Since Far Cry 5’s late March release, numerous commentators have suggested the game has no political slant or meaning. As I read many of these arguments, I got the sense that predominantly left-wing critics expected Far Cry 5 to be a left-wing fantasy, perhaps one in which the player takes aim at a white supremacist group. In anticipating a message that aligns with their wishes, many critics failed to interpret the text in front of them. Far Cry 5 is clearly a right-wing fantasy that uses an extreme religious cult to mock the American left.
Far Cry 5 takes place in rural Montana, where a cult threatens to take over an entire county through brainwashing and violence. The leader of the cult is Joseph Seed, who sets up his territorial rule through three siblings: John, Jacob, and Faith. You play as a deputy of a small task force sent to arrest Joseph, but the cult attacks and defeats your squad. You manage to escape capture, and with the help of gun-owning locals, you build a coalition to eliminate the Seed-led cult.
The aforementioned critics are right about one thing: Far Cry 5 often reads as a superficial and absurd story. Although the cult cares about some parts of the Bible (a passage from Mark appears early in the game), the game never details why Joseph Seed’s interpretation of scripture would be attractive to people looking for answers. And if the government is worried enough to issue an arrest warrant for Joseph, why only send a handful of authorities when the cult is sizable, armed, and dangerous?
Yet just because a story is full of holes doesn’t mean it lacks a significant political bias. Say what you will about the authenticity of Seed’s cult, but this brutal enemy represents a collectivist threat to the rural citizenry of the game’s fictional Montana county. From a right-wing point of view, collectivism is a fundamental danger to individual liberty. Even though many on the right might rather mind their own business, so to speak, you can bet they would form a “resistance” against a freedom-threatening hive mind as depicted in Far Cry 5.
Indeed, the game is littered with signs of a conservative citizenry forced to defend themselves. Throughout Far Cry 5, I saw more American flags than I would in a week of driving around my home red state of Mississippi. And while it’s not strange for any video game to feature a fair share of guns, firearms make up a way of life in Far Cry 5’s nonmetropolitan setting, particularly among the game’s heroic preppers, those who had stashed away supplies and weapons in bunkers in case of a doomsday scenario.
Several nonplayable characters also dismiss the idea of government and the American left. During one quest, a man wildly states to the protagonist, “Me and you are going to fuck the government sideways.” Later, an aspiring Senator makes reference to “Obama-loving libtards.” One could say these comments satirize tendencies of the right, and perhaps they do to some extent. But given that the government completely goofs up on its plan to apprehend Joseph Seed and halt the spread of his cult, such language reinforces a right-leaning message in Far Cry 5’s world: you can’t rely on government, or the left-wingers who support it, to do its job when the going gets tough.
The right-wing fantasy of Far Cry 5 fully registers as mockery or vilification of the left when you consider the various subtexts attached to the Seed family. With John Seed comes the most blatant send-up of recent U.S. liberal rhetoric. When John speaks about why one should follow the cult, he emphasizes the word “Yes.” He utilizes it as a mantra so much that I quickly recalled the 2008 “Yes We Can” campaign slogan of President Barack Obama (2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders invoked the same phrase). What cements the subtext of “Yes,” though, is its prominent placement on a hillside in John’s territory. This monument in the game obviously plays off the famous “Hollywood” sign, evoking the concept of a hotbed of passionate and misguided liberalism. (One may also note that John’s territory is on the left side of the game map—a potentially spurious but nonetheless interesting fact.)
Joseph Seed’s other brother, Jacob, represents a brand of us-versus-them indoctrination. As you complete quests in Jacob’s territory, he occasionally captures you to put you through a series of brainwashing trials in which he orders you to kill. After you escape one of these trials, a character says that once a Seed gets in your head, you can’t turn back. The implication is that you become bound to the collectivist mindset. Additionally, a recurring musing from Jacob stands out as a defining political statement: “[T]his time the lives of the few outweigh the lives of the many.” Jacob’s words here reflect a sentiment that lines up with the American left’s focus on identity politics.
The last sibling, Faith, is associated with a pretense of pacifism and the usage of a drug called Bliss. Faith draws people to the cult through Bliss, proclaiming that they can live in paradise if they take the drug. However, Bliss frequently transforms citizens into aggressive criminals. Faith thus functions as a way for Far Cry 5 to lampoon pro-drug stances that are associated with the American left. Further, as you kill more and more Bliss-addicted enemies as the hero of the game, it seems appropriate to draw a comparison to the War on Drugs, a conservative campaign started by President Richard Nixon.
After you take out John, Jacob, and Faith in Far Cry 5, you must, of course, face Joseph. Depending on your response to him, you will head toward one of two endings. One of the conclusions depicts a nuclear explosion in the Montana setting, while the other shows the deputy protagonist giving in to violent hypnotic suggestion. No sane person would call these endings “good,” but they confirm the evil tidings of Joseph, who, man bun and all, symbolizes the worst fears of the paranoid right-winger.
In some of his last dialogue, Joseph asks the following question: “When are you gonna realize that every problem cannot be solved with a bullet?” Here, Joseph hearkens back to the Hollywood parallel in John’s territory, revealing the hypocrisy of a liberal who tells others to put their guns away as he goes on to enact his own destructive fiction with lethal weaponry. Joseph’s apparent obliviousness seems to characterize the critics who wanted Far Cry 5 to be a brutal fantasy that panders to them in the style of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus or Mafia III. Far Cry 5’s harshest joke is on the people who can’t see its ferocious conservatism.