We talked to some of the key developers behind Far Cry 5 and found out just what went into making the game's cult and its leaders.
Far Cry 5 is bringing the series a bit closer to home when it comes our way next February, and when we went to Montreal earlier this year to visit Ubisoft, one of the main things we talked about was the making of the cult that the player has to confront in Hope County.
Leading the Making a Cult panel was creative director Dan Hay, who obviously had a lot to say on the matter. He explained that Ubisoft had wanted to take Far Cry to the US for years, as it's quite literally a far cry from the other, more exotic locations they have had in the past. This provides something unique and distinct from previous entries as a result, and gives the team a chance to do something new.
There are certain challenges that come with this, though. For instance, there's the trouble of things being a little familiar, with people feeling like they've been there before, but at the same time, Ubisoft also wants to balance this with fiction. They're not making a real cult, or a real place in Montana here, but instead a fictionalised area based on real-life experiences, and so balancing this believability with fiction is one big challenge.
A part of this fiction, obviously, is the cult itself, led by The Father. Hay told us that The Father is a powerful leader with a purpose, unlike previous antagonists we've seen before. He's fighting for something he believes is right, which is that the end is nigh and that non-believers will try to take him (which they do, prompting the events of the game), whereas others like Vaas didn't have such a motive, and were instead more about measured evil with a sprinkling of insanity and chaos.
How does Montana fit into this, though? Well, Montana is important because the rural nature of the state means that you can easily cut yourself off from the outside world should you choose to do so. It's far enough away from civilisation and major cities that you can settle down without being bothered, and if you've got a status as a cult, that's one extra guarantee that people won't come knocking.
This all sounds plausible, based on Ubisoft's research before developing the game, and this level of believability was vital for Hay and the team. This is why Montana was chosen, after all, and why it was so important for The Father to be tempting. Hay jokingly remarked that he actually felt like he wanted to join the cult in the game himself after seeing its leader in-game, and that's an important thing - he tempts you, just like real cult leaders do, and that's how they garner such a following.
Hay also emphasised the tangible nature of the cult's operations. For instance, the cult owns so much land because farmland is cheap, and when cults move into an area, neighbours tend to move out because of the large and intimidating gathering of individuals nearby, which means the cult can they buy their land cheap and keep expanding. Here they create a power structure whereby they can control not only vast amounts of property, but also pull the strings in the local area, as their massive land ownership means they pretty much solely run the agriculture and trade of crops, and this money also means they can control the police and run the whole show, ensuring they remain undisturbed.
This power is all exercised through the family, as there's a network of people who run the different strands of the cult. One sibling, for instance, controls sedation, to make sure members don't get too riled up, another controls recruitment, and another is responsible for training everyone up. At the head of all of this is The Father, and at the start of the game he shuts down the area as part of a plan he has with the family once he is taken as he prophecied - nobody gets in or out of the area, and the cult becomes hostile (it's worth noting they weren't hostile until they themselves felt threatened).
"When I think about Far Cry I really do think about it like The Twilight Zone," Hay told us, explaining how "it's a real world but then they twist it a certain way. So we take things from the real place." This doesn't just mean the cult itself but extends to the studio's vision of Montana. "It has to feel real, it has to be populated with people that have jobs, that have opinions, right. And then when you meet them they have to be under a very specific kind of believable duress, which makes the world feel more convincing and thereby the enemies much more convincing as well."
We didn't get a lot of details as to how we're going to interact with these different leaders and the various aspects of the cult in-game, but we do know that we will get to engage with them in a variety of different ways, and there'll be no set order in which to progress the story, much like in other Ubisoft titles like Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Prominent cultists will involve themselves in your story as you progress, but how your interactions with them will feedback into the wider organisation is something we'll have to find out by playing.
People in the game join the cult because they feel disenfranchised and disillusioned by the government, and this is a big part of how Hay wants to make the game a fiction that's still relevant to America today, where these feelings are often being expressed. These people are sick of the rules imposed on them, and are susceptible to being tempted by a better option, and even when they don't the aggressive nature of the cult often recruits them anyway.
Also in attendance at the panel was an expert on cults called Rick Ross, who pretty much corroborated Hay's claims that this was a believable cult that reflects real ones. He said that unhappy people often join cults, but it's not just what he called "weirdos" like the stereotype would suggest, as anybody regardless of education could be tempted by the charisma and offerings of the cult, something that Joseph and his family offers, especially since they claim that a dark day, a day of reckoning, will come. This 'day of reckoning' belief is something that Hay said reminded him of his own childhood, where the threat of nuclear war was a seemingly real one, and reflects the scares of the Cold War in America in particular.
The cult in Far Cry 5, then, both reflects those in the real world while at the same time crafting a fiction that lures you in while also becoming increasingly disturbing as you realise their true workings. It's certainly a lot different to those settings we've seen in previous games, and in February we'll see just how hard the cult is to take down for ourselves.