Taking chances is something many on-going video game franchises are hesitant to do. But as the trend of annualized schedules and the rush to get the next product out heat up, it’s important that developers alter the formula up a bit to keep the fans interested. In one of the more unique diversions, Ubisoft has decided to convert its present day, villain-infused first-person shooter franchise, Far Cry, into an ancient exploration of prehistoric times. Far Cry Primal weaves a tale of multiple tribes battling amongst each other not to gain land, wealth, or property, but to simply live.
This prowl begins in 10,000 BCE as you fall into the main role of Takkar, your main character. He and a group of fellow Wenja, his personal tribe, are going on a hunting mission that goes poorly. After you meet a fellow tribeswoman, Sanya, you make it known that your plan is to regather the scattered Wenja tribe. In a traditional Far Cry manner, doing so requires Takkar to liberate camps, light bonfires, and eventually topple the leaders of the two opposing tribes that live in the land of Oros.
While being depicted as a strong hero, Takkar quickly quickly starts to feel like a lifeless protagonist. He elicits no personality whatsoever, and fallscompletely flat. This is made more unfortunate as the surrounding side characters are wonderful. They range from psychotic all the way to goofy. You have someone constantly trying to force ritualized blood down your throat, and another that believes jumping off the cliff with two feathers in his hands will make him fly. While the overarching power struggle between tribes isn’t deep or intriguing, interacting with these diverse personalities is one of the best parts of Far Cry Primal. It’s disappointing that the entire narrative doesn’t come together, but I will settle for a healthy cast of lovable allies.
Ubisoft has taken great pride with Primal’s prehistoric setting, and the perfect example of that comes in its handcrafted Wenja language. Appropriately for the times, there is zero English throughout the entire game, barring the subtitles. Instead, the many characters speak a language modeled in a Proto-Indo-European linguistic style. This fascinating aspect of the game helps directly insert you into the game’s world. You get a sense of the Wenja’s mannerisms, comedic style, and aggression all through mostly fictional prose. It’s unique, and works very well.
With that pride comes a dedication to realism, meaning that weapon variety is a rarity in Far Cry Primal. You are given three main melee weapons at the beginning of Takkar’s journey: a club, bow, and spear. These three items continue to be your primary weapons throughout the majority of Primal. You can upgrade all three, and even pick up a two-handed club, but the result is still the same. This issue is easily the biggest nagging factor of the game, as it makes the combat tiring within the first few hours of gameplay. Previous Far Cry games have featured a varied repertoire of weapons, and the limited set in Far Cry Primal stick out like a sore thumb.
Beyond the hand-to-hand combat with enemies, the lack of weapon variety also affects hunting. If you have played a previous Far Cry installment, you know hunting is a huge factor, as it decides what kind of items you can craft. Instead of taking the spray and pray method of killing animals of prior installments, you must be much more methodical in Primal. In concept, this sounds thrilling, but in execution, it falls short of that mark. The result is throwing a spear at a jaguar (or something similar) and then proceeding to sprint around like a fool in hopes of catching the animal and doing it more damage.
The new mechanic of taming your beasts is an integral part of Far Cry Primal’s experience. You do so by throwing out bait, sneaking up on the gnawing creature, and watching a meter fill up until he is no longer hostile. It’s a simple process, but it does feel fantastic to be harassed by a bear throughout the game, only to inevitably turn him to your side. Throughout Far Cry Primal, you add a stable of animals to your disposal, of which you can call upon at basically any time. This leads to high-intensity combat sessions that resulted in me calling in a wolf, watching him die, and then just sending in the next warrior. By warrior, I mean adorable little saber-toothed tiger.
Apart from your everyday animals, you can also tame some of the more rare brutes in dedicated beast hunter missions. These objectives have you following the tracks of mammoths, larger than normal bears, and a pack of white wolves. It eventually culminates in a boss fight of sorts, with you setting up traps and slowly crippling your foe’s health meter. These fights were some of the more enjoyable in the game, as it would rely more on strategy than pure hand-to-hand combat. Ultimately, the companion system accomplishes what it intends to do as you form an odd bond to a fake animal. It also eases some of the annoyances within the combat, as you can rely on your buddy to take out the fodder enemies.
In typical Far Cry fashion, Takkar will head across multiple environments throughout Far Cry Primal. You have your respective mountainous, grassy, and snow-heavy areas. Despite its predictability, Far Cry Primal’s visual design remains gorgeous. While the actual weaponry is lacking, the attention to detail on the items is wonderful — spears are layered beautifully and look handcrafted just as they should. There’s a homemade look to every item that fits nicely in the world Takkar inhabits.
Far Cry Primal suffers from some setbacks with its jump back into the prehistoric ages, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Of course, more weapons, or some sort of unique take on the combat, would have been greatly appreciated. Despite that, a great cast of characters and a new taming mechanic keeps the action feeling moderately fresh. If you have loved the previous Far Cry installments, Primal will be up your alley. If you have yet to find an enjoyable entry in the series, odds are this historic adventure will not change that.