Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Genre Action-Adventure
Platform Played Xbox One
Developer Ubisoft Publisher Ubisoft
Far Cry Primal’s advertising slogan is ‘it’s not about guns, it’s about guts’. In essence, it says “hey, this is the Far Cry you’re familiar with, but we’ve just changed a few things to provide a fresh experience”. In reality, this is mostly true. However it also made me reflect on what it is about the previous Far Cry games (specifically Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4) that made them so fun. The answer is a difficult one, but as with other formulas, if you mess with a few variables the end result can change. Far Cry Primal changes some of these characteristics, and while it still provides a fun Far Cry experience, it fails to reach the heights of its predecessors.
Far Cry Primal’s differences from its predecessors all relate to the setting. As the title suggests, gameplay takes place in the stone-age, 10 000 BCE. The artists have done a great job at creating a stone-age setting, from the grassy fields filled with trees and natural fauna and flora, to the clothing on characters, and the design of weapons and primitive structures. Thanks to the wonderful Dunia engine, it all looked amazing, felt very unique and captured what we imagine the time period to have been like well. The tribal soundtrack also added to the feeling of being plunked into the Stone-Age.
Far Cry Primal is still as big as its predecessors, offering plenty to do on its large open-world map. Hunt the local wildlife, collect crafting resources, find collectables, capture outposts controlled by other tribes, and rescue captured tribe members. These are the range of tasks you’ll do when exploring the land of Oros. There are also the main story missions. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell the differences between most of the main missions and side missions because of the repetitive feel. None of the missions left a mark on me. While the Far Cry gameplay keeps missions feeling fun, the game failed to create standout moments that I’ll reminisce about months or years after I’ve finally finished playing Far Cry Primal.
That’s largely true of the whole game; the Far Cry formula is here, and that makes the game fun, but changing up some of the parts prevent Primal from being a “great” Far Cry experience. It still has a first-person sandbox feel to it, even more so now with the abundance of wildlife roaming around and fighting each other, you and enemy tribes. There’s also more emphasis placed on using fire, which created one of my favourite random moments in the game when I accidentally lit half of the forest on fire from one miss shot arrow that I had lit on fire.
Story wise, what made Far Cry 3 and 4 great was the dynamic, interesting characters – especially the villains. Far Cry Primal definitely has some unique, interesting characters, but the story is pretty weak when it comes to motives, or a charismatic villain tying everything together. Instead, the plot boils down to other tribes killing your own tribe, so, as Takkar the Beast Master (more on that later) you have to stop them. While it feels fitting to the primitive setting, it’s not as entertaining as the looming threats that were Vass and Pagan Min.
Exploration at times felt like a hassle in Far Cry Primal. It carries over the verticality that was introduced in Far Cry 4, but without the wingsuit getting down quickly was sometimes an issue.
Far Cry Primal’s combat is brutal, with sound effects doing a great job of giving hits impact, but it got tiresome after extended periods. There don’t feel like there are as many options in combat. You’ve got three main weapons, a melee-based club, a ranged bow and arrow, and the melee or ranged spear. All weapons are fun to use, but there’s not much to combat except repeatedly pressing the attack button to beat on enemies until they die. There are also items like bee clusters which are Primal’s version of grenades, and shards which are like throwing knives, but it was mostly quicker to just throw spears at enemies. Oh, and there’s also beasts you can tame and command in combat.
Animals in Far Cry Primal aren’t just for hunting, as the ‘Beast Master’ you can now tame them and use them in combat. There are three types of animals to tame, specialising in either hunting, fighting or stealth. You can only use one companion at a time, but they can be summoned and dismissed at any time. I enjoyed having a companion to explore with, and it made me feel more protected against the increased number of predators in Oros when I had a sabre-tooth tiger watching my back.
You also gain access to an owl which acts as your eyes in the sky, marking enemies below. It can even be upgraded to attack enemies, which is very helpful for reducing the numbers of enemies in later encounters. Unfortunately, the animals are not very effective in later encounters when enemies appear in larger numbers. It’s fine when you’re playing stealth and methodically sending your tamed beast to take out single foes, but if it gets spotted, it gets killed very quickly.
I admire Ubisoft for taking a risk with Far Cry Primal. It’s a risk that sort of pays off. The stone-age setting is an interesting change for a franchise that is mostly associated with guns and big explosions. The developer has done a great job at recreating the time period (as far as we know), and the world is extremely immersive. However, despite feeling like more Far Cry, Primal doesn’t quite capture everything that made its predecessors such great games. Combat, while fun, gets repetitive quite fast, and the story doesn’t have a charismatic villain to help take it in interesting directions.
- The stone-age setting is unique, looks beautiful and provides an immersive experience
- Mostly captures the Far Cry experience made popular in its predecessors
- Fails to capture what makes the Far Cry formula truly great
- Tamed beasts aren’t very helpful towards the end of the game