While Far Cry 4 was well received for the most part, some criticised it for being too similar to its predecessor. So, Ubisoft went back to basics, in more ways than one.
Far Cry Primal takes place 12,000 years ago. That means there are no guns and no vehicles, two elements go hand-in-hand with the Far Cry franchise. Instead, you'll have to use your wits, some primitive weaponry, and make use of your unique gift, which is the ability to charm and tame animals.
The early hours of Far Cry Primal demonstrate why the life expectancy of that time was so short. The story opens with a hunt, during which it is mentioned that a kill is needed so that your people can actually eat. In previous Far Cry games, you hunted and fought animals because you wanted nicer stuff; in Far Cry Primal, you do so just to survive initially. But the beasts won't make it easy. Some, like the wolves who circle and hunt in packs, are smart; some are tenacious; and some, like those pesky boars, are just really mean.
As in previous instalments, there's a big beautiful world to explore. It's said that it isn't quite as large as Far Cry 4's setting, but the absence of vehicles make it seem just as vast, if not more so. The world is full of threats, both man and beast; resources to gather, though Hunter Vision makes it easier to spot collectibles; landmarks; bonfires, which are later used for fast travel; and side quests.
There's plenty to distract you as you journey around the world, but the main storyline is compelling enough to keep you on the straight and narrow. Our all-too-brief time with the game introduced us to one of the game's antagonists, Ull, who destroyed the home of your people and seems intent on killing every last one of your fellow Wenja. We didn't see enough of him to know if he'll be as memorable as the likes of Pagan Min and Vaas, but he certainly made an impression.
The story is interspersed with cut scenes and, considering the performers had to communicate in another tongue, their performances are impressive. While you'll need to read the subtitles to fully understand what is happening and to be done, characters are expressive and gesture so that you get the general gist of it. Two main allies were introduced in our play session and their movements and behaviours give us an insight into their inner workings and character.
Progressing through the story unlocks new abilities, weaponry, and skills too, so that should be enough of an incentive to stay focused. Taming animals is a fairly straightforward process and gives you a fierce ally when hunting and taking on enemies. We had a wolf by our side who was a great assistance when sneaking up on multiple enemies or chasing down quick animals whose hides we needed. Plus, any game that makes petting an animal a part of the experience is a winner in our books.
The Far Cry franchise to date provides a solid foundation for Far Cry Primal to build upon and create its own identity. There is plenty of familiarity in Far Cry Primal, but the new setting, weaponry, tools at your disposal, and motive make it feel fresh. We look forward to travelling back in time when Far Cry Primal arrives on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 23rd.
- Mark O'Beirne