- A way of locating the destination.
- A plan to achieve the goal.
- The skill to accomplish my plan.
Every now and again a game comes along allowing me to do whatever I can imagine doing with whatever happens to be lying around. One of my favorites is Saints Row 3, which abandons almost all pretenses of having a story and rewards you for whatever you feel like doing during the time you're playing.
Want to drive around town with a ferocious tiger in the passenger seat? You'll be rewarded. Want to pick a fight with a Japanese game show mascot? There's a reward for that. Want to just strip naked and run around the streets terrifying old people? Yup, there's a reward for that. But, I'll give the game a deeper look later.
For now, we're going to look at a game that's a bit more recent: Far Cry 3.
When I first heard they were making this game, I got really excited, because I was a pretty big fan of its predecessor, Far Cry 2. I never played the original, but the huge open world the previous game gave blew my mind, and it felt like I was trying to maneuver through what really was a small nation. The only other game that felt larger was Just Cause 2, but again, that's another blog post.
Far Cry 3 takes place on a small tropical island (Rook Island, if I remember correctly), where you, the main character, and your brothers and friends have found yourselves captured by a human traffickers. You manage to escape, and vow to save your friends and take down the bad guys. Overall, a pretty simplistic formula, one that wouldn't really be out of place in a Mario Brothers game. Where Far Cry 3 makes it special, though, is in three areas.
The first is the idea that you actually need to learn skills in order to survive. If this were any other game, I'd be coming into gameplay with some remedial combat ability already under my belt, perhaps some basic military training or some hand to hand from living on the tough streets. "No, no, no," this game says teasingly to you within the opening sequence, "you're a spoiled rich white kid who might be able to throw a single punch but knows nothing about real combat."
Now, you do simply pick up new skills as you "level up," but it is nice to see that the character is as inexperienced in life or death combat as I am, and as he progressed I felt like I was getting a better grip on the game myself. I wouldn't try to pick a gun fight with a group of pirates in the real world, but seeing someone who has to stumble and trip as he runs away from bullets become someone who moves through the trees like a dangerous jungle spirit, picking off bad guys one by one before anybody realizes something is wrong is quite a satisfying feeling. I'd find myself traveling through areas I already completed in order to get to the next destination, and I'd smile thinking how difficult it was then and how much I improved.
Now, this ties directly into the second thing that drew me deeper and deeper into the game, and that's the main character's mindset. When the game starts, you have exactly two goals: save your friends, kill the bad guy. However, the game pulls you in deeper, presenting a plot about the native tribe being chased to near extinction, a legend of a brave (white, of course) warrior who removes evil from the island, and a criminal enterprise much bigger than you originally anticipated.
Instead of just going "well, your goals have changed, now kill more people," Far Cry 3 makes you want to take on the additional missions. Every encounter with one of the main villains, Vaas, left me more and more convinced that the man simply had to die. While the edges of my character's sanity started to crumble as stress, pressure, and various hallucinogenic drugs wore him down, I could feel my own determination take deeper root. Not only my character, but I would not be content until Vaas' dead body was at my feet.
|"Have I ever told you the definition of insanity?"|
Now, in some games (I'm looking at the God of War series), the motivation for the main character wading into a crowd and destroying everything that breathes loses a bit of value after the first game. In Far Cry 3, you still knew that almost every person you met was going to try to kill you unless it was a friend or a freedom fighter, and you had to kill them first. Things got worse for me, but I was still helping get my friends free from a terrible fate. I just wasn't sure my character would be able to come back after everything he did, and I always wanted to see what happened next.
The last thing that kept me going was the fact that, with very few exceptions, the game allowed me to complete my missions as I wanted to complete them. Liberating villages from pirates or catching and killing wild animals could be as basic as picking a few select guns and heading into combat, or I could employ stealth and take out my targets before they knew what happened. If I felt like mixing it up while liberating a village, I could free wild animals (which sometimes came back to hurt me when, say, a bear that took out every single bad guy would then start hunting me down), or I'd decide the best way to take out a pack of wild dogs in a grassland was to light the entire place on fire with a flame thrower and let a nice cross breeze do all the hard work.
Now, certain story moments require you to do some things in a more basic manner. A few particular bases you have to get into don't allow much in the way of "sending a few suicidal cassowaries in first to soften everybody up." You can still employ stealth, however, hiding in the shadows while a group of troops run past and picking off the guy in back. There were also a few moments where I'd spend five or ten minutes marking where every bad guy in a village was so I could sneak in and empty it before an alarm could be raised, just to have a large, dangerous wild animal wander in and wipe everybody out.
Why the villages didn't do a better job in building walls to keep out jaguars and tigers, I'll never know.
Once I got to a certain point in the game, it was very rare that I died, and more often than not my death was usually due to my own mistakes. I lost track of the number of times I leaped off of a cliff expecting to land in a river below just to go "oh, wait, there's a ledge about fifty meters down" and promptly have my feet and my spine try to occupy the same place. Other times I'd snipe a target and then slide down a hill to get away from gunfire just to land in a nest of komodo dragons. I'd swim down to get treasure from the ocean floor, just to surface and find myself surrounded by shark fins.
I'm not a very good survivalist, or good at looking before I leap, I guess is my point here.
The graphics are outstanding and provide some of the most beautiful visuals I've seen in a game, the voice acting and script are top-notch with no moments where you're left wondering why a character said something either the way he did or just in general. There's plenty of hidden secrets planted around the map to explore and discover, and overall it was probably one of my favorite games of 2012.
I recommend everybody try it, just be prepared for your mind to start thinking about going down paths you never really thought about before.