Far Cry 4 ships with a legitimate method to beat the game in just under thirty minutes. Don’t worry, there’s a full campaign too.
To set the scene, you’re eating dinner with the deranged villain. After murdering one of the dinner guests with a fork right in front of you, he steps away from the table and asks you to wait until he returns. You’re finally given control of the avatar for the first time and everything from survival instinct to the in-game UI screams at you to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. But watch what happens when you respect the crazy man’s request and wait for him to return…
This alternate ending was discovered relatively quickly and while its very cool I’m not so sure if Ubisoft intended for this secret to be found so soon. It raises an interesting question about how much agency players really have in video games. To find this secret you need to openly defy the game’s instructions and everything you’ve learned from past games and movies. For instance, quicktime events have taught us that standing idly by is a good way to get killed. Other games like Spelunky discourage you from dawdling by sending deadly threats after you for not completing a level or task quickly enough. Those who’ve ever wondered what would happen if you let the moon crash at the end of day 3 in Majora’s Mask, had their curiosity quenched real quick when they were met with a Game Over screen.
Player choice in video games is often an illusion as the developer’s hands are usually directing you to play by their rules. If you don’t, you’re typically punished for it. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing–the developers have their creative vision as well as the right to make the player experience it their way–it has programmed us to stay inside the lines more than we might have otherwise. I remember playing Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door and having a dialogue with the final boss, the Shadow Queen. She offers you a choice: join her or fight her against all odds. I chose to join her, just to see what would happen, expecting the game to force me to say yes eventually. What happened instead was that the Shadow Queen welcomed me to her party and the world literally ended. I got a decent laugh out of it, but it still led me to a Game Over screen. Super Paper Mario does the same thing right before the last boss battle.
All of my experiences with video games have taught me that even when given a choice, the best action is always to do what the narrative suggests. If my goal is to defeat the Shadow Queen, nothing logical says I should join her instead. And if a crazy murderer tells me to wait at the dinner table while he steps into the other room, logic and the pathfinding arrows suggest taking the Crab Rangoon home in a doggie bag is the best way to go. Waiting on the balcony for almost fifteen minutes after the player is empowered to take action for the first time in the game shows not only amazing patience but an act of sheer defiance against the developers and to the player’s own inclination to progress, or at least not fail. And then the game rewards you for it. Not with a Game Over screen, but with a bonus sequence and skippable credits.
In a time where player choice is more perceived than possessed, it is great to see a game reward you for going against it Stanley Parable style. If the first choice the player makes in the game can have such a profound consequence, how much more impactful will a player’s choices be further into the game. That question may be enough to make me pick up the game, which previously wasn’t on my radar. Good on you Ubisoft.