Far Cry has come a long way from forcing players to fend off malaria. Now the franchise is less about survival and more about bombastic action, like riding an elephant into an enemy encampment or obliterating people with alien weaponry. Since Far Cry: New Dawn brought the franchise into a ludicrous and colorful apocalypse, fans are quite curious about the franchise’s next direction.
In July 2020, Giancarlo Esposito’s calculating and sinister voice dominated the Far Cry 6 cinematic trailer. Given that the actor is known for portraying cold and brutal villains, it makes sense that Esposito would be cast as Anton Castillo. After all, the trailer sees Castillo teaching his son about power by placing a live grenade in his hands.
It’s a tense, uncomfortable, and powerful scene that hints at quite compelling subject matter. Everything we’ve seen of Far Cry 6 looks similarly promising, from the urban setting to Esposito himself, but the series’ baggage taints our overall excitement.
The Uphill Battle
It’s arguable that the third installment is Far Cry at its best, while every game since has failed to emulate its success. Far Cry 3 developed an intriguing narrative that balanced chaotic fun with a serious tone. Most importantly, it wasn’t plagued by franchise fatigue, a significant hurdle that Far Cry 6 must overcome.
Players can only climb radio towers, fight ravenous tigers, and take over enemy camps for so long. Besides that, almost every Far Cry story has been centered on the villain yet none have dethroned the infamous Vaas Montenegro, played by Michael Mando. The vicious and unhinged Vaas is the Usain Bolt of Far Cry villains – many try to beat him but they always end up trailing behind.
Since then Far Cry has always been centered around a charismatic dictator, a revolution, and the same first-person shooter mechanics. Far Cry: Primal may be the series’ biggest deviation, but even the Stone Age couldn’t break away from monotonous gameplay and repetitive design. Even the map in Primal was an unequivocal replica of the one in Far Cry 3, right down to river placement and terrain.
Now Far Cry 6 comes hobbling in with the weight of a monotonous franchise on its shoulders. It doesn’t look like it will deliver the same drastic shift as Assassin’s Creed, but it may lead the series in the right direction. It may even accomplish what Assassin’s Creed couldn’t: enhance the series without completely revamping it. Of course, that’s a tall order and we don’t have much to go on.
What We Know & What it Tells Us
As mentioned, the antagonist is a key selling point for Far Cry games, their personalities helping to shape the game’s tone and story. Suffice to say, an antagonist can make or break Far Cry, and so far Castillo is shaping up to be one of the series’ best villains.
First of all, Esposito has the acting chops to nail the bad guy role, having played Gustavo Fring on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. He brings with him an underplayed gravitas that strikes fear into the protagonist and the viewer alike. In comparison to Vaas, Castillo is more subtle but just as terrifying, calmly muttering a profound statement while doing something unspeakably evil like ordering his son to kill civilians.
Ubisoft picked an exquisite actor but the character himself must be well-written, which looks to be the case. Castillo thinks Yara, the setting of Far Cry 6, excelled under his father’s rule before the revolution took his life. He views himself as the island nation’s savior, using the execution of his father and his family’s loss of control to drive his actions in the present. A warped notion of a fruitful bloodline and an undeniable love for Yara shaped Castillo into a nefarious dictator.
This backstory may be typical of this sort of narrative, but Castillo’s relationship with his son Diego differentiates him from other Far Cry villains. Castillo’s raising of Diego to lead the nation is demeaning and often cruel, yet Castillo still believes himself a good father. Not only is this fascinating relationship a major focal point for Castillo’s characterization, it’s also the most alluring detail of Far Cry 6.
Though Far Cry villains are the center of marketing, they usually don’t show up too often in the game proper, instead having big moments at the story’s beginning and end. Thus, Castillo may not be as prominent as advertised if the series’ track record is taken into account. However, Ubisoft has promised that Castillo and Diego’s relationship will take center stage. Hopefully, Far Cry 6 breaks the mold and gives Esposito some well-deserved screen time.
The antagonist is promising but the overarching story is worrisome. It’s the same revolution storyline with which we’re well acquainted, especially in Far Cry games. Though there is no gameplay as of writing, we feel safe in predicting its basic structure. We expect that players will have to minimize Castillo’s influence by taking over camps, destroying propaganda, and recruiting soldiers.
Just as it’s the tried and true backbone of open-world games, so too is this design a prime setup for minimal storytelling and busywork. Of course, this is all speculation, but there is adequate cause for concern.
One reassuring detail, though, is the dedicated voice acting for the main character. Players will take on the role of Dani Rojos, a local soldier who gets swept up in the revolution. Ubisoft wanted to give Rojos more personality than previous protagonists, which bodes well for a more character-driven storyline.
Lastly, while we have no concrete information about Far Cry 6’s gameplay, the setting does suggest some environmental diversity. Yara is a tropical island with jungles, beaches, and a huge capital city called Esperanza. Far Cry has never brought players to vast cities, and thus rarely utilizes such vertical environments. Players will be able to run across rooftops and twist around back alleyways, making for quite the change from the usual Far Cry experience.
We know very little about Far Cry 6 and can only speculate based on a four-minute cinematic trailer and some sparse comments from Ubisoft. At this point it looks like another entry that does little to freshen up the dried-up franchise. That said, this new antagonist and some story details may improve the series if they’re implemented correctly.
Originally, the game was set to release in February, but has since been delayed to an unannounced date in 2021. Until we get our hands on the game, we’re inclined to approach it with some cautious optimism.