America is divided. It’s been this way for a long time, but with the advent of social media, it’s easier to see than ever before. Politics and religion separate us into cute little groups and as a result, we attach far too much importance to ourselves and our beliefs.
Being a huge Far Cry fan and a big advocate for staying the hell away from politics, I was on the fence as to whether or not to be excited about Far Cry 5. It was advertised as being pretty political. And in a time where politics have become the life-blood of almost everyone, it didn’t seem like my cup o’ tea. But what was I going to do, not play a game because of a possible political undertone? That would be mighty political of me and I wasn’t about to take part in that. Plus, worst case scenario, I’d get some awesome gameplay alongside the propaganda. So I got on the PlayStation store and downloaded it.
It took me a couple of hours (or more) to get into it, but not for the reasons I thought. I wasn’t being bombarded with political rhetoric and messages, I was simply not ready for a Far Cry game to take place in Montana. If you’re reading this, I likely don’t need to tell you the norm in terms of location. Needless to say, this was a far cry from the usual Far Cry.
After warming up to the location, I was comfortably (and even excitedly) roaming around the map, completing various story missions and acquiring side quest. I explored lakes, mountains, caves, outposts, and the skies and was having a blast.
If there’s one common complaint I hear most often about the game, it’s the contrast between the sandbox side of things and the central story, the latter feeling a bit too serious when compared to side quests like gathering up animal testicles for a cook-off. This is understandable, but I honestly saw it as a nice (if somewhat forced) change-up from time to time. I’d be in the middle of kicking some ass when a cutscene would drag me back into the story. But It really didn’t take long for me to be invested.
So what is the story of Far Cry 5? Again, if you’re reading this, you probably already know. Here’s the short version:
- You are a sheriff’s deputy new to the location’s PD.
- You’re trying to stop a cult from harassing, terrorizing, and ultimately taking over.
- You do this in typical Far Cry fashion, by forming an alliance with the good guys, and trying to stop the bad guys by completing several missions in the form of taking back the town through any means necessary. And I do mean any means necessary.
Here’s the thing about that. At some point in the game when I was over halfway through, I had a realization. Whether or not this was intentional, I’m not sure, but you seem to be controlling a character who blindly follows the town’s brand of justice.
Yes, technically you are trying to take back what is being stolen from you: the town, but you never stop to ponder whether or not the change is good. Though the decision structure was basic at best in the previous Far Cry games, it’s pretty non-existent here.
The cult leaders come off as evil cliches, but they have some very, very interesting things to say about the world we currently live in. And while it would be easy to dismiss them as psychotic, they often call you out on the fact that you are doing far more damage than they are.
And what exactly are you fighting for in the grand scheme of things? To keep a bunch of local townsfolk happy and stuck in their ways of eating testicles and killing pigs for the sheer sake of practicing your skills while you’re high on speed (yes, that’s a mission)? In a very generalized question: Is what you’re fighting for worth fighting for? The community of non-cultists is far from peaceful. The cult’s ultimate goal is to separate from the over-indulgence of technology and status-obsession. Sounds pretty damn good to me.
On the other side of things, at their worst the cult doesn’t really take kindly to opposition. They use a powerful herb/drug called Bliss to make opposers “see the light”. Yes, it’s technically brainwashing which is not cool, and it bears an eery resemblance to forced advertisements on the Internet, TV, and radio. We have a choice to turn it off, but I challenge you to go a day without seeing an advertisement. Does it feel worse when you actively try to get away from it, but can’t?
We all deserve the freedom to choose our life path, but when it really comes down to it, is the society we live in all that different? It’s comfortable, sure. But it’s confined to a general lifestyle that, if you don’t choose to accept, you are ridiculed and made to feel like an outcast. Not as brainwashy as forcing you to inhale a drug that makes you do things “the right way”, but it comes pretty close when you’re a weirdo for not having a Facebook account.
Before I get too far down the political rabbit hole and potentially give myself a nasty label like “cultist” or “peggie”, this is just one take on the game. I’ve heard the other side. Particularly in an article by The Verge that was less choosing a side and more ridiculing the game for being too cliche and incoherent in its political themes (you can read it here). I do feel like the article was a bit harsh in their argument. If looking at the game in black and white terms (i.e. This part is political, and this part is not), it appears messy. But there’s a lot going on under the surface that (to me) does a fine job of staying in your head.
As the game progressed, I found myself having a nasty feeling inside when I had to carry out yet another mission to destroy cult artifacts/outposts/etc. I didn’t like helping the people who seemed very “Get ‘r done” about everything. They refused to pay a second thought to the fact that maybe they are missing out on a great opportunity to say no to society’s general B.S. and be a part of something that actively tries to make a change.
But alas, this is just a video game. If given the opportunity in real life to join a cult that had a good general philosophy, but brainwashed anyone who opposed them, I’d likely not jump aboard that train. However, if stripped of aggression towards non-believers, I definitely think they’d deserve an audience.