I’ve previously played enough of Far Cry 5  to already be on board with its stunning Montana setting, disturbing doomsday cult premise, freeform firefights and astonishingly addictive fly-fishing, but I came away from my latest hands-on with the game with a new appreciation of the efforts the narrative team at Ubisoft Montreal has made in terms of delivering a cohesive story that’s consistently compelling for the player, which is no mean feat within its massive sandbox littered with head-turning distractions.

It all starts with an opening that honestly can’t be recommended for anyone with high blood pressure.

As a junior police officer you begin the game flanked by the Hope County sheriff and a US Marshal in the back of a helicopter bound for the Church of Eden’s Gate, seeking to apprehend cult leader and main antagonist, Father Joseph Seed. Seed goes willingly, allowing you to slap the cuffs on him while calmly assuring his wild-eyed followers that God will not let you take him, but just as your chopper is taking off the mob turns violent, swarming the outside of the vessel like zombies as it struggles to get off the ground. A particularly devout disciple launches himself into the rotor blades and explodes into a red smear all over the windshield, sending the whirlybird crashing to earth and leaving you alone in a lawless landscape with all the roads leading out blocked, the phone lines cut, and no one coming to save you. It’s an incredibly tense introduction, and less than half an hour into the game I already felt hooked harder than the slowest sturgeon in the stream. (Did I mention how much I like the fishing?)

“The beginning of the game is quite straightforward but once you finish that, you can go in any direction and tackle any of the three regions; John, Jacob, or Faith,” explains narrative director Jean-Sebastian Decant, referring to the territories of the three family members that must be overthrown before the player can take down Father Joseph Seed. Each region has a different look and feel which in turn has a significant impact on the gameplay experience. From my time with the game, I’ve found the farming area of John’s region to be open and flat and lending itself to larger scale firefights and sniping, while Jacob’s region is mountainous and denser with foliage so there’s less visibility and a lot more wildlife.

 The player can choose to just stay within one region and systematically see it through to the end, or sidestep in and out of regions strengthening the local resistance and completing story missions at their leisure. Either way the development team has taken measures to ensure that despite the freedom of choice the overall narrative never feels disjointed or suffers any kind of chronological disorder.

We never want to keep reins on the player, we want to let them loose, let them enjoy the game the way they want to but then find ways to adapt the game to what the player is doing,” continues Decant.

“So characters will adjust what they say to you in cut scenes and also in the world, based on the actions you’ve done so far, to ensure that there’s continuity [no matter which order you tackle the story in]. We also adjust the story depending on what you choose to do first, and then there are a few [more substantial] branching paths here and there [based on player decisions].”

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