While on vacation last week, I finally finished Far Cry 5. Though I'd already spoiled myself on the ending (occupational hazard), I was surprised by how moving I found it when I finally got there. The end wraps up the game's biggest questions in a satisfying way.
The characters in Far Cry 5 are deeply concerned with endings. Central to Hope County's cult, The Project at Eden's Gate, is what they see as the imminent end of the world, which they call The Great Collapse.
To protect people from this impending apocalypse, cult leader Joseph Seed and his followers recruit as many people as they can, whether those people are willing to join or not. It's the player's job to stop the cult, mostly through killing its members.
Far Cry 5 has several possible endings, but the only one that actually ends the game involves the sudden detonation of a nuclear bomb. It felt like a curveball to many players, a bit of a deus ex machina, or like it made your actions in the rest of the game moot. The bomb is foreshadowed a little throughout the game, but it's still a shocking moment.
Then, after the explosion, the game sets its sights on a more grounded theme: family.
You flee Joseph's compound and make a chaotic drive to resistance member Dutch's bunker. Your comrades are dead, and your vision fades to black. When you wake up, you find yourself alone in the bunker with Joseph. He talks about God and politics. He gloats briefly that the explosion "means I was right," but then the topic changes. He sits down across from you and says:
"I prepared my family for this moment, and you took them from me. I should kill you for what you've done, but you're all I have left now. You're my family...I am your father, and you are my child."
Joseph has a strange relationship to family. He was in foster care when he was younger, according to Ubisoft's live-action film. In a cutscene after the second time you're captured by Jacob, he tells you he had a wife who was pregnant, which scared him.
She died in an accident, but the baby survived, which led Joseph, believing he was being tested by God, to suffocate the child. While Jacob and John appear to be Joseph's biological siblings, his sister Faith is adopted, in a loose sense.
He conscripts different women into the role, seeming to want a sister so badly that he tries to create one. Joseph mourns his siblings passionately when you defeat them. He mourns his lost followers, whom he calls his family. However ambivalent he might have felt about family in the past, he clearly doesn't feel that way during the events of the game.
There's something Biblical about this conflict. In Luke 14:26, Jesus says his followers must "hate" their parents, and in Matthew 10:37 he says believers should love him more than their parents or children.
In Mark, Jesus rejects his biological family in favour of a family of believers. There are threads of all of this in Joseph Seed, from separation from his parents to rejecting his child to his desperation to create a new family related by faith rather than blood.
If we believe Joseph's story about the loss of his wife and child, the Joseph we meet in the game is a changed man. He is frantic for a family, desperate to bring everyone to him and keep them there. He will make himself a family even if it means kidnapping, drugging, or torturing people.
It's easy to see the cult as a response to his own damaged family life, or as a way for him to feel loved and powerful. But I also saw family as an antidote to the loss that's plagued Joseph both personally and in the form of his apocalyptic visions. He seems to believe family will keep people safe from tragedy, from loneliness, from endings.
He's not wrong. At the end of Far Cry 5, you and Joseph outlive everyone. Neither of you loses or fails. You get what you wanted: The cult has lost its stranglehold on Hope County. And Joseph not only gets his family - you - but he keeps that family safe from The Great Collapse.
Because of you, he doesn't have to face the end. In the bunker, he tells you, "When this world is ready to be born anew, we will step into the light. I am your father, and you are my child. Together, we will march to Eden's Gate."
This is meant to be threatening, maybe - you're stuck in a bunker with a seeming madman who plans to repopulate the Earth with you - but I found it creepily touching. Far Cry 5's ending delivers what everyone in its world has longed for through the game's music and theology, through its political rhetoric and doomsday preppers, through the player's quest to reunite their friends.
Togetherness. Safety. Persistence in the face of tragedy. Joseph's confidence in his mission wasn't unfounded. The Project at Eden's Gate makes good on its promises.
It's grim and disturbing, sure. The inevitability of it feels nihilistic. But the particulars of Far Cry 5's ending are what the game has been arcing to all along. Joseph gets his family, and the world doesn't really end. The ending might be jarring, but the pieces of it were there all along.