I was sneaking through the underbrush as rays of sunshine cascaded in intricate patterns through the forest canopy high above. I was stalking a rare deer-like animal (at least that’s what it looked like from a distance) for its hide but didn’t want to get too close lest it scurry off on its much faster quadrupedal mode of locomotion. It had stopped for a nibble on something on the forest floor as I readied my trusty bow and hoped for a perfect kill-shot. As I zeroed in on its neck area I steadied my bow and drew the arrow back…
Suddenly, I heard a great roar from off to my side and a dramatic thundering of thudding paws. Something big moved almost impossibly fast toward my position and in frightened glimpses I caught sight of my surprise guest-attacker: It was an adult saber-toothed tiger and its large, dagger-like row of flashing teeth indicated that I was on its menu for the afternoon. Why had it gone for me instead of the deer-thing? Did it have a preference for neo-human meat or something? I didn’t have the time to figure that out right then as I bolted backwards through the dense foliage.
I’d only run about twenty feet or so when I could hear the faint sound of running water. I followed it and it quickly rose in volume until it became an almost deafening, raging torrent. I also heard the heavy footfalls of my pursuer and could almost feel its hot breath against my back as I sprinted towards the sound of the water. Since I’d just begun my journey (the game) and only had a novice’s bow I wasn’t about to go toe-to-paw against an apex killer.
I dashed through the bush until I could see a clearing up ahead, which gave way to a cliff overlooking a crevice. There were undoubtedly rapids at the bottom of the cliff and it was my only chance of survival. I didn’t have time to gauge exactly where the water was so I ran toward the cliff’s edge and leapt off of it as fat as I could. I looked down at the rapids below as I plummeted through the air wondering—would I make it? Fortunately, I barely avoided a cluster of boulders and broke through the river’s surface. After regaining my senses underwater, I rose up to the surface and looked high above at the cliff’s edge. There, I spied the saber-toothed hunter, roaring into the valley in abject defeat.
This was one of the numerous harrowing encounters which transpired while playing Ubisoft Montreal’s new Stone Age extravaganza: Far Cry Primal. Ubisoft has always been one of my favorite developers, in spite of its front end marketplace, Uplay (which they’ve actually toned down a lot recently). Even if they release a misfire here or there they’re never afraid to take chances. Take, for instance, last year’s highly innovative take on the modern tactical shooter, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. And now, instead of the same ol’ retread of the last Far Cry game, we are once again presented with a completely new setting.
I, for one, love the ancient setting of Far Cry Primal. There are no helicopters firing missiles, cars to drive around in, or guns to shoot, there’s just you and your primitive weapons. Namely, a bow, a club, and a spear. That’s it. Finding creative ways of using said weapons if the thing, and improvisation of the environment plays a huge part in Far Cry Primal. There aren’t too many games that feature a prehistoric setting—games like Turok flirted with Neolithic environs and even the Tomb Raider series has nibbled around the edges of that period from time to time. But the age of Mastodons, flint, and polished stone, is on full offer in Far Cry Primal, and this departure from more traditional (and gasp!—tired) settings was a brazen move by Ubisoft and should be commended.
You step into the furry boots of Takkar, leader of the Wenja people, who are trying to establish themselves in the lush, fictional valley of Oros. They strive to do this by hunting for rare animals pelts and strengthening their weapons, both by count and quality-wise. Unfortunately, the Wenja are situated between two warlike rivals, the Isila, an Aztec-like band of sun worshippers who happen to be keen on sacrificing rival tribe members, and the Udam, a Neanderthal-like collection of beast-men who happen to favor devouring their foes.
Although the pool of weapons available is fairly limited (as is expected for the setting), there is an excellent crafting system to make up for it which opens up more options. There are also some unusually clever weapon systems, such as a pouch that you can construct that contains lots of angry bees. Unleashing hordes of infuriated bees during a forest ambush on unsuspecting enemies is immensely gratifying, in a dastardly sort of way.
There are also animals that you can befriend. Just dropping some meat near one of these potentially deadly creatures can tame them, and just like that, they’re your buddies for life. While in the beginning these range from badgers to wolves, later on you can enlist the help of gigantic woolly mammoths and even saber-toothed tigers. I’ve had some pretty epic battles while assaulting a hostile village along with a furry companion or two, let me tell you.
Ubisoft also really captured the mood of the setting, including the sights and sounds. Maneuvering through the underbrush while wild, exotic birds call out overhead, or seeing the magical glow of the moonlight beaming over distant hills, never gets old. The character models and environments in particular, have been brilliantly rendered, and really lend credence to the ancient setting and its often-times grisly proceedings. And although the weapons are primitive they are quite capable of destroying enemies in brutal and efficient fashion. Hearing the satisfying thud of an arrow or spear into a foe’s body is unbelievably intimate since you’re not shooting someone or something with a rocket launcher or gun from much farther away.
In all, I found Far Cry Primal to be an immensely satisfying blast of a game to play. Don’t let the Stone Age setting deter or dissuade you, there is still a vast amount of fun to be had in its primitive environs. I, for one, really enjoyed the drastic departure from modern or even medieval times, and found its uniqueness captivating. Along with its great writing and do-or-die atmosphere, Far Cry Primal is definitely a game I’ll be returning to again and again.
Kane’s Conclusion Far Cry Primal has some really excellent visuals that will pull you right into it’s…ahem…primal setting, but you have to have a powerful gaming PC to fully enjoy them:
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