What made Far Cry 3 so awesome?

Far Cry 3 was released on November 29th, 2012. For a lot of people, it was their first experience with this series and it was pretty well-loved. It was a big turning point for the series, for its publisher-developer Ubisoft, and realistically also for video games as a whole.

In this article, we will look back to one of the games we loved and why it worked, and what has come of it?

What made Far Cry 3 such a big deal?

First, a quick summary if you haven’t played it, in Far Cry 3 you play as Jason Brody, kind of a typical spoilt second-gen rich boy. You are celebrating with your brother and your friends in the fictional Rook Islands, a beautiful tropical oasis where you’re partying, jetskiing, in short, you are just having a good time that is until you go skydiving and land essentially into a nest of local pirates where you’re kidnapped and then you meet the iconic villain Vaas Montenegro played wonderfully by Better Call Saul’s Michael Mando and you’re quickly swept up in an open world island-hopping adventure filled with chaos and fun.

Michael Mando - Vaas | The Far Cry Experience Web Series. | Michael Mando |  Flickr | Far Cry 3 | Gamelance
Source: Michael Mando | Flickr

Now, you as Jason Brody adventure through and become more familiar with the local Rakyat Tribe and through both a level up type progression where you get more abilities and tattoos on your body and just through the story, you see Jason Brody go from a weak rich boy nerd to a true hardened warrior doing anything he has to save his friends.

And, people loved it. It was reviewed really well, pretty much 80’s and 90’s across the board in review scores. Also, according to statements and data, Ubisoft has sold almost 10 million copies of the game by the time the hype died a few years after its initial release.

Far Cry 3 Metacritic Ratings | Gamelance
Source: Metacritic

It served as a step forward for Far Cry, the original quirky PC game that was ported and butchered everywhere to the experimental and unique Far Cry 2 that still has a cult following today.

Now, Far Cry 3 had a lot of things that just happened to nail in perfectly. It’s like a perfect storm of a game that met the expectations of the gaming culture present at the time. And one of the biggest reasons we’ve got to talk about first is how it actually played, and yes, I mean the gameplay itself.

Far Cry 3 found a really great sweet spot as an action-adventure single-player first-person shooter. It was set in a really big open world, nicely packed with things to do in a time where game worlds weren’t always exploding with filler content and other miscellaneous things. The open-world was structured around finding towers to climb which served as mini puzzles sort of, but once you get to the top of these radio towers and disable the signal scramblers and then more of the map is revealed and points of interest are noted on your map. There’s stuff to find and most importantly, enemy bases and camps to clear out. Clearing the big ones out not only made them fast travel points, these areas also became reclaimed areas that you can visit and spend money in shops and get side missions.

You’d usually get back these camps and outposts in a nice hybrid kind of playstyle. You could go Rambo into these locations if you’re skilled enough or you could go in stealthily too. You can use your camera to mark enemy locations and scout out the area before you head in, you can also use a rock to distract a guard and a bow for a perfect quiet headshot or just a nice up-and-close stealth kill by sneaking up on the enemy. These mechanics were really satisfying to pull off. Nowadays so many games also have similar mechanics, but, back in 2012, not so many games did have this and Far Cry 3 tied it all together so well to the point that it made just exploring the map a little addictive. You wanted to level up Jason Brody that showed by increasing the number of tattoos. You also had a skill tree with three different avenues each affecting the growth of your character in terms of speed, health, stealth, range, hunting, and crafting. And, with every new upgrade you earned, you felt its significance and usefulness in the gameplay.

Exploring Rook Island was extremely fun because almost everything you found within the map would almost always improve your character stats, give you fun collectibles, discover new side missions or just give you beautiful scenery of the in-game world of tropical island life. Everything in this game was engaging the entire time you played it. You were never really bored exploring, be it hiding from patrols, watching out for sharks or snakes and tigers while also taking down enemy camps and outposts. It was just like the settings of the original Far Cry but blown out to a grand scale with an immense amount of freedom.

Just Cause 2 had been released just a year earlier and it was just a good time for players exploring insanely massive locations in over-the-top fun ways, this was sort of like a first-person Just Cause. You take all of this, just fun first-person shooting with good feeling weapons and enemies, some hybrid stealth elements, hunting through the jungle, extremely fast vehicles, and flying and gliding through the air and destruction, and all while slowly conquering your fears and pirates on this island. And then you combine it with some good presentation and storytelling. The game is peppered with memorable moments through, sometimes it’s a mission or characters, or sometimes it’s a goofy mess you just got yourself into via the game’s various mechanics. The game world of Far Cry 3 was just designed to just make more memories, it is filled with memorable moments.

Along with that the game also had a very iconic villain. Vaas Montenegro (Michael Mondo) by the end of the game was technically not the big main villain and only pops us at key periodic moments in the game but his presence is massively felt throughout the game.

Michael Mando’s unpredictable portrayal combined with the technology they use to capture his performance just really made a huge impact and made it work for the players. Every time e was on screen or on the radio you, just couldn’t help but completely immerse yourself in his insane monologue and antics. It was kind of like one of the first times players were forced to just sit and watch an actor really do his thing.

Vaas was memorable, he was quotable and scary because he was seemingly a chill punky island dude but also devilishly brutal and totally off the rails (sociopathic or insane) at the same time. The developers were proud of the performance Mando made here and they made sure to really prioritize it and highlight it in the game. May players still talk about Vaas and the Far Cry Series has been attempting to replicate that chronic villain magic ever since to some varying degrees of success.

All these features acted as ingredients that made Far Cry 3 memorable and it made a lasting impact on the video game industry. We’ve seen these types of open-world elements tossed into various games in different ways now, but, Ubisoft themselves made it their entire blueprint for game plans moving forward.

Far Cry 3 also had a multiplayer element in it. That was too common at the time and nobody really care about it too much, but it also had a map editor which is sort of a Far Cry staple now so much so in fact that it has a cult following of creative fans. Not every Far Cry game has it, but its a blast to build your own stuff and mess around, almost just like the developers. Along with that, Far Cry 3 also sparked the creation of an awesome spinoff expansion game called Blood Dragon.

This took Far Cry gameplay engine and gameplay elements and absolutely drenched it in 80’s juicy, Sci-Fi, and techno nostalgia. The synth wave beats, robot dragons that shoot lasers, neon everywhere, cool one-liners, a robocop gun, and Michael Biehn Terminator’s Kyle Reese himself voicing the main character. It was charming and fun and really exposed players to a cool new vibe and just more Far Cry fun.

Far Cry 3 and the team that pulled it off Ubisoft Montreal, gave us really something awesome here. We still look back at the whole experience and hype pretty fondly. And, although we checkout and fairly enjoy Far Cry games since, none have really been anywhere near as groundbreaking as fun as the Far Cry 3 initially was.

Can they still top it? We hope and we’re willing to wait and see.

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