The last few Far Cry
games all have some things in common. Large open world... check. Psychotic character... check. Lots of unnecessary violence... check. Guns... ah, maybe not. You see, this is where the latest instalment in the franchise, Far Cry Primal
, starts to differ from its most recent predecessors. Developer Ubisoft Montreal has taken players back in time, thousands of years before the modern day settings of Far Cry 3
and Far Cry 4
. The year is 10,000 BC and we're nearing the end of the Stone Age. The setting alone presents its own challenges, but are they really that different from the Far Cry
games of yore?
The Wenja tribe is firmly on the danger list. Their homeland, Oros, has been invaded by the cannibalistic Udam tribe and the Izila, masters of fire. The tribe has dispersed into many smaller groups, one of which is where we find tribesman Takkar, who is hunting mammoths with his three fellow tribe members. After cornering the animal, things go terribly wrong and Takkar is left on his own, injured, unarmed and the only surviving member of the party. As he forages for vital supplies, he comes across a recent Wenja camp and trails them to a nearby tiger cave. Here he meets another lone member of the tribe, Sayla, and together they vow to reunite the Wenja tribe and to rid Oros of the Udam and Izila once and for all.
This is about as engrossing as the game's story gets. While there is nothing particularly bad about it, the story lacks a real focus. There is no central villain like Vaas or Min to drive the plot forward; instead, there are two tribe leaders and neither really has a chance to shine. They're almost like sideshows that are confined to the edge of the map, where the action in the centre is solely reserved for trying to win over fellow Wenja tribe members and to complete their side quests. It is all the more confounding when you take into account that a whole new "simplistic" language was created for the game, something that involved consultation with historical experts. All of the subtitled cutscenes feature the game's characters speaking in this language and you wonder whether the effort may have been better placed in trying to create a more memorable story, rather than a more authentic setting.
Meet Ull, leader of the Udam tribe. He doesn't like you.
This doesn't mean that the world of Oros is empty and devoid of things to do... far from it, in fact. Oros itself is full of life to the point where it is a very dangerous place for a novice caveman. If you don't take care from the very beginning, you could be mauled by one of the area's many creatures, or impaled by Udam or Izila who, ironically, are the least of your worries and some of the easiest enemies to dispatch. Not only is the area full of life, it is absolutely crammed with things to do. All of the usual Far Cry
staples are here -- side missions, random events, outposts and bonfires, hidden locations, hunting, foraging and over 100 collectibles are all waiting to be found and completed. You will rarely be bored and, more often, you will be struggling to decide what to do next. After a while, though, there's a feeling of familiarity that starts to sink in. Even if you haven't played the earlier titles, the many events and side missions start to become repetitive. If you have played the earlier titles, there's a definite sense of déjà vu despite the different historical setting.
The lack of guns has the effect of bringing combat somewhat closer to home. Your club is your typical melee weapon, the spear fits in as a very effective mid-close range weapon, and the bow and arrow is for longer range. Most combat will take place in close quarters as enemies rush at you with poison, fire and very, very pointy sticks, and clubbing an enemy over the head is strangely satisfying. Despite the primitive nature of Stone Age combat, though, there is no option for blocking or a simple weaponless melee strike that would push an enemy back far enough to give you precious milliseconds of breathing space. This means that players are best to keep enemies at arms length at the very least, something directly at odds with the whole idea of melee combat. Even still, combat never feels too difficult and death always feels like your mistake. Don't panic, because when the worst case scenario happens, Takkar will just respawn at a nearby point with very little penalty.
You can go with this, or you can go with that -- what will be your weapon of choice?
Combat isn't just limited to melee weapons; in fact, there are a lot of other weapons that replace their modern day equivalent. Shards replace throwing knives, sting bombs (literally bags of bees) replace grenades and there are hunting traps. There are also berserk bombs -- Assassin's Creed
, anyone? While fun, you rarely need to use these when you have an effective arsenal in the club, spear and bow. If you're anything like me, you will likely only use them to get the achievements. On the contrary, one of the most useful tools is the one that replaces the game's binoculars: the owl. Your feathered spy can fly freely over an enemy encampment, tagging enemies and friendlies. When upgraded, it can also drop bombs, attack enemies and free caged animals to wreak havoc and cause a distraction.
When it comes to animals, though, nothing can beat one of the franchise's new features -- the ability to tame wild beasts. With a bit of food and a few soothing words, players can tame one of a number of beasts, from the stealthy jaguar to the stronger bear, and even the incredibly tenacious badger. This game changer turns Takkar from being a vulnerable target into somebody who can charge through Oros with very little fear... except for mammoths. They're big enough that they don't need to care at who or what they're charging, so running away is advisable. As such, your beast will act as a guard animal against most
predators and will also charge into battle on your behalf. The larger animals can even be used as steeds. Animals can be summoned or banished at will depending on ths situation, something that is particularly useful when stealth is required. Unfortunately, even the stealthiest animals are easily spotted and an outpost can turn into complete carnage in the space of mere seconds.
Who's a good doggy?
While Takkar is destroying the encampments of the rival Izila and Udam tribes, back home he is rebuilding a Wenja village. This is the game's main hub where players can pick up missions from other tribe members, check their game progress, rest and collect supplies. Some of the dwellings can be upgraded to give access to new weapons and abilities, but you never feel much of an attachment to the village or its inhabitants. With the exception of a few story-related missions, the village never comes under danger either, meaning that Takkar is free to forget about his village while he wanders around Oros. The settlement idea is a great addition to the Far Cry
series but it seems underused with the most important upgrades and skills linked into Takkar's own skill tree.
Each important tribe member who returns the village will open up a new section of the aforementioned skill tree. Takkar's own section focuses on his abilities to heal and move silently. Sayla's section allows Takkar to improve his foraging skills, while others focus on animal taming, combat and crafting. The linear nature of the skill tree means that some of the most useful upgrades are hidden behind those about which you don't care and you'll sometimes wonder if it is worth wasting those skill points just to get a bit of a bonus to your health. Of course, if you're looking for a completion then you'll want to complete every section of the skill tree
Speaking of achievements, the list includes those that are related to the main story, those that are related to side missions and others that are related to the remaining side activities. Players will be glad to learn that they need to find just 80 collectibles
out of the total 184 tracked collectibles in the game, but they will need to take over all forts
. There is also a list of achievements that requires players to kill a certain number of enemies with a certain weapon. As reaching the sought-after 100% game completion statistic is not a requirement for the achievements and they can be done on any difficulty, players could grab the full 1000G in approximately 25-30 hours. Players who do want to head for that statistic will be looking at a longer time of around 40-50 hours.
SummaryFar Cry Primal
takes the franchise back thousands of years to the Stone Age and a tale of a tribe decimated by their enemies. While this tale had promise, the lack of a central villain means that the story also lacks focus and is relegated to the sidelines while the side missions take pride of place. Away from the story, Primal
offers hours of other activities that usually involve the game's satisfying melee combat and a beast from the game's rather fun taming mechanic. Players are never left with nothing to do, but it's for how long players will persist before the game starts to feel a bit too repetitive. This doesn't mean that it is a bad game by any means, especially when offering 40-50 hours of gameplay before reaching 100% completion. It just means that Far Cry
veterans will have seen this all before but under a different skin.
- Plenty to do
- Satisfying melee combat
- Training animals is fun
- Story lacks focus
- Feels too familiar
The reviewer spent nearly 20 hours in the land of Oros, accidentally setting fire to far too many things and being steamrolled by woolly mammoths. She's very fond of her pet sabretooth tiger, although is still unsure if Fluffy is an appropriate name. She gained 26 out of the game's 50 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.