Separating cult worship from politics in ‘Far Cry 5’
No, you’re not gunning down alt-right Republicans in Far Cry 5.
While the latest in Ubisoft’s series does use the “red” state of Montana — specifically, the fictional Hope County — as its backdrop, it’s not a Left vs. Right showdown. The family cult at the center of the story might find common ground with Libertarian views on self-ownership, but — as a group — they’re not driven by politics.
“I don’t think that they would call themselves [Libertarians],” creative director Dan Hay said. “And to be honest, I don’t even know that they would refer to themselves as anything other than just ‘believers.'”
The cult formed around Father Joseph after a voice spoke to him, warning of an imminent collapse in society. Hope County is their sanctuary; not everyone is a cultist, but Joseph’s aim is to protect the people in his domain from whatever’s coming.
“I don’t know that he has a political agenda. I don’t think that he does,” Hay added.
“I think he’s just been given this information, and he believes that he’s got to do whatever he can. The hard part for him is [figuring] out a way to be able to say, ‘I’m gonna go out there to get people to join me in this mission. To try to get people to join us and be saved.'”
Joseph is the patriarch of a small family unit — consisting of elder brother Jacob, the right-hand man; younger brother John, the PR guy; and half-sister Faith, the caregiver — that together command allegiance from Hope County’s cultist community.
There are undeniable echoes of real world events in the “us vs. them” story that pits your local sheriff’s deputy and a growing resistance against Joseph’s people. But fundamentally, the cult is meant to empower Far Cry 5‘s gameplay.
“We’re trying to build a world that is real,” Hay said. “[This is] something that could happen. And when you think about tackling the experience of putting something in America — where it’s believable that you would go out and solve some of these problems with a gun — we need to be able to build a situation that made sense for that.”
The cult is that “situation.” Joseph and his family lead a group of displaced Americans who all crave someone or something to believe in. Banded together, they take the functional role of an occupying force.
“In order to build a bad guy, you’ve got to be able to make him or her do bad things,” Hay said. “So we built a situation where we’ve got this cult and it’s got … this section of [America] underneath its boot heels. And then you go into it in a very real way and try to take America back.”
Alongside this serious story and its alarmingly close-to-home real world parallels is all the goofy stuff you’d expect from the series.
This is still Far Cry, of course. Alongside this serious story and its alarmingly close-to-home real world parallels is all the goofy stuff you’d expect from the series. Kooky characters and diverting activities that let you mix things up as you play will certainly play a role.
“In terms of rationalizing the [serious] tone … we allow you to ‘snack,'” Hay said. “If you go in and want to have a very specific experience from the story, you can. But the world allows you to go in any direction.”
This is hardly fresh thinking for an open world game — or even for the Far Cry series specifically. But the familiar red, white, and blue backdrop — and the present-day story’s parallels to some of what’s happening here — make the divide between a serious story and a fun first-person shooter all the more evident.
“Rationalizing those two things together is not easy,” Hay explained. “But I think what’s interesting about [Far Cry 5] is that … you’re meeting characters in the world who maybe echo what you believe and your sentiments. And you’re going against a cult that maybe echoes what you don’t believe.
“Or, over time, you start to listen to what they’re saying and you go, ‘That sounds reasonable.’ We don’t want to author an experience that only has one view. We want you to meet people with different views and grow as you go.”