Far Cry never changes. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” says the old adage, but familiarity can also be a hallmark of the comfortable. An old sofa that sags on one side, a worn-in pair of kicks, a blanket that’s soft as hell, but doesn’t keep you warm. These things aren’t always the best, but they are familiar.
Jumping into Far Cry 6 feels just like that. Shooting, running, driving, and wingsuiting, and being an inhuman monster remain largely the same as the previous entries, but there’s still fun in raising hell. This is Far Cry, with a “6” at the end instead of “5”, “4”, or “Primal.” Whether this is for good or ill is personal preference, but it still felt good going down for me.
Far Cry 6 introduces players to Yara, a fictional version of Cuba with the serial numbers filed off. Our standard philosophical Far Cry antagonist is Anton Castillo, portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, The Mandalorian, School Daze). Castillo staged a military coup and took over the production of Viviro, a cancer-curing wonder drug made from a tobacco plant that only grows in Yara. To keep Viviro production high, Castillo’s regime has cracked down on the populace, drafting citizens in the security forces or farming operations.
You step into the shoes of Dani Rojas — no, not the one from Ted Lasso — an orphan with military training who just wants to leave Yara for the sunny shores of America. (You can choose a male or female Dani, and both iterations are fully voiced.) When pure chance sees Dani’s friends dead and ruins their escape route, it’s time to become a guerilla.
Can you name the protagonists of Far Cry 3, 4, or 5? I can, but I’d hazard that most folks remember the villains more than the protagonists. This is probably the biggest shift in Far Cry 6. Dani Rojas is much more of a fleshed-out and well-defined character. Dani has a wry humor and sense of duty, but also a feeling of warmth to their interactions with the new, younger revolutionaries and their older counterparts. The character is much closer to an Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs protagonist, rather than previous Far Cry heroes.
It largely works too. I like Dani Rojas. I empathize with Dani enough that I actually choose to bail on the conflict in the beginning because I honestly felt they had already suffered enough in the opening section. The specific mechanics of the plot don’t rise to the occasion in the same way that the character writing does, but I did want to see where Dani’s journey would take them. While most Far Cry protagonists are ciphers or blank brushes that players use to paint their violent portrait upon the world, Dani is a person. It’s a move that’s not Far Cry at all, and I honestly think it works.
In contrast, Castillo has minimal presence. Castillo and Dani meet in the early hours, but otherwise, Castillo doesn’t even directly acknowledge or interact with his nemesis. Instead, the game cuts back to the dictator randomly over the course of the campaign, where he gets to soliloquize on his view of the world and pull his son, Diego, further into his machinations. It’s a departure from the cat-and-mouse play of previous games, benefiting the hero more than the villain. It feels like a waste not to connect Esposito to Dani more directly and allow the pair to verbally spar.
Who actually plays a Far Cry game for the story though? Most tend to enjoy the barely-contained chaos that this series brings to the table. Far Cry 6 is the kind of game where you set a group of soldiers on fire, cause a helicopter to go careening out of the sky with El Zeus, a gun that literally shoots lightning, and then die in the escape attempt as you wingsuit right into a tree. That kind of action is still present here and it’s why Far Cry remains a blast to play.
Ubisoft has made a few tweaks here and there though. First, the perks and skill trees of previous entries are gone, replaced with a gear system. Each item of gear has various effects and benefits when equipped. The system is poorly tuned though, as some effects are necessary — like causing Dani to put out flames or minimizing poison damage — and others are entirely throwaway. Boots that improve fire resistance after sliding feel so wildly specific that they needed another pass, adding a more distinct and useful effect.
Likewise, the weapon system allows you to fully customize most guns. You can sub in different ammo types to deal more damage to unarmored or armored targets, or deal poison damage. There’s a variety of scopes, lasersight, and suppressors to add, and mod slots to improve things like reloading speed or damage in certain scenarios. (One cool thing is suppressors actually overheat with repeated shots, bringing the gun back to its full noise level and preventing you from spamming fire from the shadows.)
The problem with this system is twofold though. One, you can only carry three weapons and a sidearm at a time, so you’ll have to swap out weapons frequently for certain enemies and encounters. This means you’ll find yourself living in menus, trying to remember which assault rifle or sniper is your anti-vehicle model. Also, ammo itself is too scarce; I tend to slowly clear regions, tackling outposts back-to-back, but I frequently had to stop in-between to refill ammo.
This is combined with a new healing system that pushes you into cover more. There are no healing items in Far Cry 6. Instead, you recover health by hiding behind cover. You can bank a charge of full health, but the healing animations are too long in a packed firefight and you only have one. This new healing system and scarce ammo broke my open-world combat flow, with waiting behind cover and scrounging for ammo preventing me from hitting location after location.
One change that doesn’t feel like compromise is enemy density. Far Cry 5 was brimming with cultists and wildlife to the point that you never had a free minute, and that constant action can be exhausting. In Far Cry 6, there are Guerilla Paths, dirt roads helpfully marked in blue where you can get around the islands untouched. You can also holster your weapon and pass by most soldiers unseen. It returns the choice to engage back to the player, and that’s a wholly welcome change.
That freedom is important because Far Cry 6 is huge. The map itself recalls the tropical nature of Far Cry 3 and the small town flavor of Far Cry 5 in a single locale. What I do miss is the more game-y split between the regions in the previous game: Far Cry 5’s Whitetail Mountains and Holland Valley offered very different styles of ground cover and flora. In Far Cry 6, it feels like a mix of jungle and small town. That’s not to say there’s no difference in the regions. Between the white bluffs of Cruz del Salvador and the strip-mined pollution of La Joya, you’ll notice a lot of change, but the overall setting feels more holistically the same.
And the campaign itself will drag you across this landscape multiple times. Once you clear each major region, there’s a second half of the campaign that drags a bit. I still had fun in the moment-to-moment play, but there’s definitely a feeling of “we can wrap this up now, folks.” That said, Ubisoft has moved a lot of the game into the optional category. In fact, you can beat the game without unlocking most of your animal companions, the Amigos, but you’d miss out. Imagine chasing after a glowing demon chicken while it attacks people and pottery, or doing an Indiana Jones-style dive into a cursed tomb. Some of the missions in that latter half and optional sections are fantastic, but I did definitely feel there was a bit of fat to trim.
Far Cry 6, for all its steps forward and back, is probably the best the series has ever been. There are things I’d like to tweak, but it brings together everything that has defined this era of Far Cry together into one package. It’s comfort food, a crass game saying nothing but providing mindless fun all the same. Sometimes, that’s all you want.
As I round the end of Far Cry 6, I acknowledge that we’ve reached the end of the formula. The next game will probably need to shift with the times. (Of course, Ubisoft is probably realizing that too, meaning the next real change probably won’t be until Far Cry 7 in 2024-2025.) Until then, this game is still a blast to play. If you tire of Far Cry, nothing has changed here. If you’re not, welcome to the revolution.