Far Cry Primal is the latest offering from Ubisoft in their ongoing mission to create every open world game ever. This time, we are thrown to the birth of human civilisation to live as Takkar, a hunter gatherer who experiences unexpected tragedy and bounds off on an adventure (obviously) to ultimately become the baddest dude around (obviously). Along the way, you’ll maintain a small village, gather resources to craft weapons, balance a skill tree and strike out at the enemy water coolers to claim them as your own. All fairly standard Ubisoft RPG tropes.
And, to be fair to Ubisoft, it is all there and working correctly. In this setting, it all kind of makes sense: you are the early humans of the world, putting together your tools and expanding your territories to ensure your survival. In the world of hearsay, those other guys are bad because of reasons and you shouldn’t really care why you’re beating them over the head with a rock – this is survival of the fittest and you’re the one with the Xbox controller.
Also, I’m sorry this is out a bit later than everyone else’s, but I waited for the PC release like a good boy.
After a short introduction sequence, to learn the controls and realise they aren’t speaking English, you run away from a snarly beast and set up Takkarville in a nearby cave. From there, the world is your oyster and you’re free to go to whichever icon on the map looks most appealing: you can hunt animals for material, obsessively collect sticks and stones, or you can take part in random events such as lighting a bonfire to use as a fast travel point, liberating your fellow Wenja through escort or defence missions and, of course, building and managing your fledgling village.
The environment, overall, is pretty nice. It’s colourful and lovely to look at, although I have only been in the green bits so far. Rivers, cliffs and hills make traversal through the Valley complicated, dotted throughout with the promise of future upgrades to make your travels easier and quicker. You can sit and watch deer munch on grass, only to be stalked and ripped apart by a wolf. You can sneak through the undergrowth yourself, tracking your prey and getting the perfect shot. If it so happens that you miss the ‘perfect shot’, you can use your Eagle – sorry, Hunter – vision to follow a trail of blood around in circles.
The big selling point of Primal was that you could tame animals which you could use in combat to give you the upper hand. Create some bait and lob it at animals faces to try and capture them, which I have been fairly unsuccessful at so far. But you do get an owl and a wolf pretty early on, so you’re pretty much set. For the most part, my failures in taming can be put down to ‘misadventure”; I’ve lobbed hunks of meat at badgers, deer and a fleeing wolf to no avail.
These companions do aid in your combat, allowing quick and hard damage against someone while you’re drunkenly stumble through the centre of the camp, swinging a club and shouting. They don’t seem as hardy as their wild counterparts, but as long as you’re nearby with hunks of meat you’ll be able to handle it.
Unfortunately, the combat of Primal leaves a lot to be desired. You can awkwardly lob a spear over the shoulder of an advancing tribesman, although if it does hit it seems to be a one-hit kill, or you can flail around with a club. There’s no dodge mechanism that I’ve found, so you’re limited to standing your ground and healing or sprinting in the opposite direction. This is all in a situation where you’re fighting a man, when it comes to animals you’re pretty much screwed. They are 17 times more resistant to being clubbed over the head and they can run pretty fast, so the sprint-dodge is useless. That is unless it’s your companion being clubbed, then it will die in half a swing from across a lake.
Which makes sense. We dragged ourselves to the top of the food chain by finding interesting ways to murder the predators around us, so you’re really at the bottom rung in this game and need to work your way up. It turns the regular Far Cry experience on its head.
Far Cry Primal is the prime example of a Ubisoft game now; a gorgeous environment, full of great AI and you. After you’re given some time to adjust to the controls, which isn’t hard because they’re all basically the same, it’s left up to you to choose what you do – go get a spawn point, or a new villager or a random mission from someone. In my eyes, these aspects are pushed too far in Far Cry Primal. You’re easily left with a huge void of nothing to do, reverting to collecting materials to build houses or getting high with a Shaman to dull your senses a little.
Really, there’s not much different between Just Cause 3 and Far Cry Primal – except for the obvious – but I’d rather play Just Cause 3 in my downtime. If I ever want a simpler, more wholesome and primitive murder simulator, I’ll fire up Far Cry Primal.