Let me preface this by saying that there will not be any major plot spoilers. That being said, we already know that the Seed brothers and sister have to die so I will be addressing some of those moments below. Unlike much of the rest of the internet, I find Far Cry 5’s story to be pretty alright. When played as a cohesive series of events, with the proper build up and pacing, it’s much easier to sit back and appreciate it. However, Ubisoft also had to focus on making an entire game world that was fun and packed to the brim with things to do, to the point that everything you did led you to something else that wasn’t a part of the story. So instead of this very personal tale about the mindset of these cult leaders who all genuinely believe they are doing the right thing, we get a disjointed experience where, by the time the player starts running out of other things to do or accidentally triggers the next story event, the main plot seems like it is getting in the way.
I don’t fault Ubisoft for focusing on making the game fun. To their credit, I’ve never been motivated enough to finish a Far Cry game prior to five. This was the first entry that gave me things I liked to do in a setting that appealed to me. However, the game gets in the way of the story. Almost everything you do will fill a bar you’re probably not paying much attention to that shows how much damage you’re doing to the cult in each area. Eventually, you hit thresholds that cause you to be kidnapped and progress the story. On multiple occasions I was on my way to another mission or speaking to an NPC, only to be pulled out of what I was doing and into this decidedly less interesting story event.
But Chris, you’re wondering, how is the story event less interesting if you liked the story? Well, dear reader, it’s because I was already doing something. I was choosing not to do the story. Maybe I was trying to get a new companion or was trying to get to the next prepper stash so I could grab a few extra skill points and some cash. Regardless of the reason, this was number one on my list of things to do and the game forcefully removed me from it. Imagine exploring a game like Breath of the Wild, but once you cleared a few Bokoblin camps the game knocked out Link and brought him to one of the Divine Beast dungeons and forced him to complete a combat challenge. Now imagine it did this four times before you could even attempt the dungeon, repeatedly pulling you away from whatever you’re doing to complete this forced combat dungeon with your only reward being a brief interaction with a charismatic (depending on the person) villain.
Yeah…that would ruin the game. Luckily this doesn’t ruin Far Cry 5, but it requires you to take a different approach to playing the game. I completed the majority of tasks and events in John’s territory and, unsurprisingly, didn’t really appreciate much of the story to that point. When I got to Faith’s region I instead focused on getting to her as quickly as possible. I still had a few instances where it pulled me out of whatever I was doing, but I was prepared this time. I started to have a greater appreciation for how the story was playing out, for how each time I killed a member of this family Joseph seemed to be breaking down a bit more in his brief segments afterward. I did the same for Jacob, who was clearly the least interesting of the three siblings and ultimately had a better time.
Is it okay that I had to alter my play to improve the story? Absolutely not, but I ultimately enjoyed my later hours in the game playing this way more than I had in my opening hours, so all’s well that ends well I guess. The story itself, when played “properly” is actually pretty good. The Seed family is interesting (though Jacob is a low point) and though the cult itself is just worthless fodder, they make it feel threatening and powerful. Learning the flaws of each family member including their strengths, their weaknesses, and their quirks, makes it feel more personal when you take them down. I remember an instance where Faith began breaking down a bit, her veil lifted and I got to see the real Faith, not Faith Seed. She was emotionally vulnerable, clearly how Joseph was able to make her play along to his tune.
I suppose it’s those character stories that are the real star. I remember when I killed the last Seed sibling and watched Joseph, addressing the cult I assume, breaking down emotionally. Tears began to flow as he raised his voice and shouted about me killing his family. Snot actually ran from his nose (nice touch Ubisoft) and his eyes were puffy and red, but he quickly composed himself, saying that this was all a test from God. What once seemed like delusions of grandeur suddenly felt more real. It wasn’t that Joseph believed these things, it’s that he started to make me believe them through his blind determination and unyielding motivation. Along with the events that followed (again, no spoilers), well, he might be onto something.
I remember John and how he took my resistance of him personally, how he would grow more agitated as he spoke with me. He had to resist ending me, lest Joseph lose faith in him and his ability. I remember how Jacob treated me more as a tool than a person, constantly telling me I was insignificant in the grand scheme and how he was willing to die if it came down to it. He, unlike the others, had no fear of me and it was his greatest strength. And then there was Faith, who, before I broke her down to her core, truly believed she could convert me to their ways (with the help of Bliss but I digress). She would greet me with a smile every time she pulled me into her field of Bliss and try to show me why I was making a mistake, tried to show me how much happier people were with her.
The overarching plot of a cult taking over a county in Montana is a small piece of a bigger puzzle. In regards to that plot, the game mostly fails to deliver on the premise. Instead, they opt for those personal stories which I believe are much more satisfying. The events that happen within the confines of this cult-controlled territory is far more interesting than the fact that the cult controls it. So yes, Far Cry 5 does fall short in some of its storytelling and how it tells that story. It struggles to find a proper balance or an elegant way to drive players to that content, instead opting to force their hand. That being said, if you take the time to prioritize the story, it’s actually pretty satisfying. Not something you’ll be talking about come the end of the year, but it does enough that by the time the credits roll you’ll have more than a few “wow” moments and a few things to think about as you jump back in to do everything else.