Want to know what the best weapon in Far Cry Primal is? The spear.
As is the case with every Far Cry game, this weapon only really comes into its own once players gather some resources from their environment and craft it into a tool far more effective at death-dealing, but once they do, look out.
Toss this baby at most enemies – gargantuan lumbering beasts notwithstanding – and it lifts them off their feet and sends them flying back like they’ve just been hit by a miniature Scud missile. Admittedly it’s not the best weapon for close-quarters combat, but if it was it would probably be ridiculously overpowered and besides, at long range it’s oh, so much fun to use.
The reason for this preamble is to allay any fears that Far Cry Primal might suck because doesn’t feature any firearms – unless you consider a lit club a firearm (ho, ho!). Bluntly put, Primal not only doesn’t suffer because it trades guns, grenades and rocket launchers for clubs, spears and bows and arrows – it’s arguably the best entry in this series since Far Cry 3.
It’s so good in fact, it feels like the game that should have kicked off the Far Cry franchise in the first place. Shorn of its contemporary setting, a lot of the busy-work and requirements players usually have to complete in Far Cry game seem to make a lot more sense in Far Cry Primal. Since players are controlling a caveman, it feels less of a chore to collect plants for potions or kill and skin animals for clothing and weapon-carrying accoutrements. Rather, these activities feel like they’d be required if you were – ya know – a caveman.
The Prehistoric setting also gels well with the series’ innate savagery. Every Far Cry game plonks players in the boots of a stranger in a strange land, who, as the game progresses, evolves from a local non-entity into the region’s brutal alpha male. (The exception to this rule is obviously Far Cry: Blood Dragon, in which players began the game as the resident brutal alpha male and proceeded to evolve into a walking slaughterhouse.)
In Primal players take on the role of Takkar, a caveman who finds himself trying to build a life in a land called (much to the delight of local gamers) Oros. In order to do so, he – and by extension, the player – have to build up the population of his Wenja tribe, fortifying their main camp and (because this is Far Cry) wiping out or subjugating Oros’s local population. Given that the land of Oros’s inhabitants all want the Wenja dead – and some of them want to eat them – there’s a pragmatic reason for the usual amount of savagery Far Cry players are called upon to engage in here. In Oros, it’s kill-or-be-killed.
Takkar finds pretty much everything he needs in the land surrounding his camp. There are plants to collect, animals to kill, scattered tribe members to recruit, enemies to bludgeon to death and loads of locations to uncover. There are also a couple of specialised Wenja that Takkar needs to recruit – a hunter, a warrior, a witchdoctor and a craftsman – who open a series of quests, skill trees and a list of recipes, equipment and weapons that players can craft – provided they have the requisite ingredients. Each special member of the tribe has their own hut, which the player can upgrade for more rewards.
Players can also train the local wildlife to be allies; once they’ve completed a vision quest with the tribe’s witchdoctor, they’re able to call an owl to scout out terrain ahead and, once they level it up, the bird can also mark targets and drop nests of bees on enemies. As Takkar’s Beast Master prowess increases, the player is also able to tame animals who will follow them around the map and attack any foes they come across. This skill too can be levelled up and the more XP the player pours into it, the bigger the animals they can tame. There’s even the option to pet Takkar’s furry companions and, believe it or not, scratching a wolf or a sabre-tooth tiger behind the ears is a rather calming experience.
If Far Cry Primal has a weakness, it’s that it seems to stick to the Ubisoft open world template at times. Once again, enemy camps have to be cleared to open fast travel spots, and spawn locations and points of interest have to be unlocked – although in this instance bonfires stand in for radar towers. And yes, while the task of killing and skinning animals feels right at home in Primal’s Stone Age setting, it’s still rather irritating to be informed that you can’t carry more arrows because you’re two eagle feathers short of completing work on a large quiver.
All that being said, Far Cry Primal is an impressive piece of work, especially for a game that by all accounts was only bumped up to a full release because Ubisoft decided not to release a new Assassin’s Creed game this year.
Unlike Far Cry 4, which while excellent, mostly felt like a gussied-up version of its predecessor, Far Cry Primal attempts to do something genuinely new with the franchise. It’s not always successful, but in its best moments it positively shines.
- Far Cry Primal was reviewed on a PS4. A retail copy was supplied by the publisher.