Far Cry 3 was an utterly ridiculous game, filled to the brim with plenty of opportunities to cause chaos. It felt like the perfect direction to take the series, and a great culmination of everything that worked about the previous two games. After finding success with it, Ubisoft decided to do something a bit different. Instead of new DLC, it wanted to release a standalone spinoff to give people a chance to experience Far Cry 3 in a completely different setting.
Embracing everything that was ludicrous about the main game and making it even more so, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is one of the craziest examples of how to create something new with something old while wearing your inspirations plainly on your sleeves.
Blood Dragon’s story makes absolutely no sense, so to even begin to discuss it here would require more effort than it’s worth. And that’s the best compliment I can pay Blood Dragon’s dystopian, cyberpunk-fueled nightmare of a plot. It takes itself completely seriously, and because of this it succeeds (mostly) as a great homage to ’80s sci-fi action films and arcade classics.
When the writing works, it really works, with a large handful of amazing, laugh-out-loud moments. When it doesn’t work, you can’t help but roll your eyes. Some of the attempts poking fun of modern games fall completely flat, including the opening tutorial, which is the perfect example of creating something that is meant to mock something bad and instead creates an even worse example of the thing being mocked. Beyond that and some small instances of groan-worthy dialogue, Blood Dragon’s style of homage is one that triumphs.
If you’ve played Far Cry 3 before, you’ll know what to expect here. The game controls as well as it did then, and the mechanics are all in place. You still have the ability to approach combat scenarios with stealth, all of your weapons are basically the same (except some shoot lasers, which is awesome), and you can still scope out and tag enemies before approaching a group of them. It’s still quite fun, with satisfying gunplay that will keep you coming back for more.
The story missions in Blood Dragon aren’t completely unlike FC3 proper either, although they definitely embrace the preposterous nature of the story more. Each of the game’s seven missions will take you all over the game’s world, and each mission feels distinct, especially once you get towards the end of the game. Without spoiling the specifics, the final two missions are perfectly emblematic of why this game succeeds without going overboard. It all succeeds by making those final moments stand out from everything else related to the Far Cry franchise, and solidifies Blood Dragon as something truly special.
While the beginning is a tad slow and offers little reason to keep you engaged with this world (the awful spoof tutorial doesn’t help with that), once you get past the opening mission, you’ll be free to roam around the world. The side activities have been cut down significantly from FC3, but for a cheap downloadable title, you really can’t complain. You still have the opportunity to take control of bases, which will unlock fast travel points and new side missions.
The hunting missions are back, complete with even more ridiculous objectives (such as killing a cyber-shark with explosives), and while they are few in number, they are still a blast to pull off. The other missions are hostage rescues, which involve you sneaking to a small gathering of enemy soldiers and taking them out before they can kill the hostage. The reliance on stealth here is a nice change of pace over most missions, which can be handily finished with pure gunfire.
Blood Dragon isn’t just a cool name either; there are actual blood dragons sauntering around the island, and they can be both allies and an enemies. They have poor sight, so being able to sneak around them is key to getting away unscathed, but you can also use cyber-hearts that you collect to lure them away from you and towards your enemies. On top of that, each base has shields that prevent blood dragons from entering, but can be disabled, allowing them to storm the area and do most of the work for you.
The best part about Blood Dragon is its presentation. The visual style, complete with cutscenes that seem ripped straight out of an ’80s arcade game, fit the game’s tone perfectly. It also just looks unique, at least for this genre, and it makes me wish for more games to follow this trend. This is complete with a soundtrack by instrumental power metal band Powerglove, which adds a lot to the experience and transforms this enjoyable shooter into something special. The writing doesn’t always work, but the presentation does its job to create the best kind of homage.
By all accounts, Blood Dragon is a game that shouldn’t exist. It’s full of dumb (but entertaining) writing, nonsensical story beats and a campaign that does everything it can to stand out in a crowded market. It sometimes falters in the worst ways a parody can, but when it succeeds, it does it with style. You don’t have to be a fan of Far Cry to appreciate this bizarre ’80s-nostalgia-fueled adventure.
Pros: Striking visual style and music, usually great writing, good mission variety
Cons: Some awful moments due to poor writing, has a bit of a slow start