There may not be a common hero, setting, or mythology that defines the Far Cry series, but the franchise has become known for one feature in recent years: its villains. What seemed like a one-off with Far Cry 3 became a sign of what was to come when Far Cry 4 was revealed by putting the spotlight squarely on Pagan Min, the game's main antagonist. But according to the game's creative team, past entries in the series might not have painted him as a villain - in fact, he might have been a hero.
To date, the team at Ubisoft Montreal tasked with Far Cry 4 have been surprisingly candid about the strengths and weaknesses of previous games. The claim has been made that Far Cry 4's story will turn Far Cry 3's on its head, positioning the player as a native returning to a region in upheaval, instead of an outsider leading a people to freedom.
When we got the recent opportunity to discuss that topic with narrative director Mark Thompson, he went a step even farther, saying that the idea of a "white savior" in Far Cry 3 was something the studio should, and would address.
There's no denying that Pagan Min - a Hong Kong national who has overtaken the country of Kyrat by force - is a different breed of insane from previous villains. But Thompson offered a new insight, explaining that Pagan Min's bloody quest for power doesn't just make him dangerous - in the past, it could've made him a Far Cry protagonist:
"Pagan Min is the antagonist, but he could almost have been the protagonist of a different Far Cry story. He was the guy who came in from the outside and invaded, captured the imagination of a part of the population - because it was still a civil war - he came with his own guys from Hong Kong, but he did romance the minds of a certain group of people.
"And then he took over. He captured the outposts. He took the towers. He captured the landscape. The overall story of the game is about Ajay returning to Kyrat, his homeland, and there's a tiny kind of rebellion simmering away in the corner. But the whole land has been taken from them by Pagan Min and his self-appointed 'royal' army. So the backstory is made up of the systems of the game world."
Besides keeping a consistent definition of power or 'conquering' tied to the actual gameplay systems governing Kyrat, Thompson went on to explain that it's not just the world of Far Cry 4 that Pagan Min could have conquered through those same means. In no uncertain terms, he follows the same path that many felt Far Cry 3's protagonist took himself:
"We know that when people play the game, inevitably, they're going to take towers, they're going to take back the outposts. It's about capturing the landscape piece by piece. So I wanted to make sure that the overall narrative was about the same thing."
"Some people said at the end of Far Cry 3 they said they felt like the bad guy... It's a fun wink at the premise of Far Cry 3, and the story of Jason and some people's reaction to it."
Even if it's just a playful wink, Thompson's comments prove that the developers didn't just hear the criticism that some players had of Far Cry 3's hero; they may have thought those critics had a point. Luckily, even those players who took no issue with Jason's methods can benefit, having a rock-solid understanding of how an outsider can bring a country to its knees. And the path to toppling him is simply completing the same tasks over again (it's lonely at the top, as they say).
What do you think of this new perspective on Pagan Min? Does it seem like the kind of inside joke or self-aware step forward in storytelling that fans will appreciate? Sound off in the comments.
Far Cry 4 will be available for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 on November 18, 2014.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.