It was a long time before the developers visited Montana or for that matter decided that they wanted to bring Far Cry to the US. They knew that this will happen because of the fear of a childhood in the early 80’s, the days of the Cold War when everyone was waiting for something terrible to happen.
“I remember sort of this crushing weight. This feeling like the titans of the US and the Soviet Union could basically erupt, and that something catastrophic would happen,” says Executive Producer and Creative Director Dan Hay. “I remember growing up under that, and feeling the weight of it and being scared all the time. I remember watching movies like The Terminator or War Games, and it was sort of out there in the ether that people were feeling like we were on the edge of something.”
The fear disappeared with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but crawled back in the recent years.“I think about what people were feeling at those moments,” Hay says. “Where’s the government? Where are the people protecting our assets? Where are the people who are watching what’s going on? Where are the people holding the reins of this and protecting us?“And I started to get that feeling back from when I was a kid like maybe everything wasn’t perfectly safe,” Hay adds. “Maybe everything wasn’t properly managed.”
The cruel doubt is something that Hay wanted to implant in Far Cry 5, which portrays you alone in a hostile countryside which is controlled by The Project at Eden’s Gate. Led by Joseph “The Father” Seed, the cult preys on the same apocalyptic fear Hay felt when he was a child, thinking that Eden’s Gate is holding the key to salvation. They are driven by a belief that a voice spoke to Joseph and commanded him to save as many souls as he can, whether they like it or not. They have capped off a long campaign of intimidation, recruitment and aggressive land with an armed takeover of Hope County, Montana. There is no help coming from outside, you do not know your surroundings and it is up to you to stop the cult from harvesting the souls of Hope County.
“We want to make sure that the game builds a believable pressure. “So we built a beautiful world, and we want you to visit it. We want you to be able to experience all the gameplay, the anecdote factory, everything you know from Far Cry. But we want to put a believable pressure on that.”
“About three years ago, we started to talk about some of the things that are in the game right now – cults, the idea of going to Montana, the idea of going to a frontier in the States, and bringing you to a place that you know already. And the concept that the thing in your backyard could be even more exotic than going a thousand miles away.”
When Far Cry was still developing, Hay and his team spent around 14 days in Montana, where they hung out with locals and got firsthand look at the countryside, discovering a beautiful landscape with environmental diversity and opportunities for outdoor fun.
“Far Cry is about two things. It’s definitely about chaos, and there’s a lot of that in this. But it’s also about building a beautiful world. We went to Montana and we fell in love with it. It’s stunning. Think about all the different things you can do, the different creatures that are there, all the different biomes. So we built our world, and this is our version of Montana.”
His team also met people who pride themselves on their self-reliance.
“We met a lot of people who didn’t want to be messed with. They want to be left alone. And there was this feeling of being able to take care of themselves. And it created this sense of a frontier, and a remoteness, that really resonated with us. But what happens when somebody else shows up and says, ‘yeah, I agree with you, don’t trust the government, we can do it ourselves, and I will provide’?” All of a sudden you create this petri dish, this magnet for crazy, which is where Eden’s Gate goes.”
“Games are maturing, and we’re getting closer and closer to films and television in terms of the stories we can tell,” Hay says. “And I think it means we can start to tackle situations and characters that are a little more complex. And so when we look at The Father, this guy who believes that the end of times is coming, and has built his own religion, it means that we can tackle that. Even though it’s a tough subject, it works in the game, and we feel like we can own it.”
In order to create Eden’s Gate, Hay and his people met with experts on cults to learn how they are organized. What they came across was that the modern cults are not structured around a single leader, but around a group of people with specific jobs and mandates. In Eden’s Gate’s case, these people are Joseph’s family.
“Joseph the leader, everyone follows,” says Hay. “With him is his brother, Jacob, the oldest, who had 20 years in the Army, and now has a unique set of skills. He also has John, the youngest, who’s almost the face of the organization.”
John, as explained, is a lawyer in charge of maintaining the cult’s public side. He also spreads the cult’s aggressive attempts to buy land throughout Hope County, displacing residents in the name of claiming cult territory.
“What we learned from cult experts is that a cult will have somebody like John who shows up and buys some shitty land just on the outskirts of town, and then puts 1,500 people on it,” says Hay.
“And the moment that happens, all of the land around them devalues, and they spread like cancer until they have control over the municipality. That’s John.”
The cult’s fourth leader is Faith, described by Hay as “the half-sister, the baby sister.” Faith’s job is to keep the cultists focused and pacified once they’re in the fold.
“You need somebody who’s making sure that everyone’s rowing in the same direction, and that’s Faith. That’s the family that we’ve built.“
“We look back at some of the characters that we’ve created before, and we know we’ve had those key moments where you sit down with them, and you look at them eye to eye. But we kind of did it with one character at a time, and each game was a face-off. This time, we thought it’d be really interesting if we created a cast of characters [like that]. They each have their own personalities, and each even has their own agenda.”
But, Hay says that the same approach to character-building does apply to the people you will meet in the open world.
The key of Far Cry 5 are the resistance fighters, who follow you into a battle with unique personalities, skills and backstories. Hope County may be occupied by cultists, but it is full of people who are not thrilled about that, and they will go against Eden’s Gate if you successfully convince them to join you. But first, you must meet them.
“You go out into the world and you meet people for the first time, you don’t know them, maybe they don’t trust you. But if you can strike up a deal with them, if you can have a conversation with them and make them part of what it is you’re building, they can join your resistance.”
We know three of the characters so far. The first one is Pastor Jerome Jeffries, Hope County’s former parish priest, who lost his church to the cultists. He was beaten and left in the woods to die.
He pulled through and is now dedicated to defending Hope County’s civilians from the predators. Then we got introduced to Mary May Fairgrave, a saloon owner whose family business was bought out from her by Eden’s Gate. The final one, Nick Rye, is a crop duster pilot who disappointed his father by not enlisting in the Air Force, but now he is charging his plane with guns.
“When we see those characters come to life, when we see that they’re not just AI waiting around to give you a mission – they have real personalities, they have opinions about stuff – the world feels real,” Hay says. “We want it to feel real, we want it to feel grounded, we want it to feel like you’re having a real experience. When I think of a Far Cry story, I think about sitting in a bar, having a scotch, and somebody comes up behind me and starts to talk about an urban legend that happened to them. And they’re telling the story of survival in a frontier, and it’s twisted, it’s unique.“
“That’s what makes a Far Cry story, and if I can imagine myself at that bar, and I can hear that story and go ‘we can build that, we can make that,’ that’s a Far Cry,” says Dan Hay. “And in this case, I think that bar is actually in Montana.”
Far Cry 5 will launch on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on February 27th, 2018.