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Jan09

The Narrative of Far Cry 3

I just recently finished a video game first person shooter called Far Cry 3. Now, my blog doesn’t generally discuss my obsession with video games and movies, but it does talk about narrative and stories. Though, I’m wondering if maybe I should branch out a little bit? Hell I could even talk about relationships and how to better communicate with your spouse.

 

Tangents aside, what I want to talk about is the story of Far Cry 3. It’s nothing to write home to your momma about, but I will warn you, this blog post will contain spoilers. If you’re planning on playing the game and beating it, I suggest you skip this post.

 

This post will heavily discuss the narrative of the game and why it utterly failed at the last leg of its journey.

 

Synopsis: Jason Brody and his friends go out for some fun in the sun at Rook Island. His friends get kidnapped, but Jason somehow manages to escape. It’s up to him to rescue his friends from drug lords Vaas and Hoyt who are planning to sell them as slaves.

 

Straight off the bat the narrative commits a fatal flaw of making their characters unlikeable. The men are all what I like to call “Bro-mancers.” Guys that say, “Bro, dude,” and are heavily involved with recreational drugs and alcohol. You know those shows with rich white surfer kids who just enjoy themselves all day and everyday? That’s these guys. Upper class white kids with a lot of money to spend.

 

Your character Jason Brody talks like an immature twit and his friends are no better. Probably the most annoying character for me was his friend, Oliver who was nothing but a stoner. Even after being rescued by Jason, the only thing Oliver focused on was getting high. You’d think, that after being in a life threatening situation, he might want to sober up and help? Nope!

 

So narrative fail #1 for Far Cry 3:

– Unlikeable characters. (With the exception of Vaas, who was quite memorable.)

 

Despite the characters being lackluster, they do grow on you a little bit. Which tells me that if you take the characters out of the atmosphere which makes them annoying, they can be redeemed and even likeable. If they have no place to flaunt their money and get trashed, a lot of their annoying factors go with it. When they’re forced to survive and are helpless to the whims of their captors. It gives you a chance to empathize with the characters, but only a little bit.

 

The most note-worthy moment was when Jason had to beat up his brother, Riley in order to keep his identity secret. The irony was, prior to this moment, Jason thought Riley was dead. He was actually very happy to see him, but he couldn’t celebrate or hug him because the enemy was watching.

 

So when the moment came where you had to take control of Jason and beat up Riley and stick your thumb in his bullet wound, well… that was a pretty painful experience, no pun intended. I hated doing it and the game didn’t give me a choice to back out of it. It was an emotional highlight of the game and even though I hated “bromancers” I didn’t want to hurt them.

 

Narrative fail #2:

– The motives for the characters felt very 2 dimensional.

 

As you progress throughout the island, you meet a variety of sick and demented individuals. One of these individuals is Buck, who has bought your friend Keith and is using him as a sex slave. Buck’s goal is to eventually have Jason as a sex slave, but your character doesn’t know that. So Buck sends you out to retrieve a chinese ceremonial dagger and when you get back to his hut, he points a knife at you and say that neither of you are leaving.

 

Yeah, how does retrieving a Chinese ceremonial dagger make sense with what I’ve told you?

 

A quick stab to the chest fixes the Buck problem, but it doesn’t answer why he wanted Jason to get this dagger. Yes, he taunted Jason and told him that he would kill his friend while he was out collecting the dagger, but it still didn’t answer why he wanted the dagger. He makes no allusions to being a collector and doesn’t say that he’s planning to sell the dagger for money. He just wants it, but there’s no reason other than he’s crazy.

 

In fact, most of the characters are plain crazy, and there’s no method to their madness. Even looking up their information online says that they’re crazy. Well in my opinion, unless it’s Vaas, crazy does not make for a compelling villain. Usually there’s some kind of hook as to what drives the crazy person to do what he or she does. There’s some kind of reason why the crazy person wants whatever weird thing he or she wants.

 

Buck’s reason for wanting the dagger is never explained. If it really was just to torture Jason and eventually trap him in his own home, well… that’s a stupid plan by the character. Your character has after all, killed hundreds of people prior to meeting Buck. It makes no sense to have him retrieve a weapon, you make no attempt to disarm Jason, and then go after him with that knife. It’s a dumb moment and hurts the narrative.

 

The most OFFENSIVE Narrative fail #3:

– The game gives you the option to save your friends or join with the woman who gave you your fighting skills.

 

This was the most offensive narrative fail that I had ever seen. You were given a choice on the game’s ending. Save your friends or join with Citra. (Citra is some kind of witch woman who helps Jason become a better warrior.)

 

Why? Why did the game feel the need to give you the choice for a different ending? It was completely inconsistent with the tone of the game and the actions that led up to this moment.

 

Not once in the game did the game ever give you an option to choose a path. You can not avoid hitting your brother, you can not avoid killing Vaas, you can not choose which way the story will unfold. The game takes you on a linear progression throughout the story and forces you to experience the narrative the way it was designed.

 

At the end of the game, Jason is holding a knife to his girlfriend’s throat. The game asks you to either kill your friends and join with Citra, or save your friends and cut them free.

 

Story-wise, why the hell would you ever join with Citra and kill your friends? It is not a believable behavior and not something a human being would ever do. Also, considering that the game has been railroading you to this moment, why did they feel the need to add this multiple choice ending?

I believe the writer was trying to make it seem like Jason, you as the player would be seduced by being the big man on the island. The unstoppable killing machine that would be happy to live as a warrior and forget his friends. Many times during the narrative they made it seem like Jason was falling in love with the life of being a mass killing machine. But YOU as the player controlling him, NEVER feels this way. You know why? Because we’re not psychopaths.

 

It felt forced and fake. It ruined whatever the narrative had going for it and pretty much destroyed any enjoyment of the ending.. Constantly throughout Jason’s adventure, he kept saying, “I need to save my friends. I need to save my friends. I need to get stronger to save my friends.”

 

Why the hell would you kill them at the end of the game? Especially when they hadn’t done anything to deserve being killed. If your friends were working with the pirates and were planning to backstab you, then yes, by all means, give me the choice to kill them. But if the whole purpose of the game and Jason’s motives was to SAVE his friends. Then no amount of temptation would ever make him want to willingly kill them. Especially for a woman who claims to love you, when you’ve only met her three times throughout the course of the game.

 

As the saying goes, “Bros before hoes.”

 

Sorry, relationships don’t work like that honey. You can’t have sex with me and then claim to be in love with me. How about dinner and a movie first?

 

It felt so fake. I can’t imagine what my facial reaction must have been when the choice popped up. I’m pretty sure I said, “Are you kidding me? Why would I join Citra if the whole point was for me to save these guys.”

 

It turns out that Citra was just as crazy as everyone else on the island, and that made the character weak and uninteresting.

 

So what can we learn from the story of Far Cry 3?

 

1.) Don’t create your characters based off horrible reality TV stereotypes. These characters could have easily been in “Real World” on MTV, and they were definitely annoying. If you’re going to take that risk, then you need to go out of your way to make them LIKEABLE and do something meaningful. It was noble attempt, but Jason and his friends never really grow on you. If his friends tried to save Jason’s life, that could have changed my perspective drastically.

 

2.) What a character wants, needs to make sense within the context of the story. It made no sense for Buck to want a ceremonial knife, nor did it make sense why CIA Agent Willis (another character) suddenly says he’s going to Russia and offers to take you to the next island via his plane. Their motives are what made Far Cry 3 feel like a video game..

 

Buck wanted the dagger because the game needs it for the last scenes.

Willis is going to Russia because you need to access the next island.

 

Yes, we all know it’s a videogame. But masterful video games make it so you can’t tell that the characters motives are for gameplay reasons.

 

3.) Your characters’ motivations must remain CONSISTENT!

I’ll admit, my first book failed at this. Cindy was accepting assassination contracts when she was supposed to be the heroine. I didn’t make it clear how negative the influence of the suit was and it hurt the book tremendously. I’ve since learned from this lesson and wish this game did too.

 

There has to be consistency in the motives that align with the personality of the character. You’re not going to turn around and kill your friends after you spent the ENTIRE game trying to rescue them.

 

I mean at least give a better option like, “Kill them or I will kill you.’ Rather than, “You will be the most powerful warrior in all the land and I will love you forever.” What a bunch of sh–

 

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Coming up next: More blogs and a teaser trailer for The Silver Ninja™: Indoctrination.

Wilmar Luna