Far Cry 6 Is All About Cuba, but Yara Is Not Cuba
Far Cry 6 — releasing October 7 worldwide — is set on the fictional Caribbean island of Yara, ruled with an iron hand by dictator Antón Castillo (Giancarlo Esposito). Life is hard, with many Yarans escaping for a better life. Yara is a place frozen in time, thanks to Castillo’s policies that have isolated it from the rest of the world. Having lost his father in a revolution 60 years ago, Castillo grew up believing that his country had been stolen from him. As an adult, he rode a populist wave to power, by romanticising the pre-revolution Yara. Sound familiar? It’s in the headline.
“It’s heavily based in Cuba,” Far Cry 6 writer-actor Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz said last week. “In terms of the culture, in terms of the music, the way they speak, the games — there’s dominoes, there’s baseball — and there’s palm trees. And obviously that aspect of an island in the Caribbean, frozen in time, with old cars from the 1950s. There’s only one, right? There’s not that many examples that we can use.”
The accents in Ubisoft Toronto’s Far Cry 6 are again heavily based in Cuba, with variations based on socio-economic location, whether it’s a rural area, or the capital Esperanza that takes a bit after Havana. Even inside the capital city itself, a working class Yaran will sound different from someone from the upper middle class, Rodriguez-Saenz noted.
Far Cry 6 is more than just Cuba
“Cuba was a huge inspiration, right from the beginning and I think it evolved over time,” Far Cry 6 narrative director Navid Khavari said. “We spent a lot of time just researching revolutions throughout history. Also, we weren’t just limited to the Cuban Revolution. We were looking at what’s happening in Venezuela right now, Colombia, the Arab Spring.”
“Tonally, we looked at a lot of documentaries about revolution,” Khavari added later. “Style-wise, we wanted it to sometimes feel almost like a newsreel, throwing your right into the action. But elsewhere, I naturally lean on [Quentin] Tarantino and folks like that to keep some of that the Far Cry fun as well.”
“It’s heavily based on Cuba, but it’s not Cuba,” Rodriguez-Saenz chimed in. “You will find differences in terms of like, there’s no flamingos in Cuba. And there’s flamingos in Far Cry 6. There’s people growing like alligators in a swimming pool. People truly do not do that in Cuba. So those are things that I think we have to make sure that it’s clear for everybody, this is not Cuba.”
That also goes for the religious elements in Far Cry 6. Rodriguez-Saenz noted that the team borrowed real symbols and real gods from African and Caribbean roots, but it’s a completely fictional religion. Ubisoft Toronto took a similar blended approach to developing Yara’s past, looking at the Caribbean, Latin America and South America, world director Benjamin Hall said.
“Working with the narrative team, we created an entire timeline looking backwards to sort of like the 1400s,” Hall added. “To really birth the island from its beginning and then tap into those elements of real history that were that part of the world, but then craft our own stories into Yara. So when we came to world-building, we were able to tap into those layers of history as well for our stories.”
Far Cry 6 bakes in Cuba’s resolver philosophy
The Cuban influences also seep into Far Cry 6 gameplay. Primarily, the Cuban concept of “resolver” — pronounced “rreh-sohl-BEHR” — that means to make do with what you have. In Cuba, this was brought on due to trade embargoes and the collapse of the Soviet Union, forcing Cubans to survive in scarcity. Resolver is a bit like DIY, except it brings in tenacity, improvisation, and resourcefulness.
“Resolver is really a tradition of approaching life in Cuba, which is what my background is,” Far Cry 6 actor Alex Fernandez, who plays guerrilla mentor Juan Cortez. “There’s examples, all over the place in Cuba, of people saying, you know, ‘I’ve got this car it’s from 1955, I don’t have any gasoline so I’m going to figure out how to turn this paint thinner into fuel.’ In the island of Cuba, and in the game of Far Cry 6 on Yara, resolver really means a triumph of the imagination.”
Far Cry 6 Will Let You Holster Your Gun and Explore Yara
On Far Cry 6, resolver weapons are unlike anything you’ve seen, made from a variety of sources such as drills, paint cans, bicycle grips, turbocharger, car batteries, motorbike engine, petrol pump handles, and — in what is my personal favourite — CD players.
“I think the real difference maker is, you see all the mechanics and the pieces working together, and it feels just so grounded and real,” Khavari said. “It feels handcrafted and organic.”
And then there’s resolver backpacks — dubbed Supremos. Some are like a flamethrower. Some have a fire extinguisher filled with jet fuel, your own personal mini-jetpack. And some have a bunch of metal tubes with auto-targeting missiles. These ultra-powerful Supremos are time-limited and hence have a cooldown period, ensuring that you don’t keep using them every few seconds.
“In Far Cry 6, resolver is all about turning the player into a one-guerrilla army, and inflicting the maximum amount of chaos with what they have,” Far Cry 6 lead game designer David Grivel said.
Guerrilla revolution in Far Cry 6
Speaking of guerrillas, Far Cry 6 finds you in the shoes of Dani Rajos (Sean Rey/ Nisa Gunduz who spent two years with the character), a local Yaran who just wants to get away. But after witnessing a horrific crime, Dani is driven into waging guerrilla warfare against Castillo.
“With Far Cry, it’s always a story about rebellion, it’s sort of part of the brand,” Khavari noted. “But what got us really excited was transitioning from rebellion to the idea of revolution because it’s sweeping, it’s epic. It involves liberating an entire country, but at the same time, there’s sort of an ideology behind the guerrilla that fights a revolution. An ideology that is very purpose driven, it’s personal. Making a character-driven narrative that pushes forward those notions and the intensity of experiencing a revolution felt really powerful to us.”
Ubisoft Toronto went to Cuba to experience the culture, and to speak with former guerrillas and their descendants. Fernandez’s father fought Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba and spent time in prison, the Far Cry 6 actor noted: “When I was first cast, I said to Navid, ‘I’m just going to play my father.’ My father had a scorched earth policy when it came to a lot of things. And so, I felt like that really fit with Juan Cortez. Cortez literally wrote the book on how to be a guerrilla. If you find the thing [in Far Cry 6], there are a series of rules.”
Being a guerrilla warrior, you can’t openly roam around in Far Cry 6. Castillo not only has military checkpoints on all major roads, but he also controls the skies (with anti-aircraft cannons) and the seas (with navy patrols). If you wish to avoid constant conflict, you’re better off avoiding the beaten path.
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“That’s where the notion of guerrilla paths was crafted from,” Hall said. “These woven pathways through the landscapes that allow guerrilla to move invisibly around the country without the threat of the military that are controlling the roads.”
“These are small hidden paths in the jungle that allow you to safely navigate the open world,” Far Cry 6 game content director Omar Bouali said. “They can also help you ambush military. You can find a bunch of things in the guerrilla paths like weapons or pieces of gear that will help you survive. And yes, Far Cry 6 brings back the horse which is cool to use in guerrilla paths because it helps you go super-fast.”
Far Cry 6 is a political game
Given the failures of Far Cry 5 in handling political material and Ubisoft’s tone-deaf response to it, many are naturally worried if Far Cry 6 is setting foot in a quagmire. On the surface, Ubisoft seems to be handling it better this time around. Khavari has gotten ahead of the questioning, publicly acknowledging that Far Cry 6 is a political game. Though he’s going to reserve judgement to fans.
“What was important was not to think so much about what we can or cannot say in the narrative, but rather what is the story that we’re trying to tell, and try and be fearless in that,” Khavari said. “One of the main things I’ve sort of tried to put out there as well, with the statement I released a few months ago and now, is we tend to see revolutions and any conflict is black and white. As one side is right, one side is wrong. But these are unbelievably complicated conflicts, and anyone who studies revolution will tell you that.
“So, rather than try and tell a simple story with a very binary point of view, we embrace that complexity. The beauty of telling a narrative that’s about revolution is you see that within a revolutionary group. There are all sorts of motivations, ideologies, perspectives that you have the opportunity to capture. We didn’t want to shy away from talking about the rise of fascism both within that era, and what we’ve been seeing in the last 5-10 years around the world.
“We wanted to talk about the effects of imperialism on an island like Yara, and have folks on the island have an opinion about the effects of a blockade on an island such as Yara. And we wanted to talk about LGBTQ+ rights within the context of our stories. So these were all incredibly important topics that we just didn’t feel right to shy away from. At the end of the day, players will decide for themselves how we did, and I encourage them to share their own opinion.”
Far Cry 6 is out October 7 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Stadia, and Amazon Luna.