Control your disappointment
In the second DLC of FC6’s season pass, we journey into the mind of Far Cry 4’s Pagan Min to find another rogue-like open world shooter. Pagan wouldn’t have stood for this nonsense.
As in the previous DLC, Insanity, you’re outfitted with a basic pistol and let lose to survive 5 rounds of the same event, this time in a surreal representation of Tibet-like Kyrat. As it’s all in Pagan’s mind, his ego is the interior decorator. Everything is flamboyantly about him, even the clouds. As you navigate the world, you take over safe-houses, unlock weapons, gain XP and upgrades, all making the next go easier. But I don’t want a next go.
Why the hell is this a Rogue-like? It made sense for Insanity; Vaas was all about repeating the same event and expecting a different outcome. But in Control, each of the events reveal something more about Min; how he took over Kyrat, how he became conflicted after the birth of Lakshmana, his wishes for Ajay, but we don't need to repeat the backstory - those reveals, which are touching and deepen the already conflicted image of Min, quickly become tiresome when you get offed and have to go through the same thing over and over – oh, he grew to love his daughter? I know. Oh, he hated the Shining Path’s leader for murdering her? You don’t say.
At least in Vaas’ Insanity there was his rage, his refusal to submit that kept the Rogue-like approach relevant even if we repeated the reveals about his manipulative sis. His fury pushed you on, whereas Min’s melancholy resonates in a way that suggests we should stop and take stock, not keep repeating. As Min tries to rationalise his past actions, his Subconscious rears up to belittle or challenge him, laughing at Min and reminding him he’s a horrible person. They’re touching moments that deepen Min and trigger you to give FC4 another go, but the repeat factor kills any poignancy.
This should have been a classic FC gameplay – take over regions, take ownership, become the King but fruitlessly trying to right past wrongs, control events and do it in the way Min now wants, and realise it’s not possible because of the monster he actually is.
It feels like Control was designed as a Free-Roam then reskinned into Insanity. Yes, you keep your weapons and level-ups meaning you’re better equipped to deal with Kyrat, but to reach the final ending you need to repeat the whole thing five times over (or survive one final round 20 times), not counting any deaths or quitting. And it doesn’t really work as a Rogue-Like. It’s a lot softer, slower, and less aggressive than Insanity. Like that DLC, there’s three main events we have to win in order to unlock the finale, along with several side missions that delve into Min’s regrets. They’re fun the first time, and then you die and have to do it all again and rush through, ignoring the reveals because you already know. Being impatient while someone reacts to the death of their child is not good gaming. And I know Min would have gotten bored with the repetitiveness; Min was impulsive, not retrospective.
Still, hanging out with Min, the only good thing in FC4, is almost worth a few plays. He’s not lost his entitled attitude, put-out that he’s having to do this instead of sending a crony, berating Ajay (‘you little shit’) for desecrating his statues, he’s great fun to be around. His reactions make risking a firefight worth it – his defeated ‘shit.’ when a grenade lands at his feet, his “let’s tear shit up!” call-back, worrying Mumu will be mad he’s getting his clothes dirty, being offended someone shot at him – Min is still comedy gold. And, one of his sneak attacks is an Assassin’s Creed kill but with his beloved golden pen up his sleeve instead of a hidden blade. Shame we keep replaying until none of it is funny anymore.
The whole point of Rogue-like is trying to survive, not do some self-analysis. Min’s not learning from his past mistakes by trying to change them, he comes to terms with each as he confronts it – so unlike Vaas, doing it again is redundant. It is a solid shooter, a great world to roam in, and a brilliant and often touching adventure that really gets into the mind of FC’s most complex villain - once. Min deserves more than a crappy reskin set in an irrelevant game-mode.
This was the DLC I was most looking forward to. The third and final DLC, Collapse, isn't out for months but I’m already set to rage-quit it now I know it's rogue-like too. Besides that style being even less relevant narratively, Seed’s story was already resolved in FC New Dawn. Ubisoft sell this Season Pass as “Can you escape the mind of a villain?” – the only villain’s mind we’re stuck in is Ubisoft’s.