Saturday, January 19, 2013

Far Cry 3: Character Progression and Pacing Done Right


     When it comes to games, impulse buys are few and far between for me. Usually I follow games that pop up on my radar from announcement to release date. Trying to gain as much knowledge as possible about a title before picking it up, just to make sure I'm not throwing 60 dollars down the toilet. I think anyone invested in the medium of video games can sympathize with the pain of waiting for a game for 6 months to a year only to be truly disappointed with the final product for any number of reasons. Far Cry 3 was just the opposite for me. While it was something I was intrigued by it never really grasped my attention till the final moments before it's release. Somewhat reluctantly I picked it up on release day and can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am beyond satisfied with my purchase. Though it came out at the tail end of the year I would gladly name this as my 2012 Game of the Year.

Here are just a few reasons why.

The Motivation of Feeling Powerless

     At the outset of Far Cry 3 you're essentially a mild mannered every-man. A twenty-something without a care in the world on vacation with a some close friends and a few members of your family. In an instant your fun becomes fear. The familiar party of characters you're traveling with is ripped away from you by a group of human-trafficking-rebels inhabiting the small pair of islands you've been brought to and there is seemingly nothing you can do about it.

     After the intro cut-scene you wake up in a cage, tied up, and staring at your older brother. An odd feeling of powerlessness slips over you as one of the games antagonists belittles you with insults and tells you what lies in your future. Vaas, the aforementioned antagonist, is one of the best voiced characters I've ever encountered in my 20 years of gaming. He also happens incredibly animated. But, more importantly, his confidence and the conviction in his words really drives home the idea that there isn't anything you can do to stop him. He's insane; He knows it, he wants you to know it, and at this point you're pretty sure of it.

     That powerlessness is something we see a lot in games but this is one of the first times that I personally have actually felt it. It's an incredible, albeit cliched, motivator. The way it's presented in Far Cry 3 is second to none and a feeling you'll carry through much of the early game.

The Realization of Potential

     Shortly after your great escape you're brought to one of the main towns on one of the islands and given a gun with a handful of bullets. The relief of just having a weapon brings back some semblance of power and now the island is essentially yours to explore. You quickly realize that,  for now, you're relegated to carrying only one gun. Your Gaming Instinct kicks in and you ask yourself  "How do I carry more guns?" Well, my foraging friend, you've gotta go hunt! The island is inhabited by a few dozen types of animals that aren't just for atmosphere. Finding, killing, and skinning animals is one of the keys to becoming more powerful. It allows you to upgrade all kinds of stuff from the amount of grenades you can carry to expanding your on-person inventory.

     While initially most of the island isn't "safe" to wander around just yet, you're free to upgrade almost every facet of your inventory right from the get go. I had almost all my inventory upgrades before I was even a quarter through the game. Where most games have you unlock these kind of things sequentially Far Cry allows you to work at your own pace. Do you want to upgrade almost everything now? Go ahead! Want to wait till the upgrade seems more necessary? Feel free to wait! This freedom lets you control some of the pacing of the game and can have a large effect on how you deal with enemies.

     This again is a mechanic that a lot of games have had in the past. Far Cry tinkers with the idea and lets you decide when the time is right.

The Monster You Will Become

     Slaughtering faceless minions is a staple in games and you'll do your fair share of it here. But, very few of those games make you feel the implications of the bloodbath you bestow on whatever given world you've entered. While Far Cry really only touches on it in dialogue, it's a nice change of pace. Your friends start to worry about your sudden violent turn, addressing the fact that you've turned into someone else.Someone so far from who you were at the start of this adventure. It's a slight nuance that I wish more games would introduce.

     In game like Skyrim for example, you could assassinate an entire town without much need to worry aside from having to pay a bounty. After you've payed your fine no one is any more fearful of you than before. There's no real meaning behind those actions. Admittedly, Skyrim is an incredible game in it's own right. But something even that subtle could make it a much deeper and meanigful experience.

The Payoff

By the end of your time with Far Cry you'll be powerful and smart enough to dispatch large groups of minions with out much trouble. You'll learn to stalk your prey and pick and choose how to encounter different situations. You'll find hidden temples and caves. You'll hang glide over mountains and take out a few of the most fully realized villains in modern gaming. Rarely have I been so impressed with every facet of a game. From the production value to the minute to minute gameplay Far Cry 3 is an incredible game that will give you exactly what you put into it.

There's so much more that I didn't get into here. I hope, if you haven't already, you go out and pick it up for yourself. It's a uniquely wild ride from beginning to end and well worth your money.

-Nuff out.