Ubisoft’s E3 2017 press conference gave us a closer look at Far Cry 5. The next game in the series takes things to America for the first time–specifically the cult-occupied rural area of Hope County, Montana. The game features heavy religious imagery and hot-button political themes, but it also has the often bombastic gameplay typical of the series.
At a pre-E3 event, GameSpot spoke to Far Cry 5 Creative Director Dan Hay about the game’s setting. Check our roundup of all the Ubisoft news for more, and catch up on all the week’s announcements on our E3 hub.
GameSpot: Far Cry has typically been set in far-flung, “exotic” locations. Does the American setting affect or change the Far Cry formula?
Dan Hay: Yeah, I think it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg question, so I don’t know if it was the setting being America that made us think about how we change the story. But we definitely wanted to build a story that wasn’t linear, we wanted to build a story where you could just meet people, and that it was believable that they would know each other….
There’s certain things and there’s a style and there’s a tone to it that feel real. And so I think for us it was just about making it feel real, right? And the other thing to that we wanted to focus on was–a lot of times people expect Far Cry to get you on a plane, or a boat, and send you 6,000 miles away. But some of things that are most interesting happen in your own backyard. So we wanted people to investigate that, right? That something that’s really close or something that’s nearby could be just as exotic or just as surprising, or even more so.
In the past you’ve referenced the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation in 2016 as being an inspiration for Far Cry 5. The history of cults in the U.S. is really complex and difficult to tackle; how you marry the gameplay, which is at its core about having fun, with such a complicated setting?
I think it’s not easy, right? You got the balance of the game, which can be crazy, wonderful, and wild, where you’re doing stuff that maybe doesn’t feel entirely believable at any given time. And then you’ve got this story that can be earnest, and that is maybe exploring some things that don’t feel perfectly aligned with what you are doing moment to moment. So what we do is we’re careful. And what we try and do is we try and make action bubbles. We try and make moments where you get to go into the world and you’re going to meet a character, and maybe that story is crazy and completely makes sense for you to be in a tractor running over people, or it completely makes sense for you to be in a plane strafing stuff. And then you are going to meet other people where it’s much more poignant. And where you have this action bubble, or this chapter of meeting somebody where it makes a little bit more sense that you kind of snack on that story, and what you get to do is you’re gonna get to taste and choose where you want to go.
Some of the things that are the most interesting or maybe even the most exotic happen in your own backyard.
And so for us it’s not about authoring it so it’s all one flavor. It’s about giving you almost bread crumbs of what kind of experience do you want to have. And then marrying those things together and making it feel like a piece of music. It’s not easy to do, I think, but the benefit of being able to give you the choice of where you want to go and who you want to meet–it outweighs the idea of not doing it at all. So for us, we build a world, make that world feel real, make sure that all the things you could do in Far Cry made sense, and then start to put in these action bubbles and these unique characters. And then let you bring them with you. That was probably the most important thing.
And then you have two different movements at work: you have this grassroots resistance movement against the cult and then you have the cult itself. Both groups are interested in freedom–that’s what they like about Hope County. So how do you differentiate between a “good” type of resistance and a not-so-good type of resistance?
I think it comes down to behavior. We want [the villain] to be complex and we want them to be able to say, “Hey look, I understand you’re looking at me and you’re thinking I’m [bad]. But here’s the truth–here’s my truth. I believe that the end of the world is coming.” …Wouldn’t you feel obligated to go out and try and do something about it? But then you think about it; you go and you tell somebody that the end of the world is going to happen, are they gonna believe you? They’re gonna do exactly what you say? You gonna go on LinkedIn and get people to help you do this stuff?
It’s not gonna work, right? So what he says is, “I’m gonna take you and you’re not gonna want to come. So I’m gonna force you.” [That] immediately starts to put this incredible pressure on Hope [County]. And some of the people are gonna fight…. The people who make up the bulk of that resistance don’t want to be messed with, don’t trust the cult….And they want to fight back. So you have those two ideas of somebody who is protecting what they have, and somebody who is protecting a future that you might not believe in.
There seems to have been a strong response from the audience toward the setting and political themes of Far Cry 5. What do you and the team think of that reaction?
I think that you know what we focus on is you know when people are asking us you know why the states, or why Montana, or why the cult? …I really remember being a kid and feeling the weight of the Soviet Union in America. And when I think back to that feeling of those two superpowers possibly causing the end of the world, and me being terrified as a kid, it left an indelible mark on me.
For me it was just super simple, when I was a kid I remember looking up at the world and going, “We’re on the edge.” And that it could go away at any time. And not knowing–feeling not powerful at all in that. And so when I talked about the creative of this game it’s just: draw a ledge, and write “you are here.” That’s the game. And then what we thought was, it’s super powerful for a character to believe that. And to believe that they almost have this inside information about the end of the world is going to happen. And so when we built our cult, and we built this magnetic leader….it felt right. And I think as people play it and they get their hands on it and they actually play it. There’s no question that it’s sparked a lot of conversation and that’s good. But as they play it they’ll know exactly what we intended to make.