I see an unlit bonfire in the distance. As I crouch behind a rock, my scout owl gives me a lay of the land and eliminates a lookout in the process. It’s right then that I send my black jaguar in to start clawing at a heavily armored enemy. I use the rising panic to my advantage, sneaking between cover and planting a few arrows in a few heads. To finish the job, I throw a spear through the armored enemy’s back and light the bonfire. My people rally to me and cheer.
That is Far Cry Primal. It is brutal and unforgiving. It’ll be familiar to fans of Far Cry 3 and 4 as it follows that successful formula, but the modifications present by going back to the Stone Age are excellent.
- TL;DR: The next installment of the Far Cry open world formula, replacing cars with tigers and guns with spears
- Platform: PS4 (played), Xbox One, PC
- Time Played: 18:30
- What I Played: All campaign missions on hard difficulty to 54.90% completion
Central Europe, 10,000 BC. The Wenja were once a proud people but have been splintered across Oros and now live in small groups. The flesh-eating Udam and fire-worshipping Izila tribes made sure of that. After a hell of an opening that I won’t spoil here, our hero Takkar meets up with another Wenja named Sayla. They decide that enough is enough and that the Wenja must be reunited.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Far Cry Primal is how alive and dangerous the land of Oros is. Within my first hour of play, I was attacked by a group of cannibals, fought off wolves and tigers, and watched a giant bird snatch an eagle in it’s talons and fly off. The human enemies of Far Cry Primal are a lot more vicious than the typical guns for hire in Far Cry 3 and 4, too. The Udam are barbaric, cannibalistic warriors that live in the icy north. The Izila, on the other hand, worship the sun and all things fire to the degree of religious zealots and paint themselves blue in their southern desert lands.
I’m going to compare Far Cry Primal to Far Cry 3 and 4 a lot in this article because, well, they are all very similar games. The HUD and general gameplay will be familiar to series veterans. A minimap in the bottom left corner showing all manner of crafting material, outposts to clear and bonfires to claim, random Wenja in a seemingly radiant quest manner to help escort/protect, and about half a dozen types of collectibles to find. Standard open-world fare.
One of the cool additions in Far Cry Primal is the Wenja village. While prior games have you liberating a land from oppression, Primal has you building a home for your people. As you help random Wenja along the way and recruit key named NPCs, they’ll all be in your village. Quest lines and skill upgrades open up when you build huts for the named NPCs, like Karoosh the bloodthirsty warrior or Tensay the batshit crazy shaman. Primal does a good job of pacing and forcing you back to the village every so often, driving home the point that you are actually helping these people by seeing their progress.
Weapons are probably the biggest change from prior Far Cry games. Yes, there is a bow, but guns have been replaced with Stone Age technology. I’m talking spears and clubs. Each weapon serves multiple purposes. Clubs are beefy and great for lighting as torches and the larger two-handed clubs can hit multiple enemies at once. Spears are expensive to craft but do incredibly high damage when thrown. You’ll have to scavenge for stray weapons or build them yourself in place of buying ammo and unlocking guns from shops, which makes combat all the more challenging. Sure, you’ll be one-shotting most enemies (the humans anyway) by the end of the game, but facing down three or four armored enemies with six spears means you better be stocked up on materials at all times. There are also a handful of throwable items like stone shards (throwing knives) and bee honeycomb grenades, but I hardly ever bothered with them. The bloody nature of the bow/club/spear was too much fun to pass up.
Crafting is a main part of Far Cry Primal, especially with the absence of any sort of money or bartering. There are dozens of materials, but they basically boil down to different types of wood, stone, plant leaves, or animal skins. They don’t have crazy names, though, so when you know you need five more south maple or eight northern rock dust, you know where to go. Each material has it’s own max storage and more can be stashed in your home cave. Other Wenja will help fill your stash each day with materials from around captured outposts, too.
Ubisoft kept the tradition of a clean, excellent UI in Far Cry Primal. Crafting, skills, and your inventory are all broken up into their own tabs. Materials all say what they are used for and where they can be found. The map is also incredibly detailed with all manner of terrain, collectible, material, and animal locations. You can also check out any progression in your home cave.
Animals in a Far Cry game are nothing new. The fact that you can now tame them is. If you throw a piece of meat near a tamable beast, they will begin to eat it. You essentially walk up to it with your hands out saying, “whoa whoa easy boy” until they submit. Once they do, they are added to a stable of about 15 beasts that you can call on at any time, though you can only ever have one with you. Wolves, jaguars, and even bears can be under your control. It’s no wonder everyone calls Takkar the beast master. Each beast has it’s own stats and special skills. For example, wolves will growl when enemies are near and bears will tank for you. My early hours were spent with my rare black jaguar that a friend nicknamed Blackjack. You can even ride certain beasts! Some of the most gaming fun I’ve had in recent memory was spent riding a sabretooth tiger through the wilderness with a spear at the ready as enemies cowered in fear.
There are some special beasts, as well. Fairly early you gain access to a scout owl who can tag enemies for you, swoop down for kills, send your companion beast in to attack, or drop throwable weapons from above. The real hunting fun is in the beast master missions. There are four missions and each is very unique. ** Slight spoilers for specific hunts ahead ** The blood tusk mammoth is an absolute tank, as you would expect, and the snowblood wolf hunt is actually a hunt for three packs of wolves among nearly endless extra wolves ** End spoilers **. I usually don’t play DLC or even mention it, but if Ubisoft released extra beast master hunts, I would be all over it.
These beasts truly do not mess around. There were many occasions, even in the late stages of the game, where a rhino or bear would come barreling my way and I would freak out. You need to keep your head on a swivel and if you want to take down the bigger baddies like mammoths, you better bring a strong animal companion and high-damage spears.
Setting is key to Far Cry Primal and really helps drive home a lot of tropes. Hunter vision, Far Cry Primal’s version of detective vision / eagle eye, makes more sense when you think of it as Takkar smelling the scent of a plant or seeing the blood trail of a wounded animal. The brutal stealth takedowns are more believable when it’s a barbarian trying to save the only people he knows compared to a run-of-the-mill foreigner in a tribal land. Eating raw meat to heal is a lot more in-universe than injections of random herbal potions. Lighting torches for light and sleeping on the ground … you get the point.
Oros is a beautiful place, as you’d expect. There are vibrant greens between the dead, beige desert and the frigid, white north. You always feel like you’re just barely out of harms way, too, as beasts are always around you with growls and barks echoing through the forest. The Wenja even speak their own language, which is why subtitles are on by default. This forces you to focus more on what’s going on around you. You can follow Kotaku’s advice and disable the subtitles, but that’s too far for me. There is also a day/night cycle that actually means something as different beasts only come out at night. These nocturnal animals are more aggressive, too, so you better bring some torches with you if you’re venturing out at night.
Far Cry Primal hasn’t deviated much from the home run formulas of Far Cry 3 and 4. Drake said it best when he said that we started from the bottom and now, after ~20 hours of brutally murdering humans and taming beasts, we here. The setting of Far Cry Primal helps drive many of the well-established pieces of the series formula home. It’s brutal, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time. I had a great time playing Far Cry Primal and I think you will, too.