Mammoths were wiped out by cave men circle strafing them whilst poking at their sides with spears. I don’t care what the scientists say about there not being enough water, Far Cry Primal is a much more reliable historical resource than anything these supposed “experts” can come up with. I joke of course, but a lot of the combat in this game can be boiled down to that concept. Ubisoft took a bit of a risk here by transferring the modern day open world shooter into a prehistoric era, and in some regards it does pay off.
You are a man, inside a cave. A ‘cave man’ if you will.
I’ll get this out of the way early, this game is beautiful. Far Cry has for a long time been known for its gorgeous environments and vistas, and this is no exception. Every environment, from cave interiors to swamplands are detailed, colourful and packed with plant and animal life to interact with in different ways. Characters look wonderful, especially in scenes in which they speak directly to you. The characters’ eyes seem to have had a lot of attention paid to them as they often convey the intended emotion very well. The local wildlife also look great and are animated well too. The little details of hitting an enemy (animal or otherwise) with an arrow and it remaining sticking out of them during the remainder of the confrontation is a lovely (if gruesome) detail. This is a great game if you just want to explore, hunt creatures and find all those hidden collectables.
Fire is your friend for lighting dark areas and scaring away potential predators.
The Far Cry series has more recently been known for its engaging stories and charismatic villains. This is an area Primal really struggles to live up to. The plot is basically your tribe has been nearly wiped out so you must unite the surviving members and ensure their safety. This isn’t such a bad thing, but there’s never really a feeling that your tribe is under threat, bar one scene early on. This is compounded by the lack of a compelling villain or any really motivations for those that are there beyond “kill other tribe”. I appreciate that with a prehistoric setting, having a genuinely interesting and deep opponent is quite difficult. But if you’re taking your series known for certain features into a different time zones, taking out one of its most entertaining (for me anyway) is very noticeable. Vaas, Pagan Min and even The Jackal in Far Cry 2 were interesting, motivated and compelling to observe both in and out of cut-scenes. The antagonists here are uninteresting at best. Your allies are more interesting, including a seemingly insane shaman, a crafter with a habit of peeing on people and an incredibly aggravating “thinker”. Like them or not, these are much more interesting than the antagonists.
The introduction to the game has a fairly engaging mammoth hunt to teach you the basics.
Whilst the main story is underwhelming, there are a lot of interesting side quests to do for the different characters you come across. Some of these are interesting, such as hunting animals at different times of day, or taming legendary creatures. Others are less so, like collecting feathers for a character to learn how to fly. Whilst these can be a little hit and miss, there is a range of entertaining activities here. Other side missions are not character related, and focus around helping your tribe by taking over outposts, capturing bonfires and rescuing allies. These are mechanically fine, but they do become samey after a while. Some of the combat mechanics remain interesting throughout the game. Using a bow and arrow didn’t get old for me at all and was consistently satisfying. It’s a feature that has appeared in a few Far Cry games, and it continues to work well. Melee combat (which is very common) was far less engaging, and amounted to hitting attack until the other person fell over. The weapons make perfect sense for the setting, but they are mostly uninteresting (club, spear, bigger club) apart from the throwable equipment. Throwing a bag of bees at an opponent was entertaining, as were the berserk shards which turn enemies against one another.
We’re going on a bear hunt.
Animals, on the other hand, are fun weapons to utilise. Early on, you gain the ability to tame animals and have them fight for you. The actual act of taming them isn’t terribly interesting, but having a sabre toothed tiger slinking around, ready to pounce on your enemies at a moment’s notice is quite enjoyable. Even more so when you learn the ability to ride them. Charging into battle on the back of an angry bear was satisfying. There are a number of different animals to tame each with their own statistics, as well as a few rare and legendary creatures to add to your collection. Hunting and claiming them all is one of the more entertaining collection quests you can complete (this is an Ubisoft game after all, by law there has to be at least 45,000 collectibles on the map).
So, here I’m blowing up the moon with a bow and arrow. Obviously.
Far Cry Primal was developed and published by Ubisoft. I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend it if you like Ubisoft collect-a-thon games, or if you’re a bit burnt out on modern FPS. Ubisoft took a risk and lead their franchise in a new direction which is commendable. It works in places, with a nice setting and some well polished mechanics, but it loses a lot of what has made Far Cry successful in recent years. Part of me thinks they had an idea for a 10,000BC game but didn’t want to take a big risk and attached the Far Cry name to it, but maybe I’m just being a cynic!