Reviewed on: Xbox One. Copy supplied by publisher.
Crouching in a dense Mesolithic treeline you slowly creep towards your enemy. They’ve eaten members of your tribe and attacked your village, this attack is going to be personal. You look over your weaponry to see which is best to take them down, at your disposal you have spears, clubs, a bow and a motherfucking sabre tooth tiger that you somehow managed to tame. You think through which approach will inflict the most pain and send a message to the Udam so they no longer eat your peeps. But then you decide to just throw some bees at them because it’s funny and you can totally throw bees.
The latest open world jaunt in the Far Cry series takes place in the year 10,000BC in the Mesolithic land of Oros. You take control of Takkar, a member of the Wenja people, who are fighting for survival and dominance in an inhospitable environment filled with predators and rival tribes. This departure from the series is a bold one, especially when you consider most first person games are just an endless rehash of the same material, but does it pay off?
Beauty is in the eye of the beheader
Okay, quick clarification… as far as I know (after playing a lot of this game), you can’t behead people, but it’s hard thinking of witty subheadings and that one sort of worked. ANYWAY! Oros is one of those videogame setting that oozes personality and will certainly be memorable for some time. Several distinct landscapes are painted in vivid colours and filled with an insane amount of wildlife for you to hunt or be hunted by.
Walking through the woodlands of a prehistoric Europe you are constantly caught off guard by moments of beauty, such as light beams streaking through the trees and illuminating the morning mist. But it would be foolish to let those things distract you for too long, because pretty much everywhere in this scenic haven something is trying to kill you. There are a silly number of predators in Far Cry Primal, and they will try their hardest to make you bleed.
Of course if this were a realistic game the sheer number of predators would make the ecosystem of Oros waaaay out of balance, but considering this game is based off a theme of brutality and survival, it totally works. Early on in the game you need to avoid fights and usually need to flee from predators, which makes it all the more rewarding when you level up and become an apex predator yourself (more on that later).
At your disposal during treks through Oros is hunter vision, a mode that shows important elements of the area, such as animals. This mode can be pretty useful, but unfortunately when you turn it on it sucks all the colour out of the environment, leaving it a blue/grey haze. This is a shame when you are on missions that rely on hunter vision as you feel you’re missing out on the actual beauty of the landscape, and you do have to spend quite a large amount of time in the mode.
Each area in Oros presents a different type of enemy, in the North you will find the Udam, a savage looking tribe of cannibals led by Ull, who is adamant that the Wenja be wiped out. In their icy stomping grounds your character can’t survive for long without being near fire or upgrading clothing due to the harsh conditions, which adds an interesting time related urgency to battles. And in the south you’ll find the Izila, an organised religious tribe with an Aztec vibe. The Izila worship fire and enslave others to do their bidding, which as you may have guessed includes the Wenja. They are led by
Melisandre Batari, who acts like a god and burns people alive in a spiritual display.
All in all the land of Oros is one of the most memorable from the Far Cry series and perfectly encapsulates what it might have felt like to stroll around in an ancient land being stalked by predators and hunting mammoths.
Taming the story
The story for Far Cry Primal is one of the strangest yet, and this is mostly due to the use of a pseudo Proto-Indo-European language. Despite playing as cavemen, the people you encounter do talk a lot, and they talk in a fictional language based off what historians assume your greatest of grandfathers sounded like. This is fascinating from a historical and gameplay perspective, but also, it’s kind of weird. Long cut scenes tend to drag because you can finish reading the subtitles well before the characters finish speaking, so you just sit there hearing someone talk nonsense.
Primal is filled with eccentric side characters that add some humour to your skull bashing endeavors, most of the characters have a role in the Wenja tribe and provide you with story missions and bonuses. Certain tribe members will also provide you with daily loot, which come in handy when out in the wilderness, as scavenging for supplies solo can take some time.
The plot of Primal is pretty loose, essentially you are fighting for dominance in Oros, so the plot mainly plays out as skirmishes against the other tribes. The mission types are repetitive, mostly consisting of “go here and kill the Udam chief” or “go there and collect five wolf pelts”, but the approaches you can take for each type make it fun. Sure the game will be boring if you just waltz into every camp and smash the enemies head in with a club, but if you plan each attack and go for stealth, then things become interesting and tense.
One of the new features in Far Cry Primal is the ability to tame animals. This ability isn’t really explained, but piecing together what I do know I assume it’s because you take a lot of weird drugs and can see through the eyes of an owl, which in turn lets you tame wolves and sabre tooth tigers by feeding them once and sticking your hands out. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it ultimately means you can ride a bear into battle, so I’m cool with it. It’s also great when you tame apex predators, because regular out dholes will be scared by it and no longer pester you.
The animals you tame have different roles, such as the bear which acts as a tank, taking damage and dealing lots out in return, and the Jaguar which is your stealth killer. Aside from the land based predators you also have an owl which can be used to scout ahead, drop bee bombs on enemies and claw the faces of unlucky peasants below. It’s pretty funny seeing someone die from owl attack, but hey, stranger things have happened.
Like most other Far Cry games, Primal has a perk system where you can spend skill points to strengthen your character, amongst these are the ability to ride beasts, special take downs and health perks. Most of the perks will be familiar to those who have played past Far Cry games.
A Far Cry staple to reappear is weird spiritual visions that you play out. These have never been my favourite and do tend to go for way too long. Particularity the mammoth visions, which are stupidly hard to control. However these ones in particular are optional, so enter at your own peril. As an open world game there is also a punishing amount of activities you can do, so staying focused is difficult, but since when has too much content been a complaint?
Let’s go clubbing
The combat in Far Cry Primal is the aspect that has changed the most, and I’m not sure I like it all that much. When going stealth the bow is your best friend, like in any other game in the series, however when things get chaotic, you don’t have that much room to move. Melee combat has never been my favourite in first person games, it always feels pretty clumsy. Against one or two enemies it’s fine, you can crush their skulls with the club or face jab them with a spear no problem, but when you have a small army of guys clubbing you things get way too hard (no, not a euphemism). If there were some way to block or dodge attacks this would be much better, but it ends up playing out like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.
All of that aside, some of the weapons in your inventory are great, such as the aforementioned bees that take the form of a sting bomb, it’s so silly, but so satisfying to watch. Of course a lot of your inventory takes liberties with history, such as grapples with clearly processed rope. For those playing at home manufactured rope is presumed to have been invented by the Egyptians in around 4000BC, so about 6000 years after Primal takes place. Oh also the head of the grapple looks like metal, which is insanely advanced for the time. Sorry devs, you fail history, go home and tell your parents what you’ve done.
The undeniable best part of the weaponry in Primal is the spears. Nailing a dude square in the chest with a spear often sends him flying, which is so satisfying, especially if you knock them off a cliff. Oh and bees again, be like Nic Cage, never forget the bees.
Far Cry Primal pushes itself outside the comfort zone of first person games and brings something relatively unique to the table. Sure all the building blocks are ones we’ve seen countless times before, but in a time where the AAA gaming pool is becoming stagnant this is a massive breath of fresh air.
Pros: Looks amazing. Innovative setting. You can ride a bear AND pat your pet wolf. Bees.
Cons: Combat is sometimes tiresome. It can be very hard. Long cut scenes of gibberish.