By now, anyone who has played any of Ubisoft’s Far Cry titles knows just what to expect: a lone protagonist, a vast open world, and countless foes both two legged or four. You must survive, kill, upgrade, and explore in order to secure the region for your ever growing cadre of allies, who for some reason never seem to actually provide any real assistance with the day-to-day massacring.
Despite a dramatic shift in time period, the same holds true with prehistoric Far Cry Primal. Due to its 10,000 BCE setting all modern weapons are gone, the wingsuit is nowhere to be seen, and you’ll not find any motorised transport of any description. But the explore, expand, exterminate gameplay core remains intact. This is an Ubisoft game after all, and why do something unless you do it over and over again?
Far Cry Primal begins with our protagonist Takkar and fellow hunter Dalso injured and alone after a mammoth hunting mishap. With his dying words, Dalso tasks Takkar with reuniting the scattered Wenja people and protecting them and the land from the relentlessly hostile and cannibalistic Udam and the fire wielding Izlia tribes.
As with the previous Far Cry titles, you meet some other folks along the way. Some help, some will try to kill you, and others will provide a near endless supply of the same tedious quest types you’re already bored of in order to move the story forward. All the while, you will build up your base and population while expanding your control over the world map while upgrading your skills and weapons. Yep its Far Cry all right!
With all modern conveniences excised in order to remain “accurate” to its 10,000 BCE setting, Takkar has a small but reliable selection of stone age weapons at his disposal. Clubs, spears, and the Far Cry mainstay bow round out your primary offensive tool set. On top of this sit a needlessly extensive number of craftable and upgradeable items, potions, types of gear, and weapons.
While having a wealth of upgrade options is not usually something worth complaining about, here is just leads to a tedious amount of busy work as you collect X number of Y to upgrade item Z over and over again. I’m sure at some point I was expected to craft an enjoyable experience with the expanded crafting system, sadly I never found that recipe.
While the expansion of the crafting system has done nothing to improve the game, Takkar’s ability to control many of the animals in the world certainly does. Wolves, sabre tooth tigers, and even mammoths can be tamed and controlled. It’s a neat addition, and it’s always very satisfying to unleash tooth and claw on a band of hostile tribesmen.
The standout is the owl, which acts as a replacement for both binoculars and the not at all missed radio towers. It is your literal eye in the sky, allowing you to scout, tag, and even attack enemies at a distance. It provides the only real improvement to the Far Cry formula, and I expect we’ll be seeing it again in future Far Cry instalments, because what good is an innovation if you can’t thrash it to death?
Primal is a fun game, at least for a while, but even this new and admittedly stunning setting can do little to distract from the fact that I’ve played this game at least twice before. Nothing has really changed except for the required omission of a lot of the fun toys found in the modern era games.
These loses actively detract from the experience. I missed having a sniper rifle and jumping in a 4WD to race around the game world, but the loss of the wingsuit is the most disappointing, because without it, Far Cry Primal has none of that fast heady freeform travel that makes massive maps so fun to traverse.
Because of this, for the first time in a Far Cry game, I did not experience a single “f*ck yeah!” moment after pulling off an impressive stunt, because Primal simply does not provide a means to do this. It also lacks a central antagonist, and so never really imbues the player with any real desire to complete the main quest.
That Ubisoft is wringing everything it can out of the Far Cry franchise by releasing similar games won’t surprise anyone – the series is a cash cow, and the results so far have been good. What is surprising is that in taking a risk with the setting, it has by necessity stripped away much of what makes the series enjoyable to play, and stuffed in busywork in its place.
As a result, Far Cry Primal feels like a smaller game stretched and overextended to justify a AAA price tag – a gorgeous but shallow experience that’s nauseatingly repetitive and far too padded.