My truck looks too much like Michael Bay's interpretation of Optimus Prime for my liking, but it has machine guns mounted on the grill, so I can't complain too much. I take this gaudy beast onto a dirt road, where it roars and slides a bit before reaching an unsafe speed. My destination is a statue I can barely make out on the horizon. I don't know if this landmark holds anything I need, but it looks important, and heading this way sure beats the hell out of another day of running away from bears in the woods. Did I mention my truck has machine guns?

My playthrough of Far Cry 5 is defined by environmental discovery just like this. I'm sure many of you are journeying through Hope County in a similar way. In fact, this may be the way you play all Far Cry games, but for me, this is a break from the norm of following way points and playing the role of a completionist who fills in check boxes. That's not to say I'm skirting progress just to goof off. I've completed over a dozen missions just by stumbling upon them as I aimlessly explore. I'm playing Far Cry 5 in a similar way to how I approached The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: by pointing my character in a direction, and spending the rest of the day heading that way, tackling whatever points of interest pop up.

This avenue of play has shown how great Far Cry 5 is at randomly creating moments that turn into exciting or hilarious stories. Some of these moments bleed seamlessly into critical path missions. When I reached the statue I mentioned just seconds ago, I triggered a mission that asked me to "destroy the Father statue." I'm guessing the player needs to activate the missions before they'll appear (usually by talking to people in camps), but I love how the action doesn't pause to give me mission details or story buildup. Instead, the mission objective pops up on screen, and I have the choice to pursue it. I chose to handle this one in style: by performing a James Bond-like stunt of turning my airplane into a projectile that would hopefully destroy the statue. You can see what happens next in the video below:

Not all of my discoveries lead to chaos. One of my favorite moments is tied to a fire I spied through a treeline. I of course had to investigate it. When I reached it, I didn't find hostiles, but three people enjoying the great outdoors and music.

The story of the Father and his cult isn't gripping me, but I am getting a kick out of some of the text that is popping up along the way. This Elon Musk Battle Royale piece is something else. How can you not be a fan of Zip's Newsletter?

I'm finding Far Cry 5 is lacking a little bit in the density of points of interest, but not having anything around to steal your vision does amply the beauty of the world. A few points on the map give you amazing sight lines of the mountains and valleys.

When I do come across those points of interest, they usually deliver something meaningful. I'm a big fan of collecting bobbleheads in the Fallout games, and I love that Ubisoft has this activity in Far Cry 5. I'm also on the hunt for valuable, skill-enhancing magazines, and a typical selection of game loot ranging like weapons, vehicles, and money. Some locations play out like mini-puzzles that push the player to figure out how to open a door that will lead to the goods. The solution is sometimes finding a key hidden somewhere. Other times the solution is tied to traversal, like finding a way to reach a rooftop that holds a zipline leading to an open window. Again, the emergent stories are the driving force.

Some of my findings are just puzzling in their composition. After a brief battle, I found the corpse of a man dressed entirely in white. He was wearing a mask. I then found this...

I'm also enjoying the combat Far Cry 5 continually brings, even if the gunplay is a little easy. The stealth sequences are continually rewarding. They take place in rural locations worth exploring (like a brewery or airfield), and the enemy animations often sync up with it. This means you'll see guards poring toxic chemicals into the water, or working on an engine they are trying to get running. Part of the fun is just seeing what they are up to, and taking advantage of that particular activity. I also love how easy it is to pick them off one by one at great speeds.

I have no idea how much progress I've made along the critical path, but I honestly don't care. I'm enjoying this experience at my own pace. Yes, some of the story sequences are weird as hell, and I hate it when they yank me out of exploration to chain my silent hero to chair, but these brief required moments don't last long, and the it's back to the wilderness and wandering. This is an open-world experience that really is at its best when it's open and free of the heavily scripted content.