Warning: In this post, I discuss Far Cry 5’s ending(s) in some detail. Spoilers ahead.
Far Cry is a unique experience. It’s a bombastic, outrageous shooter. Combat encounters are equal parts intense and silly, humor is tucked away in all kinds of fun ways throughout the game, and yet the story is dark and can be surprisingly ambiguous.
Appropriately, the ending brings the dark tone and ambiguity to a climax. Once Rook (the protagonist’s nickname) reaches the final confrontation of Far Cry 5 and listens to Joseph Seeds ultimatum, he* must either take his three law enforcement friends and leave Hope County for good, or stay and attempt to fight Joseph, risking the lives of his original three friends in order to try saving all the innocent people of Hope County from Joseph’s mind-altering influence.
The player can choose either option, and to the game’s credit, your decision does matter. Either choice will have consequences, and no outside force is going to swoop in and save you from them. The problem is that only one of the choices makes sense based on the character of the protagonist.
Rook is not a deep character. He isn’t meant to be—he more or less functions simply as the player’s eyes, ears, and trigger finger in Hope County Montana. Yet, Rook does have at least one discernible character trait: a dogged determination to save his friends by confronting evil using the most aggressive means available.
Confronting evil in style
The game reinforces this idea by having each of the main villains give you their own take on Rook’s defining characteristic:
I know your sin. It drives you. Every thought, every action. Your sin is Wrath. So I’ll indulge you: become Wrath. Let it fill your body and consume your soul. Because in the end, you’ll still be empty. And I’ll be waiting right here.
If violence is the only language you choose to speak, I’ll speak your language.
Aww—still trying to be the hero. It’s too late, you know. You should have listened when you had the chance.
You’re trying so hard. It’s sad—knowing it’s all for nothing.
You’re tougher than I thought—but killing me won’t change a goddamn thing.
And this is where we are. Right here on schedule, just waiting for someone to push us—and oh boy, have you pushed us. You did everything he [Joseph] said you would do. And you didn’t even know it.
We may not get a lot of insight into the nuances of Rook’s personality, but we do know one thing for certain: he’s not going lay down his guns (or bow, or explosives, or maybe even shovel) until everyone is Hope County is safe from Joseph Seed and his violent cult.
Joseph Seed prefaces his ultimatum by also commenting on Rook’s aggressive determination: “When are you gonna realize that every problem cannot be solved with a bullet?”
He then recalls his first meeting with Rook. “When you first came here, I gave you the choice to walk away. You chose not to. In the face of God I am making you that offer one last time. Put down your guns, and you take your friends. You leave me my flock—and you go in peace.”
Rook has just seen that Joseph’s only remaining “flock” are the people Rook has befriended and fought alongside throughout the game, drugged up and serving Joseph against their will. Why would Rook, whose single defining characteristic is absolute persistence in fighting evil everywhere he sees it, abandon them now?
If he’s learned one thing during his time in Hope County, it’s that continuing the fight against evil in order to save his friends, both old and new, is always worth it. He’s seen that facing every problem head-on with enough force to solve it is always the right answer. There have been casualties, sure, even some significant ones, but he’s always saved far more people than he’s lost.
So while the game does give the player a choice here at the very end, is it truly a choice? You haven’t been able to influence the character of the protagonist or the course of the story so far (other than an easter egg at the beginning), and only one of the two options at the end fits Rook’s character. So is there really any question as to which direction the story should take?
Not only does one of the two choices not make sense for Rook’s character, but the game seems to punish you if you choose the option that goes against the logical progression of the story.
If you choose to submit to Joseph’s deal and walk away, Rook takes his three original friends (Hudson, the Sheriff, and Pratt), gets in a truck, and starts driving. Hudson resists, but the Sheriff offers a glimpse of hope by talking about alerting the national guard and returning to rescue the people of Hope County. But when he turns on the radio, “Only You” begins to play (Jacob Seed had used this song as a trigger for Rook when he abducted him and put him through murderous conditioning). Rook’s vision takes on a red tint, and the Sheriff gives him an odd look and asks what’s wrong. A musical sting plays as the screen cuts to black then rolls end credits. The implication is that Rook murdered his friends against his own will.
“Only you can make all this world seem right”
Not only does this “walk away” choice not make sense for Rook’s character, but the ending itself also doesn’t quite work for a huge sprawling action-adventure like Far Cry 5. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t reinforce the themes of the story and simply relies on shock to make it feel meaningful (or perhaps just to show you made the wrong choice?)
The opposite choice and its ending, however, reveal the consequences of Rook standing his ground and fighting Joseph Seed to the bitter end. It subverts expectations, yet remains true to Rook’s character and the tone of the story.
So is there really more than one ending? The final decision is just a choice between breaking character or not breaking character. Between following the story to its logical conclusion or changing the course at the last minute just to see what happens.
There is only one real ending to Far Cry 5, and it’s not the one where Rook walks away.
*The player can choose to play as either a male or female version of Rook. For simplicity and readability’s sake, I refer to Rook as a male in this post.