Very few developers have been brave enough to put down the rifles and rocket launchers and opt for a primitive take on the FPS genre. Ubisoft have done just that with Far Cry Primal. There’s spears, arrows, clubs and not a single grenade or pistol in sight.
Set in Central Europe around 10,000 BC, you play as the caveman Takkar of the Wenja tribe in search of Oros, a land rife with life and opportunity. Unfortunately for the Wenja two other tribes also live in Oros. The Udam and Izila have established large settlements in Oros and haven’t taken kindly to the appearance of the Wenja, massacring the tribe, leaving the survivors spread out across the land. Takkar arrives with one goal in mind – to unite the tribe and establish a new Wenja community.
Animals play a huge part in the game. You can hunt them for their skin and meat, or track rare species for their unique skins to craft the best gear. There’s even the opportunity to go on larger hunts with other Wenja to kill or tame the most furious of beasts – tame I hear you ask? Yes tame. Once the shaman Tensay has drugged you with his deadly home cooking, a hidden power awakens inside of Takkar – the power to stare down any beast and have it obey your every command.
The combat of Primal is extremely satisfying, particularly when you launch a spear at distance into an enemy’s skull. Takkar can’t block or dodge attacks, which can make some fights a bit of a grind, particularly the boss battles – in one fight I found myself running around a large rock taking cheap shots at the boss and getting out before I got battered.
Boss battles aside, Primal balances its primitive weapons perfectly. A bow and arrow may seem a little daunting when up against a tribe of warring Izila, but by using distraction techniques or throwing in a hive of angry bees, the tables can turn in your favour quickly. Failing that you can opt for a dose of poison to turn enemies against one another. Then there’s your pets – flying in to claw out eyeballs, your owl makes a worthy scout and a dangerous aerial ally, able to pick off enemies one at a time. Of course if you want to make an entrance then you can always jump on the back of a mammoth and go marauding through enemy camps. But nothing compares to the awesome and terrifying sight of a Sabre-toothed Tiger – sending him in to do your dirty work may seem cheap but it works a treat!
The story of Primal rolls around as background noise – the world of Oros is begging to be explored and can easily take the focus away from the main task at hand, especially as the narrative isn’t as flamboyant and prominent as previous games in the series. There’s collectibles to find, locations to explore and materials to gather so that you can craft gear and better homes for your growing community.
The thrill of the hunt or the excitement of being chased makes the world of Oros an intense place to live when you only have sticks and stones to defend yourself. Thankfully with Tensay’s help Takkar quickly turns from meek caveman to badass beast master making Oros a less scary place to live. Once tamed, animals will hunt by your side, warding off other predators and attacking rival tribes – I always felt safer with a ferocious beast by my side.
The sights and sounds of Oros are as believable as the landscape you find yourself in and this is topped off by an incredibly realistic language that has been created solely for the game – complete with dialect changes within the tribes – the language that Ubisoft has created is deserving of commendation. The words are relatively simple and I’ve heard them so often that I could almost speak Wenja myself! This does lead to a somewhat simple narrative lacking in depth when compared to previous games in the Far Cry series. Cavemen don’t make the most interesting bad guys either, that accolade is reserved for your fellow Wenja, particularly the crazy Urki – a descendant of Hurk from Far Cry 4.
While there are hues of Far Cry mechanics littered throughout, Primal doesn’t feel like a mere reskin of the last game, something Far Cry 4 was heavily criticised for. There’s a greater emphasis on gathering and hunting making Primal almost play like a survival game – but with respawns rather than a game over screen – encounters with the aggressive Udam tribe and the many ferocious animals never feel too life threatening.
Far Cry 4’s co-op was rather light in what you could do together, but Primal doesn’t have any, and this makes me sad. I would have loved to go hunting with Dave – setting a trap or running an animal into a choke point.
Far Cry Primal takes a bold step into a genre that has only dipped its toe into waters where guns have no place. Bows, spears and clubs are all that stand between Takkar and uniting his lost Wenja tribe. Throw in a crazy shaman with mad herbal skills, and this Far Cry makes for one heck of an experience that will strike a chord even with those that hold Far Cry 3 close to their hearts. Far Cry Primal is a prehistoric playground that’s fun to explore, hunt and survive in.