“I want to be able to ride an elephant.” Executive Producer Dan Hay is recalling one of the initial meetings with his team – an early moment in the cycle when a bunch of developers gathered up to toss around ideas that’d help define Far Cry 4. “I want to be able to ride an elephant, and I want to be able to smash it through a fortress,” he recalls.
Of course, the next question was: What the heck is a fortress? Which was followed by someone else who requested the fortress be smart. “And I want it to be able to fight back, and I want it to effectively adapt to me playing against it,” Hay adds.
It was that moment – a brainstorming session where Hay said yes to as many things as possible – that Far Cry 4 was truly born. Prior to that meeting, the team had actually considered going with a more traditional (by Far Cry standards, that is) sequel. “We definitely had the option of making a 3.5, of making a choice to just stay in the same location with the same characters,” Hay says. “We talked about the idea of taking Jason’s story and growing it, maybe figuring out a way to bring Vaas back. And very quickly we realized that it wasn’t going to be a thing that we wanted to do. So we stopped that conversation and said, that’s the end of the 3.5 conversation – which lasted probably about four days.”
We Want It All
So what makes Far Cry 4 the next evolution of the Far Cry franchise – aside, that is, from the new story and setting? The answer is easy: everything. Or, to be more precise, the “we want it all” approach to this game.
“We like the fact that we’re a little bit Wild West,” Hay says. “We like the fact that somebody’s going to be able to kick out an idea that people will think is way too much. And then somebody else goes, Maybe that’s why you should do it. Maybe that’s what makes sense.”
It’s the “we want it all” approach that first introduced elephants to Far Cry. But it also introduced verticality. And the ability to fly. And the ability to do it all in co-op. And new enemy A.I. like the hunter, which can charm an animal and send it charging back at you, creating yet another layer of enemy A.I. in the form of these living tanks.
It’s this approach that also helped inspire the creation of the Shangri-La gameplay. “We talked about the mushroom missions [from Far Cry 3], and we said, maybe we just do another mushroom mission or something like that,” Hay says. “And the answer was no, we want to build a game within the game, and we want to have features that support that.” That’s when the Toronto studio came in, and put together a fully interactive and ethereal experience that was separate but still meaningful to the main game. With a pet. Who happens to be a tiger. Which the player can control almost like a permanent co-op partner who is really good at stealth. “We want to have an organic drone that can effectively be used as a weapon,” Hay recalls. “And everybody’s like, seriously? And you want the other thing with the outposts, and you want the other stuff with the—” Hay pauses for a half second before adding: “Yes. We want it all.”
Growing Up Different
How do you keep a game like Far Cry 4 from collapsing under the weight of all its features? “We try to figure out how to add to the game without breaking anything,” Hay says. “We do it carefully, we do it optimistically, and we try to make sure that it all makes sense.”
This approach also extends to the game’s narrative. While the team remains proud of the story, characters and setting in Far Cry 3, they readily concede that there was often a disconnect between the player-created anecdotes about their open-world experiences and the game’s narrative. “Far Cry 3 was written very well,” Hay notes. “But we know that the real hero of that game was the open world.”
This time around, the team has purposefully built the narrative to complement the gameplay. The protagonist is, by design, “relatively thin,” with a history in Kyrat that he’ll learn about at the same time as the player. Ajay Ghale doesn’t bring a lot of baggage with him, and is ready to grow up in this new world right alongside you. The characters you meet along the way also have more nuance. Everyone had a clear idea understanding of Vaas from their initial meeting – and that legendary antagonist didn’t change much throughout the game. This time, though, Far Cry 4 has characters like Pagan Min, who’ll keep you guessing throughout the game.
Far Cry 4’s narrative also gives players a deeper agency in the world. The narrative will branch depending on the choices a player makes. The dev team has gone so far as to make content that some players might never see, depending on their choices – giving everyone a unique experience in both the open-world and in the narrative. In other words, your Ajay Ghale will be different from my Ajay Ghale. “When you you’re done playing Far Cry 4 and you talk to a friend about it, they will have a subtly different experience,” Hay smiles. “They will grow up a little different.”
It’s this abundance of content, of choices, of features, of, well… everything that makes Far Cry 4 both familiar and something altogether new. “We love the idea that people who loved Far Cry 3 are going to pick this up and go: I completely get this, and this feels natural,” Hay says. “And we also love that within five minutes, they’re going to go: Wait a minute, this is different. I love it, it’s similar, but it’s very different.”
Explore Kyrat with these Far Cry 4 features: