Far Cry 6 developer interview: ‘Revolution is violent, but not humorless’
Far Cry 6 is finally here and transports players to the island nation of Yara to topple a dictatorship. We sat down with Ubisoft narrative director and lead writer Navid Khavari to talk weapons, third-person, and politics.
Far Cry 6 is out now following a series of delays, and it marks a return to a more exotic setting following our excursion to Hope County, Montana in the series’ fifth installment.
Before setting foot on Yara ourselves, we had the chance to speak to Navid Khavari, the game’s narrative director and lead writer, about the game’s influences – both in terms of its characters and setting, but also in a political context.
Giancarlo Esposito “always quite high” on casting list
Where to start, then? How about with the actor that adorns the game’s cover art. Perhaps more so than any other franchise, Far Cry’s protagonists feel secondary to the series’ gallery of rogues. With the iconic Giancarlo Esposito providing voice and performance capture for new big bad Anton Castillo, I asked Khavari if the character was always meant for the Breaking Bad and Mandalorian star.
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“We went through an extensive casting process, though Giancarlo was always quite high on the list, and it wasn’t long before I began writing the character with his voice in my head,” Khavari tells me. “I am very thankful he was up for doing it because that would have led to a lot of rewrites!”
“What is fantastic is he didn’t want to repeat what he had done before. He wanted to do something new. This led to Anton emerging as a character who could be charming and almost theatrical one minute but could then turn on a dime and be silent, still, and terrifying the next. The way Giancarlo plays Anton’s love for his son, it allows you to find empathy with our antagonist.”
Real-world issues played out in a virtual revolution
Castillo rules Yara with an iron fist, and players are tasked with battling his forces through guerilla tactics. With Far Cry 6 launching with such a politically charged backdrop as we approach the tail-end of 2021, Khavari notes the parallels to Fulgencio Batista’s toppled government.
“Of course, the story is fictional, but in the case of Anton for example we were inspired by the actions of real political figures in history such as Fulgencio Batista, the dictator whom Castro took power from in the 1950s. Or in a more current context, the protests that we were seeing happening around the world, from Venezuela to the Arab Spring,” he reveals.
“In a story about revolution, it was inevitable it would speak to politics and how the characters in the game would approach or reflect on them. Whether it’s the conditions that lead to a rise of fascism or imperialism, including how countries outside of Yara perceive Yara’s politics, and how Yara perceives them.”
Given Far Cry’s propensity for offering its own ridiculous scenarios and gameplay opportunities, I asked Khavari if that made it tough to give pay proper respect to the plight of Yara (and its real-world inspirations).
“That’s part of the Far Cry DNA – trying to strike a balance between what could be seen as mature themes, with levity, fun, and crazier elements. It’s challenging but it comes with the territory and wasn’t something to shy away from. The approach was really to make everything feel consistent with the world of Yara.”
“Far Cry games are already an almost hyper-real context to work in, and so our goal was to try and wrap as much as we could with story and character.”
“Now, revolution is heart-breaking, painful, and violent, but it’s not humorless. We found this time and again in our research and talking to experts. One story that always stuck with me was about a group of guerrillas who were hiding in the jungle having a party and playing music. Then they heard the distant sound of bombers, so they turned off the music and hid. When the bombers passed, the guitars came back out and the party started up again.”
Khavari also revealed that the game’s tone will extend to its DLC offerings, including the upcoming Danny Trejo collaboration, but couldn’t offer any further detail.
The technology of the revolution
Speaking of Yara, the comparisons to Cuba are plentiful, while also winding back the clock somewhat due to an in-universe blockade that means technology is a little dated. As it happens, Khavari and the team saw this as an opportunity to work with the concept of Resolver – meaning “make to do with what you have”.
“I think that ties to the ingenuity we saw in Cuba, which was one of our first sources of inspiration. The concept of Resolver, which means “to make do with what you have” or “to solve”, as a result of the blockade has led to ingenious methods to work with very little to get through difficult conditions.”
“Whether it’s extending the life of classic cars, or strapping dishwasher motors to bicycles to create a motorbike. We translated this idea to the game and how it could apply to a modern revolution in Yara, especially by grounding it in character.”
“Particularly the character of Juan Cortez, the mastermind behind resolver weapons and gadgets, who describes guerrilla resolver as the ability to be “inflicting chaos with everything you’ve got”. Whether it’s fire extinguishers filled with fuel to create a low-level jet pack or silencers made from water bottles.”
Whichever weapon or tool you’re using, Far Cry as a franchise has always put an onus on first-person animation. Whether it’s setting a broken bone through a painstaking healing animation or digging out a bullet, the series has always stuck to first-person. While that’s still true of much of Far Cry 6, its camp areas and cutscenes will now switch to third-person – something that Khavari says, ironically, is to help players feel more connected to Dani’s journey.
“In a gameplay sense, being able to see your loadout and gear. But also in a narrative sense, being able to see your character interact and speak to other Yarans, which has the effect of making you feel more connected to them.”
“Whether it’s in cut-scenes when you enter guerrilla camps or the moment you use your Supremo backpack – it’s a powerful feeling to see your character doing those things. It also gave us opportunities to have scenes without Dani, like those between Anton and Diego that let us see their perspective and how they react to what you’re doing. The change happened early and really felt surprisingly natural.”
Speaking of Dani Rojas, our player character has more personality than arguably every Far Cry protagonist before them and is fully voiced with both male and female actors. Khavari notes that representation was important for the team this time around.
“We wanted to give players a choice of how they see themselves in Dani’s story. Right from the start, you’ll be able to choose between playing Dani Rojas as a female or male, but the experience is universal to all players.”
Far Cry 6 is out now, so be sure to check out our full review.