Just like with Treyarch and Infinity Ward with Call of Duty, it seems that Ubisoft is running out of fictional settings for their Far Cry series. Instead of hopping into the future, Far Cry Primal takes us back to the past. However, in a setting that feels like it should change the core mechanics and formula of the Far Cry series, Far Cry Primal feels oddly familiar.
Into the Wild
Far Cry Primal thrusts players into the Stone Age at 10,000 BC as Takkar, the de facto leader of the Wenja tribe. Showcasing his journey to rebuild his tribe, we follow Takkar through the harsh and unforgiving landscape of the Oros Valley, a fictional location in Stone Age Europe.
The story of previous Far Cry games has always revolved around the political dynamic of the area that the outsider protagonist has been thrust into, and it is much the same in Far Cry Primal. Not only does Takkar have to rebuild his tribe, but he has to contend with tribal rivals in the area that have contrasting ideals for the land.
While Far Cry Primal’s story neither deviates from what has come to be expected, nor does it break it. Takkar’s tale takes players through the dangerous and eerily tense world introducing them to a cast of interesting characters and showcasing the world in all its brutal splendor. The only major disappointment with Far Cry Primal is the lack of a sadistic, scene-stealing protagonist like Far Cry’s 3 unpredictable and vicious Vaas or Far Cry 4’s sociopathic Pagan Min. The villains, the leader of the flesh-eating Udam tribe and the leader of the masters of fire, the Izila tribe, are underwhelming and result in two very ho-hum boss fights.
However, it is not the story that carries Far Cry Primal, it is the gameplay.
Lions, Mammoths, and Badgers – Oh My!
Unlike previous entries, Far Cry Primal takes away all the guns, grenades, and hang gliders that made the previous environments so fun to explore. Instead, players are taken back to a time where sticks and stones break bones as viable weapon choices. Those wading through the gameplay looking for Ubisoft’s clever workarounds for the time period, like a magical, shaman-blessed machine gun that shoots rock shards or heat-seeking slingshot with explosive BBs, will be sadly disappointed.
Throughout combat, you are limited to three weapons – a club, a bow, and a spear. The club brutalizes enemies at close range, bows can take foes down from a distance, and spears provide both melee and ranged capabilities. As players gather materials and find tribe members, they can craft more formidable versions of the three weapons as well as create other tools like primitive bombs and shards of stones that can be used as throwing knives.
While Far Cry Primal definitely gets players closer to their enemies, it is not the weapons that make combat, it is your companions. Early on in the game, Takkar gains the ability to tame animals, each with their own attack power, combat techniques, and special buffs that aid the player. Now players don’t have to gamble with throwing bait into an enemy outpost in hopes a tiger can sniff it out in order to go on a full-on rampage among your enemies, instead these tamed animals are fully at your command.
While these furry friends serve as potent weapons and occasional vehicles, this does not mean the danger once posed by beasts is gone completely in Far Cry Primal. Regardless of what animals you have tamed, their free-roaming counterparts will still attack, but in the Stone Age, they come prepared by often bringing friends with them, leading to furious, fast-paced fights for survival.
While Far Cry Primal follows the typical formula Far Cry formula of fighting both man and nature, taking over outposts, and exploring the landscape, what truly helps to elevate it to an enjoyable experience is the tension and constant sense of danger.
During the day, your pets can help you from running face first into an enemy’s club on the other side of the thick brush, but as the sun sets, the whole dynamic changes. No longer is man on the top of the food chain with the bests becoming more vicious and attacking frequently in the dark. If players don’t possess enough animal fat to turn their club into a torch to ward off both the darkness and predators, it results in a panicked and often deadly sprint through the forest until dawn. Even with fully upgraded gear, when the sun goes down in Far Cry Primal, the tension still rises.
However, it is not just the enemies that are dangerous, true to form, the world in the Stone Age can be just as dangerous. As players move from lush forests and murky swamps into the northern sections of Oros Valley, cold becomes a factor. Even after crafting clothing to help ward off the chill, finding the next bonfire in the north is a constant worry so as to not freeze to death.
Yet, even with the ever-present danger, fans have claimed that it is not quite realistic enough – and Ubisoft answered. Coming on April 12th, 2016, Ubisoft is releasing a free piece of DLC for Far Cry Primal that adds Survival Mode. This new game mode introduces more realistic features like removing the HUD, permadeath, and a stamina bar that makes you slower and weaker unless you sleep to refill it. This will allow players the ultimate experience that they wanted Far Cry Primal to be – a tense and constant fight for survival.
As Fun As Far Cry Ever Was
While the best parts of Far Cry Primal are not immediately shown off, pegging some lone enemy with a bow from the back of a sabre-tooth is as satisfying players would expect it to be. The usual Far Cry elements – the sneaking, the shooting, the beating leopards over the head with a club – are all good too. Yet, Far Cry Primal is a game that feels like it should have shook up the formula, but in reality just stayed as true as possible to it. However, if it isn’t broken, does it really need to be fixed?
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