Let’s go clubbing.
Another year, another Far Cry? It would seem as if this franchise is starting to appear more often and frequent than ever before. First came 3 with another island tropical adventure, then the crazy, 80’s style Blood Dragon, followed by mountain escapades in 4. The latest iteration, dubbed Primal is a huge step in a very different direction for the franchise. A bold, unique, and rather risky move in today’s gun filled first person genre. Primal takes us back to the earlier days of man, 10,000 ago, warts and all.
Man versus Nature.
Taking on the role of a Wenja warrior named Takkar, players are forced to come to terms with not only surviving the wilds and nature itself, but two opposing tribes, that includes cannibals, as they try to wipe out the Wenja clan. The story in and of itself is simplistic in nature. Man fought for food, for survival, and strength in numbers. If players come into Far Cry Primal expecting a plot that is both over the top or overly complicated in a time period set in the past, think again. What we have is a game that goes back to the basics of storytelling, which is extremely fitting for the time period. Survival is the key aspect of it and overcoming the obstacles in the way is ultimate goal is. It’s fitting, it makes sense, and while some might find it boring, I was completely sold on the idea. If the story had been set up as anything more elaborate, I’m not sure it would do the time period justice.
Platforms: PS4, XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
How long to beat: 20+ hours
Gameplay in Far Cry Primal is going to feel roughly the same upon first playing. Everything from the past Far Cry games are here. Large map with collectibles? Check. Animals to kill? Check. Crafting? Check. Watch towers to climb? Ok that one is completely gone from this entry, though now just taking over encampments serve as fast travels instead. While the game takes the mold of the prior entries and maybe even uses similar assets at times and gameplay mechanics (I’m looking at you grapple hook) I’m of the mind that it’s not about what is re-used, but how it’s used. Primal goes against the grain of what most are familiar with in terms of atmosphere, danger, and weapon use. It’s a bold move from a triple A studio game.
While Takkar is a great warrior, the player only helps to increase his abilities. Using the most basic of weapons at the start. Clubs, spears, and arrows. It’s only through the process of growing his tribe, helping other members that join, and gaining their knowledge, that he can upgrade his abilities and weapons further. Of course this all sounds fairly similar in design of past Far Cry games, but here it actually makes the most sense. A young strapping man in 2016, isn’t going to go killing random animals to increase his Rambo like ammo pouch. Yet in 10,000 BCE, the whole of man was about survival and using what was at their disposal to live. The context for crafting, rescuing tribesmen makes total sense and Primal uses this to their advantage with their previous entry mechanics perfectly.
Weapons do not just come in the flavor of melee or conventional time period pieces. The upgrades to bows, club, and spears all feel progressively stronger and look better. While the melee combat itself is rather basic, it’s serviceable enough. I’d have wished for a little bit more depth to it at times, but add in the other element for ways of attacks and it never became a bother. Animals play a huge part in both traversal and fighting. The ability to tame you animal comes earlier and starting with smaller creatures. Each of these tamed animals have various states and ability perks. So whole one animal might be stronger, the other might get the element of surprise, giving incentive for players to switch out for different animals at different times. In combination with the animals, the thrill of hunting while riding on a giant bear has never been more satisfying or fulfilled until now. Combining the various weapons, the bee bombs (which see enemies running in terror), and using animals brings the combat to another level. It’s still Far Cry but in such a different light, I constantly was hooked into the gameplay loop again and again.
Hip to be square.
The valley players explore is vast, with a day and nighttime cycle. Here night time is way more dangerous than ever before. Rare animals make appearance, animals fight together in packs, and it’s chilling when stumbling upon a group of wolves, eyes glowing in the moonlight. The risk involved with nighttime is more much extreme, but the possibility of better rewards is also present and up to players to decide what worth it. That said, the atmosphere at night can be downright terrifying with fog rolling in, the moon lighting up the sky, and sabretooth tiger on chase. While not as dangerous, the daytime is filled with beautiful moments of sky piecing through the trees and surveying the land from high above a cliff feels wonderful. The world feels alive and dangerous, just as it should in these times.
While the soundtrack isn’t exactly memorable or a tune I’d hum in the shower, it goes hand in hand with the atmosphere. Tribal like music, sometimes fast, other times slow and mythical feeling. It’ sets the tone appropriately. Meanwhile the voice acting is great, granted players won’t be able to understand a lick of it as it’s a created language based off other old styles of dialog. So reading comprehension is definitely needed and for some young players might be a distinct turn off. That said, the game is rated mature and definitely shows it from nudity, cannibalism, blood, guts, animal mauling’s, so whether parents decide their child should even play this is up to their decision but as a warning, it’s fairly graphic. For those also wondering, the game runs extremely smooth on the PS4, with very little dips in framerate, if at all. One of the most polished open world games I’ve played honestly.
Far Cry from modern times.
Far Cry Primal takes advantage of its unique setting with absolute grace and inventiveness. It’s not quite apparent at the start and if players are looking for an experience that doesn’t take the basic mold and ideas of Far Cry to a different level, then there might be some disappointment here. The same idea of tagging enemies, approaching encampments in unique ways, and even using the environment and animals to advantage is all here. Yet everything else, from the way crafting built upon itself, mission design, soundtrack, voice acting, and visuals, adds up to give this a unique boost that feels unlike any other game before it or at least one we only get every few generations.
I had some issues with the hunting vision and it’s overly yellow and dull visuals. The owl flying and abilities for using it are a great addition but I also felt the control and camera use for it was just a bit too loose and up close. Far Cry Primal will last players a good 20+ hours and more if deciding to tackle all the side quests. There is plenty of content here, some rehashed, and some new. The HUD itself can feel a bit claustrophobic but luckily there is plenty of options to remove the overlays. I wouldn’t recommend removing them all at the start, but once having played for a few hours and knowing how the game mechanics work, turning these elements off adds another layer of atmosphere with nothing on the screen to prominently remind players that they are indeed playing a game.
From missions involving finding totems, to investigating why a river is causing sickness, investigating dark caverns, or climbing a great cliff for rare feathers, there is plenty of variation between all the killings. If the idea and theme don’t resonate with players and pull them in, I’d probably rate this game a point or two lower then my personal score as I feel it’s rather crucial to get the most enjoyment out of this title. That said, I absolutely loved my time with Primal though and to see a game set in this time period, with no guns, and with high production values just seems completely experimental and bold. I can’t help but commend Ubisoft in attempting this. I just hope we see more unique settings in the future, because Far Cry Primal is one unique experience seemingly ripped straight from the history books and brought right into player’s hands.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.