Far Cry 4 revolves around Ajay Ghale, a young man who returns to his home country of Kyrat to spread the ashes of his mother as her final request. Soon you are captured by Pagan Min, the supposed dictator of Kyrat, and forced into a civil war between his army and the Golden Path, a terrorist state intent on bringing Pagan Min down. What saves Far Cry 4 are the myriad of interesting and engaging characters. The main villain Pagan Min could be one of the best villains in gaming this year, due to the game fleshing out his motives, his ideals and his beliefs. Pagan Min isn’t just a shock value villain with a driving goal to be your nemesis; he is a real character that actually draws sympathy in certain aspects. Much like Vaas in Far Cry 3, Pagan is easily the best part of Far Cry 4. Troy Baker gets a lot of criticism of being oversaturated in the VA market right now, but his performance as Min is as memorable as his role in The Last Of Us; it’s that good. Returning characters like Hurk and Willis Huntley are welcome, less due to their performances and more due to their interesting connections to 3. In fact, Far Cry 4 raises some very clever and interesting theories about previous instalments.
Unfortunately, the downsides come in often and plenty. Min doesn’t show up as often as you’d like him to, and the roster of supporting characters range from interesting, to mediocre, to downright awful. The two tribe leaders, Amita and Sabal are both terrible personalities, and worst of all, you’re forced to follow at least one of them in order to progress through the game. They both have flawed goals, but they treat you with utter contempt if you follow the other’s path. Seeing as how Ajay was literally dragged against his will into the civil war and his only goal was to lay his mother’s ashes to rest, I found no motivation to help the Golden Path outside of a purely gameplay perspective. Both Amita and Sabal are terribly written characters and only further emphasise how much I wanted to side with Min. They seem to forget that Ajay is not meant to be in this war, but that they dragged him in, yet they chastise and hate him for choices he is forced to make. Terribly written motives and terribly written characters combine to make the ‘good’ side look absolutely terrible. There’s some payoff towards the end but it’s not enough to justify the hours we’re forced to spend with such delusional, baffling characters. The writing spends more time humanizing the enemies than the allies; in one scene we are forced to capture a key lieutenant, but we have to sit through a solid five minutes of him calling his family and telling them how much he loves them, before we cart him off to be tortured to death. It’s this sort of two dimensional, unsubtle writing that really drags the story down.
At least the game tries to justify why Ajay is so important to the war. As the apparent son of the creator of the Golden Path, people already look up to him and expect him to do great things. It’s still flimsy, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Far Cry 3’s “because he’s white, he’s our saviour” plot. It allows the plot and setting to get away with a lot more than it usually would have, and while many may find the unblinking violence and culture wars shocking, I don’t fault a game for pushing the boundaries.