I rarely abandon games. Mainly because of the infamous “sunk cost fallacy”: I spent money on this, thus I must play it in its entirety to get all of my money’s worth. Even for a person like me who doesn’t buy a lot of games these days, there’s that fear of wanting to not let even a game I bought on deep discount go to waste. With that thought process in mind, I would drag myself through a game that I wasn’t thoroughly invested in, just to see the ending and sit through a 30 minute long credits sequence.
This post talks about my most recent case of suffering from that sunk cost fallacy. Amusingly, it’s a sequel to a game that I’ve written about on this very blog in 2014, the year that game’s sequel came out.
Far Cry 4 is a game that basically pulled a bait-and-switch on me and a friend, and in many cases did things backwards compared to the previous game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. How can a sequel bungle so many things that the previous game got right? Well, let me explain why this game is a disappointment to me.
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There are a handful of games I own that fall into this category of “here to play it in co-op with friends” than to be invested in the story or the characters. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about the game’s world, but I tend to use it more as a social experience to talk with friends rather than anything to be deeply invested in.
For me, Destiny 2 is a good example: While there’s a unique, interesting world with a rather neat amount of lore to it, I honestly couldn’t care less about any of it. Thus I just roam around areas and kill enemies with friends. Most “looter shooters” fall into this format with me, but at least Bungie makes up for it with cool designs and some rather picturesque visuals.
Friend of the site Bobinator from Hardcore Gaming 101 suggested that I get Far Cry 4 way back in mid-2018 as it would fit that criteria of “playing it in co-op with friends.” It being on deep discount for $13 probably helped too. The two of us have played games like the Saints Row series entirely in co-op and we had a fun time playing through them. Far Cry has a similar free-roaming nature of causing chaos in a digital world, so I took the plunge. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for one, the beginning was not available to play in co-op. We both had to finish Act One solo, which were little more than extended tutorial sections. Going through the game’s mechanics, doing a few side missions, and knowing a bit more backstory to the game’s events. After the two of us played the campaign by ourselves at our own pace for an hour to “unlock” co-op, we decided to try again a few days later.
The second time around, I joined his session and we started messing around with the various activities that the game had on offer. From simple hunting missions, to assassination missions, to liberating outposts, we were exploring the world of Kyrat. Though, we got frustrated in spots as certain missions didn’t have clear instructions, or had rather strict rules to fulfill, depending on the side mission we were playing.
While we were kinda bored while playing, we tried the game once more a few days later. More of the same as before: Random missions, capturing outposts, wondering when the next story mission was gonna unlock. For a while, we assumed that it would be like Just Cause 2 where you had to fulfill a number of side missions before the next one could be unlocked. After another session of frustration and exhaustion, we tapped out once again.
After that session, I figured something wasn’t quite right. Later that day, I hopped into the game solo and suddenly, icons for story missions in the world showed up. I started doing further research and found out Ubisoft tricked the both of us.
The “co-op” in Far Cry 4 only lets you and a buddy finish side missions and capture outposts, there was no campaign co-op to be seen. Nowhere on the store pages for Far Cry 4 on Steam or Uplay point this out, simply “Explore the world of Kyrat together.”
Needless to say, we were both disappointed and also frustrated that Ubisoft touted a feature that would appeal to both of us, yet did not clarify that it was going to be a half-baked version of said feature. Knowing that our hopes of exploring the story of Far Cry 4 together were basically ruined by this news, my friend bailed out of the game, while I decided to stick to it by myself. Turns out the bait and switch co-op was only the tip of the iceberg.
Far Cry 4’s plot is fairly bog standard: You play as Ajay Ghale, who takes his mother’s ashes to the land of Kyrat where he grew up, but gets captured by Pagan Min, the leader of the island. Having to fight for his life, he meets up with the Golden Path, a rebel faction that’s trying to stop Pagan Min’s dominance over Kyrat and to take it back to the people. It’s not as off-putting as Far Cry 3’s story of douchebro college student turned violent psychopath, but it does feel a bit more cliched here.
There are parts of the story that are somewhat ridiculous, such as the moral quandaries of “should we preserve this opium factory or destroy it,” and which option would have that leader of the Golden Path – Amita or Sabal — trust Ajay. A lot of the story missions give weird illusion of choice, which reminds me of me suffering through Far Cry 2 years ago where my mercenary buddy would ask me to do something on the side in addition to the main mission, which most of the time was never worth it.
I eventually met a character named Willis who was written like your typical American CIA hardass who makes such jokes as “you need to be discreet like a Republican living in San Francisco” which isn’t really that funny. This is also ironic, considering Ubisoft likes to play the “our games cover political things but we are not trying to be political” card when it’s clear they have a certain political bias. I mean, this is the same company that literally publishes games under the Tom Clancy brand, a famous author known for his conservative military fetish.
The core gameplay loop of Far Cry 4 is similar to as the previous game: Capture outposts and radio towers to unlock parts of the world, while occasionally hunting and doing side missions to get XP and leveling up. There’s still shooting, upgrading skills, crafting items to hold more ammo or to give temporary buffs like damage resistance. It’s a bit more streamlined in spots, but it’s essentially the same as before.
That doesn’t sound too bad, right? I enjoyed Far Cry 3 all those years ago, even when I sounded down on it when I wrote about it back then, more of the same isn’t always that bad. It’s a shame that Ubisoft made rather bizarre design decisions that make the game more frustrating than fun.
For instance, it feels like Ajay is made of paper, as it doesn’t take much for him to die, even on the game’s normal difficulty. There’s body armor to resist some damage and some upgrades to give him more health, but it still doesn’t take much for him to die, sometimes falling from rather low heights causes him to crater to his death. This is something that was also prevalent in Far Cry 3, and it sucks that they didn’t really address it except making it a little bit easier to make healing syringes.
While Far Cry as a franchise is basically considered a shooter, it’s always had some light stealth elements in it. Enemies have a meter that fills up if they start to spot you, alarms will bring reinforcements, that kind of stuff. For Far Cry 4, somebody had the genius idea of having Assassination side missions alongside several of the story missions require Ajay to sneak through without getting spotted, otherwise the mission fails.
Quick question for those of you reading this: Can you think of a single video game that had a “mission failed if you get spotted” stealth mechanic that was well-implemented and good? Trick question, there are none. In my memory of playing Far Cry 3, there was only a few small sections that had these, so for Ubisoft to stick with them and make them more prevalent seems rather baffling.
As I kept playing, Far Cry 4 just started being an absolute chore to play, as I kept doing stuff to get to the next story mission. While doing certain missions, I was often stopped dead in my tracks with various side junk that gives me karma for the Golden Path.
Such examples of these karma-filling events include stuff like stopping enemies from invading outposts I just liberated. Stopping an enemy supply truck and delivering it to a destination. Stopping an enemy courier who has “valuable information.” Jumping in to help Golden Path allies stop enemies or animal invasions. While these are all optional, you’re encouraged to do them due to this superfluous karma system, and it just bogs the game down considerably.
As I kept playing, Far Cry 4 basically became my new “podcast game” – a game I absentmindedly play while listening to the Giant Bombcast, Sawbones or It Was a Thing on TV – but I just wasn’t enjoying myself while playing it. The closest I got to having some fun was doing some of the hunting challenges to upgrade my inventory, and even that was a chore to go through, killing enough yaks and rhinos with a bow to get double the skins and extra Karma. I just wasn’t having any fun with it, what with all the ridiculous grind, the questionable design decisions and the hackneyed plot.
I don’t play a lot of Ubisoft’s games these days, and I think I figured out why.
I’m reminded of when I played through The Crew in 2016 and Watch_Dogs in 2017, and how those two games had a lot of the same problems Far Cry 4 does: Having so much unnecessary junk and questionable game mechanics slapped with an upgrade system and finding towers to unlock new areas. It feels like Ubisoft is just reskinning their games to have the same gameplay loop in each one, whether you’re an assassin in colonial times, a guy with a cool car, or Aiden Pierce and his Iconic Cap in modern-day Chicago.
There’s an article from the amazing Point & Clickbait called “Ubisoft Game: The Review” that I recommend you read. While Point & Clickbait is a satire site, a lot of the arguments made here matched my experience with those Ubisoft games to a T. Feeling similar to one another gameplay wise, with nothing really to stand out besides the story.
I realized I was going through this gameplay loop once more as I completed Act Two — presumably the game’s halfway point. I had to ask myself something, which brings me back to the beginning of this post: Am I enjoying myself with Far Cry 4, or am I just playing this so I didn’t feel like I wasted $13? It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been duped by that sunk cost fallacy, thus I abandoned Far Cry 4. I could honestly be playing anything else, even a different free-roaming game that doesn’t feel like every other Ubisoft game.
Honestly, I’m starting to appreciate Far Cry 3 more after playing 4 for a good amount of time. While the story in 3 felt tonally inconsistent and the game had a fair share of the same problems here, I was having more fun. Playing Far Cry 4 just felt like a chore, and games shouldn’t feel like a slog to play.
In all honesty, I wish Far Cry would go back to its roots of the first game and the Xbox-exclusive Far Cry Instincts and be more like a linear first-person shooter. At least that would be refreshing compared to the cookie-cutter formula Ubisoft has crafted out of their games. It’s why I’m not really jonesing to play Far Cry 5 or New Dawn, and I’m not even hyped for Far Cry 6 despite having Giancarlo Esposito in it. I’m just done with Ubisoft’s style of free-roaming games.
I might come back to Far Cry 4 and finish it some day, but for now I’m willing to play anything else. Perhaps I need to find a mediocre-to-bad game to enjoy instead. To me, that’s the kind of catharsis I need after playing Far Cry 4 at this point.
I can’t really recommend playing Far Cry 4, especially if you’re familiar with the Ubisoft free-roaming formula. It’s just another one of those, and I don’t really need another one of those.