Looking at the title of this piece, I suppose I could have been talking about the indie game scene, but I’m actually referring to something else. I was thinking about what game best illustrated independence for me. There are so many open world games out there where you can go where you want, when you want, but only one epitomizes (for me) what true game independence looks like: Far Cry 3.
Far Cry 3 was barely on my radar in 2012. I knew it was releasing in December, but I didn’t have feelings about it one way or another. I knew it was set in a tropical location (I am a sucker for this), and I knew there would be lots of water (I am also a sucker for this). Beyond that, I had little thought about what it was, or should be.
Turned out, it was better than anything I could have hoped for. In every way possible.
Okay, that’s a lie. The driving segments were the worst, but otherwise, everything was amazing.
From the moment you take control of Jason (arguably one of the more ridiculous protagonists in recent gaming), you are unleashed into a world that is so messed up, just about anything goes. You are free to do anything you want, however you want. If you want to try to take over a base in stealth fashion, you go for it. If you want to run in, guns blazing, you can do that, too.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to ride a jet ski aimlessly for an hour, you can do that, too.
If you want to explore the islands and not disturb the wildlife, you can inject yourself with a particular syringe and your presence will barely be noticed by the creatures around you. You won’t be attacked for a period of time. How often did I inject myself with that syringe just so I could watch turtles loping along?
Answer: many, many times.
As I stated above, I adore water in games. So when I unlocked a syringe that allowed me to swim for longer periods of time, I super took advantage of it. I dove deep and found treasure. I saw various forms of sea life. I was able to get to places I’d not previously been able to go. It was like a magical pass to anywhere.
And never mind all the seacraft I was able to commandeer! As someone who can not swim, yet loves the water, I couldn’t get enough of the various forms of sea travel. I would not be likely to use a jet ski in reality, but in Far Cry 3, I would use one as often as possible. The boats were a bit cumbersome, but still useful. If I could be out on the water to get from place to place, that’s where I was.
And the hang gliders! The first handful of times I used one, I crashed and burned in a big way, but after I got the hang of them (gross; no pun intended), I loved cruising around over the Rook Islands to get a cinematic view of the terrain.
I could literally use any option of transport, be it land, sea, or air, to explore.
More than any other game, I felt that Far Cry 3 empowered me to do anything I wanted. It allowed me to approach any situation a number of ways, and that’s a remarkable experience. I couldn’t get enough.
So when I think of independence in gaming, this is the most striking example. It sits in my top ten games of all time for the combination of environments, soundtrack (I listen to the score on a regular basis), travel, and style. I never could have predicted how much I’d love it. And the surprise was a welcome one.
What game made you feel the most free to do whatever you wanted to do?
I wish each of you a safe and silly fourth of July!
KABOOM!!! (That’s me pretending to be a firework.)