I first noticed Ubisoft as a developer back in 2003 when I picked up Beyond Good and Evil (one of the best video games of all time) and XIII. Both of those games were incredibly fun and different from the typical games coming out at the time. I always thought of Ubisoft as an innovative publisher until recent years. Far Cry Primal has returned my faith in Ubisoft as one of the top publishers.
I have never played a Far Cry game before so I experienced this game with a fresh perspective. The first thing I could say is the visuals are breathtaking. The game is both beautiful and brutal, sometimes at the same time. It really brings you into the cold hard reality that was 10,000 BCE. The entire setting is alive with wild life and nature. You are both afraid and curious as you wander the fictional land of Oros. As Takkar you begin as a member of the Wenja tribe who starts with literally nothing. You will explore, collect resources, craft, hunt, and fight your way to become the leader of your tribe. You are not just a warrior but also a beast master. You will tame and control the very wildlife that once threatened your life. You will see through the eyes of an owl and ride atop a bear.
The story to Far Cry Primal is actually pretty good. You tribe is threatened by other dangerous tribes like the flesh eating Udam and Izila who attack with fire. In order to keep your tribe from becoming completely obliterated you need to build a settlement and fight back against the opposing tribes. Only the beast master Takkar has any hope of bringing his people together to survive against the onslaught.
There has been a lot of criticism that the game lacks a good story or that the story is too open but I find it the exact opposite. I think the story is actually moving at times. You really want to see the Wenja survive and overcome their enemies. You feel the pain of the characters as their people die. It really pulls you in and makes you feel like part of the tribe. The story is set up as a series of missions like any open world game. You find them on the map and could set waypoints similar to I suppose other Far Cry games and other Ubisoft games like Assassins Creed and Watchdogs. There are various side quests that add little bits of additional story. They may not be the most interesting and involve things like helping a small group from your tribe cross dangerous terrain or hunt a wooly mammoth for food. Putting these together with the actually main story missions builds a narrative. It works perfectly for this type of open world game. The language is fictional and most things are said through subtitles. You really only understand the words of your own tribe though. The other tribes speak a different language so there is no translation for you to read. That isn’t a bad thing as it just immerses you into the character more.
The game is played from a first person perspective and is similar to a first person shooter except you will be melee fighting more than anything else. You can shoot arrows, throw spears and clubs, and throw other types of weapons but most of the time you have to get in the enemies face and just club them or stab them with your spear. There are a lot of materials to collect to craft new weapons and upgrade your existing weapons.You’ll also be upgrading your settlements with bigger huts which add more crafting and skills. Speaking of skills, the skill trees are extensive and broken up into “hunting”, “Gathering”, and “Beast Master” skills. You’ll hunt and fight with clubs, bow and arrow, spears, and various traps and tools. There might not be a huge variety of weapons but this is the stone age, how much variety is there?
The most unique part is the beast master skills. There are various animals you can tame and control in a variety of species like canine which are good at hunting and fighting and feline which excel at stealth. You can ride on bears and mammoths, see from the eyes of an owl as you fly overhead and even swoop down to attack your enemies from above. The entire system is just fun to use and satisfying to play. A typical scenario will have you fly over an enemy camp to survey the scene, see where all the guards are, and maybe take out their lookout. Then you might send your wolf in to attack one end of the camp and distract everyone as you sneak in the other end and stealth kill their stronger warriors. You can approach most missions in different ways from carefully planning your attack and using stealth to just running in and smashing everyone. You could even set an entire village on fire if you want. I think the freedom you have when playing is the most remarkable aspect of the game. Yes there’s a story that’s somewhat linear but the openness of the world you’re exploring really feels like you have the freedom to complete the game any way you choose and that is really refreshing.
The graphic and sound quality is astounding. Everything looks and sounds alive. I’ve been using a headset when playing just so I can hear things in surround sound which is great because you can actually hear if something or someone is sneaking up behind you. The jungle is alive and you will hear your prey rustling the leaves, or a boar snorting as it scavenges for food. The textures are incredibly detailed where fur looks like fur, plants look like they’re soaking in the sun, and blood looks thick and warm. The only textures that aren’t really impressive are flames and splashing water (still or slow moving water looks amazingly realistic) but they do the job don’t detract from the experience. Another thing I noticed is that everything is so smooth. No texture pop in or tearing. No graphical glitches that I noticed at all. And very few load screens and if there is any kind of loading it’s very fast. Overall the game just feels really polished and complete. Something that is rare in triple A games lately.
I can’t recommend this game enough. The only complaint I have is a lack of online play. Whether it was a standard multiplayer affair or co-op (which I hope they add one day) it would benefit and add some replay value. As of now I really think most people will play it once and be done. There doesn’t look like a lot of reason to replay the game once it’s finished. The game does seem pretty long though and I would estimate at around 30-40 hours to complete. Maybe longer if you want to complete everything. Overall it’s a great game that is completely satisfying.