Resetting the player to zero and forcing restarts makes Far Cry 4 a more brutal experience, says Matt Martin.
"You inevitably die, but each time you get that little bit tougher. The feeling of frustration is gradually replaced with progression."
Call me old fashioned but I'd expect something called Escape From Durgesh Prison to involve escaping from a prison. The latest DLC for Far Cry 4 only tenuously lives up to it's name - Durgesh is a region of Kyrat but any expectations of bars, guards and improvised shanks are misplaced.
The concept is so simple it could come from a five minute brainstorming meeting; the player is dropped into a part of Kyrat with no skills, weapons or pre-crafted equipment and charged with getting to an extraction point within a 30 minute timeframe. Hold down the extraction point, escape and you're home free. Miss that window and it's game over.
Die before the extraction point and you're sent back to the radio tower to start all over again, forcing you to recapture outposts and relive the other objectives. You keep all of the skills and weapons held, although you'll still have to find ammo. You also have a wingsuit, grapple and parachute, so it's not completely unfair. To begin with, considering the unpredictable nature of Far Cry 4, it's a brave player who takes on this challenge out of anything other than blind perseverance. You inevitably die, but each time you get that little bit tougher. The feeling of frustration is gradually replaced with progression.
You can also twist time in your favour by completing objectives. Rip a propaganda poster off a wall and you'll regain an extra minute. Liberate an outpost without raising alarms for a generous 8 minute of extra time. That doesn't sound like much and all it really does it give you back your time spent. But during those objectives you're improving Ajay, bumping up his health and armoury, getting prepared for the big showdown.
I like the brutality of Durgesh Prison, but it's masochistic gameplay. You enter this challenge knowing you're going to die a lot. And that includes the first time you get to the extraction point. All the enemies you encounter throughout the game are tough, well armed and in significant numbers. All outposts are at least set to medium difficulty, but each one gifts a specific reward: skills, weapons or crafting equipment. Any suggestion that Durgesh Prison is short would be wrong, although you may consider it drawn-out.
Because of this some of the distinctive reasons to play Far Cry are lost. There's very little subtlety here, nor much time for stealth. The bow in the regular Far Cry 4 game is my most treasured possession, but in Durgesh Prison it's as effective as tossing a stone at an alligator. Instead it's about explosives and more explosives.
The big question is whether you want to reset yourself to zero (I should add this is a walled-off challenge, it does not effect your character progression in the normal Far Cry 4 campaign). If you've played through the whole game and near-maxxed out Ajay's skills and weapons it's a shock to reboot and relearn. I didn't have a massive problem with it, finding the challenge refreshing and you obviously enter it pre-armed with knowledge of how the game (and its AI) works. It actually doesn't take long to gear-up in Far Cry 4 or Durgesh Prison if you set yourself specific goals. Play Durgesh for a while and you'll soon lose the fear of that ticking clock too. Most objectives, no matter how minor, add all-important extra minutes. Once you've liberated the outposts you'll be strong enough to sprint to the extraction point and go wild with a machine gun.
If you don't want to start again from scratch don't put yourself through Escape From Durgesh Prison; you'll get nothing out of it but frustration. But if you're ready to revisit Kyrat and happy to play with restraints that you'll eventually break free of, it's a good challenge to keep the blood pumping until the Yeti DLC drops.