Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review
Ubisoft certainly took a gamble with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Rather than using DLC to continue the stories of characters that have already been established, the company decided to go in a completely different direction. Blood Dragon stars a whole new cast in a whole new setting with only similar gameplay mechanics to truly tie it to its predecessor. Ubisoft also made the game a standalone title for a price that’s usually reserved for small map packs and other bonus content, thus giving the impression that Blood Dragon may only be worth a few hours of cheap gameplay akin to many other DLC packs. I’m happy to report that this could not be farther from the truth; Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is not only one of the best pieces of DLC that I’ve played, it’s better than many $60 releases.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes you out of the role of stranded rich kid Jason Brody and into the boots of Rex Powers Colt, a cyber commando in the year 2007. Much of the Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse, leaving much of the remaining population to band together for survival. This includes old enemies like the United States and the Soviet Union, but some old war vets don’t like how everyone is all buddy-buddy now. Rex’s former commanding officer Sloan intends to finish the war that was started, forcing the United States government to dispatch Rex and his partner Spider to stop Sloan and his Omega Force soldiers from triggering a second nuclear war.
The story may not be incredibly deep, but it never intends to be. The game is primarily concerned with being a parody of 1980’s era sci-fi, and anyone familiar with the era will instantly recognize many of the aspects of this game. You won’t find any compelling characters such as antagonist Vaas from FarCry 3, but the game has a charm all its own that makes up for any plot shortfalls. The story is best enjoyed when you take it for what it is: a ridiculous tribute to some of the ridiculous movies from the 1980’s. My only complaint is that some of the humor is a bit forced. While much of the game is nearly laugh-out-loud funny, there were a few moments that made me roll my eyes, such as a loading screen tip that reads, “Use c4 to blow your enemies…. up!” Maybe its a reference to something else from the 80’s, but the joke just came off as juvenile.
If you’ve played FarCry 3, you can probably skip most of this first paragraph. The basic mechanics from the original game are still in play: You explore a large island environment filled with various creatures and human enemies, find collectibles, liberate outposts, and perform assassination and hunting missions to expand your arsenal. The best part of the whole formula is that it gives you an incredible amount of freedom to tackle objectives as you see fit. In FarCry 3 I played as a stealth sniper, thinning out enemy ranks from afar and then sneaking in to finish off the survivors with my knife and bow. With Blood Dragon, however, I decided to go all-out with the 80’s sci-fi-super-soldier theme and run in guns blazing. I probably died more often this way, but it was still liberating to be able employ such a reckless tactic if I wanted to. There is a limiting factor to the amount of freedom, however, and that’s the exclusion of the skill tree from the original FarCry 3. Rather than receiving skill points to use for customization as Jason Brody did, Rex Colt has a linear progression path. Each level unlocks a specific power, which removes some of the freedom from the first game. It wasn’t a huge loss, however, as it wasn’t terribly difficult to unlock every power in the first game anyway.
Next we have the game’s namesake, the Blood Dragons. These dinosaur-like creatures dominate the food chain on the island with their massive claws, powerful teeth, and laser cannons that they shoot from their mouths. That’s right, giant lizards with laser cannons The creatures are somewhat like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park; they can’t see very well, but if you make too much noise they can be on top of you in a second. Or zapping you, either one seems to work for them. As far as their effect on gameplay, fighting them reminded me a lot of the dragons from Skyrim; They’re certainly intimidating at first, but it doesn’t take long before you’re simply more powerful than they are. Even once they become fodder for your various weapons, they’re still an important part of gameplay. By using the cyber-hearts that you rip from your fallen enemies, you can lure the dragons to enemy outposts and essentially wipe out the opposing forces without firing a s hot. It’s an enjoyable tactic, though sometimes the lizard is a bigger menace than the Omega Force soldiers themselves.
This area probably had the smallest amount of difference from the original title. The exact same graphics engine was used from Far Cry 3, with many of the same assets being used. Really the only major difference is that rather than everything being green, it’s now dark red. The cutscenes are also mostly gone, replaced by purposefully-cheesy animation. One positive change is the improved outpost design. In the original title, the pirate outposts were fairly generic and hardly different from one another. With Blood Dragon, however, you can tell that the developers had a bit more fun with the open-ended setting. Rather than being forced to design poorly constructed bases, the level designers were able to create futuristic base with a decent level of variety. One outpost that I attacked was deep underground, and another had catwalks snaking around the ceiling with a wide area below filled with enemies to pounce upon. Otherwise, the graphics r eceived the same sci-fi treatment as other areas of the game. Enemy soldiers and base materials look like something out of TRON or other classic sci-fi titles, and every weapon has an appropriate futuristic flare. I particularly enjoy just how bright and flashy laser weapons are.
Of the major areas that we review for games, Sound is by far the biggest plus to FarCry 3: Blood Dragon. Everything from the music, sound effects, and voice acting were pulled off perfectly to fully capture the intended atmosphere of the game. Michael Beihn, who supplies the voice of Rex Power Colt and may be remembered from some of the best science fiction movies of the 80’s, applied the perfect amount of macho-swagger that one would expect from an action hero of the era. The game also takes many of its musical elements from similar films; the closest reference I can recall is the original Terminator, with its heavy use of synthesizers and drums. Sound effects received a similar treatment with many overly exaggerated laser blasts and robotic voices from the cybersoldiers. All of the individual aspects come together to form both a parody and a homage to the source material and make the game even more enjoyable to play.
If FarCry 3: Blood Dragon had launched as a $60 retail title, I would have been less enthused to give it such glowing praise. While it uses the same mechanics as its predecessor efficiently, it doesn’t expand on them much if at all. Its only real improvement is in the base design and humor department, though some younger gamers may miss out on many of the references and themes. At the low cost of $15, however, it’s easily one of the best expansions for a major game in recent memory. The fact that it doesn’t even require the base game makes it a perfect point of entry for players that have yet to give FarCry 3 a try, or an easy way to get back into it if you’ve traded in your copy. If you’re looking for a decent game experience for a bargain, you can’t do much better than FarCry 3: Blood Dragon.
Written by Guest Reviewer: JGGiant