Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greetings from the Rook Islands

I've managed to spend about 27 hours in the world of Ubisoft's Far Cry 3 up to this point and just when I thought the game had shown me all it had to offer, it pulled something new out of it's bag of tricks. Far Cry 3 drops you off on the Rook Islands as Jason Brody, some rich, young douche bag who has unwittingly gotten himself captured (along with his rich, young douche bag friends) by south Asian pirates/slavers/drug runners. Jason escapes his captors and with the help of an oppressed native population, begins a journey to rescue his friends and retake the islands. All the while Jason actually grows as a character, which while a foreign concept to most FPS games, is par for the course in a game like Assassin's Creed, which Far Cry 3 draws heavily from in more ways than one.

The game play format for Far Cry 3 will be familiar to anyone who has played through Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed games. The player is dropped onto a map that is largely covered by a "fog of war" and that can only be removed by climbing towers in order to get a bird's-eye view of the area. Each uncovered map section has various side missions and activities that are available once uncovered and after a few hours of play it's easy for even the casual player to have tried each of these activities. For the average player I assume the pacing is rather even as the main story takes them from one island section to the next and frequently offers breaks wherein side missions can be obtained and animals can be hunted to craft new equipment. For the hardcore explorer type like myself, I spent much of my first 20 hours uncovering every section of the northern Rook island, liberating every pirate-held camp, and crafting every item available. To say that I've been playing this game "methodically" would be an understatement. The only thing that forced me to move the main story along was the fact that large sections of the RPG-style skill trees are locked by mission completion. You would think even the main mission would be boring to me by this point (having bought, fired, and customized every non-unlockable gun in the game) but I love the AC-style of open world game and as an explorer I'm a huge meta-gamer too. I would often partake in the game's existing challenges such as liberating a camp (killing all the bad guys) without being seen, heard, or having an alarm raised, but I also created my own challenges such as doing to the above using only the bow and arrow. Still (truth be told) by hour 24 I was starting to hit a bit of a wall.

With the southern island locked to me and naught but a few relics left to uncover on the northern island I finally set about progressing the rest of the main storyline. I was on the set of missions that take you to "Badtown" on the eastern half of the northern island, which had some interesting objectives beyond just killing pirates such as using a flame thrower to burn pot fields. Novelty aside, I was still just doing "shoot the bad guy" missions and each mission was more or less a self-contained experience. It was the next set of 3 or 4 missions that acted a shot in arm for me however. Having found that one of Jason's friends had been sold to a ne'er-do-well in the aforementioned Badtown, I embarked on a set of missions to bargain for his freedom. The bad guy wanted me to obtain some ancient knife that had been lost on the island centuries before by a Chinese conqueror. What followed was a chain of missions that (while still having the Assassin's Creed meets FPS feel) threw a heaping portion of Uncharted into the mix as well. I was still killing the occasional pirate, but I was doing so in cave systems and ruins that opened up to entirely new set pieces ranging from the rusted skeleton of a WWII-era boat, to an overgrown subterranean temple-like structure. The experience of this very interconnected mission chain reinvigorated my game play experience, both reminding me that I had only scratched the surface of the game's main story, but also showing me that Far Cry 3 still had new challenges and experiences in store for me. For a game that I'm already quite fond of, I find myself looking forward to the next 20+ hours with renewed vigor.

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