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The snow is falling on the ground. Around me are large, dangerous mammoths. Somewhere nearby I hear a wolf’s howl. I tightly grip my spear and slowly crawl through some plants, being careful not to agitate the large and hairy beasts that surround me. Suddenly a roar rips through the cold air. I turn around and see a sabertooth tiger barreling towards me. I ready my spear and prepare to fight, when suddenly the screen flashes.
There is a random event happening nearby and Far Cry Primal NEEDED to tell me. This is the fourth event in the last 20 minutes. In Far Cry Primal you can never escape the side content. The in-game map is covered in icons. Missions to do, things to collect, places to capture, things to place, animals to hunt and more.
That was my experience playing Far Cry Primal. I could never get lost in the world, because the game was constantly throwing stuff at me. And it’s a shame, because I really like the world of Far Cry Primal.
Far Cry Primal is set in the Stone Age. You play as Takar, the sole survivor of your hunting party. After a sabertooth tiger kills your hunting party, you are forced to survive in the land of Oros. Oros is filled with dangerous beasts and rival tribes. The Udam, to the North and the Iliza in the South. The Udam are Neanderthals, big, powerful and brutal. They come from the North ready to kill. The Illiza from the South are masters of fire and are looking to cleanse Oros for their gods. Takkar is a Wenja, a tribe that seems to be on it’s last legs. The beginning of the game you meet a few other Wenjas and begin the process of rebuilding the Wenja and defeating the rival tribes.
And that’s it.
Far Cry Primal tells a simple story. But I was relieved that the story was so small. This is a game set in the far distant past of the Stone Age. It didn’t need to be some complex story with tons of twists or revelations. Some cavemen and cavewomen fight against other tribes and beasts to survive. The story works because it’s simple. That’s not to say the narrative is good or memorable. It’s not. This is partially because the characters you meet feel more like cartoon characters than real ancient humans. And partially because the story feels like filler in a game filled with filler. Cutscenes usually go on too long and feel unneeded most of the time. Did I really need to watch a four minute cutscene to know that a character needed yellow leaves?
What makes this even worse is the fictional language the tribes use. Ubisoft, developers of the game, say that the language is based on actual ancient dialects. How much of that is actually true, I don’t know. But some of the writing feels really modern and it was those moments where I found myself laughing. Watching a caveman version of the Far Cry character Hurk, dance around talking like a Sim from The Sims, made me pause the game and wonder: What the hell am I doing?
What I was doing was playing another Far Cry game. While Primal is set in the ancient past, it still feels like Far Cry 4. Far Cry 4 felt a lot like Far Cry 3. After playing the last game, I remember thinking “That was fun, but I hope they shake things up a bunch for the next game.” While this is technically not Far Cry 5, this is the next game and it feels a lot like Far Cry 4.
Almost every aspect of Far Cry Primal feels like it was ripped out of Far Cry 4. Some of these things are changed a bit, for example in Far Cry 4 you can ride elephants. In Primal you can ride mammoths. Specifically you can ride younger mammoths which coincidentally are the same size and look a lot like the elephants in Far Cry 4.
There were also some recycled content they didn’t change at all. Like the bow and arrow, which feels just like it did in Far Cry 4. You’ll see tapirs, monkeys, crocodiles and more. And these animals remain unchanged from their previous counterparts. Granted, in the last 10,000 years or so crocs haven’t changed much. So I get the historical logic, but it just feels cheap.
There are some new additions in Far Cry Primal, you can get spears and wooden clubs. These melee and close range weapons might make you think you are going to spend the game fighting close range in brutal combat. But no, most of my time was spent sneaking around and sniping enemies with my silent and deadly bow. This tactic worked great. You can even spot targets, just like in Far Cry 4, and destroy alarms. (Which in Primal are animal horns hollowed out and turned into… horns.)
There is also a bigger emphasis on gathering supplies. There are more types of things to scavenge for. You can find wood, clay, rock, plants, reeds, honey and more. All of these resources have rare versions of them. This is the same with the animals, there are rare versions of each animal. To upgrade your gear completely you will need to find some rare materials. You also can use these resources to craft weapons on the fly, like new arrows or spears. And you can even use them to help rebuild your village.
Because resources are so important you will spend a lot of time collecting them. Thankfully in Far Cry Primal you can actually turn off the collection animations, so you don’t have to watch Takar grab a leaf off a plant 500 times. I really hope more games allow this option.
Far Cry Primal also adds some mild survival elements in the form of cold weather. Very cold weather will kill you if you stay out too long. So you have to warm up at fires or make your own fire. Which is easy to do, most weapons can be set on fire as long as you have some animal fat on you. This fire can warm you up, help you see in the dark or even scare away some nasty predators like wolves. The cold weather feature disappeared quickly once I upgraded my clothes. But it was a neat idea and I wouldn’t be against future Far Cry games adding more survival mechanics.
The biggest new addition is the ability to tame and control deadly creatures, like bears and tigers. To do this you throw out some meat and when the creature is distracted you come up behind it and hold your hand up and whisper. I don’t think that would work in real life, but go ahead and give it a shot next time you are out camping. (ENTERTAINMENT FUSE’S LAWYERS MUST INSIST YOU DO NOT TRY THIS)
Once you have tamed an animal you can then call on them and they will attack enemies for you. I actually had a lot of fun with this feature. Having the ability to sic a giant bear on some unsuspecting enemies felt awesome. Once you’ve leveled up your abilities you can even ride some of the beasts you tame. Riding into a rival tribe’s camp on the back of a sabertooth tiger is pretty damn cool.
But even with that cool new mechanic, the actual moment to moment gameplay of Far Cry Primal feels too similar to the past games. It’s still fun to sneak around a camp, silently picking enemies off one by one or shooting cages to release deadly animals, but I’ve done this a lot and it’s starting to feel really stale.
The worse part of Far Cry Primal is the amount of filler content in the game. This game is stuffed with shit to do. Most of it feels copy and pasted. Kill some enemies, skin some animals, find some stuff… blah blah blah, you’ve done this before. It’s not just side missions and collectibles getting in the way. Worse than that is how stuffed with stuff the world feels. I’m not making this up, every 30 seconds I played this game I would run into an animal, an enemy, a campfire, a collectible, an event, or something else. Seriously.
It felt like the game was constantly trying to keep me excited. It was always throwing something at me. Which sounds nice, on paper, but in practice it means I spent most of my time in Far Cry Primal avoiding stuff or get delayed by stuff. There is just always something, somewhere happening.
The world is loud and filled with the constant yelling of people and the constant noises of hundreds of animals.
That is one of my favorite things about Far Cry Primal. The sound design is incredible. Walking through the forest, it is genuinely scary. You hear all sorts of growls, hoots, whistles and roars. Every corner of the world seems dangerous and ready to kill. Visually Far Cry Primal looks great, the lighting in particular is gorgeous. As the sun sets and the dark night gets closer I found myself terrified. And when night finally came, the sounds of the jungle and the lack of visibility combined to create a truly tense and scary experience.
This is when Far Cry Primal was at it’s best. When it was just me, a spear and a jungle. Trying to survive and barely making it through the harsh and brutal world of 10,000 B.C.
Unfortunately Far Cry Primal is filled with boring and overbearing side content. Most of Far Cry Primal feels directly ripped out of Far Cry 4 and the overall gameplay feels too much like that previous game. After playing Far Cry 3, 4 and Blood Dragon, I’m just not enjoying the gameplay loop like I once did. I’m still having fun, but I found myself checking my phone more often and even taking breaks out of sheer boredom at times. For those who enjoyed the co-op and multiplayer none of that is here. All of this adds to up a game that feels recycled and cheap.
I hope the next Far Cry game changes things up in a big way, or this series might be on the verge of extinction.