I love love love sandbox games. But Far Cry 3 is the first one in a long time that I’ve played where, pretty early in the second island I just lost all interest in exploring for the sake of exploring. I could not imagine an open world game where I could find a cave and have absolutely no interest in going in and seeing what I could discover, but in FC3 I knew there would be absolutely nothing in there I haven’t seen over and over and over. “Oh boy, a chest! Yeah! Another used hypo needle or bootleg DVD!”
An open world with no ability to surprise is a pretty poor open world, IMO.
The second island, for all the effort that it took to unlock it, was indeed too much of a more-of-the-same to feel like a reward for the player’s effort. It felt like the island existed primarily for set pieces rather than exploration. But I still finished the game, and look forward to FC4.
There were. And in there you would find a few chests with a Cuban cigar, a used meth pipe, and some other something you had seen 1000 times before. Instead of, say, a bedroll with a diary next to it with writings of a man who talks about hiding his family from the warlords who have taken over the island, hoping for the day when they are overthrown and he can feel safe moving his wife and two daughter back to their home village, a chest with a little girl’s doll and toy tea set, go further into the cave and find an attempt to make a couple of bedrooms, one the couple’s and the other the daughter’s, a small kitchen with a still hot meal on it, a letter in the bedroom from the husband saying that he’s decided he cannot hide while his fellow countrymen try to fight and resist and he must go and will be back soon, then in the back his wife’s body, clearly shot but with a gun in her hand (maybe a really good gun) and two dead bodies of the bad guys in front of her. You look deeper for the daughter, in dread and hope, and find a little cubby that is hard to find, and a note from her saying she is going to find her father, he surely must be fighting near their home village of xxxxx.
Later, near there, you find her in that village. She is carrying a rifle and machete, and asks you to find her father, he is easy to find as he wears a bright blue bandanna on his head Simple side quest. You find him in a battle somewhere, and if he dies, you go tell her. If he survives you talk to him and tell him his wife is dead, but his daughter lives and is in the village. He thanks you, and gives you a special weapon as a thanks.
Little thing. Minor sidequest. But makes me want to search every cave and village and patch of woods.
LOL! Actually Skyrim has some very minor touches that took no real programming effort that made a huge atmosphere difference, like the simple notes in the lighthouse. I mean, if you can set up sidequests that are “I’m poisoned, go find me 5 red flowers and 5 blue flowers and 5 rocks” when you run into a guy in a cemetery…
Jeff, I do hope that Far Cry 4 aligns more closely with your description since that is fun. However, I never really saw the Far Cry games as pure exploration games where you find little unique stories scattered about. Far Cry 2 had a little more of that with diamonds next to crashed planes and so forth. I think the Far Cry games are shooters first and foremost, they just swap out corridors with a large expansive open world. People complained about the respawning checkpoints in FC2, but that was a design decision that placed shooting before every other aspect. Far Cry 3 got pretty boring when you liberated a huge area and combat was close to nonexistent.
The aspect that I found the most interested about the series occurred in FC2. I liked the unrelenting brutality and unforgiving nature of that world. Guns jamming, malaria, trucks breaking down, and cranking the difficulty up to the highest level all combined to produce an interesting FPS experience where you don’t feel like an overpowered hero. They undid a lot of that in FC3 which was unfortunate.
Yeah, I’d just like it, if you’re going to have this big open world with a lot of villages, caves, etc. to explore, just make them interesting. Just make the effort. Why in the heck have a bazillion chests when, 1/3 through the game (max) the player will have seen everything and know there is no reason to open a chest. I quit after I’d finished the main game but had not explored a large section of the second island, when I realized I was walking past caves and unexplored woods, etc, and had zero interest in them.
For an anal retentive open world explorer like me - I never fast traveled in Skyrim, I walked every inch of that world just for the joy of exploration - it is heresy to not explore a cave, etc. But there was nothing to explore, i.e. I knew there would be nothing I haven’t seen, everything would be mundane.
I think they spend so much time working on what the player can do that it comes at the expense of what you see in the environment. Bethesda does ambient storytelling so well, with hints of this and that from prior occupants. Stuff that’s there just because. To amuse, intrigue, puzzle. The occasional questline that pulls you through a tale of woe (the lighthouse, as you noted).
Far Cry, on the other hand, is more concerned with the combat and how the player can make a supreme mess of things in as many fun ways as possible. This is not to say you can’t wed the two styles but I’m not sure the pacing of FC would make it a good investment (from their perspective). They don’t seem to want us to stop and smell the roses so much as flatten them while astride an elephant.
Yeah, it’s really more Just Cause 2 than open world exploration game (a la Skyrim.) But it teases and hints with caves, thin missions with a love sick woman, the first person POV, etc. which raised my expectations.
I rented Far Cry 3 for the heck of it because I’ve never played a Far Cry game. I normally find open world games to be really tedious, so I was a little concerned about that aspect from the start. It’s a lot of fun, though. I’m surprisingly really feeling the crafting system, which is another thing that usually bores the hell out of me in games. It’s nice running across different animals in the wild and having a damn good reason to hunt them down. Because hunting is fun!
I just had a cool adventure hunting down a pack of boars deep in enemy territory for a much needed ammo storage boost. Then I go back to town and walk out the front gates and there’s a pack of buffalo hanging out right outside. I throw a grenade at their feet and scoop up 2 dead buffalo hides which was just what I needed for the next ammo upgrade. Then I return to town once again to fill up my ammo and a wild tiger charges in. My homie gives his life to help take it down and I get a tiger hide, which is half of what I need for the NEXT ammo upgrade.