Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is?
It’s ‘why do we keep buying Far Cry games?’
In Insanity, the first of three DLCs for Far Cry 6, we get to enter the mangled mind of Vaas, the guy that set the entire series down the path of repetitive insanity; since Far Cry 3 every Far Cry has been Far Cry 3. We’re insane for expecting it to be any different.
After being stabbed by Jason, Vaas finds himself trapped inside his own mind. Where even his own subconscious is trying to kill him. In order to escape, Vaas must find three parts of the knife that stabbed him, each protected by an unresolved issue in his head. Let loose on Rook Island, we must find weapons, fight, and come to terms with what made Vaas Vaas. If we fail, it’s back to the beginning, hoping we can prove Vaas’ belief that insanity is repeating the same event and expecting a different outcome, is wrong…
Basically, it’s a Rogue-like. You begin in the compound where we had the final fight with Jason, armed with only a crappy pistol. Fighting waves of enemies across a mini Rook island, we can reach areas protected by mini-boss Jason. Besting him grants you a safe house where a mirror allows you to spend Cash on level-ups, and a weapons locker where guns we liberated can be upgraded. We can also pick up one-time perks from bodies and treasure chests, but it’s all a one-shot deal. If you get offed, it’s back to the compound and crappy pistol and everything has to be redone. Retaking a safe house allows you to regain previously unlocked weapon upgrades and level-ups, and so you get incrementally stronger and more able to take on the secrets of Rook Island, and Vaas’ own mind.
The problem is it almost instantly becomes a chore. Rogue-like games tend to be a new location or situation you learn, but we’ve already been to Rook Island, and while it’s faithfully replicated here, what you really want is the freedom to explore it, to reexperience FC3 from the point of view of Vaas. To actually be Vaas. Instead, we get key moments from FC3 reworked with Vaas as the victim but only as cut scenes?
Taking his Insanity speech too literally gets literally boring. It takes around 2 hours to complete a stage, each stage increasing in difficulty until the fifth and final round. If you can hold out for 20 waves in the final battle, you’re treated to a secret ending revealing Vaas’ fate and explaining the reference in FC6.
Vaas’ mind is actually a rather tortured place which kinda goes against the gleeful fun he always seemed to be having. He was insane, but he was quite happy about it. Visually it’s standard hellish lava, skull-shaped mountains, trippy things going on, but narratively, we’re expected to feel a bit sorry for the guy; the one who killed our brother, tried to set fire to our girlfriend and sold our best mate to a rapist. I just wanted to be Vaas, yelling ‘run Forrest run!’ and enjoying my insanity, not learning to love and accept myself. Real Vaas would have shot subconscious Vaas.
It’s also odd how intimidated Vaas is by Jason – he’s presented in Vaas’ mind as a serious threat, as insane and dangerous as Vaas, but doesn't explore Jason's slide into insanity or their similarities. It would have been awesome to see them team up against Citra, or just muck about, two mad lads. It'd make an awesome co-op. Instead, he's just a theatrical bully stealing our sister. Oh yeah, then there’s the Freudian Citra narrative. I mean, I kinda understand but… dude that’s your sister.
In FC3 Citra may have been lying to manipulate Jason, but it turns out Vaas and Citra were basically incestuous siblings and he’d do anything for her, hence the plot here that we find the knife to impress her. It implies he was fairly well-adjusted until Citra decided he’d be her king/sacrifice before that forgettable bad guy in FC3 got him addicted to drugs and made him King Pirate. It all makes Vaas a victim not the clown prince of Rook island we love to hate.
Vaas Insanity is a lot of fun; it’s exciting being constantly on the verge of restarting and the island is filled with threat – the zombified soldiers/Rakyat locals are dangerous, as is the wildlife, and at night, ghosts of those Vaas murdered start hunting him. It’s good, but the one thing Far Cry did well was give you the space to become Rambo-like, not Rogue-like.
It’s just not the game we deserved - there’s a lot of potential here, it could have all been awesome, but instead we get a simplistic Rogue-like driven by the tired Definition of Insanity trope that stomps through the game. The one time we wanted typical Far Cry and we don’t get it? That is insanity.
The tagline for this Season Pass was ‘Become the Villain’, but that’s not what happened here – we could be anyone, it’s only Michael Mando as the voice of Vaas that makes this special. It’s a monumentally wasted opportunity; you can almost sense the devs spending five minutes going “Vaas is famous for his Insanity speech? Let’s just do that”. It’s great to be Vaas, but we don’t get to be Vaas.