While Montana is home to many video gamers, the state itself hasn't seen much use within the games they play. Though places like California, Florida and even Wyoming have been the setting for games, Montana has largely been overlooked.
So when Ubisoft announced that an entry in its popular 'Far Cry' franchise of first-person shooters would be set in Montana — the series' first U.S. location — it got many gamers excited.
"Far Cry 5" is set in the fictional Hope County, a mountainous region that has been overrun by a violent doomsday cult known as the Project at Eden's Gate. Players are tasked with putting an end to the cult's control over the county and helping the residents return to a normal life.
Ubisoft employees spent time in Montana meeting with locals and absorbing the culture and the sights in order to get a better sense of how to portray their virtual Treasure State.
But just how well did the Canadian developers capture the look and feel of real-life Big Sky Country? Aside from the inherent inaccuracies that come from setting the game in a fictional county, here are just a few things that they got right and wrong.
The right stuff
"Far Cry 5" gets a lot right about the state, and Montana gamers will feel right at home as they venture around the huge map of Hope County.
Sure looks like Big Sky Country
The experience of trekking around Montana with an M249 light machine gun is something that most people probably won't have in real life. But the experience of doing it in a virtual version of Montana is surprisingly well realized in 'Far Cry 5.'
Ubisoft captured the look of Montana's mountain regions rather impeccably. The fictional Hope County looks and feels most like the northwestern part of the state, with tall peaks, winding rivers and lots of evergreen forests. But it could just as easily stand in for the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in south-central Montana.
The county is, in some ways, akin to the town of Springfield in "The Simpsons." There are elements of the whole state of Montana scattered throughout the map, but there is nothing to indicate exactly where it might be located in the real world. One character makes a reference to being "just a few more hours back to Missoula," but that could mean just about anywhere.
The great outdoors
Though much of players' time in "Far Cry 5" will be spent dealing with members of the Project at Eden's Gate, there are plenty of other activities in the game.
The game's developers clearly understood that outdoor recreation is a major component of Montana culture. Players can hunt, fly fish and rock climb all over the map. Fishing and hunting are important parts of the game, as the animal products you retrieve can be sold in shops for money to buy weapon upgrades, vehicles and other useful items.
Magazines can be found in some locations, which are used to pinpoint the places where specific species are more likely to be found. For instance, finding a fishing magazine might mark all of the rainbow trout locations on the map.
Though some of the hunting in the game would be illegal in real life (for example, there is currently no grizzly bear hunting season in Montana), there's something truly satisfying about taking down a bison or a wolverine with a bow.
A smorgasbord of Montana life
Hope County is like a buffet of all the things that make Montana. In addition to the outdoor recreation elements of the game, there are locations and events that are plucked from the Last Best Place.
One mission tasks you with retrieving supplies for the county's annual Testicle Festival, based on the real-life annual festival held near Clinton.
There are mines scattered throughout Hope County ranging from copper and gold mines to an old uranium mine once used as a health spa. There are multiple real examples of such radioactive "health mines" in Montana, especially in the Boulder area.
Farming and ranching are also represented in the game. Several missions are cattle-related, and players have the chance to liberate both a pumpkin farm and an apple orchard.
The game includes a cider mill and a craft brewery, the Whistling Beaver Brewery, which cult members use as bases of operations. It's no secret that Montana loves its craft beverages.
Doomsday cults and militias
Though it's an open world game, giving players the freedom to tackle missions as they see fit or just run around and enjoy the scenery, "Far Cry 5" does have a story for players to progress through. It begins with the player, a rookie sheriff's deputy, assisting in the arrest of a controversial religious leader named Joseph Seed. Seed most closely resembles a man-bunned version of David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians sect that was at the center of the infamous 1993 ranch siege in Waco, Texas.
Seed's followers, the Project at Eden's Gate (referred to as "peggies" by other characters, from PEG), have overrun the county. In response, the county residents have formed militia groups to resist the cult's efforts. Some of the groups are run-of-the-mill guerrilla resistance fighters, but others are more organized, and have a distinctly anti-government tinge.
Militia groups are a well-known part of recent Montana history. The Militia of Montana formed in response to the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge near Naples, Idaho. The group was tied to the anti-government Montana Freemen who staged their own standoff with federal agents in 1996.
The Project 7 paramilitary group, based in the Flathead Valley, made headlines after it was found to be stockpiling weapons while planning to assassinate government officials. Upon his release from prison, Project 7 leader David Burgert led law enforcement on a chase before opening fire and escaping into the woods near Lolo. He still hasn't been located.
Montana also has experience with religious groups moving into large areas, including one group that, like Joseph Seed's group in "Far Cry 5," believed the world was on the brink of destruction. The Church Universal and Triumphant bought large swaths of land in Paradise Valley in the 1980s, led by its founder, Elizabeth Clare Prophet.
Prophet believed that the world would experience a nuclear war, and the church began building massive underground fallout shelters to protect them from what they thought was impending catastrophe. Similar shelters are a part of the story in "Far Cry 5," and must be "liberated" in order to progress through the game's story.
When "Far Cry 5" was announced, there was some controversy over its plot and setting. The political climate in America was (and remains) volatile, and depicting a clearly Christian-inspired cult facing off against gun-toting Montanans was sure to stir up some debate.
The game goes out of its way not to give its characters a cohesive political identity. And that's completely fine, as far as accuracy is concerned. Montana is a politically diverse state, and "Far Cry 5" still manages to capture some of the things that real life residents discuss and debate in their daily lives without stereotyping every Montanan as a right winger.
Characters bring up Second Amendment rights frequently (it is, after all, a first-person shooter set in one of the most gun-friendly states in the country). But players also encounter animal rights activists, drug legalization advocates, conservationists, and both pro- and anti-government groups, all of which are found in real-world Montana.
What "Far Cry 5" really gets right is the fact that all of those characters know they have one thing in common: they are Montanan, and they don't take kindly to someone coming in and trying to disrupt their way of life.
Nope, nope, nope
In spite of its looks and attention to detail, the over-the-top nature of the game leads to a few unrealistic features, and there are a couple of things that were just simply overlooked.
Talk the talk
The majority of the citizens of Hope County fit the description of stereotypical rednecks. While not all people in rural areas of real-life Montana match that description, it makes the game's colorful cast of characters a bit more interesting.
The problem with many of the characters is that they do not sound like your typical Montucky redneck. For some reason, many of the voice actors providing the dialog for the characters chose to use various Southern or Appalachian accents, which you're not likely to hear in even the most isolated backwoods communities in Montana.
Not all characters have a geographically-incorrect drawl. Many have the same Western American accent that is common throughout Montana and the surrounding states, and some actors were even able to get the proper Rocky Mountain rancher accent.
The 57th county
The developers of "Far Cry 5" put a lot of work into little details to connect their fictionalized version of Montana with the real Treasure State. Players can see Montana's 406 area code on billboards and at businesses, and characters will occasionally mention real cities and locations in conversations.
Then there's the license plates. Vehicles in the game have license plates that, for the most part, resemble two of the most common license plate styles that are found in real life. The 2006 "Big Sky Country" plate and the blue and white 2010 plate are used on most land vehicles, but 1991 and 2000 plates are also seen.
While the look of the plates themselves are accurate, the numbering is another story. Since 1930, most standard-issue Montana license plates have had a one- or two-digit number to signify the county in which the vehicle was registered.
In "Far Cry 5," vehicles have a seemingly random three-digit number instead. This numbering system is not only incorrect in its use, but also breaks the seven character limit that is in place for plates using the numbering system.
Using the number 57 might have been a better choice as it would not only show knowledge of Montana's 56 counties, but would also keep the plate numbers under the seven character limit.
Fauna faux pas
Though the majority of wildlife found in "Far Cry 5" are species that have some presence in Montana, there are some that are a bit out of place for the mountain setting.
For example, one side mission has you rescuing a tame, diabetic grizzly bear named Cheeseburger. In order to gain Cheeseburger's trust, you must give him a fresh chinook salmon, which can be easily found in a nearby river.
In reality, chinook salmon are not found in many parts of Montana. They were introduced into Fort Peck Reservoir in the 1980s and are still found there today, but are only rarely found in the western part of the state.
The endangered pallid sturgeon, which is also found in eastern Montana, is one of the fish that can be harvested in the game. The fish isn't often seen in the wild and is not present in the mountain streams of Montana, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks field guide.
Caribou, bald eagles and grizzly bears are examples of animals that you can hunt in the game, but that are illegal to hunt in Montana in real life. In fact, caribou are seen so infrequently in Montana that when they are found, they are sometimes returned to Canada.
Native Americans are MIA
"Far Cry 5" has a huge number of characters who players will interact with along the roads and trails of Hope County. But the racially-diverse cast is conspicuously lacking in one of the largest minorities in the state.
Native American characters are few and far between in the game, despite the fact that more than six percent of Montana's residents are Native, according to U.S. Census data.
Players are free to create a character of any race when they begin the game. They'll encounter many people of other races throughout the map, but the limited number of Native American characters is somewhat baffling.
Sheriff Earl Whitehorse, one of the game's main characters, has a name that would indicate at least some Native American heritage. A member of the game's Whitetail paramilitary group, Wheaty, is one of the few other Native American characters encountered.
A restaurant in the game is said to have been owned by "a Blackfoot family." This gives more weight to the possibility of the game taking place in the northwestern portion of the state, as that is where the Blackfeet Nation is located. But the family never appears in the game.
Not even a one-horse town
For a series that has allowed players to ride elephants, bears and even sabre tooth tigers, one would think that riding animals would be a no-brainer in "Far Cry 5." Horses are a common sight all over Montana, so it would make perfect sense to include them in a game set in Montana.
But not only can you not ride horses in "Far Cry 5," they aren't even present in any part of Hope County. The game includes several ranchwear outfits for the player to buy, but without a horse to ride, they're kind of a hollow offering.
Ubisoft even chose to use a man riding a horse in its advertising for the game. So why aren't there any horses? It's possible that horseback riding may be added at a later date, but for now, it's one of the most glaring omissions in "Far Cry 5."