FAR CRY 5
We venture to Montreal to see how Ubisoft is going about creating a cult classic.
We’re looking down on Fall’s End (population: 35) from its water tower. At first glance, it’s the sort of unremarkable town that nobody would think twice about. The streets aren’t empty, though, they’re crawling with members of the Project At Eden’s Gate, grabbing some people and lining others up for execution in the street. They run this town. But how did it get to this point?
We’ll worry about that later. Right now, our customisable hero and his dog chum Boomer are in the mood for liberation. We grab the sniper rifle and start tagging the enemies by hovering our reticule over them. There’s a church directly in front of us, with a bar, houses, and a few stores to the left. We decide to crack a shot at one cultist, who’s near the local watering hole. But instead of taking full advantage of the altitude, we use a zipline to slide down to just outside the holy house, spraying cult members with our SMG on the way. When we hit the ground, we watch Boomer tear at the throat of one unlucky fellow. That’ll deserve a treat later.
There are more cultists to take care of first; they start to pour from the direction of the bar. But, unfortunately for them, there’s a gas tanker between us. We lob a stick of dynamite at it and the resulting explosion can probably be heard across the state. It also means Fall’s End is free – for now – from the clutches of the cultists.
THE UNHOLY SPIRIT
To find out how Far Cry 5’s villains came to be, we’re off to Ubisoft Montreal to meet several key members of the team working hard to create a believable cult. Their efforts are giving birth to the Project At Eden’s Gate. This new threat is a doomsday cult which believes that the end is nigh and, in its own twisted way, is trying to save humanity from itself.
In a presentation with creative director Dan Hay, he describes how new big bad Joseph “The Father” Seed sees himself as Noah, preparing the ark before the end arrives. But Seed isn’t a kooky cliché. He has a family behind him – older brother Jacob, younger siblings John and Faith – who are helping to ensure that Hope County follows in The Father’s footsteps. They also believe that the first sign of the apocalypse is the authorities trying to take Seed away.
Naturally, the start of Far Cry 5’s story sees your rookie deputy caught in the middle of an attempt to bring Joseph Seed to justice on kidnapping charges. Your character is just doing their job, but to the members of the Project At Eden’s Gate, this is the beginning of the end. Something happens that triggers a lockdown and strands you in Hope County, having to confront and defeat the Seed family.
But how did the team go about making the Project At Eden’s Gate believable? Hay tells us: “I think, doing our homework. We go to Montana, we have our stories, we can smell the air, we can drink the water, and then coming back and talking to real experts, people who have been in cults or deprogrammed people.” This research led the team to Rick Ross, a man well-versed in the insidious nature of cults, and founder of the Cult Education Institute. He tells OPM: “The team at Ubisoft had ideas, and what they wanted to do was find out, are these ideas that we have grounded in reality… Do they resonate historically? And what I found was not only that they did, I gave them examples and contextualised them.” Ross is clear that Far Cry 5’s cult isn’t based on any specific group and that inspiration is coming from many different sources. He mentions a few, including Colonia Dignidad, which was led by Paul Schaefer in a large, well-armed compound in Chile, as well as the cult Rajneeshpuram. That was a group which managed to change the name of the town of Antelope, Oregon to Rajneesh for a short period in the 1980s and, more importantly, committed the first bioterrorism act in US history, when the members poisoned 751 people with salmonella by contaminating restaurants.
CULT YOU BELIEVE IT?
It’s also fair to say the idea of a cult taking over a town or an area isn’t consigned to history. Ross explains: “I can think of towns in the United States that are disproportionately populated by the members of a single group or a group that dominates a
“WE LOB DYNAMITE AT A GAS TANKER. THE EXPLOSION CAN PROBABLY BE HEARD ACROSS THE STATE.”
section of a downtown area through its real estate holdings. I mean, this is going on right now in the US, there are compounds and there are very politically well-connected groups, groups that have a great deal of power.”
VOICE OF INSANITY
But there was another aspect in getting you to believe in the Project At Eden’s Gate: the actor who’d play Joseph Seed. Getting the right person for the role was paramount for Hay. “When The Father sits down in front of you and explains what he’s doing, you find him charming and compelling and out there, it becomes believable,” he explains.
The man bringing this charisma to Seed is Canadian actor Greg Bryk. While he might not be a household name (although fans of Netflix show The Expanse might recognise him), his audition left Hay floored. “I said to myself: I would absolutely join that guy’s cult. And it took five minutes.” Here’s hoping we’ll be a less receptive to his charms or it’ll be a short game.
Back to Fall’s End. The town is liberated, but our work isn’t done. Mary May Fairgrave, who runs the Spread Eagle bar, tells us to go and find Nick Rye. He’s on the outskirts of town, where he runs his aviation business, which means we’re going to have to go for a drive. As we step out of the bar and into the road, we come face to face with a huge, gaudy, 110% American truck. There’s absolutely no way we’re not driving in it.
We clamber in, chuckle at the Vaas hula figurine on the dashboard and then head towards our objective.
Alas, halfway there, a car driven by a “Peggie” (as Mary refers to the cultists) slams into us. As they’re clearly in the mood for a scrap, we hop out and give it to them. A few rounds from our SMG do the trick, and we clamber into their car to see how it handles. As we start the car up, music filters through, but instead of the twang of country guitars you would expect, Appalachian choir songs come from the speakers. Listening to the lyrics, which reference The Father and his family, we quickly realise we’re tuned
“WE FIND A HUGE GAUDY, 110% AMERICAN TRUCK. THERE’S NO WAY WE’RE NOT DRIVING IT.”
into a cult radio station. Why would the Project At Eden’s Gate go to the trouble of writing and recording some – admittedly quite catchy – tunes? For audio director Tony Gronick, the key came when he was watching low-level cult members go about killing cattle and kidnapping people: “I got to thinking about how can I justify what they’re doing? By writing these hymns and putting it underneath their actions, all of a sudden you realise they [think they’re] doing God’s work.” Composer Dan Romer is at hand to create the hymns and give them a catchy quality, which is useful, as they’re ever-present in Hope County. You’ll hear them in cars or speakers set up around the place.
If the idea of heavenly sounding propaganda isn’t for you, though, don’t worry. There’ll be different radio
stations playing some recognisable tunes for Hope County’s different regions, which include Holland Valley, Whitehall Mountains, and Henbane River. While we’ve yet to hear what they sound like in-game, we do know the radio stations will have different playlists. Gronick tells us why we can expect some variety to the cult’s control of the airwaves: “As you go from region to region, different styles of music take that same action and change it for you, and it makes you feel a little different when you’re killing someone to doo-wop or killing someone to heavy metal. You have a different feeling when you’re doing it, and I wanted people to experience that.”
There’s no messing around once we meet Nick Rye. He makes his introductions and tasks us with destroying silos that are filled with the agricultural fertiliser ammonium nitrate, otherwise known as a chemical that goes boom. Nick offers us a plane – a first for the series – and we gladly accept the chance for some target practice. The controls are easy to pick up, and we’re soon off hunting down the Cult’s explosive supplies. There are two targets across the map and we have a choice of peppering them with our machine gun or dropping one of Nick’s own rockets on them. We opt for the more genteel bullets from our mounted gun, but the result is the same: a massive explosion. But before we land, another plane glides into view. There’s a type of cult member known as The Chosen in the cockpit, and we’re in a dogfight (alas, without Boomer, who we assume isn’t sitting on our lap). Nick colourfully describes The Chosen as “Eden’s Gate Special Forces. They do not f*** around.” How do we take it out? Do we manage to arc over it in the air and take it out from behind? Er, no. We accidentally fly into it… which at least hurts The Chosen a lot more than it does us.
It’s a fittingly mad end to our demo of what promises to be the most eclectic Far Cry yet. One moment you’re liberating a town from the clutches of a surprisingly realistic evil, the next you’re taking them on in a dogfight in the sky while a new friend hollers encouragement in your ear. That’s why it’s hard not to be excited – we can’t wait to see if Ubisoft Montreal can cohesively pull these varied elements together to create something that puts the fear of God into you while giving you the power to fight back against it.
“AVIATION BUSINESS OWNER NICK COLOURFULLY DESCRIBES THE CHOSEN AS ‘EDEN’S GATE SPECIAL FORCES’.”
Whether on the ground or in the air, the fighting feels utterly exhilarating.
Planes are a big improvement on Far Cry 4’s little ‘Buzzer’ mini-copters.
Grace Armstrong isn’t just good for shooting deer. Her sniping skills mean she’s a very useful ally.
This truck is so tempting, Seed would definitely call it the devil’s work.
Limber up your throwing arm, because you need to get that dynamite in exactly the right place.
‘Liberate Fall’s End’. There’s nothing like a small task to start off with, eh? We’re on it…
From the water tower we’ve got a good view of what the cultists are doing to the citizens.