Far Cry 4 (no DLCs, around 78% completion)
Far Cry 4 is an awesome open world game (in the sense that it's a game that offers awesome open world gameplay, as opposed to being a great game overall). Not that it's anything new, it's basically Far Cry 3 with mountains and elephants, but elephants are awesome! And mountains are beautiful to look at and fun to explore. I played around with it for about 50 hours and was mostly enjoying myself, exploring the map, doing silly stuff, causing explosions, and more explosions! If that's all you need to know, don't read on. And if you read on about everything that prevents FC4 from being a great game IMO, just keep that in mind - mountains, elephants, explosion, 50 hours, open world FTW! I like!
(incoming rants, wall of text, and *MILD SPOILERS IN THIS PART*)
The story campaign is a joke, essentially a big middle finger to anyone who's seriously looking for a meaningful story and choices that matter in an open world game that's all about releasing your inner psycho and blowing shit to bits. So was the story of Far Cry 3, for that matter, but IMO it still had a bit more to offer, and in any case, after FC3, SpecOps: The Line and Hotline Miami, the novelty of this concept has definitely worn off by now. It basically comes down to: "Admit it, you just want to feel good about the killing spree you're going on, but we're not giving you that satisfaction". But at the same time they give you that game that's all about going on a killing spree for no reason but enjoying yourself. "Hey, we developers put lots of time, effort and money into an awesome game that you should totally buy, and it's violent! violent! violent! deliciously violent! But, um, remember, if you actually play it our way and enjoy it, you're just like the villains in it, ha! what a great joke" (which, as a sidenote, isn't really true). Consequently, the "best" way to reach your alleged goal in the game is to not play it at all. Hur hur.
And I often felt like the game reveled in confronting you with the most cruel and cynical shit, just for its own sake, worse even than The Walking Dead (e.g. the character of Noore). "Um... satire?" I found that neither entertaining or funny, nor mind-opening or cathartic, or to be taken seriously as a meaningful comment on real world events, apart from "The world is fucked up and humanity is dominated by power hungry psychos, and if you believe you can do anything about it and change things for the better, you just become part of the problem". The story-telling and writing is not all that bad in itself, when examined in detail, but on the whole, it's all over the place. The game is mimicking the approach of a "shades of gray" morality, but in truth those shades strongly tend toward the dark side of the scale.The credibility of the characters really suffers from the attempt to partially (though not very successfully) deceive the players about this and mock or punish them for the choices they make, resulting in sudden mood swings and u-turns on the part of the NPCs. And when you are given choices, they are very limiting, and most of the time the alternatives are presented in an uneven way (e.g. Sabal's proposals are often made to sound more sensible and rational than Amita's, and most players will probably miss the better ending, because they are given no reason to even consider the choice that would lead to it). All of this doesn't really add up to anything worthwhile, despite any interesting individual ideas that might have gone into it, it's neither satisfying nor thought-provoking, neither a very clever commentary on politics nor on gaming. And it was all done before in FC3.
What's telling with regard to how unsympathethic the characters in this game are is that many players actually grow to like Pagan Min, the main villain, best - up to a point where they try to convince themselves and others that he's not such a bad guy after all. I guess the reason for this is that despite all the atrocities committed by him that these players graciously overlook, he's the only character in the game that shows some sort of humor (apart from Yogi and Reggie, but those are just clowns). Sabal and Amita are completely devoid of humor, while Yogi, Reggie, Longinus and Rabi Ray Rana are just plain annoying, and their side missions are for the most part more pointless and less enjoyable than the average open world mini-game. But as mildly entertaining as Pagan Min is, to me he didn't feel all that original either, just another predictably unpredictable psycho whose constant pseudo-polite babbling was rather reminiscent of Handsome Jack, except that he was wearing a pink jacket.
The open world gameplay that I praised above isn't perfect either. There are a lot of side missions and activities to do if you want to, but there's no great incentive to actually do them all, other than for their own sake, which can be fun for the first few times but soon gets old. For completing them you are rewarded with money or XP which allows you to unlock and buy new weapons and skills. But the thing is that you already get lots of money on the side, during main missions or casual exploration, and you'll never really be as low on money that you'll need to do side missions just to earn some. It's more likely that you'll carry too much of it and reach your wallet limit. I could always buy whatever I wanted (which wasn't that much) and sometimes I bought stuff just to make room in my wallet or do anything with all the money. Most weapons are either quickly unlocked and bought or off-limits to you until you've passed certain points in the game. It never happened that I actually had a long term goal like saving for a specific weapon. Besides, as many weapons as this game has, most of them are just boring variations, and I mostly used the same 4-5 ones for the whole game (got them rather early too). And I always had more skill points to distribute than I really cared for (there is one overpowered skill allowing you to ride elephants, and all other skills pale in comparison). So the side mission rewards lost their meaning to me very soon. Later on, you get to spend money on improving your base, but at that point you probably won't need the benefits you get from it anymore, and you'll hardly ever visit it.
Another thing: if you have liberated an outpost, but not the fortress (aka uber outpost) in the area, it can happen that the liberated outposts gets attacked when you're in the vicinity of them and you have to rush to their defense to hold them. This happens very frequently and soon becomes a real pain if you're not in the mood for it and actually on your way to doing something else. Especially since it would often go like this: You fast-travel to an outpost close to your destination, find yourself a car for the rest of the way, but shortly after you've left the outpost in your car you get a call that the nearest outpost is being attacked, so you have to turn around and return to the outpost you just left, in order to drive the invaders off. I guess you could also ignore the call and just go about your business, but then you lose the outpost as a fast-travel-spot and sooner or later you'll have to liberate it again, anyway. At the beginning it was interesting enough as an unexpected event, but after the first few times I found it really annoying; it happens much too often, to the extent that I could almost predict it correctly every time.
Not really surprising for an Ubisoft game, the savegame system is a mess. For one, you only get one save slot, even though (or maybe because) the game is offering alternative choices, paths and endings. If you want to see them all, you'll either have to replay the whole game (90% of which will stay the same) or watch whatever you missed on youtube. Secondly, the game auto-saves after completed missions, but it doesn't automatically save any progress in open world gameplay like money, items, collectibles you've gathered. Instead, additionally to the auto-saving and checkpoints, it introduces manual saving. Which might sound awesome at first, until you realize that this doesn't actually save your position in the gameworld, just your status and the things you've acquired in open world gameplay. So it's more of a chore to make sure you won't lose any progress, instead of being any help to you. All of this could very well have been integrated into the auto-save function and it wouldn't have made a difference, apart from removing the risk that you might lose hours of progress just because you forgot to manually save your status in a game that otherwise relies on checkpoints and auto-saves.
Also, there is a known issue with the game stalling for many players after they've beaten the final boss in the fifth Shangri-La mission, that you can only avoid by setting the overall graphics quality to Low. Similarly unsurprising for Ubisoft, they know about this since last year and still didn't offer any fixes for it so far. So be sure to lower your graphics setting before you undertake that mission, unless you want to run the risk of having to replay it over and over again. (The five Shangri-La missions, btw, set in another time in a mythological realm, were visually and atmospherically a great concept, but I didn't enjoy them all that much.)
- Mostly awesome open world gameplay, just like FC3 but with beautiful mountains and kick-ass elephants. If you like that, play FC4.
- Unoriginal, horribly cynical hoax of a story with lame attempts at any kind of commetary, whatever it would be aimed at, in any case it's not meaningful. You won't miss anything in that regard if you skip FC4.
- Ubisoft issues: Don't forget to manually save every progress you make while doing open world stuff like hunting for collectibles and crafting materials. And lower your graphics settings before you do the fifth Shangri-La mission, to avoid the risk of a crash.
Post edited May 17, 2016 by Leroux