Far Cry Primal Review – Savage Nation
Put down your AK-47, leave your compound bow at home. Things are about to get savage. I spent nearly 25 hours exploring a world dominated by nature and survival of the fittest but does Far Cry Primal live up to expectations or was 12,000 years a bit too much of a step back?
The immediate stand-out change for Far Cry fans is the intriguing Mesolithic setting complete with a purpose made Wenja language (and two variants for the other tribes) and motion capture more suited to the potential behaviors and movements of mankind prior to the invention of cellphones. As a huge Far Cry fan, the change from the modern setting to something entirely different had me shaking at the knees in anticipation and in at least this single regard, Ubisoft Montreal delivered flawlessly.
The environment looks incredible as nature dominates the landscape with few settlements and man-made locations scattered throughout to create a feeling that man has still yet to rise up the food chain – which is proven true when you first encounter a sabretooth tiger that rips your throat out.
The wildlife of Far Cry Primal is a step up from previous games, which mostly included docile animals or species that understandably struggled to combat someone with an M-16. Exploring the hugely varied environments of Far Cry Primal isn’t simply about awe-inspiring sights and the relentless onslaught of the natural order, it truly is about survival. For much of the game you’ll be avoiding bears, jaguars, leopards and other deadly predators as you scramble to upgrade your equipment and abilities. Naturally this does drop off as you progress and craft more powerful gear but those first few hours of exploration are an experience to say the least.
Thankfully not everything wild in Far Cry Primal is gunning for your insides, well not once you sway them to do your bidding with the new taming feature – arguably the biggest change to mechanics featured in the game. The potential for this idea was massive and although it works well – the excitement really dropped off fast. Within a couple of hours you can tame most of the beasts available in the game, with the exception of special quests that require a lot more effort to take down more powerful beasts. The process in taming the average predator is as simple as finding one, throwing some meat on the ground and then interacting before it’s finished eating. Fun the first time, not so much 10 times later.
The three most powerful beasts you can tame, the great scar bear, bloodfang sabretooth and snowblood wolf provide a more difficult and rewarding mechanic that had me chasing tracks around the environment before laying traps, throwing spears, burning the ground and ultimately making them my slave for eternity. Slightly random but I do want to mention the hunting quest where you chase down a giant Mammoth. I won’t spoil it but it’s an incredibly intense 2-3 minutes of gameplay that almost makes up for the lackluster taming of the average beast almost entirely.
Sadly however for the rest of the game, it’s very much the same old Far Cry. The crafting, skills, hunting and survival mechanics remain mostly unchanged from previous iterations of the Far Cry universe, with subtle adjustments to make it fit well with the unique setting. For yet another addition to the franchise I found myself grinding for materials (although the option to remove the skinning/gathering mechanic is fantastic), attacking towers and camps, and utilizing very similar tactical options to what was available in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4, despite 12,000 years of difference in technology – give or take.
If there was a single element of Far Cry that I could see surviving for endless variations of the franchise, it’s the meaningful narrative and memorable characters – both of which seem lackluster in Far Cry Primal. Previous antagonists, the criminally insane Vaas and the cut-throat Pagan Min, are some of my favorite characters of all time but the connection to those that inhabit Oros 10,000 BCE just isn’t there. I didn’t feel I was given the opportunity to develop any sort of emotional reaction to the actions of Ull and Batari before the story took its natural course. That’s not to say the game fails to create any memorable characters, but the majority are simply distractions from what should have been a more immersive story.
It’s not easy for developers of today to step outside the box, especially for such a well established franchise. And for the attempt at creating an authentic experience with language, behavior, movements and environments at 10,000 BCE Ubisoft Montreal should be given a lot of credit, even if the rest of the game didn’t meet that same level of innovation.
The Mesolithic setting and the unique opportunity to sample life 10,000 BCE combined with Far Cry’s most iconic features makes it a must buy for those yet to sample the Far Cry franchise but for veteran’s of Ubisoft’s chaotic take on survival, it’s very much more of the same.