No, there are no dinosaurs in Far Cry Primal. Now that’s out of the way, we can begin.
Ubisoft’s latest game in the Far Cry series goes way back to 10,000 BC and a time when humans were only just spreading across the globe. We’re introduced to Takkar and his band of hunters who are about to attack a herd of mammoths before being lynched by a Saber-tooth tiger. Being the sole survivor of this party, Takkar needs to find the other wondering groups of his Wenja tribe and unite them together, making Oros their home and fighting off rival tribes in the process.
Despite being set in a time when all the mod-cons from other Far Cry games were far from even being conceived, it’s actually quite surprising to find that it still feels very much like a Far Cry game. That said, Primal manages to hide a fair few new tricks up its loin cloth while still managing to retain a lot of what makes the series great.
The weapon system is a sly side-step rather than a full rethink, despite the no-tech weapons in Oros, the European landscape that your character, Takkar finds himself calling home can be tackled with spears, bows, hives, shards of sharp rock and clubs which are really just the Stone Age equivalent of bullets, grenades and, er, bows. It does make the game world easy to get involved in early on because it still feels like previous games despite the basic tools.
You begin with a hunter vision skill that highlights animals to make hunting easier. Gradual progression is made by unlocking skills every time you rescue someone important for the tribe. A grappling hook, for instance, will give you far more freedom over the landscape and warmer clothes will prevent you dying in the northern frozen wasteland. It’s a well balanced system that doesn’t bombard you with everything at once and creates a feeling that you’re gradually making the way up the food chain.
Once important skill you do get early on is the ability to tame wild animals, but only a small group of them at first. Taming and learning to control your first wolf is a great revelation that completely changes the way you play the game. Your companion will growl at nearby threats, attack enemies and generally prove a far more useful weapon than your basic club and spear. They can, of course, get injured and will require healing, but you can also bring them back to life (though it’s not really explained how, it just involves plenty of red herbs).
The world of Oros varies from the warm South (including hills, lava and winding rivers) to the freezing North and lush forests in between them. As you have to walk everywhere until later skills are unlocked, Ubisoft have added fast travel in the form of camps. Find a camp, light a fire and you can travel to that location in an instant. Working out which ones to tackle first is up to you but it can provide strategic spawn points for later missions if you can unlock a location across a crocodile-filled river to avoid having to cross them each time.
On your travels through Oros you’ll come across groups of Wenja who need to be rescued or helped in some way. This often means killing any enemies in sight but your fellow tribes-people often seem to find a way to get in the way of your attempts. Enemy AI isn’t bad but friendly characters can be a pain at times. Unfortunately, you’ll need to do as many of these events as you can to improve the population of your camp and unlock more skills, something that can get more than a little repetitive during the middle section of the game.
Thankfully, finding, killing or taming the wildlife is far more fun and riding mammoths put a smile on my face, especially when I realised that it was a far easier way to remove enemy tribes by trampling all over them.
Far Cry Primal takes the formula that was starting to show signs of being stale and injects new life into them through the Stone Age setting and reliance on basic weaponry. Takkar is an enjoyable character to follow and watching his progression from lowly hunter to Apex predator is far more rewarding than either of the protagonists from the last 2 games.