*Contains minor early-game spoilers, most of which could be considered common knowledge*
Far Cry 3 is all about the world and all that inhabit within it. It’s alive. There are a lot of things that the game does well: the gun play is really good and the melee and takedowns work as well as well as they should. Even the storyline, which you would not ordinarily expect much in a sandbox game such as this, is intriguing and the characters have personality. Above all though, many of the unnecessary features and detail is what makes the world really come alive.
The adventures in Far Cry 3 (Released in November 2012) take place on a tropical archipelago called the Rook Islands. You play as Jason Brody who is on holiday with his friends, brothers and girlfriend, but all is ruined when you are found by the insane Vaas (played by mainstream actor, Micahel Mando), who kidnaps you and kills your military-trained brother as you try to escape the camp. This leads to a vengeful path involving a lot of guns and a lot of dead pirates.
The intro is really enthralling, as you see Jason and his friends having fun, but it turns out you were watching it on a phone as Vaas takes it away from your face. You’re tied up, in a cage with your brother, Riley. After a stealthy escape, both of you are stopped by Vaas on nearly leaving the camp at which point he shoots Riley in the neck. Jason is unable to stop the bleeding and Vaas orders him to run, abandoning his dying brother.
This sequence is part-tutorial, part-dramatic introduction to the characters that you will know and love. Vaas is already a complete lunatic, while Jason is just the unluckiest island goer ever. After this you are introduced to the Rakyat, a tribe indigenous to the island, trying to stop Vaas’ reign of terror. Few are able to join the ranks of the Rakyat, but Jason is able to become a warrior and quickly becomes powerful using a skill tree that changes Jason’s tautau (or a ‘magical tattoo’, to you and me).
An immersive world
Far Cry 3 has the most absorbing world I have entered, which is saying something, coming from a long-term Elder Scrolls follower who was totally engrossed in Skyrim and the world of Oblivion. Above all, the sound effects bring the world to life, whether it is the tiger prowling in those bushes, or the birds soaring in the sky, there is great detail in these little things that make the world believable.
Much like in Far Cry 2, there are wild animals that wander around and go about doing their wild animal thing. The human AI do this too, they walk around the encampment, doing their patrols and keeping an eye open for attackers, even conversing with each other. Although the NPCs can be somewhat irksome as they wander down the road, repeating the same complaint about the temperature.
The sound is so good that I turned the music off, completely opening myself up to the immersion of the Rook Islands…
Fresh out of Vaas’ camp, like many people who were suffering personal turmoil and loss, I decided to explore. I slid down the hillock, down towards a river. The air was fresh and the foliage was blowing in the wind. Down the stream I saw a cave, thought it was worth taking a look. I had heard of the wildlife on these islands, so I approached with caution. Wandering around inside the cave, I had only left Vaas’ camp an hour before when, suddenly, this dramatic drum beat started. At first, worry hit me: “Whoa, what’s happening?” Maybe they had caught up with me, perhaps I had walked into something I shouldn’t have… Then I realised that nothing was happening, the game track had just switched to the next one.
So, into the options to turn the music down. Unfortunately, and this is the one point the PC options fall down, there are two On/Off buttons for in-game sound and the music, no sliders. So I turned music off completely and never regretted it. Music is incredibly important in games – just see Kieffer’s top original soundtracks of 2012 – but when it is not executed properly or is in such a great world as this, it is worth switching it off.
It’s not just the sound that pulls you into the islands, the graphics are really top-notch too. The Far Cry series is always set in jungles or some distant island; this one is no different. The explosions are visceral, in sound as well as visual, and the animals and characters have been done to great detail. You can play this game on console, but it really shines on a high-end PC with the options switched right up.
Speaking of which, Far Cry 3 is a good PC port – the options menu has pretty much everything a PC gamer will need: Field Of View slider that goes from 55 to 110, a variety of video quality options, and gameplay options that allow you to switch off some annoying alerts, such as collectible updates. If you really want to make the game more difficult, you can turn off the detection meter, hit indicator and grenade indicators too.
A new feature to the Far Cry series is crafting. Ordinarily, this may sound pretty odd in a gun game but it turns out pretty well in this case. This is because you need to hunt and skin wild animals for the necessary materials that allow you to craft things, such as ammo pouches, backpacks and wallets. There are also different varieties of plants that are necessary in the crafting of medical supplies and various concoctions that can improve your defences or hunting capabilities.
There are many kinds of animal pelts and plants to extract, so you need to craft your own backpacks. While this may sound good on the face of it, it is where the game falls down a little. It becomes a nuisance, having to deal with the inventory system just so you can loot a little container for a broken lighter or watch. Once you have crafted most of what you need, it becomes a chore to sell extracted plants or animal pelts, as you can only sell the one at a time which requires you to click Sell, then Yes, with the game automatically trying to move your cursor back to where it was. This is an unnecessarily tedious process and most people will end up letting their inventory clog up, then ignoring it so they can get back to shooting things.
For the most part Far Cry 3 is exciting, enthralling and a lot of fun. There are problems, however. As a sandbox game it is often undecided as to what this actually means…
I was happily going about my business. I had just taken out a camp of pirates, including some high-ranking officer with my knife, in true Rakyat-style. I then got a phone call from my buddy, Dennis, telling me that I had to go and do his bidding for a little bit. Apparently my exploring was less important. Because I refused and carried on with what I was doing, whenever I completed a task, Dennis would call me again. Exact. Same. Phonecall.
This is irritating. As a sandbox game, I want to do what I want to do, I will get to the game when it best suits me. The main issue is upon entering a mission area, when the mission has officially started and if you try to flee, then the game will reload. When the game reloads you lose all progress, including any rare valuables you may have found in the last 30 seconds.
Far Cry 3 really brings you into the islands. You’re an outsider, brought into a tribal group of people who are at war. You’ve lost family, you’re trying to find friends while this psychopath is hunting you down. The worst part; is he really the guy you need to get rid of? Because of the beauty of the island, it will likely take you some time to finally get to Vaas. Hell, after several hours you’ll probably still be climbing radio towers. This is a game that, compared to Skyrim, has a bit more depth. It may not be as big but it’s more intriguing, realistic and beautiful.
Far Cry 3 is available on Steam and your regular retailers, with a variety of DLCs available in the deluxe edition. Keep in mind, however, that the game requires Ubisoft’s uPlay, even if purchased on Steam. UPlay is pretty non-intrusive and is just a small inconvenience if you’re a regular Steam-user.