We discuss Far Cry 5's new setting, the reaction to it, and the fidelity of its fly-fishing

The PC Gamer staff crowds around the table for a chat about Ubisoft's Montana-based FPS.

James recently wrote up his impressions of his first look at Far Cry 5, and even with what little we know so far there's a lot to absorb, so the rest of us are keen to chime in. Ubisoft's set the seventh game in the series (counting Primal and Blood Dragon) in the United States, a fictional county in Montana, to be exact, where players will do battle with a powerful militia created by a religious cult. Along with the hype there's been some backlash (of course), and we've been teased with a few new features like character customization and campaign-wide two-player co-op. What do we think? Here's what we think.

James: First off, what do you all think of the setting? I’m already sick of saying I grew up in Montana, but I’m still excited to see a bigtime videogame set there. Some parts are as wild as any other Far Cry setting, replete with trees for miles, snowcapped mountains, bears, mountain lions, and plenty of strange people. And with all the tools of rural life to play with, it could be one of the deeper stealth and combat sandboxes out of Ubisoft so far. You bet I’m going to roll into an enemy outpost with a co-op buddy and a dangerous dog friend with a tractor as our only armor. You bet I’m going to chase down bears by taking my semi-truck off road. You bet I’m going to fly-fish and drink beer (please add beer, Ubisoft). And if fly-fishing is just a ‘press A to get fish’ kind of thing, I’m telling my dad.

Chris Livingston: As long as exploring Montana doesn't require me slowly clambering up a dozen slightly differently configured cell towers to flip a switch and discover a few nearby areas of interest, I'm good. I think it's an really interesting choice of settings, but also one that's a little difficult to imagine taking seriously. I know there are plenty of remote parts of the US, but unless this is some dystopian future it's difficult to imagine a bunch of explosions and firefights going unnoticed by the rest of the country, no matter how out-of-the-way Hope County might be. Remember all the hubbub when those militia dipshits took over that wildlife refuge gift shop? News and social media would immediate pick up on bloodshed in Hope County, and surely after the first dozen or so bodies hit the ground the place would be swarming with feds or the army or something. It's a little easier to swallow Far Cry's ridiculous violence happening on a remote island controlled by drug cartels than in Montana. But hey, I can suspend disbelief if it means unleashing bears on some cult whackjobs.

Tom Marks: I agree that the country at large would likely notice that level of chaos, but maybe they will! The truth is we still know very little about the actual plot of the game, your role in it past being a sheriff, or generally anything beyond it being centered around a cult in Montana. James, you mentioned the state has all the locales a Far Cry game might want to explore, but I’m worried there won’t be as much room for the unexpected—especially coming off the back of sabertooth tigers and wooly mammoths. We don’t know what will be there, but I think we can confidently guess things like Far Cry 4’s elephants and tigers won’t make an appearance. Having not experienced Montana firsthand, I struggle to picture the kind of game setting it will make. And then, of course, there’s the question of how the politics of it all will be presented.

James: Montana has room to be the prettiest, deepest playground for the series yet, but that won’t matter to some people. Far Cry’s new bad guys are rural white Christians, though the most vocal critics seem to blow right by the whole fundamentalist cult part. Eden’s Gate, led by Joseph Seed, doubles as a massive militia, and they’re tired of waiting for the collapse of civilization, so they try to kickstart it with a lot of guns and terror. Western Montana is home to a ton of fringe groups, some militias associated with the alt-right movement, and a few pockets of white supremacists. The Eden’s Gate cultists are fictional, but based on the trailer and key art, they could easily be mistaken for the same real fringe groups. Some people don’t like the idea that US citizens, regardless of their (awful) beliefs, could be treated as villains in a big fat entertainment product. Others think the politics are too hands-off, a cheap way to grab some attention without addressing real world issues at all. 

Tom M.: I know so little about Far Cry 5 right now that I couldn’t even begin to have an argument about whether its setting is offensive, toothless, or anything inbetween. One thing I am sure about is I want to know more. The direction intrigues me, and I can’t wait to see how Ubisoft decided to approach it. That doesn’t mean I think what they are going to do will definitely be good—it could easily be bad—but it means they’ve chosen a setting that we don’t often see in games like this. They’ve wholly subverted my expectations for the series, and as a result gotten me excited for it again. If Ubisoft had announced another Far Cry in another country with another warlord, I wouldn’t have disliked it for political reasons; I would have disliked it because it would be a clear sign that the main series games had lost inspiration, become stuck in a pattern.

Samuel: I think there's some mild hysteria going on around Far Cry 5, and not enough measured criticism—James's preview does a good job of challenging the setting to be true to life. But outside of that? It's mainly just shouting in comments threads, screengrabs of tediously provocative opinions or sharing comedy petitions trying to ban the game. A shrinking percentage of the discussion remains useful. Meanwhile, Ubisoft is basically silent about the whole thing, while everybody talks about the game incessantly—which is pretty much the dream scenario from a marketing point of view. On some level, by focusing too much on outrage, you can amplify poorly-considered opinions way beyond their actual importance and deserved reach. 

So, that aside, the setting sounds kind of cool. But they haven't explained how the formula differs from previous games, with creative director Dan Hay only hinting at this in vague terms. “There are going to be key moments that we put into the experience where we go in different directions, and the reflexes that you maybe had in those games will be challenged it a bit and you'll experience something fresh." I somehow feel like I know less after reading that. After Primal, which was gorgeous and fun, but which we criticised for feeling familiar, Far Cry 5 should push the series in a different direction. That said, I am looking forward to flying aircraft around Montana. That suggests a fairly large map—and this is the first numbered entry Ubisoft has built that isn't also coming to last-gen consoles. 

Phil: As Samuel points out, a handful of angry people does not a controversy make. Of course someone has said the most hysterical, ridiculous thing, because someone always says the most hysterical, ridiculous thing. But most of the reaction I've seen to Far Cry 5 has been people anticipating such a response, to the point that even the smallest sign of it is proof that a controversy exists. I'm not sure it does in any significant form—certainly not enough to so wholly dominate the conversation surrounding this game. Frankly, if there are people out there who identify so closely with a fictional fundamentalist cult that they're angry about Far Cry 5, they've got bigger problems than the existence of Far Cry 5.

My concern is that—while I acknowledge Tom's point about us not knowing anything yet—I expect Far Cry 5 to be toothless. Ubisoft loves to tiptoe up to the edge of interesting settings, and a bunch of armed racists in Montana is for sure that. But Ubisoft's games rarely say anything of note, precisely because they are so often afraid to say anything that might offend mainstream sensibilities. On the other hand, I also fundamentally like many of Far Cry's systems, and, with enough of a rejig to move away from some of the more tired elements, I'm still up for another open world stealth romp—even while I expect the setting to be a wasted opportunity.


James: OK, so I think we’re all on the same page when it comes to how the internet reacts. The biggest mystery for me is how Ubisoft makes Far Cry feel new again beyond plopping it in a pretty new setting. Will this be another outpost checklist vacation with guns? The footage I saw hinted at small scale conflict. You have the ability to recruit your own army for certain scenarios, and at one point I saw a firefight between cultists and the player’s team taking over main street in a very, very small town. I’m not sure how big I am on the idea, throwing one team of dull AI against another in a slow, clumsy battle of attrition, but I could be wrong. Maybe it’s an active territory system, where your crew guards and conquers territory according to your commands on a big map. Maybe the dogs can talk. Who knows?

Samuel: I'll only play Far Cry 5 if the dogs can talk.

Tom M.: Stop trying to force your ‘pro talking dog’ agenda on me, Sam.

Chris Livingston: Talking dogs and politics aside, I'm curious to see how character creation works, and why it's even in there. In an FPS where you never see yourself, I'm not sure it really even matters, but even largely meaningless choices are better than no choices. Co-op being available for the entire campaign also sounds interesting. Change is good, and the Far Cry series used to change a lot between games—the original, Far Cry 2, and Far Cry 3 were all very different from each other, and Primal at least tried to change things up by setting it in the Stone Age. Far Cry 4 was so much like Far Cry 3 (though I think it was better) that I hope 5 doesn't wind up feeling like 4 again only with some new scenery and different accents. When a series has been around this long, I think it's natural to just take what works from the last game and serve up more of it, and sometimes that's just fine—but rather than more of a good thing I really want a game that feels completely new and fresh. The choice of setting is interesting and surprising, I only hope the gameplay is too.