Far Cry Primal review – Walking with beasts

Ubisoft took a brave and bold decision to move Far Cry to an era where one of its most defining features would, by chronological necessity, be absent. Far Cry has always been about saving a group of downtrodden revolutionaries from some sort of despotic tyrant – usually by shooting everything in the way by using a plethora of guns, explosives and other bits of terribly destructive ordnance.

Far Cry Primal Review

Set in a time before the discovery of gunpowder, running water, and fine dining, Far Cry Primal instead travels back to 10 000BC – the beginning of the Mesolithic period around the end of the last glacial period. It puts you in the bare feet of Takkar, a member of the Wenja tribe. During a hunt for a mammoth, Takkar and the rest of his hungry brethren (they’ve not eaten for many suns) are blindsided by a ferocious Sabretooth. The hunt gone awry, our hero sets off to fulfil his fallen kin’s dying wish; discover the promised land of Oros, and find the rest of the Wenja.

We love living in an Oros world…

To his dismay, when he gets there he finds that Oros is not the proverbial land of milk and honey. Largely that’s because neither cattle nor bees had been domesticated, but also because the Wenja lie scattered, beaten into submission by two other stronger tribes; the savage, cannibalistic Udam who live in the frozen wastes of the North, and the fire-obsessed Izila, a perhaps more civilised bunch – though equally savage in their brutality and incendiary fondness for setting things and people ablaze.

Far Cry Primal Review

It becomes Takkar’s job to reunite the strewn and separated Wenja people, while battling off the Udam and Izila. There are no real grand overarching plots, no single tyrannical autocrat to dispense with and the intertwined political themes that run through Far Cry’s narratives here only extend so far as you’d expect from a game about people on the verge of civilisation; mostly it’s all about “me want land, me hit thing that has land.”

The narrative’s a little disappointing as a result. The game’s writers have attempted to make it a little more personal, with you fulfilling the needs of specific tribespeople and running through their own stories as the game progresses. Instead of a linear structure, you’re able to do these stories for each of the mission givers in the order of your choosing, but it feels a little flat as a result; there are no great big moments, no fantastic set pieces that help string along a cohesive story that you’re actually eager to see the conclusion of. In fact, it doesn’t even really seem like anybody is the good guy; you just have three groups of Mesolithic savages vying for the same territory, unable to peacefully coexist. I suppose though, that that’s precisely what would happen. Still, it felt like 15 hours that could have been spent doing something more engaging.

Far Cry Primal Review

The more things change, the more they stay the same

As brave and as bold as the Antediluvian setting itself is, I do wish there had been a greater departure for the gameplay itself. For better or worse, this is still very much Far Cry. Just about everything you know and (perhaps) love from Far Cry in modern settings has an analogue in this primitive one. That is, except for those infernal radio towers. Much to my delight, I didn’t have to scale a single structure to unlock new bits of the map.

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Instead of binoculars, you’re now able to command an Owl, whose eyes can mark and track targets for you. Instead of the usual outposts, where you’d have to (preferably silently) kill each guard before claiming it, you’ve got camps and campfires that work the same way. The fortresses from Far Cry 4 return; larger camps that require wits, brute strength of a combination of both to get through.

Far Cry Primal 4

You’ll still spend much of your time killing the local fauna and skinning them, using their pelts and innards to fashion new gear and upgrade your village. Another welcome return is a Far Cry 4’s karma system, where helping the Wenja you’ll come across in Oros helps you in the long run, unlocking abilities and rewards as the population of your village grows. As usual, the map is littered with things to do; hunting challenges, a world of collectibles, treasure hunts and side activities that range from the genuinely exciting to the terribly mundane.

Bringing a knife to a gun fight

The big exclusion is of course the weaponry. Clubs, spears and slings replace guns, with the bow and arrow serving as your primary long-range weapon. As you’d expect, they’re all upgradeable – and as you convince more specialist tribes-people to join your village, you open up trees of skills and upgrades. Your standard, rock-chiselled spear makes way for a shinier, sturdier and pointier one, your bow is able to propel its arrows further. Interestingly, the game works a little like a “lite” version of your favourite survival games.

Far Cry Primal 5

You’ll have to forage for and collect items that you’ll have to use to craft your own ammunition, magically carving arrows on the fly, tying rocks to sticks to fashion clubs and spears. I can’t say I really missed the guns much, because you’ve a far greater weapon in Far Cry Primal; the now extinct beats of the early Holocene; Sabretooths, cave lions, grizzly bears and particularly ferocious badgers are at your beck and call once you’ve mastered the ability to tame beasts. If you played Far Cry 4 and enjoyed having Kalinag’s spectral white tiger maul enemies, you’ll be familiar with how they work.

Prehistoric PETA would hate this game

Point them at an enemy, press a button and your semi-domesticated pet is off to rip an enemy to shreds. You can also ride most of your menagerie; sabretooths make for more efficient mode of transport than Far Cry 4’s vehicles, and just as in that game, you’re able to weaponise pachyderms. There are few greater thrills than stomping enemies and their strongholds to bits on the back of woolly mammoth.

Far Cry Primal 7

And though much of the rest of the game is transplanted from previous games, the new animal masteries aren’t not the only thing Far Cry Primal does right; I particularly enjoyed the Beast Master challenge hunts, where you’d set off not just tracking down, but eventually trapping and killing bigger, more merciless animals.

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One particularly exciting hunt had me chasing the very Sabretooth that killed my original hunting party. With my trusty wolf at my side, I tracked the ferocious beast, and was able to hurt it in open combat before it fled – spurring on a track and a chase, hunting the injured animal until it retreated to its den. Once there, the fight functioned much like a boss battle – but eventually, my canine companion and I were able to best the beast, who then became my new furry friend because Far Cry Primal treats its digital animals like dispensable items.

Far Cry Primal 8

Unfortunately, Far Cry Primal is missing anything resembling multiplayer. There’s no competitive multiplayer, which is fine – but the lack of co-operative play hurts a little. Bringing in a friend to wreak havoc on Kyrat was one of the best things about Far Cry 4, and its excision here just makes me sad for the lost potential. Teaming up with a group of friends to hunt legendary animals, utilising strategy and planning could be an amazing experience, but it’s one you won’t find here.

Far Cry Primal also has some of the most annoying and frustrating boss design – taking a page, I suppose from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. While not explicitly difficult, both of the major boss encounters are the sort that have you trying to beat a big bad guy who’s a damage sponge, while simultaneously taking down infinite waves of regular bad guy NPCs. They’re neither clever nor engaging, and only serve as a reminder that you’re playing a game, and a game must have annoying boss fights because the imaginary game design manual says so.

Far Cry Primal 9

Also from Deus Ex? Your characters voice actor is the same one that provides Adam Jensen’s simultaneously silky and gruff voice. Here it feels a little out of place, with Takkar’s voice too polished for a caveman speaking a made up language based off what’s known about the Proto-Indo-European languages of the era. While the game’s actors do their best to speak these lines with gumption, it sometimes sounds a little silly (with a few comic relief missions from a Far Cry staple making it sounds silly on purpose). Still, it’s got to be better than English with a caveman accent.

Far Cry Primal is a good game, and I’ve enjoyed the 20 or so hours I’ve spent in Oros thus far. It’s difficult not to be disappointed with the lack of narrative impetus though. Far Cry 4’s story wasn’t particularly strong, but this one’s worse. It does Far Cry very well though. It’s a great big sandbox filled with innumerable side activities – for you to explore things, kill things, collect things and skin things. The fun comes from the emergent stories you create.

Conclusion

Far Cry Primal does little to reinvent the series established formula, sometimes taking it backwards more than its new time period may suggest. It's filled to the brim with the familiar and fun Far Cry trappings, if that's what you want out of the game. It's an enjoyable, gratuitously violent romp in the past. If you're looking for some sort of narrative impetus tying it together though, you're bound to be a little disappointed.
7.7

Far Cry Primal was reviewed by Geoffrey Tim on a PlayStation 4

Industry Averages

76/ 100


Author: Geoffrey Tim

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces. I am also the emperor of the backend

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  • Umar
    • Hammersteyn

      XD

    • VampyreSquirrel

      You were .Llew short man.

    • Fox1 – Retro

      The number before the decimal is all that counts 😛

      • Umar

        Lol yeah, I guess people look at it and see 7/10.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Let’s all guess your next JRPG review score… 😀

      • Commander Admiral Chief

        8/tentacles?

      • Umar

        Do it, I’ll provide a prize for the closest guess 😀

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          11/10!

        • Commander Admiral Chief

          See my response below

          • Umar

            Free …. ‘sushi’ for everyone!

      • lol

    • Loftus The Primal BeastMaster

      GOTY ?

    • Sageville

      Umar could use his powers for good…. but still refuses to supply lotto numbers…

  • Hammersteyn

    This score carries @LlewellynCrossley:disqus seal of approval I gather?

    • VampyreSquirrel

      He’ll probably be here shortly as he felt a disturbance in the force or something.

      • Commander Admiral Chief

        He mysteriously went offline on Skype…

        • My computer crashed. 🙁 I literally spilled water on it….. at the time of this.,…. That’s some disturbance @vamp@illuchnemancera:disqus

    • Spathi

      I want to upvote you, but that would create a disturbance in the force!

      • Hammersteyn

        LOL

    • FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

      • Hammersteyn

        XD

      • Hammersteyn

        It’s funny how a 7.7 score is given on the day the winners are announced

  • Sageville

    So it’s the same far cry, just reskinned?

    • Hammersteyn

      Indeed, they didn’t just ‘club’ a few assets together it seems

      • Commander Admiral Chief

        Such a caveman mentality

        • Sageville

          Yup, hardly a mammoth task at all

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            They went for the saber choice

          • Sageville

            Spear me these puns…

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            You are pre-hysterical!

    • Fox1 – Retro

      I see what you did there 😛

  • miaau

    I applaud the attempt at being very different. As to the execution, I will trust in Geoff’s review.

    I am curious, though.

    • Captain JJ the “saviour”

      Me too.
      I’m really curious about his one.

      • miaau

        not R800 curious, though. For damn sure skippy.

        • Captain JJ the “saviour”

          No ways.
          I’m Steam Sale curious.
          It still uses Uplay after all.

          • miaau

            Xbox live use Uplay? ah, you are pulling my leg. Nice one. 🙂

          • Captain JJ the “saviour”

            Haha. Sorry, I keep forgetting who’s on console and who’s on pc (because I’m blind to platformism, you see.) 😉

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            The brows blind you!

  • Commander Admiral Chief

    Me see score, me laugh at OOBI
    (refresh)

  • Captain JJ the “saviour”

    I get that devs are trying to get the pc versions right for a change, but the different release dates are still just bad planning.

    • Commander Admiral Chief

      Admiral think lazy dev make oobi boobie

      • Captain JJ the “saviour”

        That too yes. 🙂

  • For those who care about the performance side of things:
    There’s a 600MB day one patch, but the game runs pretty damned well, and looks amazing. There are some spectacular lighting tricks, with God rays being used to incredible effect. It seems to run at a steady 30fps on PS4.

    • Commander Admiral Chief

      Admiral no trusty “seems” word

      • Loftus The Primal BeastMaster

        3rd person ?

        • Captain JJ the “saviour”

          He’s one of those.

          • Loftus The Primal BeastMaster

            I would have never guessed he is one of those people that speaks in the turdperson.

          • Captain JJ the “saviour”

            XD

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            You no read? We cavemen. Ooga

    • Captain JJ the “saviour”

      600MB these days seems to be about standard. I personally don’t have too much of an issue with this.

  • I think they deserve something for trying something ‘different’ even with the same mechanics.

    • Captain JJ the “saviour”

      Agreed.
      Just like how Shadow of Mordor was the most unique Batman game to date.

      • Commander Admiral Chief

        LOOOL

      • Or how it’s the best DRM example on PC? hue huehue

        • Captain JJ the “saviour”

          Shadow of Mordor?
          Or FarCry….oh…Uplay.
          🙁

          • HEHEHE I like the idea of it being set way back in the past, think that is enough for me to buy it… When it’s on sale.

          • Captain JJ the “saviour”

            Well, by the time PC gets their versions of any game, you can probably get the same one on sale.
            Which, (and I can’t understand why the devs don’t see this), is exactly why pc gamers wait for sales. If they can wait over a month past console release date, they can wait longer for a better price.

    • Sageville

      Could we compare this “different” to say… Battlefield: Hardline?

      • Captain JJ the “saviour”

        That name “Battlefield” in that game was just a selling strategy. If it was just called Hardline, no one would’ve bothered with it.

        • Sageville

          I was soo conned…

          • Captain JJ the “saviour”

            XD
            Damn.

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            EA touched you inappropriately

          • VampyreSquirrel

            Do you want @Sageville:disqus to show you were they touched him? XD

            *RUNS*

      • I mean the theme and no guns. That is quite different.

  • Loftus The Primal BeastMaster

    WHAT MADNESS IS THIS ?! NO ONLINE PLAY ?! I am going to complain about this, let me get some paint and a cave wall and paint my and on the wall. My peeps will understand

    • Captain JJ the “saviour”

      They’d be in ARK territory with online MP.
      Which they can’t compete with.

  • konfab

    Do you know what would have worked better:
    Far Cry Blood Dragon 2: T-rex edition.

    • Captain JJ the “saviour”

      Yes.
      If you wanted to explode the internet with it’s AWESOMENESS!!!

    • Commander Admiral Chief

      ^This!

  • Jonah Cash

    Story sucks? Then I am out. Not playing any games that don’t have a story line that intrigues me. Won’t buy this one to just not finish it, will stay strong this time around.

    • oVg

  • Another wasted opp– *ahem* Ubisoft blockbuster.

  • oVg

    not worth R1000

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