Far Cry 3's Rook Islands might have been an incredibly fun open world to get lost in, but most people who played the game would probably struggle if asked to point to the game's setting on a world map. This is not the case with Ubisoft's upcoming entry in the series, Far Cry 4, which from its first announcement has been touted as a full-bodied exploration of the Himalayas.
To get a little bit to the part of the world that they were attempting to create virtually, Far Cry 4 narrative director Mark Thompson and production manager Philippe Fournier took a trip to Nepal to explore the country and culture upon which the game's fictional nation of Kyrat is heavily based. The pair were accompanied by Vice journalist Krishna Andavolu, and the journey was documented in a three-part developer diary.
The documentary is pretty fascinating, covering Fournier, Thompson and Andavolu's journey from the sprawling, overcrowded urban environment of Kathmandu to Himalayan gateway town Pokhara and then deeper into the mountains along the Guerilla Trail. It features several interviews with the people of Nepal, including former rebel soldiers who fought in the civil war upon which Far Cry 4's conflict is based.
Ubisoft Montreal may be keen to create an "authentic" experience of Nepalese culture in Far Cry 4, but as interesting as the video series is, it also raises a few issues. Firstly, it seems that the trip to the Himalayas didn't happen until quite a substantial way into the game's development, and therefore the experience was used to texturize and flavor Far Cry 4 rather than being the basis for it. More importantly, Ubisoft's insistence that Kyrat is an entirely fictional country clashes with the claim that the development team was striving for an "authentic" Nepalese experience.
This experience, it seems, is only authentic up to a certain point. While Thompson and Fournier may have been satisfied with what they learned on their trip, a petition with over 1,300 signatures from Nepalese people protests the fact that the trailer for Far Cry 4 features native characters who speak Hindi, rather than Nepali. Despite Thompson's efforts not to create a "Disney" version of Nepal, the petition's signatories fear that the game will create a false perception of their country.
"I believe the Consequences matters. The native language spoken on the game is Hindi. You can hear an Indian song during the Game. Developers claim the game concept is fictional, while been used term kirat or kirati indegenous people of Nepal from Himalayas as kyrat."
"We have our own national language. and if you choose to mimic our lands, mimic our language as well."
"The ubisoft team has come to our country nepal but they have been using the language of the neighbour country in the game. Nepal is not a part of India. We are a country itself."
"This is important to me because the setting is in Nepal and they are speaking Hindi, the weapon they use in this game is Khukuri, a pride of Nepal."
"If Ubisoft is claiming to create realistic replication of the actual environment, people and culture, things like language should be given the same treatment as textures and models."
Were Far Cry 4 another game the issue may not have been as contentious, but Thompson has previously stated that his intention with Far Cry 4 was to learn from the criticisms of the previous game by not simply creating a clichÃ©d story about a white hero riding in to save the indigenous people, but to instead portray outsiders attempting to encroach on Kyrat as the villains of the game. With that in mind, the fact that a significant number of Nepalese people fear Far Cry 4 will strip away their national identity by foisting an Indian language onto the landscape of Nepal is quite troubling.
We have contacted Ubisoft for a comment on the petition and will update if we receive a response.
Source: Vice, Change.org