Ubisoft releases a ton of popular games, but the one that continues to impress with each installation is the Far Cry series. The original Far Cry was a little weird, yet good, but it wasn’t until 2 when I was really wowed by what they were creating. With each subsequent numbered released, they took what worked in the previous and made it better and got rid of what didn’t. By the time Far Cry 4 released, it was a well polished game with a unique story and a fun world to explore. It seems like Far Cry has hit it’s pinnacle when it comes to random locations with a stranger in a strange land as the lead role, so what could Ubisoft do next? Take it back…way back. With their latest release, a non numbered Far Cry game called “Far Cry Primal”, Ubisoft takes the series back 10,000 years to show us not only how beautiful the world was back then, but how barbaric and ruthless living in this untamed land was. There is a lot that has to go right with a game like this. Guns are out of the question and the language is going to be alien to us. Let’s see how well they did.
In Far Cry Primal, you’ll take on the role of Takkar, a Wenja tribesman who is looking for the lost members of his tribe in a land that he is unfamiliar with. You’ll see your friends and family butchered by a sabretooth cat moments before you narrowly escape into a wolves den. It’s here you’ll meet the games first supporting character, Sayla. Sayla will send you on some missions to help save your tribe from rivals and before you know it, you’ll be building up a village of sorts for your tribe to flourish in this new land. Your main goal in Primal is to take out your enemies before they hunt you down and wipe out your tribe. You’ll meet other characters along the way to help as you continue the story, most notably is Tensay. Tensay is a crazy shaman who helps you become a beast master of sorts who can control animals and send them into battle to help. This, hands down, is Far Cry Primal’s best feature. Being able to call on an animal companion to attack an enemy while you silently sneak in the brush with a bow and arrow was some of the most fun I had in a Far Cry game. The game lost it’s guns, but adding in animal companions that you unlock through both progression and taming in the wilds was an great new feature.
It’s a good thing that the combat and overall gameplay of the world is so good, because the story itself leaves a lot to be desired. As stated before, you’ll spend most of your time building up your tribe with new characters coming in and taking over key roles within your village. You’ll meet an aging hunter, a crazy shaman, a one armed man, and other characters who are all very interesting at first, but their stories never really go anywhere. It’s unfortunate because the Far Cry name is synonymous with incredible stories and a bit of cerebral plot twists that leave you wanting to know more about the characters and their motivations. This could just be a result of the location that was chosen. These were simpler times with kill or be killed mentalities and very basic lives. This could be a spoiled complaint after the excellent storytelling in both Far Cry 3 and 4, but the overall story never truly goes anywhere and the big bad guy and his tribe pale in comparison to Vaas and Pagan Min. The best advice I can give you about Far Cry Primal and it’s story is to go in expecting little and you may have a good time. If you are coming to this game looking for the same level of storytelling as 3 and 4, you will be disappointed.
As mentioned earlier, the gameplay is the true spectacle here. Becoming the beast master and unlocking new pets to take into battle becomes an almost pokemon-esque level of collecting. I remember seeing a really cool rare bear that I just had to tame only to find out I hadn’t unlocked the ability yet. I spent the next hour leveling up to get this ability just to be able to train him. And Yogi was by my side for a good portion of the game…until I got myself a sabretooth cat. To tame a pet, you’ll throw some bait down for them and then walk up to them and put your hands out in a calming manner, somehow making them instantly want to do your bidding. It was this obsession with the animals that was my drive through the game. The weapons and items you can use in the game are about what you’d expect in a story that takes place 10,000 years in the past. Clubs, bows and arrows, and other wooden and stone tools make up most of what you can use. Bee hive bombs was a fun little addition as well, and you’ll heal yourself with raw meat that you can eat yourself to heal or give to your animal companion. If you enjoyed the stealth gameplay of the previous Far Cry games, you’ll be right at home here. I loved using my stealth bow in the previous games so this was second nature to me in Primal. If you were a guns blazing kind of guy though, well, you’ll have a club that you can light on fire as well as flammable arrows that cause some havoc, but outside of that, you’re going to have to improvise between arrows and blunt force weaponry.
Another positive of Primal is the world that they created. You truly feel like you are living in the ancient past with literally everything trying to kill you. Mankind isn’t the powerhouse that we are today with mastery over nature. Takkar and his Wenja tribe, as well as the enemy tribes you’re trying to take out, live alongside nature and have to show adequate respect to it, lest they will end up in the belly of an animal or dying from a poisonous bite of a snake. The lush landscapes, the cliffs in the distance, and the utter lack of modern humanity makes this a truly breathtaking world which is perfectly suited for this level of gameplay. The game still has those weird dream sequences that have you entering an animal (one of the weakest components of the game in my opinion) but overall, you’ll be spending your time in the outdoors or in caves as you focus on your goal of surviving enemy tribes while proving your tribes superiority.
Far Cry Primal is a solid game. There is a ton of fun to be had here, but your expectations need to be in check before you start playing. This is not a proper Far Cry numbered release. This is a sort of side project that has a numbered release price tag. If you haven’t played any of the previous Far Cry games, I recommend going out and playing 3 and 4 first. Those are masterpieces in their own right and their story and gameplay far exceed Far Cry Primal’s. But, if you’re a seasoned pro in the world of Far Cry and want something to hold you over until the next numbered released, Far Cry Primal will do just fine and you may even fall in love with the beast mastery system like I did. Here’s hoping they can find a way to include this in future releases.
Xbox One review copy provided by Ubisoft