After a week of teases, Ubisoft has officially taken the wraps off of Far Cry 5. The first in the franchise set in America, it will have players building a resistance to a doomsday cult in the isolated and fictional Hope County, Montana. It's coming to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 27, 2018, and will mark the return of Far Cry's map editor. I spoke with creative director Dan Hay about the inspiration for this story, how it hopes to portray a setting more close-to-home, and its political overtones.
To understand Montana, Hay and his team took several research trips, totalling two weeks of constant travel meeting locals from all walks of life. For him, the key element is portraying the state's residents as real people with differing perspectives, life experiences, and points-of-view.
"The key thing that I took away from it was that we met real people," Hay said. "What we want to be able to do is to make it so you're meeting characters in this world, it's not just a caricature. They're real people, they have real things to say, they have a real life, they listen to the radio, they have opinions. It really felt like you got pearls of true wisdom from some of these folks. We were fly fishing–I'd never been fly fishing before–and after about a half-hour he leans over and says, these trout don't live in ugly places. I was like, that's a t-shirt. The danger is we can't turn that into a cliche, it has to be real people."
The richness of the team's experiences actually influenced how Far Cry 5 was written. Hay pointed out that most Far Cry games have one lead writer, but the team had split into different research teams and all came back with different anecdotes. As a result, he said, they decided to create a writer's room to collaborate on the story from all of their experiences.
The setting and characters seem pointedly aimed at modern politics. "Faith, Freedom, Firearms" reads the slogan for Hope County. Hay recognizes that interpretation, but claimed it's not meant as any direct response to current events.
"Anybody who's living in the states, who's aware of this right now, could take a snapshot and say, 'oh, it's about this.' But we've been working on this for three years. The core idea, the characters, the cult has existed for three years, and has been in the oven baking. So I think when people get their hands on the product they'll understand. There's not one idea in the game, there's tons of ideas. You're going to meet characters who have opinions about what's happening right now. You're going to meet characters who don't give a shit. You're going to meet people who argue with each other. There's not one through-put about that."
Players will be a new junior deputy who gets caught up in a coup from the Project at Eden's Gate cult. Led by a fanatical and charismatic leader, the Father believes that a calamity is coming, and has been quietly marshalling his forces to prepare for it for years. The primary characters as seen in the promotional art are members of the Father's family, each of whom has a specific specialty they bring to the organization. The game kicks off with the Father's plans suddenly accelerating into a full-blown takeover of the county, attempting to save its citizens by any means necessary–including taking them by force. Players will have to find sympathetic members of the resistance to join their cause and liberate the area.
"We built a leader who believes that a calamity is coming, and that he's been chosen to protect the people that he can," Hay said. "He's willing to take steps that you or I would consider way outside the norm, because he believes that once he takes you and you survive that collapse, you'll wake up and say, 'oh okay, the ends justify the means.' Our story, our experiences, our timing is about that. The location made sense because we met people who just wanted to be left alone."
How exactly this collapse is supposed to manifest itself is less clear–whether it means societal collapse and food scarcity, or the more supernatural fire-and-brimstone variety. Hay was tight-lipped about what the Father believes, but also suggested the answer may not be cut-and-dried.
"When we were doing our research, we were looking for an answer on that. How binary is it? How specific is it? A lot of times what we're learning is it's not specific at all," Hay said. "A lot of times in cults the language shifts. On Monday a collapse means this but on Friday it means something totally different. I can't go into what it means for us, but I can talk about his beliefs. His beliefs are simply that this voice has told him that it's coming and it wasn't specific about how. He doesn't know the date or how it's going to come about. He just knows that he has this feeling and he has to go and save as many people as he can."