Far Cry 3 – A Critique

Touted as an open-world shooter Far Cry 3 is a pretty long way from that. It is a sprawling environment that has little change. Mountainous tropical Pacific island with ruined Japanese fortifications from World War 2 and thoroughly despicable antagonists (slavers and drug dealers who are exterminating the natives) has little variety. It is really an updated Far Cry 2 with many of the same play elements but beefed up for the latest console players’ expectations.

Your character, Jason Brody, is a fantastically tough and mobile “natural with a gun” who is seeking to rescue his enslave friends before they can be ransomed, but sold off into slavery after the money is collected.

The writing of plot attempts edginess with quotes about sanity and the lack thereof from Alice in Wonderland: a favourite of shallow-writers attempting to be deep. Nietzsche would be a better source than the opiate riddled classic by an English diletante. All the writing really conveys is the shallow understanding that psychopaths/sociopaths cannot be reasoned with and attempting to is the definition of insanity; attempting the same thing expecting different results.

Some tribal magic loosely inspired by the Maori as Rakyat has a classic Serious Sam like monster encounter complete with closed arena and sprawling mass area attacks being put out whilst the monster must be struck in only one area. This kind of tired arcade trope should have died last century. For a game that claims originality it only manages to do a tried formula in fiction of having thoroughly hate-able antagonists, with a protagonist that has the abyss he stares into, look deeply back into him.

Still, the killing and jingoistic patriotism not so subtly veneered behind laconic humor is apropos for the USA audience and the thinly veiled un-PC snappy lines attempt an edginess that would be successful on all the minors who ought not be playing this game.

Game-play is polished to simplicity. There is a lack of leaning, replaced by context based “peek-a-boo” shooting conveyed to the played by the gun being lifted when close to an object – no slicing the pie and using lean in this game. Far Cry 3 successfully captures the kinetic fear of combat with an AI that will flank you well but it fails to suspend disbelief with spawn-behinds and impossible reinforcements, just like its predecessor.

Open-world is often only while you are not on a mission. It’s for this reason I have to say the game promoters are lying when they say it is open-world. It simply is not. If you are mid-mission you cannot leave the mission area without the mission auto-failing. Also if you stray to far from the islands you are locked into you will die auto-magically. This is like playing D&D with a 12 year old who can’t ad-lib, or a philosophy lecturer who gets upset with you not buying into her false dichotomies presented as moral paradox.

Morality is loosely touched on but there is no ramifications for actions in this game apart from auto-magical results. Ultimately it is a hint of a flavour but never really brought to the forefront. Many sequences intended to shock the player are better off left as a scripted cut-scene, in particular the torture of the younger brother, and the vanishing antagonists whom you are forced to work with become tiresome very quickly.

Far Cry 3 has many failings mostly with what the promoters claim it is meant to be. If presented as a frenetic shooter with visceral elements to build tension and a plot that has despicable enemies you will really want to take-out, then that would be accurate. Its open-world elements are limited to in-between missions and ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

Ultimately, though, it is an addictive experience because the AI is smart enough to be a challenge, the exploration rewarding enough to pursue, and the combat frenetic enough to be engaging. The main missions are a let down and if Far Cry 3 had a “non-story mode” it’d be a far better offering.

7/10

Far Cry 3 – A Critique

What are the best Sandbox RPG products and why?

Spending lots of time in the last few months researching RPG products, blogs, forums and what gamers like I’ve determined that I’m an OSR-Sandbox kind of gamer. What has become interesting is the games that I’ve purchased all reflect this, to various degrees, without me even realising until I started writing this post.

MERP – although it is solidly in another’s very famous world it is presented as a massive Sandbox ready for gaming glory.

Battlelords of the 23rd Century – a multi-galactic setting waiting for you to populate it with all the seeds of information and flavour from just the core book.

Rolemaster – doesn’t even come with a world!

Warhammer FRP 1st Ed. – a massive grim world of perilous adventure! There’s lots of gaps with guidelines for ways to fill them between cities and wild lands empty for your artistic GM brush.

SLA Industries – a planetary urban sprawl with Cannibal Sectors, ruins, and mega-dungeons and not a single map.

SLA Industries

All this brings me to ask of you: what are the best Sandbox RPG products and why are they best? What makes a product capture your attention? How do you decide if you’ll purchase an RPG Sandbox product?

For me it’s something that oozes “potential”. It has a clear world that operates along familiar daily patterns. And it has events & ongoing actions that are exciting, even if more than a little dangerous.

What are the best Sandbox RPG products and why?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Game Engine Candidate for Ultimate Sandbox

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (hereafter COD4: MW).

If COD4: MW is highly moddable then the skilled people that did big-mods for STALKER need to grab it and make a total conversion to a sandbox game. My time and inclination for doing such things has passed so I live in hope of someone else providing (sad as it is). Unfortunately I’ve read that the COD4: MW engine uses spawning to create enemies. I’m sure that can be rectified. Spawning is the elephant in the loungeroom of FPS games. The whole concept is flawed. Everything that was not already in the environment has to come from outside the environment. It doesn’t have to ‘fully’ exist in the sense that it is rendered but it should be reacting to the environment with AI. The environment should also be reacting to it! (see Sandbox Shooter: Emergent Genre) This can be done algorithmically or simulated: doesn’t matter as long as the new enemies/allies/critters come from outside the environment and then work their way in. It may involve them being spawned at certain points but with thought it can be done with internal consistency and not look like the kind of cheap-magic-trick that it is in most games.

Consider terrain as borders. A tunnel is a great example. Prior to more ‘bandits’ being spawned an animation of torches coming down a tunnel can be a logically consistent warning that ‘bandits’ are about to spawn at the mouth of the tunnel. I digress into sandbox design, again.

COD4: MW has all the game engine elements that would support the ultimate Sandbox Shooter with today’s technology. Playable wounding (if you don’t fall over, then you’ll survive if you’re not wounded again for a number of seconds), fantastic ballistics (allowing easy penetration of cinder-blocks with  7.62mm weapons for example, 5.56mm has a harder time and pistol rounds don’t), great environments, and good sound-engine.

If I was to pick any engine that existed it would be this one for a sandbox shooter. Rendering is excellent and the physics engine is fantastic. There’s rumours of a sequel in October this year that will add RPG elements. The unfortunate thing is that the environment is not dynamically destructible. I’ve seen shooting of a single cinder-block with over 60 rounds of 7.62mm and the cinder-block is still there: it should be gone. If the engine could cater for destructible environment it would be the perfect base for the Sandbox Shooter.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Game Engine Candidate for Ultimate Sandbox