Do I think it’s realistic to expect a nuanced, poignant tale on the current state of the world from the same company that holds the Tom Clancy license? Of course not, but I also think it’s completely fair to be critical when it doesn’t even come close. Moreover, the tale being told is nauseatingly bland and tone-deaf, but doesn’t seem to know it. A number of times, the game drags you out of the action to beat you over the head with a cutscene. It’s frustrating when you’re inexplicably given a front and center seat to the main villain's ethereal monologues. It’s straight up infuriating when the game decides it wants to show you another cutscene, then literally comes through and plucks you from the world, regardless of whether or not you were in the middle of actually enjoying it. Far Cry 5's confidence that you’re just dying to see the next explanation of “why being in a militant death cult is actually kind of understandable, when you think about it” is the worst kind of immersion-breaking. Even if the story wasn’t quite as difficult to ingest, it’s constantly being undermined by the actual gameplay and cast of minor characters. I found it difficult to invest myself into a minor villain’s morality tale of cannibalism and desperation when, just minutes ago, I was torching dozens of nameless cultists while a well-meaning redneck fired a rocket launcher at a bear.
Speaking of - the minute to minute gameplay feels substantially better than earlier entries in the series, at least for me. Controls are tight, gunplay is deadly, and for the most part, the vehicles serve their purpose well. The Skill Tree comes across as a disjointed compromise of ideas, but doesn’t get in the way of enjoyment. In fact, it felt entirely possible to get through the vast majority of the game without giving that particular submenu a second glance.
One mechanic I found quite a bit of joy in was the Guns for Hire, at times despite itself. As someone who usually takes a stealthy approach to combat when it’s offered, I found that whenever I tried to sneak my way through an encounter, the AI either physically got in my way, unwittingly called attention to themselves, or just flat out ignored orders. This became especially frustrating when clearing outposts, as a single mistake could quickly snowball into an alarm being set off, triggering endless waves of reinforcements. However, even when it would’ve been advantageous for me to simply dismiss my digital companions, I found myself keeping them around. Listening to the random or named characters as they conversed provided a much-needed feeling of companionship and felt crucial in keeping me immersed when the game’s edges would’ve otherwise begun to slip away. I suspect this will be a common feeling among cooperatively-minded players.