- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
- Release Date: 23rd February 2016
Since the incredibly successful launch of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, open world games have been in a world of their own. We’ve always had them but you could give pretty good evidence to say Skyrim was the one to rocket the style of design into the public eye and while Far Cry had always been open world, it would be the third iteration in the series that gave the general public their first taste of Ubisoft’s open world survival platform and for good reason. Far Cry 3 had one of the most iconic villains of the last console generation in Vaas but on top of that had a wild world full of colourful characters, weird drugs sequences, absurd animal interactions, hunting, crafting and general silliness. Primal takes us back to 20,000 BC in the hopes that a new era will bring in some freshness that 4 was sorely lacking.
Slight Spoilers for the opening of Far Cry Primal.
You are Takkar, one of a tribe of huntsman, your group gets attacked by the feared Bloodfang Sabertooth during one of these hunts. Struggling to get away your team dies and you stumble across a woman named Sayla, one of the dying Wenja tribe, who recruits you into saving her people. That’s basically the beginning and end of the story. There are two other tribes, seemingly dedicated to wiping out the Wenja, the Udam and the Izila. Your job is to stop these two tribes by recruiting more Wenja scattered throughout the secret land of Oros and mounting a full scale attack upon your enemies bases. Along your journey you will encounter seven or eight friendly personalities and accrue about that many bizarre nicknames.
All of the people you meet are insane which tends to put quite a barrier between you and the obvious mental person standing in front of you ranting and calling you piss man, though the biggest wall to liking these characters is that they’re all terrible to you. The whole game is masterfully translated into some kind of ancient tongue, which is wonderful for immersion and suspension of disbelief but has backfires slightly because as the whole cast are horrible, there’s no bearing for understanding to a modern day human. The performance of each of these characters are incredible though, they each feel alive and it’s due to the language used and the acting of each character that the world of Oros feels real.
The villains however, are not as enthralling or as entertaining as Vaas or Pagan Min and only seem to get one or two pieces of development throughout the game. The Udam leader originally comes off as a brutish thug, yet develops incredibly well and the last stand with him has a particularly memorable outcome. The story is pretty non-existent for most of the game, only butting in occasionally when you have to start a new quest, so the real draw in Far Cry: Primal is what you can do in this open world and not who you see.
You’ll spend most of your time in Oros hunting animals and men, and often hunting men using animal companions. This ends up limiting the game to the rather boring Ubisoft rinse and repeat practice of taking over enemy base camps to unlock more of the map and moving on. While the game insists you need to hunt for animals there was never any shortage of ones in front of me to kill or tame. Once you get the ability to tame, you instantly get the White Wolf, one of the best canines in the game. After that it’s up to you, however as long as you’re upgrading your skills it isn’t an issue because all the big predators will attack you on site anyway. As long as you have some bait, the strongest companions in the game are basically free for you to pick up as long as you can take a hit from them, and they tend to break the game too, throwing the difficulty way off track. The only animals you have to hunt are the beast masters. You do this through a Batman detective mode feature called hunter vision, the only problem with this is that hunter vision only lasts for ten seconds at a time, in a half hour hunt. The hunts themselves are thrilling encounters with powerful beasts but the lead up to it just becomes annoying, spending half an hour tapping R3 while wandering around in the dark. Once you beat the beasts you can tame them without the relevant skills, which breaks the difficulty of the game yet further. While there are some visual glitches the game itself has very few problems and the only thing I picked up on are the controls. Primal has multiple uses for the same button that often the game gets confused about throughout. Holding square to search a body and ending up riding your companion is irritating but when you’re healing yourself by holding triangle and also switching weapons by holding triangle you can infuriatingly have switched weapons automatically during a tough battle, meaning that the few seconds it takes to switch back leaves you overwhelmed by enemies and back in the same position of needing to heal. I’ve been in both of these situations.
Instead of packing Primal with interesting and exciting content and a story that carries you forward, it seems happy with just giving you stuff to collect and about two interesting story moments. Some amazing acting soars above the quality of the rest of the game and everything just becomes rather underwhelming. Some flat textures undermines the beauty of the game while the repetition and lack of challenge creates a slightly dull experience. Ubisoft’s removal of everything that makes Far Cry an interesting series and turning it into an open world box ticking exercise really damages Primal’s enjoyability. If you’re willing to deal with a frustrating control scheme and lengthy periods of boredom there are some really incredible moments in Far Cry: Primal, they just don’t last long enough to make the rest of the game worth playing.