Ain’t no party like a Wenja party!
We all know what a Far Cry game entails by now: high-octane action, a silly over-the-top narrative, eccentric villains, and, of course, an arsenal that aids the player in laying claim to a whole region. So you may be asking yourself, is it even possible for Far Cry Primal to hit the highs we’ve become accustomed to from previous installments in this series? Well, the answer is an emphatic yes. New gameplay mechanics like taming beasts and a focus on becoming one with nature make Primal incredibly refreshing.
As the name suggests, you play a character in the prehistoric times named Takkar. You and three other hunting buddies are traveling to find others from your tribe, the Wenja, in the land of Oros—which happens to be the equivalent of the middle of Europe. A nearby saber-tooth tiger figures your little group would make for a great snack. A couple of slashes from this terrifying beast later, and Takkar, is left alone to fend for himself. Fortunately, you find someone from your tribe who sends you on a quest to reclaim Oros from two other beefing tribes, the Udam and Izilia. Unfortunately, this is as deep as the story gets.
Since the first thing you need to do is build your village, you’ll need to find resources like tree branches and, the most important resource of all, man power. There are 13 discoverable characters scattered throughout the land, all with their own storylines and quests that you’ll need to complete to see the credits roll. However, the battle between the Udam and Izila is the meat of the action. And really, these are the only narrative trees that are slightly interesting, as the other characters’ missions feel more like side-quests rather than main missions, and don’t lead to anything interesting.
Even your battle for supremacy in this primitive land is anticlimactic; outside of a few spiritual trip missions, the story is forgettable and almost nonexistent. There’s no doubt this is the weakest aspect of the package, but all the missions are worth completing—at least for experience points, which come in handy when upgrading your character (more on that in a bit).
What hit me as soon as I picked up the controller is just how vulnerable this world made me feel. Control-wise, it plays and feels a whole lot like previous installments, but you’re completely at the mercy of nature and the beasts who inhabit it. One moment you’re walking through grassy landscapes, and the next, you’re freezing your tail off up in the mountains. It’s impressive how seamless transitions are between the drastic terrain changes. But one thing is clear: you are indeed at the bottom of the food chain, and the game will make sure you know it. Even picking up resources like plants can lead to violent encounters with jaguars or, even worse, badgers. They really don’t give a s***.
Oh, did I mention there’s also a fictional language in the game? Ubisoft Montreal teamed up with linguists to craft one that’s believable and beautiful. It’s brilliant to what lengths the team went to creating such an engrossing world.
As for the action, despite only having simple weapons like spears and clubs at your disposal, you can still cause a lot of damage; upgrading these tools turns them into powerhouses. Though, the lack of variety is most certainly a bummer.
Combine your weapon proficiency with the eight upgrade trees and you can turn Takkar into the king of the jungle. You can invest in becoming the best hunter, gatherer, tamer, and combatant, and the deeper you go into each tree, the more powerful you’ll feel. This is where the you’ll be sharpening your figurative fangs.
As you make headway in the game, you’ll find rare loot and people, which in turn increase the size and power of your village. Doing this will yield upgrades to weapons and pouches, so there’s definitely a nice progression for everything, which is definitely a theme through out the game.
But you really want to know about taming beasts, right? Let me say, it’s incredibly simple to add a rare creature to your team. All you need to do is throw bate in the animal’s general direction, and then hold down a button to calm it down. And there’s nothing more badass than showing up to a spear fight with a bear. Commanding one of these critters to go forth and wreak havoc is as simple as pointing it in the right direction; it’ll do the rest. Taking out other villages and camp sites becomes more entertaining when you have a pet by your side. There’s even an owl that’ll scout areas for you. It pays to be the beast master.
There are also campfires and different strongholds to take down, similar to how it was in previous Far Cry games. These open the map up for you, and are actually quite dynamic since you can either go guns-a-blazing (metaphorically) or take a stealthier approach. Experimenting with different methods is a whole lot of fun.
How about those heart-pounding Far Cry moments that we all expect? Obviously you won’t be jumping out of exploding planes, but will instead be doing things like storming an opposing village on the back of a Wooly Mammoth… which is just as exciting.
Far Cry Primal is not your typical Far Cry game. Though fans of the series won’t feel alienated, you’ll have to adapt to facing other dangers that don’t include guns and vehicles. So it’s even more impressive when the game still finds a way to blow your mind with action. Nothing is more thrilling than taming and training a saber-tooth tiger to turn against your worst enemies. This game could have easily turned into a snooze-fest with the limiting arsenal at your disposal, but Oros is so brilliantly realized that the lack of weapons is soon forgotten. The world feels so alive that you’ll always have something to do, even if the narrative is less than stellar.
Most importantly, a land that was once daunting really does become your playground.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
- Taming animals is easy, and a fun way to dominate Oros.
- Impressive new language created just for the game. It makes the whole experience more engrossing.
- Brilliantly built land that feels alive thanks to the wildlife.
- There’s plenty to do in this primitive land.
- Narrative is incredibly dull, and is lacking a satisfying ending.
- Arsenal is not varied enough.
This review was completed using an Xbox One copy of Far Cry Primal provided by Ubisoft. The game released on Xbox One and PS4 on February 23, and then hit PC on March 1.