The Ubisoft team have gone all rogue with the latest installment of Far Cry. They have shed the guns, vehicles, amusing radio stations and all the fixtures usually found in one of their modern day titles. Instead of a new country, they’ve gone back in time, but not by a few decades, but by a few millennia.
We are now in the year 10,000BC, in the age of prehistoric man and the dawn of civilisation. I’ll be honest all I know about this era is gained knowledge from The Flintstones; Lynx Adverts with girls in fur bikinis and the 80’s cartoon, Captain Caveman. None of which are 100% historically accurate of the time. So I was intrigued how the developers could capture their loyal audience in such an off kilter move. Rest assured the moment you play the first hour of the game, the Far Cry experience is as familiar as putting on a pair of old socks – even though the tools of the trade have changed somewhat.
You are Takkar, a caveman hunter-gatherer type and part of the Wenja tribe. After a hunting trip that goes very wrong indeed, you team up with a female cavewoman called Sayla, without the fur bikini I hasten to add. Here you are charged with setting up a village with Sayla and going out into the big bad world to help recruit more of the Wenja tribe. As you explore these quests it becomes clear that you are more then just an ordinary cave dweller and have a gift where you can command all manner of prehistoric beasts. When the leader of the rival Udam tribe attacks the village the real story begins…
The setting for the world found in Far Cry Primal is the beautiful valley of Oros. Here we have a mixture of amazing foliage, underground caves, snowy mountaintops and lush rivers running through the world. The place has a night/day cycle and is filled with wildlife from the smallest turtle to packs of mammoths running around. These all seem to operate separate to your presence; it’s not uncommon to see a herd of deer run past followed by a sabre tooth tiger in hot pursuit. Or you might see a group of humans trying to defend themselves against a set of badgers (very hard creatures). This makes you feel like you’re in a living, actual breathing dynamic world. Far Cry do open worlds like Cristiano Ronaldo does step overs and it’s a thing of magic and wonder. Without doing the usual quests you can easily get lost wandering around admiring the view and sampling the chaos.
In terms of gameplay this most definitely feels like a Far Cry game. Combat wise you’ve lost your firepower and explosions, seeing them replaced by a much simpler version of weaponry. The spear, club and bow are your main diet when dealing with enemies. The spear is great for a heavy impact throw; the club great for that all out attack going mental approach, but my weapon of choice is the bow and arrow. In other games in which I’ve been burdeoned with said bow and arrow, you’d rarely find me touching it, but in this experience… it feels so right. I don’t know whether it’s the mechanics or the settings but I really enjoyed the time spent perfecting my archery. You can attack by just running into a group of humans or animals and just kill madly, set everything on fire and hope for the best. Or you can take the stealth mode and stalk your prey, using quiet takedowns or setting animals free to run amuck. The more materials and experience you get, the more you can upgrade your weapons, build traps, become silenter, stronger or healthier. The usual Far Cry upgrade tree is in place, but this time joined by one new feature…beast master.
One of the most interesting of all the new features is the ability to tame and control the beasts of the 10,000BC. You start with an owl, which you can send up in the air to patrol and scout the area. It marks enemies and even attacks should you want it to. You’ll then find yourself with a wolf, and then lions, cheetahs, bears and finally you’ll be going on hunts in order to fight and tame the beasts of legends; a sabre tooth tiger, a scared bear and a giant mammoth. This feature is the highlight of playing Far Cry Primal, nothing feels better then sending your badger in to cause mayhem in a rival tribes camp, or riding a mammoth into the sunset. On a cautionary note don’t let them die; you won’t be able to live with the guilt.
The quests are a mixture of the story missions that move your journey forward and side quests. The story mode is solid without being outstanding, but the side quests will keep you occupied for days. It really does eat into your life when it’s nearly midnight and you say to yourself, just another side mission then bed…2am the same thought happens again and you’re still playing. I’ve always found the Far Cry franchise addictive and Primal feels no different, keeping me hungry for more to do.
Looks wise the game has a stunning world to explore and the details that you’ll pick out are nothing short of amazing. The wildlife is drawn perfectly, moving and responding in a realistic way. The main actor characters are vividly realized, with some really good use of motion capture and acting. The main facial features and right down to the details of the freckles are worthy of a mention too. The actual extras sometimes become a bit generic and the more you play the game, the same cave people turn up even though you’ve killed them a thousand times before. Sound is always of a high standard when playing a Far Cry game and it is no different here. Growls, grunts, cries, wind and water all come with crystal clear effects amid a nice score running underneath. The voice acting is extremely well done, especially as the whole story is subtitled in a dead language.
Overall there is around 20 to 25 hours of gameplay found in Primal giving you plenty of time to explore and get your prehistoric on. Sadly there is no co-op or any online play this time round. That’s a real shame and causes Primal to be somewhat lacking when compared to the most recent Far Cry installments.
It is still a great experience though and whether you are a Far Cry addict, or one of those who haven’t explored any of the games before, my advice would be this: Get a club, jump on a mammoth and explore your inner caveman.