I enjoyed myself for the vast majority of Far Cry 5. Ubisoft Montreal made an extremely fun sandbox and loaded it with all sorts of wacky tools of destruction.
I was also able to tune out the game’s story almost entirely. Because, as you may have heard, it’s really gross and terrible. Contrary to the exceedingly well-honed dialogue and character arcs of Far Cry 4, this game is just filled to the brim with obnoxious monsters lacking any semblance of charisma or motivation. Whenever the game forced me into comically frequent kidnapping sequences, I knew I was in for a solid 10 minutes of charmless rambling and slow-walked cutscenes.
But then they’d end, and I’d be back outside marching around Montana’s countryside with my bestie bear and cougar (arguably the best companions, given their lack of dialogue). I knew how to have fun in this world, and step one was tuning out every human ever.
[Warning: The following contains major spoilers about the end of the campaign in Far Cry 5.]
But when it came time to wrap up the game’s campaign, there was a small part of me that held out hope. Maybe, just maybe, there would be a reason for all of this grossness? Some clever twist or thoughtful examination of the human psyche that would justify listening to gratuitous stories about baby murder and children eating their own parents?
Big nope on that one.
There are actually two endings to Far Cry 5 (not counting the Easter egg alternate ending at the beginning).
THE ‘BAD’ ENDING
After taking down all of Joseph Seed’s lieutenants, you approach him at his church in the midst of his armored compound, where it seems he’s captured all your cop buddies. Seed makes you an offer: If you decide to walk away, he’ll let you all go without a fight. Granted, he has still brainwashed all your other friends, and he’s keeping them, but those three you came with? Yep, you can take them and leave.
So you do, and upon driving away, the gruff sheriff character mentions that he’s just going to drive to Missoula, Montana, the closest city, and call in the National Guard. It’s actually a pretty great plan. Almost like what they should have done from the jump, right?
Unfortunately, as you’re driving away, the sheriff flips on the radio and the song “Only You” comes on. If you’ve been half-paying attention to the story, you’ll remember this as your “KILL EVERYTHING” trigger from some post-hypnotic suggestion sessions you went through.
The sheriff turns to you and asks if you’re OK. And then the screen cuts to black, with just the eerie tune running through the credits.
Honestly, it’s not the worst ending. It’s cute. Meaningless, but cute in the way that a bad M. Night Shyamalan movie might end.
It also makes all of your actions throughout the game essentially pointless.
Which is fine, considering it’s the “bad” ending. We don’t expect much from bad endings, as they’re noncanonical. So much so that when the credits finish, your checkpoint puts you right before you make the final decision, so you can do it ‘right’ this time. So let’s do that.
THE ‘GOOD’ ENDING
The good ending starts off in exactly the same way, but instead of deciding to walk away, you “RESIST” Seed. This kicks off one of the goofiest final boss fights in recent memory.
All of your companions have been infected with hyno-sludge and turn on you. You then have to shoot them until they are half-dead, whereupon you can run up to them and revive them, and then they are nice again. Because sure.
Once you’ve done this 12 times, you can finally damage Seed. He is downed shortly thereafter. And that’s when the real fun begins.
Seed, apparently, has a nuke. And he blows up Montana with it. Cooooooooooooooooooool.
I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. To wake up and realize that this had been a ‘bliss’-fueled nightmare. But nope, it doesn’t seem like it. You proceed to race through the flaming remains of Hope County, rushing to the bunker where it all began. Once there, you get knocked out, only to wake up with Seed standing over your caretaker’s unconscious or dead body.
“You’re my family — you’re all I have left now,” he says.
And then the game ends.
After the credits, the lovely, idyllic load screen of Hope County is replaced by the charred remains of a nuclear hellscape. Sure you can reload a save and everything will be good as new, but we’ll consider that another noncanonical ending, since it’s never explained or discussed.
Nope, you won the game — and for your troubles, the state (and maybe the world?) got blown up.
If this ending appeals to you, we probably can’t be friends. That it’s a dark conclusion is not even the problem. It’s just dumb. Pointless. It feels like all my efforts were for naught, and it even tarnishes a lot of the fun I had, since it all got blown up anyway.
The cynical part of me thinks this is an unfortunate sequel setup, where the next game in the Far Cry series will take place in a bombed-out America. Because Fallout makes a lot of money.
Actually, I almost hope it’s that. Capitalism is at least a better excuse than emo art school nihilism.
Update: Shortly after publication, a Ubisoft rep reached out with a correction on the ending.
“Wanted to clarify that in reality, the ending has been hiding in plain sight. Joseph Seed continually says that the end of the world is approaching. The radio news broadcasts hint of a larger problem unraveling outside of Hope County as the game unfolds, like increasing tensions and a world in chaos, stating that nuclear war seems imminent.”
While I don’t doubt this was the intent of the ending, in 30 hours of playing I never heard one of these broadcasts. It also doesn’t really change the tenor of the game’s nihilistic, what-was-the-point ending, and might even make it worse. I guess wacky ol’ Joseph Seed was right about the collapse of civilization. Hooray?