I have played a lot of Far Cry games over the past few years, usually quite a bit after they were released. I haven't played Far Cry or Far Cry 2 - they look unappealing (unfunny/stodgy/military gung-ho). But I've played all the rest, so let me rank them for you! In order from worst to best:
Far Cry: Blood Dragon
- Played this a long time ago. It should be right
up my alley, but I hated it. I died like 20 times in the tutorial (which was harder than just about anything else I've ever done in any Far Cry) and once I finally got out of it, the game just held no interest for me. It has no skill choices, you just kind of trudge along shooting guys. Huge disappointment.
Far Cry 3
- Fun stuff. I obsessively went around opening every single treasure chest, even though they're all just money and junk items. Really frustrating issue that you can't open a chest (and thus clear it from your map) if you are full on money or inventory space. Constant returns to town to dispose of the items/money. It was a long time ago, but I think I ended up having to just unload ammo into a wall in order to be able to spend money on more ammo. There are these maps you can buy to reveal the locations of hidden items, and you basically have to buy them all in the first couple hours of the game just to drain your money, rather than them being some big end-game option.
Far Cry 5
- More streamlined and well-implemented than even Far Cry 4. There are some notable setbacks here from Far Cry 4 though - the 'realism' of the parachute/wingsuit/grapple stuff gets more in the way and is less usable, and most notable of all: just about every time you conquer an outpost, you are "kidnapped", which entails a completely unavoidable event you just have to wait for, followed by hours on end of boring cutscenes of people monologuing, and then a short bit of 'gameplay' ranging from a legit shooting range (tolerable) to "walk over here very slowly" (not okay). This is the first time I began to skip the cutscenes on first viewing (probably in any game ever, actually). It was unbearable. And so absurd, to be kidnapped over and over and then just let go (sometimes you escape, sometimes you just wake up somewhere, it's all ridiculous). But I still enjoyed the game a lot.
Far Cry 4
- The best of the numbered ones! All the same stuff as Far Cry 3, almost the exact same game in a new setting, just implemented better. Tons of fun. The drug-induced tapestry visions are actually really cool, and feel like an even better game than this one (what they actually feel like is Far Cry Primal, with a more intriguing setting).
Far Cry: New Dawn
- This takes Far Cry 5 and fixes just about everything. The parachute, wingsuit, and grapple are all back to being unrealistic and easy to use, the story only interferes with gameplay a little, it feels much more survivable than the usual Far Crys (less instant death out of the blue), and it starts you right off with a sawblade launcher. Although I should say, that is after yet another terrible tutorial that killed me several times. It's a much smaller game, so small that it actually feels unfinished. For example, there's an "intermission" (one of 3) that takes place literally AFTER the final battle of the game, when the only thing left to do is go to the final location and "press X to pay respects" in true gaming tradition. It feels like they meant for there to be more here, but I do like a compact gaming experience, and when I looked at my playtime it was 30 hours to Far Cry 5's 36 hours (and in all these games, I made sure to collect just about everything), so it's not really a small game. It also has a fun grind, where I found myself looking at the weapons I needed to buy, and saying "okay, I have to go kill a few bears, and then one mutant bison", and do it. Not just going and grinding XP or money.
Far Cry Primal
- The best of the lot! I actually bounced off this game years ago, got a couple hours in and lost interest, but I came back last year and started over, and it is primo. It was really absorbing on every level. The biggest flaw here is the story, which doesn't go anywhere. There are just a couple other tribes, and you have to beat them, and then... no ending! Just hooray for you that they're dead. It really has no narrative at all, just a random series of events in the lives of some cavemen. But at least it doesn't bore you with massive monologues (probably because they didn't want to have to deliver them in caveman-language).
If you too want to get into Far Cry games, I will tell you that they have some quirks that are very clearly bad design, but if you are into obsessive collecting like me, then you will have a blast anyway. The biggest problem with the games is in their economies. You just get overloaded with too much stuff right off the bat and really don't ever want for anything (something New Dawn improves greatly but doesn't totally fix). And you'll probably find the 3rd gun you get is the main one you use for the entire game because nothing is notably stronger, just different. New Dawn offers a fix for that in the form of an RPG-style "ladder" of weapon tiers you work through, and I liked that much more. I spent the whole game working for those better weapons (and the weapon challenges meant that I wanted some of every weapon, so that I could do the challenge for each type).
There's also some gross microtransaction stuff (I was stuck with like 6+ free weapons at the start of New Dawn, due to whichever 'special pack' I had gotten of the game, and as a bonus for winning Far Cry 5, and I just had to avoid using them because they would've ruined the progression), which you can easily avoid (well, you can't get rid of the free weapons!), but it does mess up the in-game economy as well as feel greasy.
And lastly, the narrative stuff is just dumb and gets in the way of the real gameplay, which is "find new locations, find the collectibles, conquer outposts". You'll spend hours listening to ranting monologues about somebody's philosophy. Oh, side note to this: the boss fights are pretty much all terrible. I just finished New Dawn yesterday and I would say that the *final* boss was perfectly reasonable, but the fight just before it absolutely eradicated the good feelings I had toward the game from all my hours of fun beforehand. Just a nightmare.
It's not my favorite game series, but it always feels good to dive into another giant checklist to fulfill! Maybe I'll give Blood Dragon another try one day. Recommended for collectionists.