Ubisoft's tropical action game Far Cry 3 comes out today. It's massive, it's open-world, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. And while it ain't exactly as deep as Skyrim (despite Ubisoft's hilarious marketing slogan: "Like Skyrim with guns!"), it is big enough to warrant some tips.
The game does a good job of setting you loose pretty quickly—get a couple of basic missions under your belt and you'll be off to see Dr. Earnhardt and begin your adventure. Once you've begun, there are a few things you can do (and keep in mind) to make your trip through the Rook Islands more fun and survivable.
First Thing You Do, Go Hunting
After taking down your first outpost, you'll be more or less free to do whatever you want. While one of your first priorities should be to climb some radio towers to unlock more free guns (more on that in a minute), you'll need something in which to store those guns. So, you'll need to get crafting.
Go and hunt deer, goats, and boars in order to expand your loot carrying capacity and ability to hold weapons. Hunt down the three animals you'll need to upgrade your holsters as soon as possible. (Sharks aren't actually that hard, just find a rock outcropping and shoot them when they draw near.) Craft hard at the start, and you'll be much more prepared for the challenges the game throws your way.
Second Thing You Do, Don't Stop Hunting
Even if you're doing some other mission or sidequest, remember that you can always be hunting. You'll need multiples of every type of hide to craft the various types of containers and holsters, so if you see an animal, take it down, especially in the early goings. This is one reason the bow or another silent weapon can be great—you can take down an errant goat, skin it, and go about your business without alerting every bad guy within earshot. Never stop hunting.
Save After Hunting/Crafting
One of the weirdest features in Far Cry 3 is its odd save system. You can't quicksave, and only have one save slot in addition to your game's auto-save. I actually played Far Cry 2 on 360 before I played it on PC, and got used to that game's stringent save system, but still, the fact that you can't save multiple times in Far Cry 3 is pretty annoying.
More annoying still is the fact that the game doesn't autosave after everything you've done—it autosaves after you finish a mission or buy new gear, but not after you've crafted or gathered crafting materials. However, it's possible to offset this annoyance by remembering to save. If you're about to infiltrate an outpost and happen to take down a boar you'd needed, save afterwards and if you die, you should start up again at a checkpoint, but with the stuff you've collected intact.
In other words: When in doubt, save.
Don't Buy Guns
In Far Cry 3, you have two options for obtaining weapons: You can purchase them outright from weapons dealers, or you can unlock them by climbing radio towers. You have no reason to ever buy a gun in the game. Rather, you should make it an early priority to climb five or six towers, at least until you've unlocked the grenade launcher and top LMG.
Money is constantly in scarce supply on the Rook Islands, and is almost always better spent on weapon upgrades than on the weapons themselves. Get the guns for free, pay for the silencers and long-range scopes. And speaking of choosing what to pay for…
Don't Waste All Your Money On Ammo & Armor
Ammo is right expensive in Far Cry 3, and if you're not careful, ammo-refilling stops can become like a tax on your wallet. Remember that you don't have to fill up your ammo all the way, every time—it can feel better to go into a fight with a full stock of ammo, but once you've upgraded your ammo and explosive capacity, you'll have enough bullets and bombs to take on three or four of the story missions. Same goes for body armor—it gets shot off really quickly and doesn't actually keep you alive for that much longer, but it's a $200 tax if you buy it every time you stock up. Most missions that require lots of fighting leave some lying around, so you're almost always better off stocking up on health injections than on armor.
Never stop scavenging and looting, and you can save your money for better things, like the custom weapons that open up as you collect runes.
Space Out The Story Missions
The best parts of Far Cry 3 are the parts where you're taking enemy outposts, exploring nooks and crannies, and climbing radio towers. That said, the story missions are pretty fun, too, and wonderfully varied. The sweet spot the game hits is in the balance, but it's a balance that you can upset if you plow through the story too fast.
At various points in the narrative, the (annoying, unavoidable) notification telling you about the next mission will helpfully suggest you explore the island first, if you want. Take that opportunity! Get into scrapes, try out different weapons, improve your skills.
Think of the story missions almost as super cool, interactive cutscenes to break up all the open-world adventuring you'll be doing.
Circle, Circle, Circle
This one's old hat for Far Cry 2 veterans, but the key for surviving Far Cry 3's often difficult shootouts is to keep moving. Staying put and behind cover as you would in Call of Duty or a similar game will lead to a quick death, particularly if you're up against any molotov berserkers. Instead, stay low, and circle, circle, circle. Pulling back and around can allow you to flank even the most aggressive enemy, and with enough circling and quick thinking, you can take on almost anyone.
Use A Bow
The best weapon in Far Cry 3 is the bow and arrow. This is not opinion, it's just the best weapon. It's silent, it's deadly, it can one-shot most normal enemies, and it can eventually be fitted with fire and ruinously powerful explosive arrows. Get used to the bow early on, and use it religiously. And remember: Once you kill an enemy or animal with it, run over their body to snatch your arrow back. Bonus: You'll save money on ammo later.
Watch Out For Crocodiles
Actually, ignore this one, because no matter how vigilant you are, they WILL GET YOU.
Hoard Green Plants
Green plants are your friends. Some of the other plant types give you syringes that increase your awareness or flame resistance, but they never last that long and I've never gotten much use out of them. But health syringes are worth their weight in gold. As cool as the gnarly healing animations look, they're slow as hell, and if you're under fire from a bunch of dudes, the syringe will save your life when the regular animation would get you killed. Which reminds me...
Never Go In Without Some Health Syringes
It's easy to forget this one, but never go into battle without at least a couple health syringes in your pouch. Health gets chomped down pretty quickly in Far Cry 3, and there's no worse feeling than stumbling behind cover, bleeding out, only to realize that you're a long healing animation away from not being dead.
Loot, Loot, Loot
Since scarcity is such an issue in the game, you'll want to loot every container you find. Develop an eye for those glowing boxes, and everywhere you go, just run by and press "loot" really quick. You'll get a piece of random loot (if you're lucky, a Shark Fetish item!), and some money or ammo. Sometimes, loot boxes will have a few hundred dollars in 'em, so it's always worth checking.
Don't Forget The Easy Ways To Earn Cash
Sure, you can earn money going on assassination and hunting missions, but those take time and can be dangerous. There are also some really easy ways to earn money in Far Cry 3. For starters, each time you activate a radio tower, you'll get a medical supply-run mission—these take under a minute, and are generally very easy. They're also fun—a quick, wild ride down a mountain or over a beach, and you're $200 richer. The sharpshooting competitions and trials of the Rakyat are also an easy way to earn dough—these are also fun, don't take very long, and get you good amounts of cash. Just be sure you've crafted a big enough wallet!
And that's it! Keep that stuff in mind, and you'll be marauding your way from mountain to lagoon in no time. But seriously, and I feel like a broken record here, but: Mind the crocodiles.