured with the idea of a game that asks us to empathise with a dictator in 2020, as if the series' problematic depictions of non-white spaces didn't already place it in politically dicey territory.
Similarly, Ubisoft is making a big deal about bringing back a named protagonist for its narrative, but that's more of a return to business as usual, rather than a major step forward for the franchise itself.
The publisher has been quick to sell Far Cry 6 as 'the most ambitious Far Cry yet' by drawing attention to the size of its open world, which it claims is the biggest the series has seen to date. Of course, as any long-time Far Cry player will tell you, it isn't the size of the map that matters at this stage, it's what is contained within it that will truly matter.
All told, I'm worried that Far Cry will enter the next generation with two feet firmly planted in the last. I'm happy to be proven wrong, of course, but the back of the box info we've had so far doesn't exactly suggest Far Cry 6 will meaningfully progress the series in the same fashion that Legion and Valhalla is currently doing for Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed, and that's a shame.
If it sounds like I'm being overly harsh on a game that's only just been announced, and hopefully has a lot more to reveal about itself over the coming months, be assured that it's coming from a place of genuine love for the series. I've played every Far Cry game to date, but my enjoyment of the series has steadily waivered over the years, as each new instalment continued to rigidly abide by the rulebook of its predecessors.
But, looking at the likes of Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin's Creed Valhalla, we have physical proof that Ubisoft can and has done better, revitalising its properties with seismic innovations inspired by a new vision of what the franchise is capable of.
Far Cry is just as deserving of that kind of revamp as its brethren in the Ubisoft family, and though I've yet to see any evidence that Far Cry 6 represents any dramatic shift to a bolder future for the franchise at large, I'm holding onto hope that the developer has more than just Gus Fring in its bag of tricks to convince me that this sequel isn't just another revolution by numbers romp.
For more, check out all the biggest upcoming games of 2020 on the way, or watch our latest episode of Dialogue Options below.