Sometimes the government can be a jerk. That is why we have revolutions! I mean, not us specifically, but some people. Have you seen how many guns governments have? And tanks and planes and such? No no, leave that shit to the poor and desperate. But sometimes it’s fun to pretend to overthrow a government, specifically a cartoonishly evil one in a video game! But which ridiculous straw-man of a government to overthrow? The current generation of games has a plethora of options for your anti-government entertainment and today I will be exploring three of them in a three-way revolution showdown!
Our three contenders are Far Cry 4, Just Cause 3 and, just for the hell of it, Fallout 4 . The categories on which these revolutions will be judged are the people, the setting, the gameplay, and the heartbreaking murder of endangered species. This article may seem a little ambitious, but, like Stephen Hawking once said “My enemies will burn in the fire of my ambition!”. Or at least I think he said that. I sometimes get him confused with the ancient Chinese Warlord Tsao Tsao. But that’s not important right now, let’s begin.
To start with, let’s take a look at some videos, because that’s why you are here, am I right? The excellent Dan Bull has made a couple rap songs summarizing Far Cry 4 and Fallout 4, and the Cynical Brit, Totalbiscuit, has a somewhat more substantial video telling us just WTF is Just Cause 3.
The protagonist of Far Cry 4 is Arjay Ghale, a man who’s name is inexplicably pronounced multiple ways by different characters, and who evidently doesn’t care enough to correct any of them. Although in Arjay’s (AJ’s?) defense he does have a lot on his mind. Traveling to the Himalayan nation of Kyrat (another name no one can agree on the pronunciation of) in order to scatter the ashes of his mother, Arjay is pulled into a civil war between the rebels of the Golden Path and the Royal Army, led by the charismatic Pagan Min. Despite early assertions that he is only there to scatter the ashes, Arjay racks up an impressive body count of Royal Army soldiers. Throughout this, Pagan Min will occasionally contact Arjay, in a way that reminded me of Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2. As the game progresses Arjay eventually agrees to actually commit to helping the Golden Path and must choose which of it’s quarreling leaders, Amita and Sabal, to support. Sabal wishes to maintain a more traditional Kyrat, and cares more about individuals, while Amita is more ruthless and willing to make moral conpromises to defeat Min. In addition to the major characters there are a variety of colorful side characters from the misguided stoners Yogi and Reggie, to the bible – thumping ex-warlord Longinus.
Just Cause 3 has a less robust cast of characters. The protagonist is Rico Rodriguez, a veteran of toppling dictatorships who, unlike newcomer Arjay, also starred in the previous Just Cause games. Rico returns to the vaguely Spanish/Italian island nation of his birth, Medici. There he joins forces with his childhood friend Mario and the scientist Dimah Al-Masri in their fight against dictator Di Ravello. The exact nature of the rebels isn’t as clearly defined as in Far Cry 4, especially since they seem to have resources nearly on par with the government they are fighting against. Di Ravello also doesn’t have as much character as Pagan Min. He is essentially a straw-man character who exemplifies greed and corruption.
Fallout 4, like previous entries, has a robust character creation system, allowing you to create the freedom fighter of your choice. For our purposes, I made a hefty burn victim named Dankweed Gobblefart. Dankweed is tricked into a cryogenic chamber from which he views the death of his wife (or husband if you made a woman) and the kidnapping of his son Shaun by the presumably evil Institute. The “good” faction of Fallout 4 is the Railroad, a group of freedom fighters working to liberate the synthetic humanoid cyborgs the Institute keeps making for some reason. There is also the Brotherhood of Steel, a group of techno-philic racists who also hate the Institute, as well as anyone who isn’t a human, and the Minutemen, a local militia group dedicated to protecting the people of the Commonwealth from the same minor threats that keep appearing over and over again. Unlike the Brotherhood and Railroad, they don’t seem to have any specific beef with the Institute. As for the Institute, the mysterious, arguably evil faction that holds most of the power in the Commonwealth their motivations are enigmatic for much of the game.
When it came to Dankweed, I sided with the Railroad and the Minutemen and then proceeded to spend roughly 30 hours building settlements and murdering random raiders and monsters for every hour I spent looking for my son. Such is the perils of the sandbox game.
Winner: Far Cry 4
Kyrat is a beautiful place, full of ancient temples, intriguing scenery and wildlife. As Arjay explores the land in order to liberate it from Pagan Min’s Royal Army many little details are discovered about the state of Min’s Kyrat and the history of the nation. There is also a few elements of the supernatural as Arjay is transported into the mind of a traveler into the mystic realm of Shangri-la where he fights demonic invaders to that peaceful realm.
The islands of Medici, while beautiful, lack the depth and character of Kyrat. Sure, there are ruins and secrets and scenic beaches galore, but it starts to get a bit repetitive a lot sooner than Kyrat does.
The Commonwealth of Fallout 4 is probably the best character in the game. The developers hid little scenes of life before the apocalypse everywhere in computer logs and even well-placed skeletons. This is definitely one of Bethesda’s strong points as game developers, even if the actual main story is a bit lackluster. Even the background interactions between the different bands of raiders was fascinating and full of intrigue, intimidation, and even heart. The locales also have a surprisingly robust variety, from a shanty town built upon a flotilla of wrecked ships to the cold and pristine halls of the Institute itself.
Winner: Fallout 4
Finally we get to the meat of it. Far Cry 4 does a great job of ramping up difficulty, starting Arjay with limited resources and forcing him to build his skills. However, I found I reached a plateau about halfway through where I already had the best equipment (or near enough that it didn’t matter) and, while the enemy did bring out heavily armored troopers, it was still fairly easy to mow them down with an upgraded LMG or sniper rifle. As for actual mechanics, the sneaking was fairly well done (and apparently a bow and arrow is way stronger in this universe than reality) but, as with previous entries, vehicles handle like garbage unless you put them on autopilot. The diversions from the main game, the trips to Shangri-la, and sequences where Arjay is on drugs do add a little variety, but I still find the gameplay a little lackluster compared to the rich story.
Just Cause 3, on the other hand, is all about variety of gameplay. At times it seems more concerned with showing off the interesting mini-games and challenges than actually advancing the plot. The driving is much more intuitive than in Far Cry 4, and there is much more variety, from dirt bikes to enormous cargo planes, all able to be summoned quite easily from the suspiciously well-funded rebels. The sneaking leaves a lot to be desired, especially when it is far easier to just start blowing thins up until the enemy sends in the big guns, then hijack those big guns and turn them on their master. The difficulty curve is a little bit better here as the enemy ramps up the numbers of tanks, helicopters, and gunboats as you progress and even with the almost ludicrously easy ability to hijack enemy vehicles, you’ll find yourself quickly overwhelmed if you don’t play smart. Upgrades and improvements come from completing the aforementioned mini-games and challenges and quickly become essential to progressing in the main story line if you hope to keep up.
Fallout 4 is your typical Bethesda RPG, an open world, lots to explore, and tons of customization in terms of how your Dankweed Gobblefart will make his way through the wasteland. The V.A.T.S. system of aiming makes a return with a few tweaks. If PC is your fancy, Fallout 4 also continues the rich Bethesda tradition of ludicrous amounts of mods. Eventually one does reach a point where finding things to challenge you becomes difficult, but even late in the game it was still possible to be overwhelmed.
Winner: Just Cause 3
Heartbreaking Murder of Endangered Species
One of the staples of the Far Cry series is the hunting of animals in order to craft new gear. More than a diversion, the game is considerably more difficult without these upgrades to your basic equipment. I consider myself an animal lover. However when given the choice between murdering five majestic rhinos from the back of an elephant, or not being able to carry as much equipment as I can the choice is obvious. Adorable tapirs, beautiful tigers, weirdly memetic honey badgers, all were slaughtered in my pursuit of an optimized build and each one took a little toll on my heart. Seriously, why do you need the skins of five gigantic rhinos to make a god damned ammo pouch? And it’s not even the biggest ammo pouch! You can even murder turtles for no in-game benefit. Why even include that?
Just Cause 3 has some goats I think that occasionally get in the way of your bullets/cars/crashing helicopter gunship, but that’s about it in terms of wildlife.
As for Fallout 4, well everything is enormous and hideous with two exceptions: cats, which survived the nuclear apocalypse more or less unchanged, and dogs, some of which have gone feral, but are otherwise alright. You still will have to kill the occasional guard dog but by far the most heart-wrenching animal violence is done to your poor companion, Dogmeat. Dogmeat is a German Shepard you find early in the game that can accompany you throughout, that is, if you are okay with watching him get assaulted by all manner of psychopaths and monsters until he whimpers in pain. No no, Dogmeat will stay safe in Sanctuary Hills behind my army of settlers and turrets.
Winner: Not those poor rhinos certainly.
Well there you have it folks and folkettes. If story is your thing, Far Cry 4 is the revolution for you. If you want to explore a rich setting while occasionally remembering to fight the forces of oppression, strap on your power armor and check out Fallout 4. If you want a variety of gameplay, and don’t care what package it comes in, check out Just Cause 3.
Viva La Revolution.