At some point in time, whether it started with Far Cry 2 or 3, the developers at Ubisoft took a look at the Far Cry series and decided that the villain was going to be the main focus of the campaign. This, arguably, was around the time when the famed Far Cry 3 was released. The baddie for that title, Vaas, was one that took players by surprise. Despite not being the main antagonist for the game (that being where the arguably part comes in), he was an enemy that talked sense. An enemy that put things into such a perspective where you began to question who the real antagonist of the story is. That being said, this specific mindset of “who’s the real villain” does relate more to games like Spec Ops: The Line, but Far Cry 3 didn’t shy away from trying to twist your mentality, especially with a villain like Vaas doing the twisting.
And, oh, how the twisting of the mind went as we move away from Far Cry 3 and into Far Cry 4, which introduces my favourite baddie in the franchise, Pagan Min! Instead of describing the definition of insanity, Pagan Min would take on a new angle as someone that believed they were doing right, regardless of how wrong their actions were. The funny thing, and this goes back to talking sense, that’s what Pagan Min does so well. He’s a silver tongued, smooth talking criminal who truly believes in what he’s doing and he describes it in such a way that’s really hard to say no to. My first playthrough of Far Cry 4, I didn’t want to leave the table where you have a, more or less, pleasant conversation with Pagan (there is some murder yes, but the guy’s stressed out, can you blame him?). The man offers you a meal, and then (assuming you don’t leave the table) helps you scatter the ashes of your mother, to which he responds “Ah, wonderful. Ready to blow shit up?”. All in all, Pagan Min is a charismatic villain at it’s finest and truly shows how a switch from the ‘creepy philosophy’ of Vaas, to the ‘charming and murderous’ Pagan is one that helped Far Cry branch out with it’s evil-doers.
Next up, going back to ‘creepy philosophy’ but on a larger scale, is Jacob Seed from Far Cry 5. Jacob Seed, cult leader and religious fanatic, brings to life another aspect of the Far Cry villain; namely, the preacher of lost souls. This is what, at least in my opinion, the fine developers at Ubisoft have been working up to in terms of lowlifes, as the amount of dialogue and mind-bending aspects that Jacob brings to the game is simply staggering. And again, it goes back to the core aspect of all these villains, that talking sense or twisting your reality are more effective factors then simply murdering everything in sight (looking at you Dying Light).
What about the earlier Far Cry’s though, how do their main baddies help in the evolution of later series villains? Well, when looking at a title like Far Cry 2 from a broad perspective, it would be reasonable to think that an antagonist like “The Jackal” wouldn’t contribute much to an evolution. His character traits can basically be summed up as, ‘overly philosophical’, yet there’s an air of mystery around him that helps him stand apart from the rest. The Jackal is what I would categorize as mysterious, one that may not talk sense like Vaas or Jacob, but one that more so makes you want to know more about why he is the way he is, something that would work it’s way into future Far Cry entries as that air of mystery would encompass those villains as well.
Finally, going backwards evidently, is the original Far Cry (which also saw an anniversary recent...ishly… yeah). The main Mr. no-good in this title is Harold Doyle… or Dr. Krieger… both! Yes, Far Cry original offered something interesting in the way of villains that would help influence the rest of series. Long story short, they tried the bait and switch thing, and it just didn’t land as well as it could have. However, through this negative trial and error session in cooperative antagonists emerged a different direction that would lead Far Cry to where it is now. Focusing on one villain, and developing them throughout, which I think has worked out pretty well so far.
So, with all that being said, we can see that the evolution of Far Cry’s bad guys have really helped the series grow with regards to world building and, of course, characterization. The only real sore thumb for the franchise when it comes to villains is Far Cry: Primal… because cavemen. Other than that though, there’s a rich lineage of villainy to be seen here. Especially considering that we, as gamers, are able to go and play through this series as a whole that has, at least in my mind, truly brought the antagonist to the forefront of gaming in general.