The Failures of Far Cry 5’s Endings
In order to throughly examine this work and provide fair criticism, this article contains spoilers.
You have been warned.
There are three endings to Far Cry 5: one at the very beginning and two from an end-game decision. However, none of these endings are good, neither in their quality nor in their morality. Each ending sees the cult victorious, whether ideologically or by your inaction or retreat. The game also attempts to lecture the player on the meaningless violence you participate in despite it being the only way given to interact with the game. Due to the silence of the protagonist, it also offers no way to point out the hypocrisy of that statement of meaningless violence in regards to the cult’s own violence.
Far Cry 5 communicates its main message through Joseph Seed and his family to you, the non-character. You create what you want your character to look like at the beginning of the game, and can change their costume despite the game taking place entirely in first person. You only see the chosen costume when a fellow player shares a screenshot in coop or when you walk up to see a wanted poster of you on the wall. There is no presence besides the weapon you hold. Any small details that might make your presence felt in the game world are absent in Far Cry 5. Additionally, your character is not actively controlled in cutscenes. All of this signifies that your character is actually a non-character and instead a camera with arms that the game uses to talk directly to you.
Because the player character is a silent protagonist, Joseph’s view is the only message being put forward. What I regard as the true ending of the game, the Resist option, sees Joseph’s teachings vindicated, and therefore the deaths, violence, and the kidnapping and torture of citizens who did not willingly join his doomsday cult are painted as justifiable. Meanwhile, the game lectures the player on how their violence to counter it was not only unjustified, but wrong and even morally reprehensible. Except it wasn’t.
Just because Joseph was correct about a nuclear winter being unleashed on this small Montana county doesn’t mean he gets to do whatever he wants, whether it be killing the weak, torturing people by carving into and tearing off their flesh, or enslaving them for manual labor through exposure to bliss, the drug that has affected the minds of FC5’s zombie-like enemies. Throughout the county you will find examples of those who rejected the cult, whether they be strung up with barbed wire on billboards or other displays, or found in dumps of charred bodies. NPCs relay stories of horror at the hands of the cult.
The moral of Far Cry 5 is that you should have “left well enough alone” and not confronted Seed despite his inhumane actions and violence. The moral of Far Cry 5 is that you as the player should not have embarked on the rebellion against the cult but instead should have accepted it. And that is so wrong.
Leaving well enough alone infers that the cost of confronting Joseph wouldn’t be worth the outcome. That the correct choice was to allow him to continue his violence unabated because attempting to stop him would cause more violence than it was worth. This form of equivocation, that the violence that would be necessary to end Joseph’s violence is just as morally evil, is repugnant and unacceptable.
Should you choose the Walk Away option during the finale, you and your fellow law enforcement officers leave the drugged out on bliss controlled companions and allies to Joseph and leave Hope County, with the sheriff promising they would return with the National Guard. However, he turns on the radio which plays the familiar song “Only You (And You Alone)” inducing a familiar visual effect. Earlier in the game Joseph’s brother Jacob would play a music box creating this visual effect that led to the player making his way through a dream-like shooting gallery killing ally NPCs that culminated in the death of Eli, your main ally for Jacob’s region. This trigger indicates Jacob’s conditioning with his music box has kicked in and you are about to kill everyone in the car. This ending shows that Joseph was always in control, always one step ahead, and means that your player, and your actions, were doomed to fail from the first decision to cuff Joseph.
A third ending exists, the one that sees you refusing to cuff Joseph at the outset and leaving with your fellow officers. This ending spares you and your allies from the pain of the main campaign, but it allows the cult to continue on with their disgusting behavior. This is still an ending I find unacceptable morally.
This recurring theme among the endings—that your actions were meaningless―doesn’t really play into anything else the game was doing. Joseph Seed claims that your time spent fighting him was meaningless, and by extension that your time as the player was meaningless in terms of reaching a desired outcome. Instead you made as much progress as if you hadn’t participated at all. What purpose did this violence serve, other than to try (and fail in my experience) to entertain you for 20 plus hours? This theme is undermined by Far Cry 5 offering no other solution to confrontations besides the violence it condemns. Lecturing the player about how sometimes a problem can’t be solved by a bullet means the correct way to approach Far Cry 5 is to not play it since that is the only solution provided by the game itself. It’s hypocritical and only has the vague appearance of providing something meaningful or thought provoking in regards to its own message.
Joseph asked me during the finale whether or not it was all worth it. If the violence I caused was worth this outcome. I knew what was coming. Far Cry 5 was going to legitimize Joseph Seed no matter what choice I made.