Over the past few years, Far Cry has remained consistent in its quality, whether it was taking us to some overseas locale to fight off savages with animal-like abilities, or shooting us into the future, where Michael Biehn insisted on being a bad-ass while riding around on a T-Rex shooting lasers (Blood Dragon, in case you forgot).
But with Far Cry Primal, the team takes us back – wayyyyyy back – to more primitive times, where you play a caveman named Takkar, trying to right the wrongs of his village and save as many fellow Wenja members as possible. Not an easy task, considering the bloodthirsty Udam are making the rounds.
It’s not quite as compelling an argument as, say, taking on a flamboyant maniac like in Far Cry 4, or even a giant T-Rex shooting lasers (sorry, I’m spoiled), but the game still works, mainly because it demonstrates that the developers behind the game aren’t afraid to try new ideas for a familiar franchise. They may take a little longer to adjust to, but the end result is still an agreeable achievement.
The gameplay is probably the one big thing that’s changed. There are no vehicles here or firearms, but rather primitive weapons that require you to do some thinking, whether you’ve got a meaty club in your hand or require a bow and arrow set to get your headshots across. They start off lowly at first, but you can eventually level up and earn new equipment that can knock an Udam soldier’s head off clean. Well, almost – but the thought is definitely there.
Getting around takes a little bit longer, but this is where one of the game’s amazing new elements come into play – taming animals. By converting a certain wolf or bear to join your side, you can lead them into battle and give the Udam and animal enemies what for, while rewarding them with occasional meals to keep their health up. The more you progress, the more you can unlock – and the sooner you can ride a bear into battle with a lit torch in your hand. Freedoooooom!
The animal taming system is part of the huge amount of leveling up you do within Primal, as you have to unlock abilities through a set of skill trees. It can take some time, and getting around, even with Fast Travel, requires a good amount of patience. But if you can muster it, you’ll find Primal to be a compelling experience, one with a lot of heart – especially as you take on near-impossible missions later down the road.
I just wish the story was a little more engaging. Some of the characters you meet in the game – like the kooky Tensay and the awesome Sayla – are great ones, but most of them fit the routine bill otherwise, and don’t really push Takkar to new heights. Sure, they’re supposed to be cavemen, but would it have hurt to given them just a little more depth? At least you can skip the cutscenes if you aren’t too fond of what’s being explained here.
Presentation-wise, I think I prefer the variety of Far Cry 4’s lush environments to the primitive villages presented in Far Cry Primal. Still, it’s a big, interconnected world filled with possibilities, and finding a majority of its secrets is highly enjoyable, even if that means climbing up rock sides (with a caveman grappling hook, natch) or swimming through dangerous waters. The blood effects are impressive, and the environments look pretty good, but the character design is pretty bland. Talk about running into your routine Fred Flintstone repeats. Don’t let it get you down, though – it looks solid for the most part.
The music within the game fits the old-school tone just about perfectly, and the sound effects are just about perfect, with roaring animals, caveman yells and more. The voicework is okay, but it’s hard to really get serious about the storyline when everyone speaks on a level of Rayman-esque gibberish. At least it’s not too silly to throw everything off. Just don’t expect a translation that’s too accurate, if you get what I mean.
Far Cry Primal may not have a multiplayer factor, but single player will take you some time to get through, with hours of missions and secondary quests, along with hidden Daysha Hands (yes, hands), temples, bonfires and more. Plus it’s fun to goof around and set bears on fire (just run away when you do – trust me), engage in hunts and bash in Udam heads. Just as a Far Cry game is supposed to be.
More work could’ve been put into character design and story, but overall, Far Cry Primal is a meaningful addition to the franchise, and one that takes it in a fine new direction, even if that means doing away with fancy vehicles and weapons. Hey, sometimes you need to take it back to the old-school and remember what survival is all about – and that’s just what Primal does.