Mod of the Week: Far Cry 3: Ziggys Mod
I'm bouncing and bumping down a dusty road in Far Cry 3. On my to-do list: nothing, really. There are a couple different plants I'm keeping an eye out for, and a particular animal I'm hoping to spot, but that's about it. I haven't looked at my main map in over an hour, I haven't thought about Vaas or Citra or my friends all day, and I haven't felt a single pressing need to do anything but what I'm doing at this particular moment: bouncing and bumping down a dusty road.
It may sound like I'm playing a game in which I've already completed the main storyline and am looking for some random distractions, but this is actually a new game I've started with the assistance of Ziggys Mod, which has made me realize two things. First, Ziggys Mod should have an apostrophe in it. Second, Far Cry 3, the original version, actively prohibited free-form exploration.
In its original, un-patched form, Far Cry 3 was incredibly fearful that you might stop playing at any moment unless it threw constant reminders in your face of all the things you could be doing. There were notifications about the mission you were on, the minimap was cluttered with icons showing all the plants and loot boxes in your vicinity, and the main map was dotted with even more information. Here's a glider! Here's a collectible! Here's a boat! Here's a good place to find and shoot a boar! JUST DON'T TURN ME OFF, IT'S ALL DARKNESS WHEN YOU'RE NOT HERE!
There are roughly ONE JILLION tweaks and changes made to the game by Ziggy's Mod (screw it, I'm adding an apostrophe), but let me pepper you with a few features that, working in conjunction with each other, turn the game into what I really wanted it to be: a giant open world that doesn't care what I spend my time doing.
Ziggy's Mod removes the minimap (as other mods have done), replacing it with a simple, nearly transparent compass. With no plant and treasure icons, I rely on my eyes for my looting and gathering needs, which means I'm done with an area when I think I'm done, instead of when the minimap tells me there's simply nothing left to collect.
Adding to the relaxed, do-what-you-want nature of the mod, the entire map world map is completely unlocked from the start, including the second island. All weapons are unlocked and purchasable (including signature weapons), meaning radio towers no longer need scaling (though you are still awarded XP and medical supply-run missions if you choose to climb them). There are no longer any mission-dependent skills, either: you can play Build-a-Brody at your own pace. The wingsuit is yours immediately as well. These changes mean you can completely ignore the main missions for as long as you want (example: forever).
I think we can agree that the crafting system was pretty derpy in the original game. It never made sense that to craft a holster you needed a goat skin, but to craft a second holster you needed two deer skins. I would have thought the solution would have been to remove crafting entirely, but Ziggy's Mod actually increases the requirements: instead of two skins from one animal to make your 'nade pouch, you might need three from one animal and two from another, plus a handful of different plants. And yet, even with Ziggy's Mod doubling down on the derp, it somehow works better than the original.
First, extra slots have been added to the pouches you craft, so you wind up being able to hold more in exchange for the extra work. Second, while the hunting grounds are still shown on your main map, they are non-specific. The little silhouettes of which animal is likely to appear there is gone, so if you're looking for a buffalo, you're not quite sure where to start. I know it may sound tiresome and irritating, but it actually encourages exploration.
In the unmodified game, what did I do if I needed a tapir skin? I drove in a straight line to the spot on the map that showed the outline of a tapir, I shot a tapir in the face, I turned it into a purse, and I raced back to whatever it was I'd been doing. That's not exploration, that's a fetch quest. If I need a tapir now, I have to go out and find one, on my own. It can take hours, and since I'm not really sure where to look, I look everywhere, and thus end up genuinely exploring the islands.
The overall effect of Ziggy's Mod, I've been finding, is that Far Cry 3 feels a bit more like the better parts of Far Cry 2. I bounce along dirt roads in my car, or tool along rivers in a boat. I get out if I see something interesting or someone starts shooting at me. I take down outposts when I come across them, rather than ticking them off my map one by one. I haven't even considered rescuing my stupid friends from their stupid suffering at the hands of insane thugs. I explore way more. Ziggy's Mod lets me do what I wanted to with Far Cry 3 in the first place: whatever the hell I want.
Another nice change: the camera, when you use it, doesn't tag enemies with icons. I liked this feature the first time, but without it, outpost battles and wanted missions are more challenging and exciting. Weapons generally have more attachment slots, which is a plus, and they don't reload automatically when your clip is empty, which is a minus until you start remembering to do it yourself, and then it feels more realistic (there's nothing like dry-firing on a charging komodo dragon to wake you up).
Since this mod is for gamers who have already played Far Cry 3 once and want to start a new game, it completely skips the intro, the initial escape from Vaas, and Jason's annoying scaredypants whimpering, and just starts you off with Dennis rudely hammering the first tatau into your forearm. You still have to do the first three things Dennis asks you to: buy your first gun, climb your first radio tower and craft a couple things, but once you're done you never have to see Dennis again.
One note on the first crafting mission: with the extended recipe requirements of the mod, you probably won't have enough to actually complete all the recipes Dennis asks for, but simply trying to craft an item (even if you can't) will satisfy Dennis. And then you're free get on with your exploring.
Installation: Find your Far Cry 3 directory, make copies of the "bin" and "data_win32" folders, and put them somewhere safe. I do not recommend simply dumping them in a folder called "New Folder (9)" on your desktop, but we both know that's nearly inevitable.
Open the Ziggy's Mod zip file and drop the new "bin" and "data_win32" folders into your Far Cry directory, and when prompted, overwrite the original files, then start the game. And, if you decide to complete the story missions, say hi to Vaas for me. I haven't seen him in a while, and I don't plan to.