When The Formula Works | Far Cry Primal Review

When I first started playing Far Cry Primal for this review, I was no stranger to the Far Cry series, or most of Ubisoft’s games in general. I had minimal expectations knowing their formula of “Go here, do this (one of five variations of the same) thing” or “Make sure to collect all these (insert collectible here) and we will make sure you get a mediocre prize”. I wasn’t wrong… and then I was.

There’s one part of this formula that may be overlooked by those who are deterred from wanting to play this game due to their experiences with the same game play that Far Cry (and Assassins Creed) churned out every year or so: the formula works, and works really well for Far Cry Primal in particular. Much like the rest of the Far Cry predecessors, hunting and collecting things usually has a boost to certain things in your inventory. Allowing you to carry more grenades,  ammunition, or carrying more weapons. That’s still not far off, however there are some big differences here.

Hunt and gather for your life

Far Cry Primal - Hunter

When roaming across the landscape, you do not have a fully automatic super uzi, or a sniper rifle that shoots explosive rounds. You are limited to primitive weapons. If you happen across a bear or sabertooth tiger, chances are you are going to die. Collecting rocks, wood, and plants actually help you build better weapons, not just gear. While not absolutely historically accurate, I do have to give them a few passes for things like the standard grappling hook that’s present in the last few games. I don’t expect cavemen widely used them, but it was left over from the last game and only enhanced gameplay. However, if we are going to get all historical, you might not read the next part.

I can ride a what?

Far Cry Primal - Wild Encounter

Later on the game, you will get more adept at taming animals. You first start with smaller animals like wolves, dhole (basically a hyena) and leopards. But eventually you will get larger animals like cave bears and sabertooth tigers which you can ride. Yes, ride. I found that some of the best ways to get from point A to B was not fast traveling, but hopping on the back of my sabertooth and hightailing it across the landscape, usually running into skirmishes and other side quests. Although you can ride a Mammoth, strangely it is not one of the tame-able creatures. I would also like to note with all of the villagers that you help during this game, it would have been great if you could have had an ability to call in your tribe buddies to help you complete an objective. The game also made the addition of a scout owl. This will be the first pet you get in the game and will become an indispensable part of your tactics. It will highlight enemies and animals on your display, and can even dive-bomb instant kill enemies when you are infiltrating. I found this particularly useful for taking out stronghold lookouts. At later upgradeable levels, it has the ability to drop bombs of various types into enemy campgrounds.

What about those Far Cry side quests?

Far Cry Primal - Shaman

One of the main things that this game lacks is an actual story. A few factions, a few ridiculous characters and its the same recipe. In Far Cry 3 and 4, you would occasionally come across faction skirmishes. Battles between the good guys that you’re helping and the ones that are loyal to your enemy, which did very little if you chose to help them. In Far Cry 4, I found myself just wandering the country side and hearing the screams of my comrades and just walking off in the opposite direction towards my main goal. In Far Cry Primal, you are more vested in helping during these situations. Completing these random instances will grant you more villagers to join your village. This in turn allows you to upgrade your characters huts, and that of main story characters in your village. I don’t want make you feel like there is a base building side of this, there really isn’t. I have found no real benefit to upgrading the village other than unlocking story and weapons. However, rescuing villagers will grant you XP bonuses to your character as well as gathering random resources faster that you can collect daily to help build additional gear.

Bone crushing fun

Getting your gear up to a survivable point causes the game to go in fast forward. At this point in Primal, you will most likely have an amazing pet, and mostly upgraded weapons. The story won’t have much to throw at you other than some occasionally harder baddies. The main story you have against another tribe is quickly swept aside by the classic drug induced side quests given by your village shaman, and the introduction of a third tribe. The story gets jumbled at this point and I found myself only doing main story missions if I was running out of something else to do, or if it held a reward of unlocking a new weapon or tool I wanted to try out. At night-time, larger packs of beasts and rare animals appear which makes for some exhilarating experiences. Your pet will protect you for the most part, but if it becomes engaged in a battle you may be left to defend yourself. Do yourself a favor and calibrate your screen to be correctly dark (there will be a calibration process at the beginning, like most games). This gives the feel of actually needing a torch at night and will also help defend against predators. Plus, night-time can be both terrifying visually, as well as having an ethereal – almost Avatar style to it, depending on which part of the map that you are located. My only negative about wandering the wild is when I occasionally came into contact with both of the opposing tribes to my village at the same time. Both opposing tribes, which don’t like each other either, would prefer to attack myself or my tribesmen rather than each other in a free for all.

The first enemy tribe is your classical cavemen cannibal types. They have the large brow foreheads and are covered in furs. They seemingly represent a step back in the human evolution chain, refer to you and your tribemates as “softbloods”, and dominate the northern regions of the map. They are also the most common invaders and random instances types. The second enemy tribe is the Sun Goddess tribe. Dominated by a queen leader that was supposedly born on a solar eclipse that has a taste for burning men alive. They will dominate the southern and western parts of map.

Throw me to the wolves

Far Cry Primal - Hunting

If you were wondering about the graphics of this game, prepare to be impressed. While not a huge jump from Far Cry 4, the PS4 version this was reviewed on seemed to include a lot of the lighting and shaders that was previously seen solely on PC. They made everything smoother and more crisp at the same time. There is an alien feel to the color palette used in the lighting that separates you from prior experiences, immersing you into an unrecognizable landscape. The sounds used in this game are truly amazing. When you hear a distant creature, it will quickly remind you that you are in a foreign territory where you are not the apex hunter. You will start to quickly recognize the individual sounds creatures make and learn to identify and fear them. In addition, a hunter-vision mode was added that allows you to track animals and opponents help immerse you in this experience. Graphically, the only downsides I came across where some special effects, waterfalls and fire in particular. While not completely distracting, its obvious to tell this was an area they could have spent more time on. Burning the countryside in Far Cry 2 was more visually appealing than how it was done this game, and waterfalls seemed to have a poor animation that could have been better masked with something as simple as steam or fog. Hopefully those will be corrected in an update.

Far Cry Primal isn’t breaking any new barriers in gameplay. A number of additions to Far Cry Primal enhanced the tight gameplay we know from past entries. It makes you wonder why taming was never added before. The granular refinement of the Ubisoft formula has never felt more fluid to the integral part of the game, rather than grinding for resources. Ubisoft did make a bit of a faux pas having reused Far Cry 4’s map (as seen by this image). While they did the same with Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon, I expected more from a full retail release. Despite this time saver, Primal is the best Far Cry since Far Cry 3, only falling an additional step back due to the lack of an inventive storyline. I will probably be picking this game back up during low activity months, if only for the small gratification of sending my tiger ahead of me to demolish an enemy outpost before I charge in with my spears and club to take out the commander. It’s a bloody experience and one with a lot of ways to sink in well over 40 hours for those who want to immerse themselves in an other-worldly, survival experience.

Photographer, Time Traveling Doctor, Sith Lord, Death Eater, Web Developer, Nerd.... No particular order.

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