Ubisoft’s Far Cry games have a history of pushing the boundaries in terms of edgy themes for promotional purposes. They relayed this to their intended audience with Far Cry 3, for instance, which put its suggestive themes and coarse language up front and center during its E3 demo. Meanwhile, Far Cry 4’s edginess was shown through its cover, which portrayed a man in a purple suit alongside a dark-skinned man on his knees slightly below him holding a grenade. In both cases, the actual games weren’t as controversial as they appeared, especially in the latter’s case.
As initially eye-raising as those were, neither compared to the promise Far Cry 5 had when it was revealed. The first series of short trailers implied the game would nigh-authentically capture how insane America’s extremist groups could get. It provided people the impression that they’d get to fight what would essentially be a Neo-Nazi/Ku Klux Klan like group within a virtual world. This, of course, upset those on the side whose ideologies identify with those groups, people who often say others are snowflakes who can’t handle criticism. It made for some “fun” discussions to follow.
When the game was fully revealed, however, the group was shown to be a religious extremist group that took their teachings a little too far. They had no connection to the aforementioned groups, as minorities were scattered among them — though some members of those groups tend to contain religious types. It’s a pity Ubisoft didn’t want to push the boundaries too hard, and it serves as another example of how these titles aren’t as controversial as they like people to think.
But who could have expected its theme to change again? When preview copies were given to the press and various YouTubers for early impressions in the last few weeks, they noticed how the theme has become even more lighthearted than what was presented earlier in the year. The game is aware of how absurd its overarching theme is, which will only further put off those who were hoping for a more realistic portrayal of a religious cult. It’s possible Ubisoft was afraid of backlash from religious organizations, though most of those who strongly identify with them were unlikely to play a game this violent in the first place. This could also be why it was delayed from February 27th to March 27th, though giving Ubisoft more time to promote Assassin’s Creed Origins was part of that reason.
The game ostensibly has more in common with the recent Wolfenstein games, which have a sense of humor despite taking place in a world where World War II was won by Nazis, who have overrun America. It doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at its absurd concept at times (even though part of that doesn’t seem so absurd anymore), and balances that with its more serious drama. Recent impressions suggest that Far Cry 5 will veer even further into the realm of absurdity, perhaps due to how its setting looks far more realistic than Wolfenstein’s at first glance.
Notably, creative director Dan Hay denied that the tone ever changed while speaking to USGamer editor-in-chief Kat Bailey. Instead, he believes this was due to the perceptions the audience took away from the initial promotional materials. It’s possible he’s right, and that Ubisoft simply wanted to show its more controversial side to garner early attention, a plan that worked for the most part. But he could be covering for the company and the rest of the development team while adjustments were made behind the scenes. Maybe we’ll get a more detailed story behind this decision and its overall creation one day soon.
The game itself should still be enjoyable, like previous mainline titles and spinoffs. This will be the first Far Cry installment to take place in a North American state, so Ubisoft is making the most of its setting by creating authentic-looking landmarks and including driving and flying vehicles that wouldn’t be out of place in Montana. Keep in mind the game takes place in a fictional city within the state, which gives them a little more creative freedom. The game will retain the shooting and stealth elements that made previous titles enjoyable, and hopefully the team has been given enough time to implement good mission design. Assassin’s Creed Origins showed how Ubisoft’s teams can craft an open world with significantly improved game and location design when given ample time, so hopefully their higher-ups took note if their developers raised some objections.
We’ll see if it turned out well, along with whether its theme strikes a good balance between serious and humorous content, when it releases on March 27th. Before that, we might get an impression of its adjusted tone in the remaining trailers and gameplay videos that will be shown between now and the release.