Narrative director Navid Khavari explains how Far Cry 6 examines fascism and revolution, and how Giancarlo Esposito stepped into the role of the dictator Anton Castillo.
In the debut trailer for Far Cry 6, the main antagonist Anton Castillo, president of the island of Yara, explains the chaotic nature of power in governing society to his teenage son Diego. His son is poised to take over when the time comes, but for now, Anton wants his son to understand his point of view. Using a hand grenade as a metaphor, the elder Castillo states that, "Our country is like this grenade, except it has two basic parts: the people, and you--and you must clutch them nice and tight. Or we all go boom."
Far Cry 6 is a game about politics and how radically different views inevitably lead to conflict. Set during an uprising in the country of Yara, which takes stylistic and historical inspiration from the island of Cuba, you'll join the rebel force made up of citizens to overthrow Anton Castillo and his regime. His ultimate goal is to bring the country out of its period of stagnation and into a supposed new age of prosperity, even if it means oppressing and enslaving the country's citizens to do it. Since Far Cry 3, the franchise has enjoyed putting its villains front and center, giving them plenty of time to explain their philosophies in elaborate detail. They're larger than life figures whose presence is evident throughout the jungles, caves, and forests in the open-world settings--and Far Cry 6 is no different.
The new game coming from Ubisoft Toronto leans more heavily into the dynamic of revolution, and how Yara's citizens rise up to free themselves instead of waiting for an outside savior to do it for them. Far Cry 6's story is about combating fascism, and you are playing as a member of the anti-fascist movement. Speaking with Far Cry 6 narrative director Navid Khavari, he explained the backbone of Far Cry 6's plot, and how the game's central character, Dani Rojas, fits in.
"It all came from a place of really just trying to understand the idea of revolution, and what that really means," said Khavari. "I started on this game about four and a half years ago, and when we began our research, you look at the history of revolutions, and that of the guerrilla revolution. When we landed on the inspiration of the island of Cuba, and got to spend about a month there for initial research, we got really excited about this idea of a modern guerilla revolution. When you're looking at any revolution, you're examining the nature of defiance, systemic oppression, and the idea of how far do you have to be pushed to be willing to pick up a gun--to be willing to risk your life for something you believe in?"
Given the rocky history of Cuba, which has seen its share of oppressive leaders and stagnation due to economic sanctions, Yara's fictional setting certainly makes for a fertile place to examine the concepts of oppression and revolution in a game. The Far Cry series hasn't been shy about treading into evocative themes and locales. For Instance, Far Cry 2's setting in central Africa still remains one of the more harrowing and brutal depictions of conflict in a game. 2018's Far Cry 5 focused on the antagonist Joseph Seed and his heavily-armed cult that captured the isolated area of Hope County, Montana. While it incorporated certain topics such as conservatism and feeling like "the other," it often skirted the underlying issues in favor of keeping the priority on the traditional Far Cry open-world hijinks.
After watching the trailer for Far Cry 6, with Giancarlo Esposito's powerful performance as Anton Castillo, the imagery of political upheaval, with citizens fighting riot cops and toppling statues was certainly effective--especially in light of what's going on today. But after playing Far Cry 5, and seeing how it often tip-toed around heavy themes, I have a lingering feeling that the next game will fall into the same trap that its predecessor did. In that, it may not be able to do proper justice to the imagery and themes that it's presenting in-game. With that said, Khavari seemed to embrace the parallels with the game and with the current global protests against systemic oppression.
"To be very honest, I think it's actually been quite powerful to watch these themes gain more prominence in the last few months around the world, particularly in the United States, Canada, London. For us, what I'm proud of is when we were looking at building the revolution in Yara, we didn't try to shy away from difficult subjects and really to draw meaning from that. So I'm hoping players will be able to see that meeting and have those themes resonate with them. I think that's exciting for us to be able to present in the game."
One returning feature from previous games coming to Far Cry 6 is the voiced protagonist. In Far Cry 5 and New Dawn, both games featured silent protagonists who were simultaneously the catalyst and passenger for the story. FC6's central character Dani Rojas--who can be either male or female--has a much stronger presence than previous heroes in the series. Instead of being an outsider who manages to overthrow the antagonistic force and help the country's citizens throughout a campaign, Rojas is a native of Yara who most definitely has personal investment in the game.
"When you're looking at the topic of revolution, it was essential for us to ensure that the protagonist has a personal investment in that revolution," said Khavari. "With a character like Dani Rojas having that context, to have a history [in Yara] and to have a voice, is very important for us. What's interesting about Dani is that while they were raised in Yara, they aren't necessarily looking to be part of a guerilla movement from the onset. One of the interesting aspects for us was seeing this character swept up in the movement, being drawn into it in that way, and embracing the almost David versus Goliath conflict across the entire island. For the series, it'll be fresh for players to see Dani in cutscenes, to be able to see them make decisions, and interact with other characters."
Going back to the lead antagonist, Anton Castillo, he has a confident, yet still cold presence that sets him apart from other villains in the series. Instead of the charismatic, yet unhinged Vaas from Far Cry 3, or the flamboyant warlord Pagan Min in Far Cry 4, Castillo is all serious and believes he's doing what's best for the greater good. During our talk, Khavari explained that the lead actor did his homework before stepping into the role.
"It was an unbelievable experience [working with Giancarlo]. Right from the beginning, when I flew down to New York to meet with him, he'd done so much research already based on the material that we sent him. He brings an amazing empathy to his characters, and he brought that same empathy to Anton that I wasn't expecting. He really approached it from the angle of what makes Anton tick? What makes someone who's so charismatic and intelligent, be able to justify doing such brutal things? He also looked at it from the angle of a father. That level of empathy of you're ruling a country, but you're also passing down these very twisted lessons to your son, but you also love your son at the same time. He brought such great nuance and ability in Anton, and he really brought the character to life in a way that I wasn't expecting."
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The showing at Ubisoft Forward was only a small sampling of what's to come with Far Cry 6. I'm really looking forward to checking out the game in the months ahead to see how these themes come up, and also to explore the really cool and visually exciting setting of Yara. With that said, I hope that the game will commit to having something more to say about the themes and settings that it's inhabiting.