By Matthew Rondina
The next installment in the Far Cry series is just around the corner and Hope County, Montana awaits us. Far Cry 5 launches on March 27th with many changes to the series, promising deep characters, challenging themes and more explosive action.
WorldGaming was invited to a special preview event held at Ubisoft Toronto to go hands-on with the game and discuss it’s development with Drew Holmes (Lead Writer) and Jean-Sebastien Decant (Narrative Director).
Drew Holmes has many major writing credits to his name with franchises like BioShock Infinite, Saints Row: The Third, Red Faction: Armageddon, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Saints Row 2.
Jean-Sebastien Decant has design and writing experience with Far Cry 3, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Far Cry: Primal.
Both were more than happy to share their insight and passion for what looks to be one of the most thrilling entries in the franchise yet.
You both have incredible writing credits to your name, how do you feel that informed or influenced the storytelling in Far Cry 5?
Holmes: For me, other than the knowledge that you gain with every success and failure – learning what works and doesn’t – it’s just growing that craft and previous experience to it.
There’s not a whole lot you can specifically bring from previous works, for me it was about approaching this game fresh and sitting down and saying, OK, what’s the story we want to tell, what characters do we want to introduce everyone to. It was also essential to wrap my head around what a Far Cry really is, and how you go about constructing those villains and those characters in that big rollercoaster storyline that fans are used to.
Decant: We have been oscillating between narrative and gameplay, I think every time it’s how can we get these two to work better together, and I think that was the main objective this time around, how can we ensure that the story is embedded in the world and the world reflects the story?
Doing this, and giving the player as much freedom as possible, while actually delivering a story with clear beats, clear momentum and that’s something we really pushed this time.
Many fans of the Far Cry games are used to far off exotic locations, why was the setting of Montana ultimately picked for Far Cry 5? What do you feel it adds to the series?
Decant: At first, it was the nature of Montana, it’s massive, featuring a great variety of biomes with forests, fields, rivers, and sulfuric ponds. This creates a great amount of variety in the environment which is excellent for the game.
It also has a great amount of wildlife which is important for Far Cry, it’s a place where your survival instincts could kick in, it’s remote, you would lose your 4G there…
…so all that the great stuff that creates Far Cry moments, it’s there, and that becomes a great place to become the hunter, or the hunted.
A lot of the narratives in the story bear resemblance to issues in the current political climate, what are you hoping the player will come away with after putting down the controller?
Holmes: I think that when you step through all the story beats of the game, you see the storyline of Joseph and this cult unfold, the conclusion that we reach – I think we started out with a very clear theme of, we are on a precipice, we are on the edge and we are not quite sure what’s going to come next.
It’s something that a lot of different characters in the game speak to, and Joseph in particular, he is constantly saying ‘something is coming.’ That’s the key message of the game: if we knew that we are hurdling toward our destruction, what are we as a society, willing to do to pull ourselves back from that precipice?
Characters will also speak to the concept of not every problem being solved with a bullet. Sometimes, you’ve got to step back and consider all of your options before you dive headlong into dealing with, in Joseph Seed’s case, a mad man.
Sometimes you need to look at the larger picture, and I think at the thematic level, that’s really what we wanted to dig into to and the rest of the twists and turns the story takes.
Decant: When we are making a game that big, with so much content, you don’t need to play the whole game to move the needle, and finish the game.
It will depend on how thorough you are as a player, what interests you in the game? Are you willing to pay attention to tiny details and really dig in? This will deeply impact what you get out of the game, it could be a very fun action game, or it could become something a lot deeper.
With every entry of the Far Cry series players see an increase to the pedigree of “crazed leader.” What can you tell us about the construction of Joseph Seed’s character, are there any villains you can compare him to?
Holmes: I think it starts when you are looking at Far Cry, with me coming into it the two people that stand out are obviously Vaas and Pagan Min, but my goal was, how do we build a character that is just as compelling as those two, without feeling like we’re rehashing the stuff that had come before?
So it took on this form of a character who stands for something and believes in something. That idea of him believing he has been touched by God to deliver this message and save these people makes him feel immediately different from the ‘agents of chaos’ of Vaas and Min.
Taking four villains, and not just Joseph, but his family, those four were constructed for very specific reasons in the narrative, what they stood for and how they operated within the cult – when you start to build that family it gives Far Cry 5 a very different flavor than the games that had come before it.
From that point it’s about casting, design and narrative and art communicating well to make sure the missions and the world itself is feeding back on these characters so that each space we have built feels like it’s infused with their characters and everything feels much more organic and grounded, I think the entire package is much more cohesive and robust than what you’ve experienced in the past Far Cry games.
Over the development cycle of the game do you have any memorable moments to share with the audience that might bring a deeper understanding to the journey of developing the game?
Decant: Personally, a moment that was really extraordinary is when we shot the mo-cap with the main actors and we were not sure with some of scenes which were pretty on the edge, some of the material was a bit crazy and it was super interesting to see these actors that we carefully casted, taking that to another level. That was really exciting and cool, definitely a key moment for me.
Holmes: I think the great thing about the Far Cry games is the systemic nature of everything, when your actually sitting down and playing the game, even at early stages you can see that spark of having something like Cheeseburger (the bear) and having the guns for hire and rolling into a space where you go, ‘man we have no idea if this mission is going to work.’
You have to have faith in the systems and levels the designers and artists have built – when it all comes together in that insanity – i’m still playing the build – there’s still new stuff happening everyday, where a character says something I hadn’t expected, or something in terms of the combat where the AI completely obliterates me and surprises me in really, really fun ways because the clash of these systems have come together and built this really fun game.
A special thanks to Drew, Jean-Sebastien, and Ubisoft Toronto for taking the time to chat. Far Cry 5 releases on March 27th, 2018 for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows. Let us know in the comments below what part of FC5 you are most excited about, game on!
About the Author: Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!