“When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.” —Karen Blixen, Out of Africa
Set in Kyrat, a fictional country in the Himalayas region, Far Cry 4 is the fourth title in the Far Cry series, following Ajay Ghale as he is caught up in a civil war between Pegan Min, the country’s despot, and the Golden Path, a resistance movement, shortly after arriving to scatter his mother’s ashes. Inspired by the Nepalese Civil War, Far Cry 4 is an open-world shooter with RPG-elements: looting, crafting and skill advancement drive much of the game. Shortly after escaping Pegan Min’s palace, Ajay escapes with one of the Golden Path’s leaders, Sabal, and joins forces with them in undermining Pegan Min’s rule, carrying out activities ranging from simple acts such as delivering supplies to Golden Path forces and hunting wildlife in Kyrat to improve his gear, all the way up to direct action involving assassinating key figures in Min’s regime and storming facilities under Min’s control. By the game’s halfway point, players punch through into North Kyrat after having liberated much of South Kyrat and relinquished control of key locations from Min to the Golden Path, bolstering their presence. During this time, I’ve unlocked almost all of the upgrades through crafting, and have acquired some of the most effective weaponry in Far Cry 4. This journey has been incredible insofar, but was initially stymied by a lack of motivation to play the game. Having purchased Far Cry 4 back during the Steam Winter Sale, I opened the title on Christmas Day and liberated my first bell tower shortly after, but the prospect of an open world was admittedly intimidating, and after Christmas, I did not venture into Kyrat. My track record with open-world games is not particularly good: I’ve still yet to beat the main story to Skyrim despite having owned the game for upwards of four years.
This all changed after I began exploring Kyrat, capturing bell towers and liberating outposts. My first goal was to max out my weapon holster, and with the capability to carry more weapons, a world of possibility opened up. I began carrying out more side missions to gain currency and experience. The additional resources bolstered my ability to survive firefights, in turn opening up more missions. Far Cry 4‘s learning curve is not particularly steep, and past the initially imposing task of learning the game mechanics, Far Cry 4 has been an exceptional experience: stealth and brute force are both viable options, with weapons in the game for achieving both. Players are given nearly unlimited freedom in exploring Kyrat and completing the game in any order of their choice, allowing them to optimise for their preferred play-style. Players driven by completionism will naturally unlock most of, if not all the skills, weapons and crafting upgrades in the game eventually, but being able to play according to one’s preferences is a very important factor in retaining the player’s interest. Aside from its fluid gameplay and compelling visuals, Far Cry 4 also has an interesting plot; Ajay has a connection to Kyrat’s dictator, and there’s a fine balance of comedy with drama. Together, these aspects make Far Cry 4 incredibly captivating to play, and over the past two months, I’ve spent upwards of twenty hours in the game. I’ve now reached North Kyrat, and are eyeing the Buzzsaw, which should allow me to even the odds against Pegan Min’s elite soldiers: I’m playing Far Cry 4 solo and so, have no assistance for more challenging missions beyond powerful weapons and performance-enhancing syringes.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Shortly after escaping Pegan Min and acquiring a kukri, Ajay’s adventure begins. I note that I am well aware of the secret ending, that is, what any reasonable person in real life would do, and will mention it in greater detail later – while the most realistic course of action, it precludes my shooting any guns, so on my first playthrough, I’ve decided to focus on a game where I could actually shoot things. The kukri is a capable melee weapon for stealth take-downs and despite the presence of firearms, its usefulness remains throughout the game as Ajay can invest in skills that make him more proficient with the weapon.
- The AK-47 (actually an AKM variant) is the first assault rifle players have access to in Far Cry 4. An average and unremarkable weapon in all regards, it is one of the most common weapons in the game, and ammunition for assault rifles is never in short supply. I’ve noticed in retrospect that I’ve got a large number of screenshots from the game’s opening moments, and it is because the visuals are impressive, from the water effects to the use of diffuse lighting.
- The size of Kyrat, in conjunction with how beautifully everything is rendered means that Far Cry 4 is quite demanding when it comes to GPU requirements – the recommended requirements for GPU are steep, being a GTX 680 or equivalent. I originally was running the EVGA GTX 660 SC in my tower prior to last year’s upgrade; this GPU would have been capable of running the game on high settings with acceptable frame rates. A quick glance at these screenshots also show a frame rate counter in the upper left hand corner, and for the most part, I’m getting 75-80 FPS on ultra settings.
- I had been eyeing Far Cry 4 for quite some time, but it wasn’t until I purchased a new GPU that I decided the time was ripe to give the game a shot. Performance no longer a concern, I began playing the game on Christmas Day prior to the traditional dinner of turkey, stuffing, ham and all of the trimmings accompanying Christmas dinner. As of late, the family Christmas tradition has become spending the day relaxing at home; we had a white Christmas last year and so, it was very welcoming to unwind without having to step into a cold winter’s evening as we were wont to do in previous years.
- I approach the bell tower here with the goal of capturing it. Bell towers in Far Cry 4 work similarly to their counterparts in older games – the goal is to negotiate with the tricky ledges, ladders and narrow walkways to reach the top, where a radio broadcasting unit is transmitting propaganda. When a bell tower is captured, the fog surrounding it fades away to reveal locations for exploration. Besides bell towers, Ajay must also liberate outposts, which act as hubs for resting, trading and starting missions.
- One of the earliest missions I did after liberating an outpost was a hostage rescue operation. At the time, I only had one slot for a primary weapon and decided to go with the bow, which was the quietest weapon available at the time. I immediately found it to be inadequately powered against the soldiers, and took to sneaking around the site, performing take downs on everyone before setting the hostages free. Weapon options remain limited in the beginning, but as Ajay completes more for the Golden Path and various other characters, his armoury diversifies.
- One of the biggest joys about Far Cry 4 is the ability to explore Kyrat in great detail, even if fast travelling between outposts is usually how I prefer moving about to start missions. Unscripted events can happen during these travels, ranging from karma events which require a quick trigger finger to save Golden Path fighters or stop Royal Army elements, to unexpected animal attacks: I’ve been waylaid by rhinos before while driving to a mission, totalling my ride and very nearly killing me. I would’ve died there had I not been near a mounted gun, which I used to annihilate the rhinos.
- When it became available, I upgraded to the recurve bow, which is a straight upgrade from the standard wooden bow. It can be fitted with a sight (although the elevation markings are just for show) and highly effective as a stealth weapon for longer ranges. Killing animals with arrows will yield bonus karma points and double skin, making it an excellent tool for gathering the necessary skins to upgrade Ajay’s carrying capacity.
- I unlocked the M-79 break-action grenade launcher during a Kyrat Fashion Week mission, which entailed killing a rare fish with explosives. It is unlocked when players liberate nine bell towers, although the Fashion Week or armed escort missions also will provide the weapon. It is easily the best side-arm Far Cry 4, and despite its low rate of fire, can deal incredible damage, effortlessly destroying enemy vehicles and even helicopters if used correctly.
- Just how effective is the M-79? This image speaks volumes about what this simple grenade launcher is capable of. Early in the game, it is limited only by how many grenades one can carry, but the results are undeniable. Here, I finish off a propaganda centre mission, which involves destroying a propaganda manufacturing installation and then fending off the hordes of Royal Army soldiers that appear afterwards. Far Cry 4 involves a combination of missions that require stealth and those that necessitate players going in loud, so one of my earliest priorities was getting my weapon holsters up to speed.
- The final skins required to fully upgrade the holster are from honey badgers, which, despite their small size, are incredibly ferocious and can output damage similar to a bear, tiger or rhino. In fact, their size makes them harder to hit, making them one of the toughest enemies in the game to deal with initially. I recall getting the five skins by driving a technical into an area with honey badgers, throwing down some bait and then levelling takers with the mounted MG. Once I had the holster, I could now carry three primary weapons at once, and for the most part, I prefer having an assault rifle, one suppressed long range option and one specialised weapon.
- The rationale is simple enough: assault rifles excel at medium range combat and have a good firing rate that allows them to be competitive at close ranges. On top of that, ammunition for an assault rifle is commonly acquired, so there’s very little fear of running short of ammunition. I like having suppressed sniper rifles, as they can be used to dispatch distant foes without alerting other enemies, and the special weapon usually depends on the mission (I usually carry a shotgun). The M-79 rounds things out, being an incredible one-handed anti-vehicle measure that I can employ even while driving or flying. This balanced loadout allows me to be effective in all ranges, although different players have different preferences for loadouts, and some folks will recommend having a bow on them at all times.
- Here, I am doing a mission for Sabal during a Balance of Power mission. These missions can impact the storyline and decide whose influence amongst the Golden Path increases. By this point in the game, I’ve unlocked and purchased the Warrior, the signature version of the AK-47. Standard AK-47s cannot be modified with optics or barrel upgrades, so the Warrior is an improvement overall, featuring a suppressor, red dot sight and extended magazine. The difference was immediately noticeable, and it was here that I really began enjoying Far Cry 4.
- The M700 became my sniper of choice once I unlocked it: more accurate and powerful than the SVD, it can be fitted with a suppressor that makes it useful for silently dispatching targets from range. While it is a bolt-action rifle and quite slow to fire compared to the semi-automatic SVD, I prefer it for its firepower and used it to great effect in capturing outposts, as well as for hostage and assassination missions.
- With my loadout now figured out, the entire world lay ahead in Far Cry 4, and I began exploring with more confidence, knowing I had the tools I needed to survive. There are various items and locations scattered throughout the game that confer experience points and other bonuses, including contributing to new weapon unlocks, so it is well worth it to spend some time and explore locations thoroughly in Kyrat.
- Besides honey badgers, the other enemy of Far Cry 4 that has little purpose beyond being a total aggravation are eagles. These monstrosities are capable of killing Golden Path soldiers and even carry entire pigs into the air, although thankfully, they are not durable. A single well-placed shotgun blast or assault rifle rounds will be enough to stop them from terrorising Ajay: they can attack out of the blue, but can also be escaped by entering vehicles.
- Because I opted to go with Sabal’s mission initially, I was given a flamethrower. The flamethrower in Far Cry 4 is a splitting image of its predecessor in Far Cry 3 and is a powerful close range weapon: ignited enemies are quickly taken out of the equation, running around in a panic until they burn to death. While powerful, it is stymied by its high fuel consumption and low range, which has the additional risk of potentially burning the player if they’re not careful.
- I recall a memorable hostage rescue mission where I had outfitted myself with the MS16 battle rifle. When I opened fire, however, I was shocked to learn of the weapon’s report. It turns out I had not equipped the suppressor as originally thought, and hastened to right things, although I’m not too sure if I succeeded, or if I failed the operation. A reasonably effective weapon at longer ranges, the Ms16 uses assault rifle ammunition and fulfils the intermediate role between that of a sniper rifle and automatic assault rifle, although I generally prefer engagements at closer ranges and so, have not made extensive use of this weapon.
- One of the biggest challenges in Far Cry 4 up to this point was unlocking the Bushman by competing in the arena. It took me around a week to reach level ten, and while the grind was quite tedious, I did pick up a few tricks by playing the arena; the most useful was the knowledge that Molotov cocktails can essentially one-shot heavies in the absence of other weaponry. I concede that the atmosphere and sound effects of the arena (especially the sound of the doors opening before a round) were fun, and in the end, it were the animals that proved to be the greatest nuisance to defeat.
- The resulting unlock, the Bushman, was well worth it. It’s an upgraded P416, modelled off the Patriot Ordnance Factory P416 assault rifle, intended to be an upgrade to the M4A1, and despite sharing a very similar name, is quite unrelated to the Heckler and Koch HK416 assault rifle. In Far Cry 4, the base P416 is a slight upgrade from the AK-47, dealing more damage. It is not found until players unlock North Kyrat, but having the Bushmanwith its extended magazine, suppressor and ACOG renders the P416 a moot point: the Bushman is easily the best primary in the game: with a good firing rate, damage model and magazine, it has the additional advantage of being easy to find ammunition for. There are more powerful weapons, but ammunition is less common.
- The vegetation can be ignited by flamethrower, the Molotov cocktail or even the repair tool: small wildfires can be started that quickly eliminate enemies and wildlife using these weapons. There is one disadvantage: careless fires can also destroy vehicles, and I recall one occasion where I blew up my buzzer because I set the forest on fire trying to take out some soldiers. The buzzer is a helicopter that is the best vehicle for getting around Kyrat bar none: while it will refuse to fly above certain altitudes, its high speeds make it an incredible way for moving from point A to point B.
- I progress through Kyrat to the City of Pain in order to apprehend de Pleur in his headquarters. That mission proved to be quite an exercise in patience, since I could not simply go weapons loud. After a few attempts using stealth, I succeeded and extracted de Pleur. When the mission was finished, I learned that his fortress was weakened and took it without too much difficulty.
- The Bull is an upgraded M133 shotgun featuring a reflex sight and suppressor, making it an effective stealthy close-quarters option. I got quite a bit of mileage out of the Bull after unlocking it: it’s capable of dropping most targets with a single shot and was remarkably useful on hunting missions where the goal was to hunt honey badgers. This moment also showcases the beautiful lighting in Far Cry 4: I’ve opted against screenshots of Kyrat by night because it’s actually quite dull-looking.
- The mission to take back the brick factory and capture a drug scientist proved to be a remarkably entertaining one as Ajay gets drugged up breathing fumes inside the factory. It’s a surprise that would only be surpassed by the first mission to Shangri-la. The Shangri-la missions are quite distinct from Kyrat, and the name will bring to mind James Hilton’s description of a fictional paradise in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, although Shangri-la in reality refers to a city in Yunnan.
- Kyrat fashion week missions involve killing rare animals with a weapon type. Far Cry 4 is nice enough to give players the required weapon, although if one happens to have a weapon of the type specified, the mission can very quickly become a walk in the park. When I reached Far Cry 4‘s halfway point, I had every crafting upgrade completed except for the explosives bag and loot bag. Most guides advise going for the loot bag first, but I personally would upgrade the weapon holster first.
- The Bushman’s only downside is that the ACOG can be a little tricky to aim with its chevron crosshair, but subsequently, this is the premier weapon to utilise. One thing I’ve neglected to mention up until now are the syringes, which come in five varieties. The most useful one is the healing syringe, which restores health. The hunting syringe is one of my favourites, allowing Ajay to immediately spot enemies and animals without leaving cover. The others, I’ve made less use of despite their powers: the focus syringe allows Ajay to move faster, the overdose syringe somehow doubles weapon power, and the survival syringe is useful for close quarters combat.
- I’ve made it to Noore’s Fortress after eliminating her in the arena, and armed with the Predator, an upgraded M700 with improved accuracy and magazine capacity. However, it’s got a low rate of fire, and does not hit as hard as the Z93, a powerful rifle firing .50-calibre rounds whose standard version can be equipped with a suppressor and extended magazines. However, it’s still a major upgrade from the M700. I managed to defeat Noore’s fortress quite quickly, picking off distant targets with the Predator and eliminating the rest with the Bushman.
- The time had finally come for me to complete the missions based out of Kyrat’s “International Airport”, really a landing strip. There are several missions set deep in the Himalayas Mountains, instigated by Willis, an American OGA who appears in Far Cry 3 and is necessary to advance the narrative. He deserts Ajay at the end of his mission line, leaving Ajay to be captured by Yuma and Pegan Min. The subsequent missions proved to be one of the trickiest I’d encountered in Far Cry 4 since the mission to capture de Pleur, and I was most relieved to finally escape the Himalayas camp.
- Upon returning to Kyrat, the time has finally come to blow open the concrete barrier and punch through into the North. Apparently, my actions have placed Amita in power, so I had to steal a fuel truck while it was still moving. I was unable to gain enough momentum to drive the truck into the barrier, but my immense arsenal allowed me to destroy the barrier anyways. After this came one of the most entertaining firefights I’d ever had in Far Cry 4: with Royal Army soldiers coming from the North, the mortar emplacement proved to be an incredible asset.
- After a pitched battle, the way North is finally open, which means it’s time to go clearing out the bell towers so I can get my mitts on the Buzzsaw. It’s not a bad place to be, considering that Battlefield 1‘s In The Name Of the Tsar is coming out in September, which corresponds with more Battlefield 1 in favour of Far Cry 4. While we are on the topic of wars being fought in the Eastern front, I will be looking to write about the Brave Witches OVA very soon. My copy’s arrived, and while I’m quite busy, the upcoming long weekend should offer a brief respite that will allow me to take a look at the OVA I’ve been waiting for since December last year.
My impressions of Far Cry 4 are unlikely to change too dramatically as I continue through the game, and I will be returning once I’ve completed the game to discuss a more serious topic, using Far Cry 4‘s narrative as a backdrop. There’s a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time, dealing with ignorance in issues surrounding nations and the resulting call to action in the absence of a more well-developed understanding of the topics at hand (as well as the usual tendency for discussions to devolve to ad hominem attacks). This will be the basis for the discussion I have in mind for Far Cry 4 once I reach the end-game, and as a fictional experience, I’ve found that Far Cry 4 does a fantastic job of capturing a hypothetical situation where a call to action manifests as direct action. Having said that, it’s largely fun and games as Ajay fulfils the role of a one-man army in Kyrat insofar, blowing up Pegan Min’s armed forces in a hilarious manner and listening to the entertaining radio programmes of Kyrat. While things appear quite easygoing for the most part, the Golden Path’s leaders, Amita and Sabal, express a willingness to go to any lengths to achieve their goals regardless of what implications their approaches entail. This element forms the darker, grittier side of Far Cry 4 that will be explored as I move into North Kyrat and begin liberating facilities, as I’ve done in South Kyrat. Of course, the first goal will be to get the remainder of the bell towers and unlock the Buzzsaw.