Far Cry 4 to Have Deeper Faction Conflicts and a More Reactive Open World

Elephant man.

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When Ubisoft Montreal first approached the conception of Far Cry 4, the conversation did not include elephants, mountains, or snow. The team thought about staying on Far Cry 3's Rook Islands, bringing back Jason Brody as the protagonist, and plumbing the depths of how that experience could be evolved.

"Everybody was like, that's the worst idea I've ever heard," said Dan Hay, Far Cry 4's executive producer. Speaking to GameSpot, Hay described how the team wanted to discover new places and characters along with players themselves. So they dreamed up a new, hypothetical experience not yet seen in a Far Cry game: riding an elephant, smashing through the wooden doors of a giant outpost, and taking it over--in co-op mode. "Making a weaponised animal, that's a living tank, was the first thing that we saw," said Hay.

The team then introduced new items and mechanics to add to what Hay calls the "fractal of fun": a grappling hook, vehicular takedowns, the ability to shoot whilst driving, throwable bait for wild animals (smartly lifted from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon), and a pilotable gyrocopter. But Hay also hints at how the team is making changes to the broader, less-tangible elements of Far Cry. Here are four things we picked up on, most of which Hay was restricted from elaborating on until Gamescom, despite our most intimidating Vaas impersonation.

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1. DEEPER FACTION CONFLICTS

In Far Cry 2, the game's two opposing factions did not communicate with each other or come into conflict in the open world. They also shot you on sight, even though you alternated between working for them. Far Cry 3's faction system improved upon this, with the friendly Rakyat and Vaas' hostile henchmen often engaging in firefights entirely of their own accord. But as you traversed the Rook Islands and liberated each outpost from Vaas' control, there was little sense that your revolt was making its way back to Vaas himself. It's something Hay wants the team to react to in designing Far Cry 4.

"We want to try and make it about player choice," he says, cryptically. "There's not a lot that I can go into on that just yet. But I want to know that when I go out into the open world and meet Pagan Min and some of the other characters that are out there, if I align myself with someone and I start to feel an affinity for that character, that there's another character who feels slighted because of that.

If I go over to this outpost, and I take it over, and it was owned by somebody, maybe the person that secretly doesn't want that guy to do well calls me up and goes, 'Nice job. I've got another thing for you.'

"We want to be able to say that if I go over to this outpost, and I take it over, and it was owned by somebody, maybe the person that secretly doesn't want that guy to do well calls me up and goes, 'Nice job. I've got another thing for you.' Then, when you go to work the next day and you talk about it, your buddy goes, 'That's not the experience I had at all. Who are you talking about?'"

The focus on player choice and characters communicating their reactions to you is reminiscent of the way in which Far Cry 2 provided you with alternate ways of completing a mission that would give preference to one character's goals over another. If Far Cry 4 takes such a system and seeds it across the open world--not just the story missions--then you could have deeper motivations to liberate outposts, and experience broader systemic consequences across the open world itself.

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2. LESS-RESTRICTIVE STORY MISSIONS

Far Cry 3's story missions contained frequent moments that seemed to go against the spirit of Far Cry: you were bound to a small, arbitrary mission area, and control was frequently taken away so that first-person cutscenes could play out before you. This made Far Cry 3's story missions feel more restrictive than any of its open-world activities. When asked how Ubisoft plans to address this in Far Cry 4, Hay once again hinted at the team attempting to better integrate those story missions with the open world.

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"I think that making a story that is a complement to being able to go out and play in the open world is something that we're going to work hard at," he says. "Making characters that are enticing you to go out into the open world and are responsive to some of the things that you do when you're out there. And making characters and systems that know each other and talk to each other.

"There are still going to be moments where we're going to want to be able to protect the experience for technical reasons. But in the spirit of Far Cry, we definitely want it to be 'play the game you want.' We're going to continue listening to people playing the game. Things that really bug them. We're a responsive team; we're going to try and do our best to make sure you can play it your way, and in the end, the anecdotes are yours."

With the first look at Far Cry 4 focusing on the reveal of Pagan Min, a villain that appears to be attempting to recapture what gave Vaas such a strong presence, it will be interesting to see how Ubisoft balances the scripted performances of its characters with player choice and freedom.

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3. NO MORE METAPHORS

Far Cry 3's narrative attempted to comment on the nature of first-person shooter protagonists whilst drifting into surreal metaphors during key story points. Throughout this, Jason Brody vocalised internal commentary on the events--but his thoughts, and the game's subtext, never seemed to align for coherency and dramatic impact.

"It's a tricky thing," says Hay of such an approach to a vocal protagonist. "When you're playing a first-person shooter, you don't want the voice of the protagonist to not echo the sentiments of you when you're playing. We're going to try and be conscious of that, and make sure that if you're walking into a room, or a huge open space, and it is your reaction to go, 'Oh, this is amazing,' that you're going to get a 'Wow,' out of the character. But we also want to make sure it's not annoying; it's not getting in your face."

It's pretty cool to know your name is being used almost as a weapon.

Far Cry 3 attempted to align Jason Brody's exposure to weapons and escalating violence with that of you as a player. Hay says Far Cry 4 is taking a different approach by shifting this game's attempted player-protagonist alignment to the discovery of the game's environment.

"What's truly interesting about [Far Cry 4 protagonist] Ajay is that, culturally, he's learning about Kyrat in lockstep with the actual player," says Hay. "This is a guy who was from Kyrat and was carried away when he was 2 or 3 years old, and has very little, if any, memory of it. And now he goes back, effectively trying to smuggle himself in, and Pagan Min shows up, and knows who you are; he knows your last name. There's a history that he has with your family that you don't understand. And it's amazing to watch the players look at it and go, 'OK, what is it about me that makes me famous in Kyrat?' It's pretty cool to know your name is being used almost as a weapon."

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4. VERTICALITY WON'T MEAN VICTORY

Far Cry 3 fleshed out the series' stealth mechanics by providing very clear avenues for concealment. Thick shrubbery would break line of sight with enemies, whilst another stealth strategy that was almost too effective was to find a high point in the environment and stay there.

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"There were moments where you could game that," says Hay. "So we wanted to make the AI significantly smarter. If you are being stalked by a tiger, and you climb a ladder, the tiger won't just wander around--it will still act like a tiger. If you climb a ladder, the tiger goes, 'Okay, I can jump. I can climb.' They're going to be hyperreactive."

Far Cry 3 also encouraged stealthy players to dive underwater, as the tropical depths provided almost total camouflage. With Far Cry 4's new mountainous, snowy environment, Hay says the game will include new, environment-specific methods of concealment.

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