Spoilers: I’ll be talking about the ending for Far Cry 5 so, unsurprisingly, there will be spoilers for Far Cry 5.
Let’s get the verdict out of the way: the ending for Far Cry 5 isn’t very good, but it is representative of the failings that plague the game’s story. Whether or not you saw The Collapse coming, it was possible to predict how the story would falter.
For those who haven’t beaten the game, here’s a quick summary. The player is fighting against The Father, a religious figure who built a militant movement around an amorphous, apocalyptic scenario known as “The Collapse”. When the player confronts and defeats The Father, nuclear bombs go off suggesting that he was right all along and lending credence to the prophetic powers he claimed to have.
Much of the criticism of the ending is lobbied against its unpredictability. While there’s plenty of discussion about the end of the world, Far Cry 5 doesn’t provide sufficient clues to forecast the apocalypse. I can’t agree. The mechanics of the apocalypse are left unexplored, but its arrival is given increasing evidence when looked through the perspective of The Father’s prophesy. I agree that we don’t see much about encroaching war (though apparently some of the radio broadcasts talk about North Korea), but we do see quite a bit to suggest that The Father may be right. The three heralds (think cult vice presidents) all highlight how the player’s actions were foretold by The Father with Jacob Seed even highlighting how he doubted The Father’s religious connections, but believed in his prophesy. Furthermore, the beginning even has the cultists waiting for the arrival of the supposedly unexpected police officers. Far Cry 5 may not set up a nuclear exchange, but it does support the idea that the apocalyptic prediction could be right.
My problem with the ending is a continuation of my problem with the broader storyline. The story often tries to shock and awe the audience with plot twists, but rarely spends the time it needs to earn the pay off. The concept of The Bliss is the perfect example. Rather than spend a little time developing the concept of The Bliss, it is instead an obvious dues ex machina that does whatever the plot needs at the time. It’s supposed to create an otherworldly atmosphere, but instead feels empty and unsupported. Another related example is the final fight where the player must defeat their allies who have all been exposed to The Bliss despite there being no sign of that exposure happening. Instead, the fight feels like just another convenient setup. Far Cry 5 wants these powerful and impactful moments, but doesn’t spend the time to support them.
The apocalyptic ending falls into the same pattern. Yes, the story lends some support to the ending happening, but it never grapples with what that actually means. A prophet who predicts the end of the world and even knows how it will happen sets up a millenarian cult movement that he knows will fail. He knowingly creates the scenario that will bring about the end that he’s trying to stave off. How does any of this make sense? The ending is yet another jump where Ubisoft wants to get to the good part of the story without thinking through the path to get there, and that’s the real problem. The game does let you know what’s coming, it just doesn’t want to figure out how to make it work.