Poor Ajay Ghale didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he took a trip back to his family’s homeland of Kyrat after the death of his beloved mother in Far Cry 4. The same is also true of the game’s brand new side campaign, Valley of the Yetis. In fact, the change from positive to negative occurs even faster this time around, thanks to an abrupt and unexpected helicopter crash.
Set in a mountainous region near Kyrat itself, or perhaps even inside of it, Far Cry 4‘s Valley of the Yetis DLC begins as a challenging beast. The reason for this is its developer’s plan to make the player feel isolated and vulnerable. They simply drop us into this new region, and leave us to fend for ourselves not long after the potentially fatal crash. We’re without any sort of weapon outside of the basic machete, and find ourselves in an incredibly remote and dangerous area, where large and vicious animals roam without fear.
It’s not just animals that Ajay is forced to deal with, though. Those more realistic foes are joined by hulking, diseased-looking yetis, as well as human cultists who want nothing more than to sacrifice our unwitting hero. Needless to say, it’s a Hellish scenario to find one’s self in, and one that takes some effort to get out of.
What’s great is that you feel so alone, and actually feel fearful from the onset. However, that fear doesn’t run through the entire several hour-long experience. At least, that wasn’t the case during my playthrough, as I spent a lot of time picking green herbs and doing as much as I could to protect myself. Not only that, but I also played on normal, despite the fact that a harder option was always available. That said, it’s not like this was a cakewalk by any means; it’s just that, once I was able to arm myself and get back to my OCD-like character building, I became less fearful of the world around me.
So, what exactly do you do in Valley of the Yetis? Do you simply kill a bunch of yetis and cultists while avoiding animal attacks? Well, yes and no.
From the start, it’s made obvious that something simply isn’t right. Ajay may find himself in a seemingly desolate environment, but things aren’t exactly what they look like. Instead, this new (and impressively large/well-made) mountainous environment is home to a Yeti-worshiping cult. They don’t call them by their mythical, sasquatch-like name, however, and use the term “Awakened” instead. To put it simply, they feel that the hairy creatures are a god-tier evolution of our kind.
Immediately following the helicopter’s disastrous downfall, its injured pilot is ripped from his seat and dragged off to who knows where. Ajay awakens to find himself alone, and must then try to figure out where his companion has gone. It doesn’t look good, though, and for good reason, because it isn’t long before our protagonist becomes the object of the cult’s fascination. They not only want to see him dead; they also want to mastermind his demise by sacrificing him to the Awakened around them.
In order to survive, one must take over a relay station and defend it at all costs, while venturing out in search of a rumored relic. As such, there’s a first-person tower/defense element in play, which forces you to think before you summon the enemy onslaught. Plan effectively and you’ll be okay – just make sure to have a lot of ammo boxes and med kits at your disposal.
Getting ready for a wave-based ambush (all of which occur at night, over the course of five thematically varied evenings) doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but it does take time. There are multiple defenses — ranging from mines to explosive barrel traps and turrets — which can be purchased and set-up. Then, there’s a set of nine locked ones that can only be unlocked by completing the same amount of upgrade missions. Think of them as side quests or activities, though, because they’re rather basic, and will have you hijacking/returning trucks, scaling mountains in search of weapons, finding satchel bags throughout the valley, or protecting animals from incoming wild cats. They’re fun diversions and short to boost, so I didn’t mind their lack of creativity.
The night defense engagements and upgrade missions aren’t core story quests, though. Those are the aforementioned relic ones, of which there are about six in total. These send you to different parts of the environment and task you with fighting off cultists while looking for clues. It all leads up to a final boss battle (if you want to call it that), which is fine and fits the DLC, but is unspectacular overall.
Now, you’re maybe wondering where the Yeti action comes in. Don’t worry about that, though, because there are plenty of the vicious beasts to battle. At first, it may seem like they’re few and far between – something which is highlighted by the tough-sounding “Kill 5 Yetis” trophy. That isn’t true, however, as they become quite common as things progress, and even begin to show up during defense sequences. They’re strong, and can hurt you a lot with relative ease, but aren’t too difficult to take down so long as you don’t continually shoot them in the rear end or in their legs.
Overall, this anticipated Valley of the Yetis mini-campaign is a perfectly fitting add-on for Far Cry 4, and one that is well worth the money. However, though it’s beautiful-looking and very cool, it fails to achieve greatness due to miscellaneous issues. There’s the odd bug to be found, repetition does occur, and the available defence items aren’t as unique as they could’ve been.
I had a blast for the first few hours, following a frustrating start to my quest, but once I got to the four hour range, things started to become old hat. That’s okay, though, because this isn’t a full game, nor is it an expensive piece of DLC. It is what it claims to be, and I admittedly stretched its gameplay out longer than most would.
If you’re a fan of the Far Cry franchise, and loved Far Cry 4 anywhere close to as much as I did, then Valley of the Yetis is an absolute no-brainer. It’s not perfect, but it’s full of things to like and thoroughly entertaining for the majority of its duration. Plus, it’s another excuse to return to the best game of 2014, and you can’t argue with that, right?
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game and add-on, which we were provided with. This DLC is part of the game’s Season Pass.
Although it features a greater emphasis on defense than we had originally expected, Far Cry 4's Valley of the Yetis DLC ended up being almost exactly what we'd hoped for. It's fun, complementary and affordable, presenting lengthy and memorable gameplay. Not only that, but it's a great excuse to return to last year's best video game.