pop: 1000 (Yet quickly decreasing over time)
Nestled in the heart of the South Pacific, somewhere between Borneo and Australia, lies the legendary Rook Islands. Not only was this location a Japanese stronghold during World War II, but it is also home to other industries such as tourism, piracy, drug production, and human trafficking.
Getting There & Away
Far Cry 3 tells the story of Jason Brody, an American 20-something middle-class male who, while traveling with his friends, finds himself and his friends kidnapped by local pirates. His brother sacrifices his life for Jason to get away, who embarks on a journey around the islands and within himself as he becomes a powerful warrior with the help of the local tribe.
In some ways (and this is going to sound crazy), it’s kind of a bold choice for the developer to cast a rich, spoiled, middle-class, white American as its protagonist. On one hand, it comes across as pandering to the game’s target audience, but I kind of like how he (let’s face it) shares many characteristics of that target player demographic.
Ultimately, the problem is that there is a dissonance between him too-quickly transitioning from being a stranger in a strange land to killing deadly people and animals with a variety of weapons. Perhaps something like a stress meter that the player would need to manage could have balanced it out and brought you closer to what Brody was going through. Alternatively, staging this game from the perspective of someone indigenous to Rook Islands would address those issues and provide a truly unique character experience.
Near the end, Far Cry 3‘s story feels a bit tacked on after a truly inspired first half. Overall, its story isn’t as challenging or relevant as its predecessor. Then again, story is only a small part of Far Cry 3‘s appeal, and it certainly doesn’t distract from the true meat of the gameplay experience.
Orientation and Information
Rook Islands consist of two main land masses with smaller ones in the surrounding region. The North Island is Rakyat (the indigenous people of this region) territory.
Rook Islands are home to some of the South Pacific’s most beautiful natural sights, thanks to Ubisoft’s Dunia Engine 2 technology. In addition to nature, there are many notable man-made locations just waiting to be discovered by the adventurous traveler. Badtown, Dr. Earnhardt’s house, Marijuana fields, Vaas’s island in the North East (best to wait for an invitation though as the host can be a little twitchy at times).
If you’re the type to partake in some of Rook Islands’ local nightlife, be prepared to experience some unique sights and sounds. It’s not uncommon for visitors to have hallucinations about demons and such. There’s a lot of fun to be had on the islands, but be careful and don’t wander off alone.
While on the surface life appears to be laid back on Rook Islands, in actuality it’s ‘go go go’ all the time here. There are modest yet functional accommodations throughout, provided you are bold enough to secure your reservation. Things are going on here around the clock, and there’s little time for rest. As the Rakyat say: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
Once a major sticking point in the Far Cry series, saving your progress has become much less of a headache. While in a mission, your progress is recorded via checkpoints. When you’re not doing missions, you can quicksave whenever you want, which promotes a much less risk-adverse experience on the part of the player.
Local Cuisine and Crafts
If you’re a vegetarian, Rook Islands might not be the place for you. Most meals and sustenance is procured through traditional means — specifically, hunting. Being good with a bow, knife, or gun is essential to getting by in this part of the world.
Much of the early part of the game should be spent hunting, as the skins from local fauna will allow you to craft wallets, holsters, etc., which in turn allows you to carry more items. Another part of crafting is that you can use local plants to create healing, hunting, and combat syringes. This is a great compromise in that it doesn’t rely on the crutch of regenerative healing, which ruins the immersion of Far Cry 3‘s survival component, but allows for healing items to be plentiful and easy to restock in the environment.
The world of Far Cry 3 is huge and there is a ton of stuff to do in it. The ticket to entry however is about three hours of expository storytelling and running around before you are truly allowed to set out on your own. There’s an autosave for when you activate/visit a tower or safehouse, but it’s only after you get through the early set-up that you can quicksave wherever you are. It’s a little frustrating at first for those of us who just want to take on the world, but to its credit the game does a good job of teaching you some of the essentials for survival.
Once you get past the initial hand-holding, Far Cry 3 does the right thing and gets the hell out of your way. One lesson learned from the previous series installment is that the side missions are considerably less cluttered. The combination of having objectives clearly marked on the map, as well as a fast-travel system helps to eliminate a lot of the slog that ground much of Far Cry 2 to a halt. This title is every bit as expansive as the Far Cry name demands, and it works for explorers and players who want to skip the extraneous stuff and just play through the story.
Bottom Line for Travelers
It took Ubisoft three games and a lot of frustrating missteps, but they finally nailed it with Far Cry 3. Most of the annoying design choices around checkpointing and wayfinding from the first two games have been largely fixed here, and it finally feels like a world that you really want to get lost in. As a shooter, Far Cry 3 is as solid as anything else out there, and its strategic elements add to its depth. Once was enough for the story, but without a doubt this is a sandbox I’m going to be spending a lot of time in over the next few months.
[+Stunningly beautiful game] [+Almost a perfect Far Cry game] [+Lots of fun, uncluttered side missions] [+Hunting and crafting is a ton of fun] [-Character/gameplay dissonance] [-Weak final act]