by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Back to the Stone Age
Guns, guns, guns. Firearms have been a staple in countless games over the decades, and the same can be said for the entirety of the Far Cry series. Whether you were traversing an island as Jack Carver, pursuing an arms dealer through a war torn region of Africa, or more recently being pursued by a homicidal dictator in the Himilayas, you were nearly always doing so with a gun in hand. But, what if you weren't? What if you could have the same open world experience of Far Cry, but with fire arms removed from the picture? Now, I'm sure the same people who called Far Cry 3 "Skyrim with guns" are thinking "Just play Skyrim." But, that's quite apples to oranges in all honesty. We no longer have to wait for an answer on what Far Cry would be with guns out of the picture, with Ubisoft's Far Cry Primal.
Far Cry Primal takes players out of the world of modern living, and takes us back to 10,000 B.C. Before man became consumed with technology and comfort, there was survival. Survival by any means necessary, to establish their place on the food chain. To show the odds of nature that we would not be cast down as mere animals, it was in these near infantile days of humanity where we began our journey. Of course, Far Cry Primal is a work of fiction; not fact. It is only loosely based on the time period at hand. It makes for an experience that is both a far cry from the norms, but also a familiar well... Far Cry.
In Far Cry Primal, players take on the role of Takkar. Takkar and his group of Wenja have travelled quite the distance looking to reunite with the rest of their people, the Wenja tribe. In Far Cry form, what starts out innocently enough quickly escalates leaving Takkar as the sole survivor of his group who just happens to reach their destination. Oros, a bountiful land of flora and fauna, is a place for the Wenja to make a home.
Or it would be, if it were not so desired by two other tribes as well. The conflict between the Wenja, cannibalistic Udam, and fire-loving Izila tribes sets the backdrop for Primal. Takkar must unite the Wenja of Oros under a unified banner, and along the way increase his own strength as well as that of the tribe. From a story perspective, Far Cry Primal is my favorite story of the series to date. A fictional language with sublime voice acting sets the stage for believable characters, which made me want to press on to see the story of Takkar play out. All the characters he met along the way were icing on the cake, with one in particular being the cherry on top. Tensay, a character you meet very early on, is easily my favorite character in Primal. With his frantic animation in both movement and expression, and a haunting voice of consistent prophecy, I learned to take this mad shaman seriously long before Takkar does in game.
Of course, there is more to the story than just the narrative. The setting itself, Oros, is beautiful. Set in a pre-historic region of Europe, Oros features sprawling forests of tall trees, meadows of high grass, rivers and majestic waterfalls, and of course a fair share of cliffs and canyons. I don't know how many times I was sidetracked just exploring the environment, looking for rival tribe members to attack or animals to hunt along the way. One of my more memorable moments came after scaling a large cliff to search for eagles to hunt right at their nests rather than trying to pick them off by flying. As dawn broke, I'd reached the top of the cliff and I turned and looked out over a massive valley below. As the sun danced on a nearby lake, and I looked over and saw people hunting deer in a nearby clearing, I couldn't help but become fully immersed in the view. But despite all this, there is a predator that lurks in the land of Oros that threatens its very existence; the game itself.
You see, for all the bells and whistles of Far Cry Primal's change of pace back to the past it's still very much a Far Cry game. In some cases it works very much in its favor, such as the return of the always-fun outpost take overs and rather fluid stealth and bow play. But, the dark side of this familiarity rears its ugly head pretty quickly almost immediately upon entering melee combat.
To put it simply, the melee combat that was so heavily touted leading up to release is honestly bland at best and clunky at worse. Don't get me wrong, when I throw a spear it's awesome (much like the bow and arrow), but when it comes down to the nitty gritty of in your face combat it feels more like a frantic dance; and not in a good way. There is absolutely zero finesse to the fighting whatsoever. You just jab and swing and hope you connect. Dying Light had fluid and fun melee combat, and even though there was no blocking there was a dodging mechanic. In Far Cry Primal, the only dodging you'll be doing is hopping around or backtracking and hoping they miss their mark. It feels like they stripped the gunplay out, and threw in the idea of melee combat without actually applying much effort to it. How melee combat was handled is very disappointing, and it encourages the player to stick to the more satisfying takedown kills and stealth attacks. These of course, are entertaining in their own right but I was looking forward to actually enjoying some primal combat.
Another big offender may not be spotted at first, and indeed it took me time to notice. I had to dig a bit to have my suspicions confirmed. If someone were to say that Far Cry Primal is a reskinned Far Cry 4, they'd be right to a point. That's not an exaggeration, considering how familiar the game is already. Taken a step further, I noticed the layout of the map is nearly identical to that of Far Cry 4's Kyrat. When you're in game you're not likely to notice it right away, but once you see it it's very hard to unsee it. While it's claimed that the map was only used for heightmapping purposes, the layout says otherwise.
Developers reuse assets all the time, but that isn't what rubbed me the wrong way about this. What rubbed me the wrong way was that so much of the game outside of the story feels like it was pushed out at full price for the sake of making a quick buck. Even still, Far Cry has managed to be an enjoyable game but it's far from a must-buy.
I had fun with Far Cry Primal, as there aren't many modern games out there currently with this idea of a prehistoric adventure. The story sucked me in, the landscape was both beautiful and treacherous, and sneaking around with a bow in hand doesn't get old for me quickly. That being said, Far Cry Primal had the potential to be the next big thing in the FPS genre, and it was ultimately squandered by decisions to take the easy route to release. If they had put another year of development toward it, maybe then we would've seen what we were hoping it would be.
Beautiful landscape, society elements bring a fresh layer, stealth gameplay highly encouraged
Bland and clunky melee combat, map layout nearly identical to Far Cry 4