I know that last statement doesn’t make sense but hear me out.
I look at Far Cry 5 and I feel that something is missing, yes the game is streamlined and combines story with mechanics by making everything lead to the final goal. However the army of Project Eden could have been made a character in itself by taking elements used in Far Cry 4 and advancing the game using these lost elements.
The best example I can think of is the Propaganda Missions where you have to take down a number of propaganda tools of Pagan Min. When this occurs, a location appears to create more propaganda that you can destroy. This an effective example of where actions in the game you take in the open world changes how the enemy “reacts” another is the base counter attacks and the heavy convoys to take back bases.
Now while this is done at specific levels based on how much damage you are doing, they missed a trick; the game is already monitoring everything you are doing so why not take advantage of it. For this exercise, I will use the Destroy Installation, Hostage Rescue and Outpost Missions.
The Destroy Installation mechanic is simple; destroy marked targets, simple as. The first few should be easy as they are not expecting anyone bold enough to be attacked. However, after a few locations being destroyed, the enemy will put double security, a few more and they will deploy pick-up mounted machine guns. The final stage would be to deploy Zealots who are tougher and will see you quicker.
Hostage Rescue is another example; self explanatory again, rescue those taken prisoner by the cult. Again, start with minimal defences just hostages in transit, then the enemy will move in greater numbers to avoid being attacked, then the enemies will be on high alert. Eventually they will go to well defended zones and await pick-up.
Finally, the Outpost Missions, after the first couple of liberated outposts they will heighten security with snipers, dogs, SMGs, MMGs and finally pick up mounted machine guns.
As you go up through the levels the side objectives get harder but the reward for completing them also increases; stronger forces should be a challenge and they should be rewarded as such.
There is something else as well; it doesn’t need to be the same escalation for all three areas; it can be a different pattern and it can be stronger depending on which area they were in. If in Faith’s territory, the Shrine destruction would escalate faster than others as they are required to keep people in line. In John’s region taking control of farms and Outposts would escalate faster as he would be angry at losing a reliable source of income and finally rescuing hostages would really upset Jacob as he needs them to be brainwashed for his army.
Jacob would also be more willing to put more tactical forces out per escalation, Faith would use drugs to heighten alertness making it harder for you hide or even deploy cultists with “supernatural” abilities and John would rely on more fire-power and sheer numbers.
Just by giving looking at two different elements of the game, you could easily create character not just for the cult itself but also the leadership reflected in the enemy leaders.
The one negative comment that is levied against Far Cry 5 is it’s repetitiveness; how once you have nailed down the mission type it is just rinse and repeat. While certain main missions require you to change tactics, the bulk of the side missions do not require much change even with different terrain. However making the enemy unpredictable and slowly escalating the threats as you complete each mission types, you do not only change the way the players tackle the game but gives the Cult more personality and purpose.
Far Cry 5 tried to shoehorn in additional story which while expanding the characters, it never really expanded to their methods. Far Cry, as a series, is all about being isolated in a world you have no control over, when you get a pattern to fighting the threats, you regain control. Far Cry 3 was the perfect story based Far Cry and Far Cry 5 could have been the best open world, if they had paused for a few minutes to avoid the repetition that makes some games stale.
They didn’t need to expand the number of mechanics they just needed to explore the depths more.