After the release of Far Cry 4 back in late 2014, no one expected a jump from the mountains of Kyrat to a brand new setting, nevertheless one set thousands of years before, to the dawn of the Stone Age with Far Cry Primal. This new open world FPS will arm you flints and arrows to hunt and protect yourself of prehistorical wild animals and human tribes. And thus I’ll tell you about my journey into the land of Oros after more than 15 hours played and less than 50% of the game finished.
To be honest, I’ll start by admitting that I was worried about Far Cry Primal, it reminded me of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, the repurposed Far Cry 3 with a 1980s theme. Thankfully, after all these hours roaming the lands, I can tell you that Far Cry Primal is an original game, even more than the franchise. Far Cry 4 was great, and I did enjoy it (though never had the time to review it), but I believe Far Cry Primal will have a special place in my heart, since in addition to having a prehistoric context, it smartly shared some of the franchise game mechanics and impose new ones. It might not be revolutionary, but the new developments imposed by the game’s theme are welcomed and fresh.
Let’s talk about the story first, shall we? Far Cry Primal tells the story of survival, a theme at the core of the franchise since the original game, but at the dawn of the ice age, where prehistorical people had to move to new safe havens, a land of promised richness and game to hunt. In order to survive in a time where man was not at the top of the food chain, nomadic tribes had to find new lands, and this is where you come in: you play Takkar, a hunter of the tribe Wenja, on the trail of this new “primitive” El Dorado called Oros. But this land doesn’t hold the lost city of gold, but green pastures, rich in flora and fauna, protected by mountain slopes where rivers and lakes are abound. It’s basically the B.C version of Oregon Trail. This new world, perfect for the Wenjas, will share it with the wild creatures of all types, but also with other tribes with conquering and violent tendencies.
It’s basically the B.C version of Oregon Trail.
Other than the Wenjas, two more tribes are on their quest to establish themselves on Oros, and since fire and weapons were invented before diplomacy, you can guess what comes next. On one side are the bloodthirsty barbarians and cannibalistic tribe Udan. Their survival, they owe it to their stature and physical strength, which makes them formidable hunters as well as accomplished warrior. If you cross their paths, you better get rid of them fast, because these giant man beast adorned with animal skin will not hesitate to cook you on the spit. The other tribe in Oros are the vicious Izila. These mastered fire and evolved into agile hunters. The first to have started agriculture, they quickly built tools that were ahead of their time, and enslaved others to work on their lands. While all this extra may seem trivial, in terms of gameplay it opens multiple possibilities.
You see, other than being physically different, each tribe alters your gameplay, and force you to discover their reactions and timing. While like most Far Cry games brutality can be invigorating as a player, I’d avoid Udan enemies when they are in large number, by hiding in the tall grass before, assess the situation, get rid of alarms, before your confrontation ends up a tragedy. Play stealthy as much as possible, because there’s no overpowered weapon. Adding to the fact that the Udan are melee oriented tribes, these savages will all rush towards you, in the most aggressive onomatopoeia yell, which can startle and obviously boost their morale.
As for Izalas, you can tell this tribe is smarter and much better organized. Their archers and warriors are more vigilant when hunting you down, making quick call for reinforcements, and use a vicious weaponry such as poison arrows. Heal whenever you can when confronting Izalas, that they can can easily finish you. These clashes will help you as a player to be cautious but never shy away from combat, becoming the only one to judge the appropriateness of your actions, as lethal as they are. Your hunter vision allows you to highlight living creatures, beast or men, which will be of great help like in the previous game. Adding to the fact that the easy-to-use weapon wheel introduced in Far Cry 4 is here, you’ll be able to swiftly switch between your three bows (normal, long distance and double bow), your clubs for melee purposes, your spears, but also set your throwables, like animal bait, sillex daggers or even bombs… Well primitive bombs filled with bees that will swat around your enemies.
This primitive world where people are struggling to survive is crippled with dangers. This is something that we understand very quickly the first few minutes of actually play. Here the fauna and flora in turn can be your greatest allies as well as your mortal enemies. Far Cry players know, on previous episodes that was often the case. Animals in Ubisoft’s games almost seemed like savage murderers, scattered in the lands, waiting to jump on you and in Far Cry Primal it is eminently more of the case by the nature of the beasts. There’s so many animals that will make you regret being the hunter: Dholes (ancestor of hyena), Wolves (twice the modern wolf size), Cave Lions, Bears and god damn Sabertooth are just some of the 17 animals that can kill you, but also be tamed and become your trusty hunting companion.
While Far Cry 4 dabbled a bit with animal companionship, like the elephant ally, Far Cry Primal take this gameplay element to the next level, and introducing mystical domestication, since deep inside, Takkar is a beast master. With these shaman powers, the protagonist can tame animals and call upon their help to ride alongside him during battles, hunts and practically any sort of activities in the game. Each one of these animals has its own advantage, ranging from the strongest, most agile and stealthier, giving you a wild range of opportunities and strategy options. Want to stealthy take out an outpost? Bring along a Jaguar. Want to attack with speed? Call upon your Sabertooth tiger. There’s so many options, but I did realize that Ubisoft didn’t fix the problem I had with their previous animal companions: they are overpowered. The make the game so much easier, and sometimes pointless even to try doing anything. I managed to clear over 5 outpost without shooting an arrow with the help of my Jaguar, and that’s a bit too much to my taste, because exploits soon enough become boring tasks to finish a game.
Now the game not only centers on the survival of Takkar, but of a tribe as a whole (as previously mentioned), by developing tools, gather ressources, and build your population. While many regretted that the crafting in Far Cry remains marginal and does not necessarily serve its gameplay, Far Cry Primal points to differ. There’s so much to craft, from ammunition, to weapons, poison, you’ll have to find new materials and measure your “harvest” progress, to then unlock new upgrades for your tools but also for your village, and this is where Far Cry Primal is amazing. Each animal or plant in the world of Far Cry Primal will have its uses, an animal skin by one, animal fat there, everything is used at any time to make new clothes or upgrade some equipment, and It is by climbing experience levels that Takkar will learn new skills as well as finishing key missions from 5 main tribe heroes. This hero of another age develops in addition of a total empathy for animals, hidden powers revealed by the shaman in his village, including an owl companion that can fly and scan enemy camps ahead like a scout (a bit like the warg powers in Game of Throne). Yup, at that time, even our ancestors had surveillance drones.
The game not only centers on the survival of Takkar, but of a tribe as a whole
In addition to helping your people in random events throughout your journey in the lands of Oros, like freeing captives from Udam or helping your warriors fend off a group of Izalas, our hero is also the vehicle for the expansion of its own people. This is after all his main mission, given to him by Tensay, the shaman of his tribe, as well as Sayla, the gatherer healer of the clan. These two secondary characters will be joined further on by 4 more Wenjas including Karoosh the warrior (my personal favorite), Wogah the crafter, Urki the thinker and Jayma the hunter. These 6 key characters (which will become 8 but I won’t spoil them for you) each have their own craziness, personalities, but also their own trick and skills to teach Takkar, such as healing with Sayla, or hunting with Jayma. Alternatively they will also propose missions for players, causing him to make choices that will be critical in the course of the game, which the developers are spot on, while indicating how to improve the lives and comfort of you village for its inhabitants. Takkar will have to build shelter for his compatriot, and upgrade them into stronger, larger, more secure homes, that will allow the people of the Wenja tribe to grow but also unlock new skills and tools for Takkar. Far Cry Primal almost take a bit from Age of Empire and it is rather welcome.
On the point of graphics, the Far Cry series has always continued to upgrade its aesthetic proposal since the third installment. There’s significant improvement in visual renderings, and the land of Oros are colorful, with lighting effects fitting the theme, without overdoing lens flares, in addition to a neat and well done transition between day and night, as well as character animation. There’s still some occasional bugs here and there like collision issue (I saw a goat merged in a cliff), and extremely rare instances of intense frame drops for a second (almost like a frozen machine), but Far Cry Primal is a real stamp on what these new generation consoles can do, in addition to being extremely manageable on controllers. All this beauty gets you lost, but in a good way, and rather than to rescue some of your tribe members captured by opponents, or go on quests, I found my way roaming freely preferring to track big game, tame better beast, just to purely have a contemplative trip.
If the visual immersion level is high, wait until you hear it. With sound effects of the most scenic, Primal has pulled off the theme of a primitive dangerous world. You can actually hear the caveman flesh being torn out by a Sabretooth Tiger, or the howl of a wolf pack in the distance, or even more intense is the trumpet and stomps of an elder mammoth, while he’s charging you after you sadly attempted hunting it (a memory I’ll never forget after my first foolish encounter). But it’s not about the sound effects only, it’s also the language specially created for the game, since Ubisoft’s team got helped by anthropologists, film producers and ultimately, linguists who are experts in proto-European language. It helps you get immersed in the game’s theme, something that probably would’ve not felt the same with English for example.
The music on the other hand is a work of art, and you won’t notice it first, but I do stress on putting on headphones. For the soundtrack, Ubisoft picked what I believe to be the right person for the job: Jason Graves. If his name is not familiar, you will know his work if you played the 2014 Tomb Raider reboot, Dead Space 2 (which he won a Bafta Award for), Evolve or more recently Until Dawn. Fully recorded without synthesizer or premade samples, Jason Graves composed music that fits naturally to the aesthetics of the game. Most of the themes are made with specific tribal and old instruments, each associated with a particular tribe to distinguish them. The Wenja are associated to flute and simple percussion instruments, which brings comfort zone for the player. The Udam on the other hand have a theme built with rock clashes and battle cries, generally very slow, a disturbing impression of this tribe’s ruthless method. Finally the Izila, being agile have a tune fronted by the Aztec death whistle, sometimes described as “the scream of thousand corpses”, a terrifying sound that fit the instrument’s name (if you don’t trust me on that one, just search for any video about it and you’ll get it). To make a long story short, this soundtrack is perfect for the game, giving a “primal” tune that immerse you into the land of Oros.
On the topic of the PC version. By Mazen Abdallah
The Far Cry games have always run pretty decently on PC, and Primal is no exception. I launched the game and got into the first two chapters, and I messed around with a variety of settings. The game started me off at the ‘High’ preset, which gave me a buttery 60fps at 1080. I switched it up to Very High for the same results, and I ended up at Ultra with 60fps that kinda dropped down to the 50’s when you moved around a lot. This is after the day 1 patch, mind you, which clearly fixed quite a bit, and you can see an example below in the comparison slider, captured in game.
The textures in the game look great, and the vegetation has a wonderful, natural look to it. The real star for me, however, were the caves. I guess you could say I’m a cave man (they promised me I could put one joke in here). The fur textures are nicely done as well, and the carnage is beautifully rendered. Seriously, this gore’s not for the faint of heart. In any event, the game ran smoothly on my system and I didn’t run into any errors.
Far Cry Primal was reviewed using an Xbox One and PC downloadable code of the full game provided by Ubisoft. Far Cry Primal on PC was tested on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM and written by Mazen Abdallah. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 via retail and digital release. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
• An interesting and original story and theme
• I can tame a Sabertooth Tiger!
• The RPG elements in the combat and upgrades
• The fauna and flora of the game
• Be stealthy or brutal: your choice
• A language created just for this game
• Visually sublime
• An open world that give you the choice to do what you want
• So much too do in this game
• That soundtrack and VFX
• AI is smarter, but still easy to take advantage of
• Repetition in couple of missions
• Some weird collision bugs
• Rare frame drops on consoles
• Not all side characters are fun
• Beast companions are overpowered
• I miss Vaas