What even is a Far Cry game anymore? There were hints to indicate that it was just an open world shooter set in an exotic locale. Then there were hints that the villains of the games were the cornerstone of each game. But with Far Cry Primal, we go back to square one. We literally go back to where it all began. And while it’s dripping in rich history, it’s not entirely convincing that this Far Cry outing is anywhere near as groundbreaking or as fresh as it first appeared to be.Far Cry Primal takes place in the Oros Valley, which is a fictional location based somewhere in Central Europe. Taking place in 10,000 BCE where the Ice Age is over and the Stone Age is just beginning. You play as Takkar. Takkar is hunting with his tribe before being ambushed by a Sabretooth Tiger. With most of his clan wiped out, he is brought back to good health by Sayla and brought to Oros. With their tribe, the Wenja in the middle of a vicious clan battle between the Izila and the Udam, Takkar is tasked with surviving the enemy clans and rising to the top of the food chain. More intriguingly, Takkar is revealed to have the ability to tame the various forms of the wild in Oros.
The storyline of Far Cry Primal is easily its weakest aspect. You’ll meet a colourful cast of characters throughout your adventures in Oros but unfortunately all of their motivations and their interests are tired and dull. It’s all a rather by the numbers approach to storytelling.Barely any of the characters are memorable. Far Cry fans will enjoy the not-so-subtle throwback (or is it forward?) to a recurring character in Urki, who brings some levity to an otherwise dull narrative.
On the other hand, Primal’s setting is rather simplistic and thus is limited in where conflicts can arise – but even if the events of Primal are simplistic there are ways that the writers could’ve made them a little bit more excited. Honestly, it just feels like a budgeted concession that the game has a lesser emphasis on a thrilling story but it is a let down given the series pedigree.The land of Oros itself is easy on the eye, mixing together a “greatest hits” of sorts for previous Far Cry games, not counting Far Cry 2. In the north you have the snowy tundra which is reminiscent of the snowy alps of Far Cry 4. In the south you have the muggy marshlands which are reminiscent of certain areas of Far Cry and Far Cry 3. And of course in the middle you have a jungle. It’s a reasonably varied map that definitely feels just as big as previous Far Cry games even if on paper it might be slightly smaller.
In terms of pure looks the game looks just like any other Far Cry game. Those who are hoping that Primal’s jump to being solely exclusive to the newest generation of consoles might have led to an increase in the quality of the visuals will be sorely disappointed. There are moments of technical brilliance to be witnessed in the land of Oros, however. Just standing in the middle of a busy area will see animals attack each other, wind blow grass and reeds ever so softly and hunters from yours or other tribes out for the day looking for their meal. It’s hard to credibly say that Oros feels like an ‘authentic’ mesolethic experience given that we weren’t actually around, but Primal does build its world rather well.But once this glossy veneer wears off it becomes incredibly apparent just what Far Cry Primal is. Remember the elephants from Far Cry 4? Throw some fur on them and extend their tusks and you’ve got a mammoth! Far Cry Primal is, very clearly, Ubisoft testing the waters to see if a lower budget project that recycles both engines and assets will fare in the market at full price rather than as a downloadable expansion. That is – it’s nothing new in terms of asset creation. I will give the developers credit though, even though these textures and models might be nothing new, Oros does feel separate from Far Cry 3’s island and Far Cry 4’s Kyrat, for better or for worse.
One thing that Ubisoft must be commended for is the decision to present the game almost entirely in another language. Many scenes simply wouldn’t play out as seriously with a full English script and the decision to record them in Proto-Indo-European gives them a kind of primacy that adds an air of authenticity to the whole experience. Elias Toufexis, the man who voices Adam Jensen (from Deus Ex: Human Revolution) himself, does a great job with the script even if you notice his voice from time to time given its distinctive huskiness.There’s very few franchises or developers where you can say “It’s an Ubisoft game” or “It’s a Far Cry game” and most well respected gamers would know exactly what you’re talking about. Ultimately, Far Cry Primal is an experience that is incredibly similar to previous Far Cry games. You’ve got an open world, you’ve got all kinds of collectibles that are used for both experience and crafting and missions from various mission givers to complete. While there are a few things done ever so slightly differently – do not be fooled. This is no more experimental than the other Far Cry games and is a purely by the numbers iteration.
Far Cry Primal is essentially a Far Cry game where the weakest aspects of Far Cry that you probably enjoyed the least are made the main focus. Hunting and crafting are the name of the game, and the way that they’re implemented is unfortunately Far Cry Primal’s biggest downfall. It’s willing to put these systems front and center but remains virtually unchanged from previous games where they were clearly intended as ‘side systems’ of sorts further leading to the ‘budget’ feel of the game.There’s over twenty different kinds of materials that you’ll find throughout the world of Oros and the crafting system has been balanced so that you’ll always be missing the one component you need. Surprisingly, at least at the time of writing, these components aren’t purchasable with real money although admittedly almost all of the components are easily found if you are specifically looking for them. The crafting system remains as shallow as previous games, however. You never have to work out what you need to upgrade or make choices between two major upgrades as the skills and equipment all require separate components. That is, there’s really no ‘thinking’ about what you craft.
Two other systems have been overhauled in Primal and one of these directly affects the other. There are no guns in Far Cry Primal, as you’d imagine. Instead, your character is armed with two melee weapons and a few projectile ones for good measure. Clubs are swung and can hit multiple enemies at once. Spears are geared more towards 1-on-1 combat but can also be thrown. Bow and arrow are the same as they have been in every Far Cry game, minus the fancy attachments. Rocks and shards can also be thrown via a sling – though they’re largely useless unless aiming for headshots.No guns mean an increased emphasis on melee combat – every enemy has a club of some sort which comes out whenever you get close to enemies the combat is almost always close quarters. Herein lies one of the biggest problems with Far Cry Primal is that it puts all of its faith into its melee combat when genuinely it isn’t that great. There’s no weight with the swinging of the weapons. There’s no impact when you stab animals with a spear. Enemies will swing at you, clearly not connect, and yet somehow the damage will be dealt regardless. It’s a strange combat system that, while basic and lacking nuance, is incredibly unruly especially in more intense situations.
This change in the combat system mean that the dynamics of hunting have been shaken up. For one, you can’t just buy a rocket launcher or machine gun and blow the crap out of an elephant and enjoy the spoils. Now, because Takkar must be close to animals before slaying them, things can get more complicated. There’s several kinds of animals roaming the lands of Oros, some of which are nocturnal and some diurnal. But once again, their behaviours are what you’ve seen in previous Far Cry games. You can also tame certain animals by simply throwing bait at them and completing a QTE too, which is something that Primal does differently – though consistent with everything else in Primal the system is overly simplistic.Takkar can tame almost any beast in the Oros Valley and use them as a kind of companion. At first, you’ll be given access to an owl who behaves like a drone in any other first person shooter or your binoculars in Far Cry 4. It can scout out locations, launch light attacks and eventually drop crafted bombs on enemies. It’s handy but also mind numbingly challenge defeating. Other animals can be tamed and brought along with you and commanded to attack, ridden or simply hang around you to protect you. Animals have their own attributes – some can (and can’t) swim, some are better for stealthy approaches, some draw all attention to themselves for example. But they aren’t differentiated enough to truly care about which you’re using and for when – but we recommend a rideable one as it dramatically decreases travel times as honestly they’ll all get the job done regardless of what you pick.
It’d be remiss to discuss Far Cry Primal and not talk about just how unpolished it is and how detrimental it is to the overall experience. During Takkars time in Oros we witnessed our tamed animals chasing wild ones only for the wild one to just disappear from the map completely. We slaughtered animals and were rewarded with zero spoils. We even hunted one of the game’s ‘legendary’ hunts and got stuck as the game didn’t register we completed the mission. During a more intense outpost invasion (you remember those from Far Cry 2, don’t you?) our character would drop dead despite having half a bar of health remaining. This is standard expectation for an Ubisoft title – not as bad as Unity mind you – but Primal feels less polished than other Far Cry games.When you’re not completing typical missions for your villagers you’ll be building up your village, collecting hundreds of items and embarking on ‘legendary hunts’ to tame beasts more powerful than the usual. Village building sounds exciting but is simply another tab on the crafting menu, requiring excessive component collection and arbitrarily gating equipment behind their development. Other side content is typical to a Far Cry, nay, Ubisoft game. Thankfully, Far Cry Primal has quite a bit to do – most players will easily get at least twenty hours out of the game. Though if you’ve played an Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry game in the past year you might want to steer clear for a while until the experience will be fresh for you again.
Despite previous games, there’s no multiplayer functionality in the game at all. No competitive or cooperative multiplayer modes represent a huge missed opportunity given how other games have included the same for the same price and how fun the world of Oros would be to scavenge and pillage with a friend.Far Cry Primal feels like a missed opportunity hampered by what we can only assume is it’s budget. While it takes place in an interesting locale and an interesting time period rarely visited in games today – it fails to do anything notable with them. Make no mistakes, the risky project that this appeared to be when it was first revealed this is not. Far Cry Primal is a Far Cry game in every sense of the word – and with it comes the associated pros and cons.
Animal taming is an interesting idea and while Primal really just replaces cars with animals, it feels different enough to make Far Cry Primal still enjoyable even if the underlying systems are simplistic. The increased emphasis on crafting, hunting and melee combat had the potential to provide an interesting and unique experience. But the truth of the matter is that it flounders. Half-baked melee mechanics and a crafting system that can only be described as a collect-a-thon really let Primal down.
Far Cry Primal is clearly developed on a smaller budget but yet offered at the same price, and that’s problematic. It represents an interesting foray for the Far Cry franchise, but it’s hard to recommend to anyone who hasn’t enjoyed a Far Cry game before. With some more effort, a more compelling story and some crafted content we haven’t been subjected to before, it could’ve been great. For now, it’s just there.