Ubisoft’s far-flung 2012 shooter Far Cry 3 ended up impressing critics on a number of levels, but more than anything else it was the story and the characters that kept people talking long after the game’s released. Marketed on the strength of antagonist Vaas Montenegro, Far Cry 3 took the player- along with protagonist Jason Brody – on a hallucinogenic journey across the Rook Islands where the boundaries between sanity and insanity were flimsy and Jason become a progressively less reliable narrator.
Along with the praise, Far Cry 3‘s story received its fair share of criticism. Some found Jason to be a dull main character, while others felt that the game ended up embodying too sincerely the “Mighty Whitey” trope that lead writer Joffrey Yohalem said that he’d been trying to satirize.
For Far Cry 4, however, the writers wanted to take the story of Far Cry 3 and turn it completely on its head. Rather than taking an outsider and dropping him into an exotic locale to save the indigenous people, Far Cry 4‘s hero is Ajay Ghale, a native of Kyrat who returns to scatter his mother’s ashes and finds himself facing off against Pagan Min, a Chinese national and member of Hong Kong’s criminal underground who has declared himself the king of Kyrat.
Speaking in an interview with Joystiq, Far Cry 4‘s narrative director Mark Thompson explained that both the antagonist and the protagonist of Far Cry 4 are very different from the characters in the previous title.
“[Min] doesn’t belong there, and obviously he’s the antagonist. And our protagonist does belong in Kyrat, he was born there, his family are all from Kyrat. So, he’s returning and obviously you want the protagonist and the antagonist in direct opposition.”
Thompson elaborates that “Ajay doesn’t ever become the savior of the game,” so we presumably won’t see any scenes of the indigenous Kyrat people hailing him as a new leader like we did with Jason in Far Cry 3. Ajay acts as an agent of change within a wider revolution that’s taking place in Kyrat, but Thompson insists that, “It’s not him leading them, it’s him helping them.”
Although Far Cry 4 will have its share of collectibles to encourage exploration of the open world, Thompson hints that Ajay’s approach to collectibles won’t be the same as Jason’s. In Far Cry 3, our hero “went into temples and places where collectibles should have been, and stole them, and then ran away with them.” Presumably in Far Cry 4 the approach will be different – perhaps the collectibles will be stolen items that must be restored?
There have been quite a few games in recent years, Spec Ops: The Line being perhaps the most salient example, which have turned a critical eye onto the player’s actions. Thompson, however, says that he isn’t interested in making players feel guilty for shooting people in Far Cry 4.
“I think the important difference is we don’t want to be didactic, we’re not trying to teach people. I think a lot of Far Cry games have fallen into the trap – telling you that violence is bad, and that you’re bad for playing the game. You don’t want to play a game for 40, 50 hours to be rewarded by systems that have a narrative layer on top of that, telling you that you were bad for doing those things, that humans are terrible.”
Although what Thompson says is certainly interesting, it’s not 100% convincing. After decades of games that consistently painted the player character as an unerring, indefatigable justice machine it was actually somewhat refreshing to have titles that started to question whether the protagonist’s actions were justified and subvert the stereotype of the conquering hero.
That said, it’s gratifying to hear that Far Cry 4 won’t simply be trying to emulate the previous game – a fear that some had after seeing Pagan Min positioned on the box art in a design that was uncannily similar to the cover of Far Cry 3. This is definitely one of the most exciting titles showcased at E3 2014, and we look forward to playing it later this year.
Far Cry 4 will be available for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 on November 18, 2014.