I’m pretty close to finishing Far Cry 5. When I write that, I mean that I am pretty close to completing the main story and all of the side missions. By the time I am done, Farcry 5 will have nothing scripted left to amuse me and the best part of that is, I enjoyed every minute of it.
The mantra of open world games seems to be “more is better”. More collectibles. More mindless missions. Shoot 5 bears. Retrieve 10 ingots. Open world titles are chock full of meaningless busy work that, by some alchemy which I cannot fathom, is supposed to add up to a better game. Far Cry 4 was a fine example of this thinking with tons of things to find, yet no real reason to do so beyond checking a box. Even worse was Mass Effect: Andromeda which put in so many pointless quests that they obscured the meaningful ones. Some games are not much more than one giant level with nothing but mindless crap to do. On the other hand, Far Cry 5 seems to get that less is more.
Far Cry 5 still has collectibles and mindless quests, but it’s smarter with each. Collectibles exist, but they’re part of single quests that don’t clutter up the map or hang over the player’s head. Collectibles aren’t tied to a side line story or key to unlocking a super special ability. They’re merely there for the player that wants a little direction while exploring. The side quests fulfill a similar role. Side quests come with a little exposition, end quickly, and aren’t much more demanding than the collectibles. Meanwhile, the story and broader structure of the game chugs on with its own gravity.
This all works because these bits of busy work augment the main quest rather than serve as the focal point of the game. When side quests and collectibles are a part of a broader open world with deeper activities, then the smaller quests serve as a nice break. Players can find lighters or mow down enemies instead of save the world or figure out the next challenge. With the pressure off being the dominant part of the experience, the little quests can serve their intended role. When the busy work dominates, then the game itself becomes busy work. While there are plenty of things to do, none of them are entertaining and the player often bounces from one to the next out of a sense of OCD like obligation rather than out of any feeling of fun. Players want to clear the map rather than actually perform the activities that would result in that outcome.
And this is why I’m happy about completing Far Cry 5. My completion isn’t a reflection of my compulsion to clear the map, but rather a demonstration of how I enjoyed the experience in its totality. I completed the game because it was fun, and that’s how it should be.