Before I go any further, do be warned that I’m going to spoil all three endings in Far Cry 5. So if you haven’t beaten the game yet and don’t want anything ruined for you, turn back now.
So. That Far Cry 5 ending. The one where we confront Joseph at the end and he gives us a final choice to either walk away from Hope County, or stay and resist him. Because of the way the game is structured and how the player is made to feel like a one man or woman killing machine, it’s painfully obvious that you’re meant to resist Joseph and engage in a final boss fight before the game ends. What ensues is yet another crazy drug trip (par for the course with Far Cry games, apparently) where Joseph teleports around in a cloud of Bliss while brainwashing your friends.
The player then has to shoot their friends till they’re near death, then revive them so that they can join your side in the fight. It’s rather wholesome, really. And when I went through the fight, I found myself thinking that this was probably the most feel-good boss fight I’d ever encountered in a Far Cry game. Sure, it was beyond annoying to have to revive 12 different allies in the fight while getting pelted with bullets from a teleporting maniac, but it was a nice sentiment, having to knock some sense into my friends and get them back on their feet. Getting all your allies back and joining forces to finally gun down this egotistical cultist felt pretty damn good, too. I got some serious Persona final boss vibes from that fight, which is always a nice thing.
Then, once you defeat Joseph and put him in cuffs, you think you’re on your way to restoring Hope County back to normalcy. But no. Out of nowhere, a nuke drops from the sky and decimates the entire town. You get into a truck with Joseph and your friends, and try to make it to Dutch’s bunker. Things are exploding all around you, and you get knocked out during the drive. When you wake up, you find yourself back in Dutch’s bunker, just like the start of the game. Except this time, all your friends are dead, Joseph’s killed Dutch, and it’s just you and him left in the world. “I’m your Father,” Joseph tells you in that creepy voice of his, “and you are my child.” Roll credits.
Uhh. What the fuck just happened?
Confused by the ending I just got, I did a little bit of research and discovered that the other ending wasn’t that much better either. Choosing to walk away from Joseph sees you and the sheriff driving out of Hope County to call the National Guard. But before that, Only You starts playing over the radio, and it’s implied that the player character goes berserk and starts killing people because he’s already been brainwashed by Jacob.
Doing a bit more digging, I quickly found out that the ‘best’ ending of Far Cry 5 is the one you can trigger at the start of the game. Instead of cuffing Joseph in the church, you can walk away from the whole situation and things would be left as is. It’s an interesting parallel to the Easter egg ending of Far Cry 4, where Ajay can simply sit at Pagan Min’s table and eat the crab rangoon while waiting for him to return. At the time, I thought it was a pretty smart ending. But in the case of Far Cry 5? It feels unearned, even pointless.
So, what exactly is the difference between the two Easter egg endings in these games? Well, for starters, Far Cry 4’s entire narrative was centered around the political struggle in Kyrat. You had two leaders representing two different ideals; one wanted to keep Kyrat grounded in its traditional roots, while the other wanted to push it towards modernization and into the 21st century. However, regardless of which path you choose, Ajay soon realizes that there are downsides to either choice when the leaders go to the extremes. By the end of the game, Far Cry 4’s subversion is that perhaps it was better to leave Kyrat in the hands of Pagan Min after all. In spite of how cruel he could be to those who rose up against him, Pagan Min ends up looking like the lesser of the three evils, acting as some sort of ambiguous pivot that keeps the two other extreme leaders in check.
The different endings made sense because Far Cry 4’s narrative was about the flaws of revolutionary politics. It wasn’t fantastic, but even if you choose to ignore the subversion, there’s still at least a sense of victory to be had by sticking with either path. And that sense of victory is important especially in video games. After all, no one likes the feeling of investing so much time into a game only to end up feeling like nothing they did mattered. No matter the consequences, whether Kyrat falls under the rule of yet another authoritarian ruler or not, the outcome is something that Ajay actively fought for. The ending simply brought to light the consequences of the player’s actions, and those were still somewhat easier to stomach because you knew that this was your doing.
In Far Cry 5, the subversion is that Joseph really did have the power of God on his side all along. All throughout the game, as you get comically kidnapped by his siblings time and time again, Joseph talks about something called the Collapse. It’s easy to dismiss this as the ramblings of a fanatic, and why shouldn’t you? The Project at Eden’s Gate is a presented as an extremist cult that slaughters anyone who disagrees with them, all while preaching to their victims as they do it.
And yet, as you continue to “break the seals” by going after Joseph’s family and the Father himself, the player comes to the gut-punch of a realization that it’s impossible to defy Joseph’s will. By defeating him and breaking the final seal, so to speak, it’s implied that God’s wrath is unleashed unto the world in the form of a nuke. In fact, if you spent a lot of time driving with the radio on in Far Cry 5, supposedly you’ll hear radio broadcasts that hint towards unstable relationships between countries in the global landscape, and that there could be a nuclear war incoming.
Right, that’s all very well and good. But when the big twist of your game ending hinges on the player listening to random radio broadcasts while driving in a car with the radio on, then there’s something fundamentally off with the way the story’s been written.
On one hand, it’s a rather poetic ending for a game like Far Cry 5. The story draws some inspiration from real world events (though I guess the game got it wrong where talks between North Korea and the US are concerned), and it’s easy to see where all the doomsday talk comes from. However, there’s also the issue of how the game completely dehumanizes the cult throughout the story. The Peggies are just braindead zombies infected by Bliss, meaning they’re no better than rabid animals, and it’s perfectly okay for the player to gun them down. Their leaders are broken people without a grip on reality, and find pleasure in torturing their captives. I mean, the game explicitly tells you that Jacob looks down on the ‘weak,’ whatever that means, Faith drugs people and uses them to murder others, John likes skinning people, and Joseph killed his own baby.
Mmhmm, yes, the Seeds sure are reasonable people that you should listen to. There’s absolutely nothing about the cult that would even remotely cause you to want to sympathize with them.
Because of that, Far Cry 5’s ending and twist about Joseph being the holy man after all feels unearned and like a slap in the face. The ending itself is interesting, and it could have even been thought-provoking had the rest of the story and writing been a little more nuanced. Also, what was even the point of choosing the deputy’s gender at the start? Anyway, spending 30-odd hours in a game that tells you its villains are nothing more than lunatics, and then being treated to a final five minutes of finding out that they were right all along is absolutely awful.
At the end of it all, nothing hurts more than feeling like everything you did in the game was all for naught. That idea was considered revolutionary and groundbreaking in Spec Ops: The Line (and even Metal Gear Solid 2 to a lesser extent before that), but that was six years ago, and it’s a concept that’s starting to feel lazy and tiresome in 2018. It hurts even more when you consider how the story was so poorly handled in Far Cry 5, leading to the ending feeling like a dreadful cop-out.
Far Cry 5 had some good ideas, but the execution was deeply flawed. A for effort, I suppose, but I’d take a Pyrrhic, drug-fueled escape from the Rook Islands over this any day of the week.