Ubisoft’s latest Far Cry venture takes us back in time, where vicious beasts roam the land and women haven’t learned the value of modesty, no, I’m not talking about 2016, we’re going way back to 10,000 BC, in an age where men brandished clubs and wore loin cloths, documented their primal experiences and discoveries by smearing detailed paintings in caves and hid in bushes to avoid deadly sabre tooth tigers. The setting has completely changed from everything that defines a Far Cry game, but has the gameplay?
Right from the very beginning, Far Cry Primal is a sight to behold. Our story starts with Takkar and his half-naked hunting party, crouched low within the tall grass, spear in hand and surrounded by intimidating mammoth’s. Any attempt at standing to take in this surreal view is quickly stopped by an unfortunate Takkar getting trampled on by the very beasts they are trying to hunt. Creeping slowly, sticking close to the ground, they spot a small mammoth, separated from the group. Now I’ve always thought of Mammoths as friendly creatures (thanks Ice Age) so it was with a heavy heart I readied my spear and sent it hurtling towards its head and watched as it lodged in, hearing the animal cry out in pain. I didn’t have time to fully dwell on my sadness as a very pissed off Mammoth came charging towards me, tusks desperate to impale my unprotected body. Other hunters joined in, and finally we had our victory. But it was short-lived, a sabre-tooth tiger comes roaring towards the group, effortlessly taking them out until there are only two left.
Far Cry Primal: Windows PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 23 February 2016
Takkar and the only remaining member of his tribe, Dalso are forced to jump to escape the beast, rolling down a steep hill, sadly Dalso is too injured to survive, leaving Takkar to explore the land of Oro’s, which holds the promise of finding other Wenja’s like him. It isn’t long before he stumbles into Sayla, in the process of cutting ears from dead Udam, (a ruthless tribe who see the Wenja’s as a delicious delicacy), to add to her growing collection, which she proudly displays around her neck. The whole game focuses on Takkar’s journey across the treacherous land of Oro’s to find and help other Wenja’s like him and destroy any possible threat to their way of life.
In typical Ubisoft fashion, the staple elements of the series remain the same with other aspects tweaked to fit the time period. Gone are the guns and vehicle gameplay we know so well, replaced by a trusty bow and arrow, spears, clubs and an assortment of bombs to punish your enemies with (who said fire was their only great discovery). Instead of vehicles, you can now ride Mammoths and other beasts. Takkar is truly a talented Wenja, becoming one with the animals around him, commanding them to kill and scout the area. He also has hunter sense, which is extremely similar to that of Geralt in The Witcher 3, in both ability and design. It highlights areas of interest in red and yellow and is used to track animals and other points of interest. It’s a feature that is heavily used and is a handy thing to have.
When it comes to combat, aiming the bow is extremely easy, you’ll be feeling like Robin Hood, or Katniss Everdeen (gender specific of course) after only a few attempts with the aiming system, lining up your little white circle of death for maximum damage. I wasn’t sure about hunting down enemies and beasts using just a bow instead of a trusty machine gun, but it was extremely satisfying watching my arrow fly through the air, headshot after headshot as the impact had a ragdoll effect and caused my unfortunate victim to squeal and fly backwards. The Beserk poison from Assassin’s Creed, can now be used in Far Cry, for those that aren’t familiar with it, it causes the victim to go “Beserk” (obviously) and attack everyone in the vicinity, be it friend or foe. This can make taking out outposts and forts extremely easy as you sit back and watch them destroy each other, whether that makes the game too easy is up to you.
Spears and other weapons are crafted, and all require you to pick resources from the environment like flint and wood. The crafting system has definitely become more extensive, with rare resources gained from the land. You may find yourself in a fight with no weapons if you don’t gather enough materials. Animal fat can also be used to set all of your weapons on fire, which makes for some interesting combat. Weapons aren’t your only source of attack, Takkar has the ability to control an owl, which swoops over the battlefield, spotting targets, sending your beast to attack and dropping the three different bombs available (Beserk, fire and Bees). With a short wait every time you attack someone, you can sit back and repeatedly send your owl out to eliminate the enemies, one after the other. At one point, I had killed over 10 people before they even started freaking out that people were dying. This allows for an easy undetected bonus because there are no phones or Facebook to tell other tribesman that when an owl attacks, it’s probably being controlled by Takkar and he’s definitely hiding in a bush that hardly covers him a few steps away.
One of the more exciting and rewarding additions to the game, is the ability to tame beasts. This, surprisingly is an easy process. Throwing down bait and waiting until the animal is eating before sneaking up and waving your hands in front of its face for twenty seconds, sees the beast become yours. There’s also a handy little beasts menu, showing you every beast in the game that can be yours to control. From rare leopards and Dholes, to Sabre-tooth tigers, even a Badger can be tamed (because we remember how vicious those little buggers were in the last game) Each beast when used, has its own benefit, be it growling to warn other animals away (extremely helpful) exposing more on your mini-map, drawing enemies attention and being able to take out enemies stealthily, these animals make the game a joy to play. You can also select an animal from the beasts menu at any time, dependant on your needs and if they are killed in combat, can be revived using meat or red plants. Some are even rideable. The amount of fun you can have with your animals is crazy and being able to target an enemy and watch as your beast hurtles over and kills them makes your life a lot easier.
When you aren’t dealing with the tribes that either want to burn or eat the Wenja, Far Cry isn’t short of things you can do. The map lights up like a Christmas tree with colourful circles, detailing various missions that you can undertake and you’re always being chased by something that wants to kill you. Similar to Dying Light (but not quite as brutal or scary) the game changes when darkness falls, vicious predators hunt in packs all across Oro’s, the light reflecting back from their eyes makes them look quite terrifying and until you get better weapons, it’s probably best to either sit around the campfire roasting Marshmallows and telling ghost stories or skipping til dawn, as you’ll find yourself being hunted.
Ubisoft have managed to brilliantly captivate the very essence of hard-knock life during 10,000BC. The large scale map, which appears to be of a similar layout to that of Far Cry 4 is picturesque and beautifully scenic in nature. Although the era might be very different to previous titles, Far Cry Primal still bodes all the strong elements that make the Far Cry series so vastly popular. The unique language, Wenja, which was created using the Proto-Indo-European language shines brightly throughout with dialogue between characters intriguing to watch. The language helps to add a different level of authenticity to what is an already polished title. Certain elements such as the spirit ability to charm animals to fight by your side is something I enjoyed very much but there are so many strings to this bow that it would be an injustice to pinpoint only one. The choice of era takes players back to a land where nothing can be taken for granted, where to survive you must hunt, an unforgiving life with a breathtaking backdrop.
Far Cry remains a strong series, with the ever evolving gameplay implemented as well as brand new and exciting features to explore and indulge, it would be hard to not enjoy each new title introduced to the franchise. Far Cry Primal makes no exception, if you enjoyed the previous titles, you’ll certainly enjoy your time spent wandering the beautiful landscape of Oros.