The Far Cry series has built its reputation on carefully created conflicts set in isolated, often beautiful, remote locations, doubling down on a specific place and culture to tell its stories. Far Cry 6 takes this philosophy not only to the next, country-wide level, but also attempts to perfectly mould a distinct visual and cultural identity with its new setting: the Cuba-inspired, fictional country of Yara.
After a brief hands-off showcase of Far Cry 6, in which I saw a healthy glimpse of everything from a weiner dog in a wheelchair to a disc launcher that fires out CDs playing the Macarena, something less ostentatious caught my eye. After all, bizarre companions and wacky weaponry are Far Cry staples at this point. The true bold step for the series appears to be the world of Yara, and the slavish attention to detail Ubisoft Toronto has applied to building Far Cry’s first ever full country-scale open-world.
After the gameplay demonstration, I spoke with David Grivel, Lead Gameplay Designer and Ben Hall, Far Cry 6’s World Director, who were more than happy to talk about Yara, its capital city, Esperanza, the Cuban inspired Resolver Philosophy, and everything in between.
“Yara is a unique country,” says Hall. “It’s built as its own place, but reflects heavily on the references that we took from Cuba and from other Caribbean islands. Cuba, specifically the interesting elements from the landscape, was something that really inspired us.”
By both Hall and Grivel’s own admission, previous entries in the Far Cry series have largely been restricted to very specific regions of their chosen country. Whether that be Hope County in Montana, or the tropical Rook Islands in Far Cry 3, the series has generally stuck to one style of biome. With Far Cry 6, however, the goal is clearly to create a variety of landscapes to visit. Seamlessly blending between biomes, Yara will hopefully feel like a place that could be (and perhaps was) densely populated, rather than a few strung together glorified villages and outposts. But with this new direction comes a whole new challenge for the development team.
“I think the biggest opportunity that comes with building a country is that in terms of infrastructures, you have to support the fact that it’s a whole country,” says Grivel. “Esperanza, the main city, was an interesting new challenge for us. How do you apply the rules of the Far Cry games into a complete urban environment? So it’s more verticality, how does the AI adapt to the streets, etcetera. It’s a really cool game design challenge to tackle.”
The streets of Esperanza look as if they will feel more than familiar for anyone who’s visited Havana. Beyond the oppressive regime looming over the city are smatterings of colonial architecture, revolutionary graffiti, and an abundance of classic cars. Incorporating Havana’s aesthetic into an open world game feels like a no-brainer, but there’s more than the visual identity of Cuba’s capital city for Yara to adopt.
“The world feels [like] different flavours as you move around it,” Hall says, sharing that Esperanza is nestled between thick, humid jungles and vast mountainous ranges. “The architecture, and the fact that the island is under these economic sanctions, is something that we want to recapture, because there’s something really fascinating about this kind of paradise island trapped in time that we wanted to really tap into and recapture for Yara.”
Despite being the largest Far Cry location to date, everything I’ve seen gives me every impression that Yara is a densely packed world. Not only has Ubisoft confirmed a deluge of activities and series staples like the returning outposts – now called FND bases – but there appears to be plenty to do in response to the military occupation.
“The country is so big, I could say it’s a whole Island this time,” says Grivel. “And this time, it’s not just big and empty, but it’s big, filled with activities, but the activities also have different play styles.”
“We wanted to show the player that the whole land is controlled by Anton, the villain,” says Grivel. “We have a new activity that is called checkpoints. That is kind of like a bite size outpost if you want.”
Cuba’s tumultuous history creates a unique opportunity for Yara’s inspiration beyond the country’s oppressive occupation and unique visual identity. Specifically, Ubisoft Toronto has looked to Cuban society’s adopted philosophy of Resolver; the determination to get by and adapt, despite obstacles. The lack of mainland resources often forced Cubans to work with what they had, and the iconic vehicles of the 1950s that still roam the streets of Havana are the shining example. These cars have been passed down through generations, repaired and maintained in the absence of access to newer models. This philosophy was also adopted for Far Cry 6, incorporating the can-do, DIY attitude into the player’s experience.
“Resolver philosophy is really all about making things with whatever you have around you,” explains Grivel. “When our team went to Cuba for research at the beginning of the project, they saw in someone’s house an old vinyl player used as a desk fan. You know, that really shows that over there, because they don’t have access to a lot of things, they have to make do with what they have.”
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Grivel is quick to point out that the Resolver philosophy extends beyond homemade guns that fire CDs and lawnmower engine-powered gatling guns. He confirms that the mantra covers all sorts of systems in Far Cry 6.
“If you want to put a gun on your vehicle, go ahead,” he says. “If you want it to spit flames, go ahead. Why not? It’s Far Cry! The Resolver philosophy, for us, is really trying to apply it to those systems.”
In a way, the Cuban inspiration feels like the perfect, inevitable cross section for the Far Cry series. It meets the tropical, ever expanding remote locations of the past and the implementation of DIY weaponry of Far Cry New Dawn right in the middle, for the series’ logical next step. It’s a concept almost so perfectly conceived that, frankly, it’s hard to imagine Far Cry 6 being inspired by anywhere else in the world.
Dale Driver is a Senior Video Producer at IGN. If you’re a glutton for punishment you can follow him on Twitter