“…possibly my favourite in the series.”
Far Cry has long been one of Ubisoft’s most popular game franchises. The latest two titles in particular have been very well received by fans, and certainly left people asking for more. What was unexpected by the fans however was the gamble which Ubisoft decided to take in producing Far Cry Primal. Dropping the games’ usual style of guns and vehicular madness in favour of sticks and stones gameplay, the newest game in the series takes you back to a simpler but even more brutal time; the year 10,000 BCE. Maintaining a familiar style alongside brand new ideas, the game has a lot to offer on the face of it, and has had a strong media build-up to back its arrival on our shelves and systems. With a release so close to The Division however, perhaps Ubisoft’s biggest title of the year, as well as a hefty fan base to try to impress and maintain, the big question now is has Ubisoft’s gamble paid off?
In Far Cry Primal you take on the role of Takkar. Your tribe has become divided across the land of Oros, and the few remaining members are threatened by the growth of your enemies in the region. You must attempt to gather your people, and take out these foes who would see your place in history one that is swiftly forgotten. Your basic arsenal of spears, clubs and a bow and arrow will aid you in some part along the way, but your greatest weapon is one which you simply need to awaken to with the help of your tribe’s unusual but effective shaman. After drinking a disturbing concoction, you realise your affinity to the land in which you live, and the beasts that roam within it. This connection allows you to tame the otherwise deadly creatures, and turn them to your allies.
The game relies heavily on this latter mechanic, and the story takes a large focus around it too. These abilities are what place you in a position of power in your tribe, making you recognisable as a leader and would-be saviour to your people. Fortunately for you then, it is not hard to tame a beast, be it a badger or a bear. Once you have levelled up your abilities, the process is quick and easy all the same, tasking you with throwing some meat on the ground as bait and holding down a button for a good five seconds in order to coax in your new companions. Given the gravity of what this actually achieves, you would have thought the process would have been a little more testing, but it really is that simple. From there, you can even have a Sabertooth at your side as your roam the lands of Oros, and with the right skills you can ride him too.
The balance of the game doesn’t feel quite right for the majority of missions given the strength of your beasts once you have them on side. You can often take out an entire camp without lifting a finger yourself, which is a hefty reward for simply chucking some meat and shushing a tiger. It is by no means impossible for your beasts to be overcome, and in some situations you are forced to go in without them, but they do reduce the challenge that you would otherwise face significantly. The ability to get an instant kill when scouting with an owl also tips the scales in your favour even more, making clearing an area a remarkably easy task now. Combine these elements with the raging fires the series is known for and keeping your distance is the new way to truly strong arm your enemies without risking your own back doing so. It isn’t until you get to the “Very Hard” rated challenges that there is any true sense of peril to worry about.
As well as the focus placed on your beast mastery, the game does offer a lot in terms of personal character progression. The more key characters you add to your tribe, the more advanced skills become available to you. These can enhance you during hunting, combat, gathering, scouting and endurance amongst other areas, and significantly change the state of play with each new attribute acquired. Upgrading these characters’ huts will open up further opportunities from them too, giving you incentive to source the various materials available in the world. Crafting is also central to primal, and it the easiest and quickest way to obtain and replenish weaponry on your travels. All of these systems together combine to give the game a strong RPG element which in some ways surpasses the previous games by adding greater variety in the requirements needed to upgrade.
The world itself is very much alive. There are numerous beasts big and small, dangerous and harmless wondering the entirety of the land. Both enemy and friendly patrols can be found in random locations, and occasionally fights break out between these parties and amongst the predators and prey surrounding them. Additionally, the game’s day/night cycle factors in heavily to what activities and entities you might find roaming around you, making timing a genuine feature of the game. The appearance of the world is no less than glorious too, with the lighting, vegetation and water being of particular merit. You can easily feel at one with the natural world, which sets aside the series’ traditional features such as gunfire and vehicles that would often be active in the background. Instead you simply hear the sounds of nature in motion, and it is beautiful and enthralling to experience.
Strong gameplay bar a little bit of a difficulty mismatch and an enticing world to experience it in are supported by a story which is strong and interesting at times, but odd, sparse and a little wedged in at others. Whilst the game starts strongly with rival tribes, an introduction to the beasts of the world and your epiphany which leads to beast mastery, these themes do feel somewhat dragged out at times. Several missions also have the same parameters, often involving a lot of following tracks and dispatching some enemies. The inclusion of aspects such as the classic grappling hook take away from the otherwise very believable setting of the game too. Nevertheless, you are never short of options for things to do, and in the end the game just about holds up, being acceptable despite some flaws but not quite as epic as you may hope for.
Generally speaking, despite some of the criticisms I have made, I very much enjoyed Far Cry Primal, and it’s differences made it possibly my favourite in the series. Why? Because I have often found the gunplay and some of the elements of the other games less easy to just play casually with, whereas Primal allowed me to perform simple yet fun tasks whenever I pleased and still progress meaningfully in the game. Prior to this game, the original would likely have been my preferred Far Cry thus far, but Primal has the advantage of lessons learned and enhanced development which give it a pleasant, glossier overtone than its roots. The game never gets boring and sees through its goals despite some hitches in doing so. If you think you can see around its issues, Far Cry Primal is a game I would easily recommend.
- The core feature of beast mastery is incredibly cool and has been developed very well.
- An interesting story that starts strongly and holds up well by the end.
- Character progression and crafting give the game a decent RPG setup which allows you to improve regularly and make a genuine difference to gameplay via new skills.
- Crafting and hunting are now essential skill with an active purposes and benefits.
- The living world is well designed as well as looking and sounding impeccable.
- Impressive roaming AI which interacts with not only you but the world and its neighbours within it.
- Taming beasts, both big and small, uses the same, very easy system despite the growing benefits.
- Mastered beasts can almost complete all but the hardest missions for you.
- The story sways at times, with elements such as the return of the grappling hook diverting from the overall setting’s validity.
- Many of the game’s missions are samey, with a lot of time just spent tracking.