Far Cry Primal Review (XONE)

Far Cry Primal screen 1
Far Cry Primal. Ubisoft

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The biggest complaint most players had with Far Cry 4 was that it was just more of the same stuff we already did in Far Cry 3.  It was good, and fun, but not truly impressive like FC3 was.  To combat this growing sense of open-world ennui, Ubisoft wisely steered Far Cry Primal as far as possible from modern day weapons and vehicles by setting it in 10,000 BCE.  Guns are traded for spears and clubs and you'll ride a tiger into battle instead of a car.

  And it is freaking wonderful.  It still has a lot of the Ubisoft open world tropes we've come to expect, but the new setting and focus on survival makes it fresh and interesting again.  See all of the details in our full review.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Ubisoft
  • Developer:  Ubisoft Montreal
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: FPS
  • Pros:  Fresh take on Far Cry; nice presentation; satisfying survival focus; animals
  • Cons:  Resource collecting is tedious; thin story; hunter vision

Setting

With the extreme shift in setting from current day all the way back to 10,000 BCE, Far Cry Primal is a very different experience than the Far Cry games we've gotten used to.  Instead of a spoiled mighty whitey coming to save a poor indigenous people, or a lost son returning home, you are a member of a tribe of people in rapid decline due to the aggressions of neighboring tribes.  In order to fight back you have to rebuild your village, find your lost tribes people scattered across the land, and upgrade your weapons.

 

There is no charismatic big bad like Vaas or Pagain Min this time around, just prehistoric people fighting for survival, which can make the story seem pretty thin.  You won't really care or remember much about your fellow villagers or the enemies you fight against.  You finish the story with a thud instead of a bang and a kind of "That's it?

  Really"  feeling.  On one hand, it is somewhat disappointing that the story isn't more personal compared to the way the last few Far Cry games played out.  On the other hand, however, the overall story of your tribe fighting for its very survival is strong even if it isn't personally satisfying. 

Gameplay

Survival is really the key gameplay component this time around.  Pretty much everything in this prehistoric world - man and animal alike - wants to kill you, and just surviving from day to day is a challenge.  You don't ever reach that point at the end of past games here where you were so overpowered and had such powerful weapons that you casually plowed though everything in your way with no worries.  In Far Cry Primal you are still surprisingly vulnerable and the enemies you face surprisingly strong from start to finish.  That isn't to say the game is ever particularly difficult, mind you, since you heal by eating meat and you always have a ton of meat on hand, but it does encourage you to focus on planning things out ahead of time and using stealth even more so than past games.

Far Cry Primal is first-person, but instead of guns and rocket launchers you have clubs and bows and arrows and spears.

  As you play, you can upgrade them to more powerful clubs and bows and arrows and spears, but there is no real power weapon that suddenly blows the game open.  The upgrade system is similar to past games, but goes much more in-depth now because you not only upgrade your own abilities and weapons, but also have to build and upgrade an entire village.  To do this you have to collect rocks and sticks and leaves and other materials.  More advanced upgrades require special rare materials.  As you build your village, your villagers will also collect materials for you.  You still need a ton of materials to do anything, though, which means the game can become kind of grind-y as you fetch materials or kill X# of animals or whatever.

  I can only assume that all of this is actually fairly realistic to the time period - you had to work your butt off to survive - but it's kind of boring all the same.

The good news is that, other than the rare items, you'll probably pick up enough materials just running around from point A to point B doing missions.  And the even better news is that the combat in the game is actually pretty darn good.  Throwing spears is really satisfying, and the bow shooting mechanics are outstanding.  Melee attacks also have a nice meaty feel to them, which makes the combat appropriately brutal.  Missions are mostly similar to past Far Cry games - you still infiltrate outposts and save random people in the world and fight off wild animals - but the change of weaponry gives the game a whole new feel. 

The fact that your character is known as a "beastmaster" also gives the game a fun new hook.  You can tame and then summon at will many of the animals in the game in a sort of prehistoric Pokemon.  Obviously, the different animals have various strengths and weaknesses, and learning to take advantage of them all effectively is a big part of the game.  Calling in a bear to help or riding into battle on your saber toothed tiger is awesome.  As is viewing the world through the eyes of an owl to scout ahead.  The animals are awesome in Far Cry Primal and one of the best parts of the game.

All in all, Far Cry Primal is a pretty enjoyable experience.  It does still have that distinct Ubisoft open-world-ness to it - your map quickly fills with icons and side missions and you have checklists of stuff to collect and do - but it is generally decently fun.  The shift in time period gives everything a unique feel, so even if you are doing a lot of the same old stuff, it is different enough to be fun again.  And I really like all of the animals and new abilities the animals bring to the table.  I dig it. 

Graphics & Sound

Visually, Far Cry Primal is a nice looking game overall and there is quite a bit of variety to the terrain you'll explore from forests to mountains to plains to snowy areas in the North.  The game has a weird sort of dingy yellow filter over it, though, and even lush green areas have a tint to them.  Another nitpick is that everything in the game kind of blends together and actually seeing animals and plants is difficult.  Granted, this is actually totally realistic (I live in Idaho and, believe you me, when I say animals can just blend into the scenery, I speak from experience), but from a gameplay perspective it isn't really optimal.  You do have a "Hunter Vision" special ability that highlights important things for you, but like the Batman Arkham games and detective vision, you end up having to rely on it far too much in order to actually get anything done, which covers up the otherwise solid visuals. 

The sound is the secret best part of Far Cry Primal, though.  The sound effects for the various animals are exceptional, but the spoken languages in the game really stand out.  I don't know if the language is supposed to be based on a real one or Ubisoft made it up, but it is amazingly consistent to the point that after a while you barely need the subtitles.  You build a vocabulary pretty fast, and once you learn certain key words you know exactly what is going on in most situations just from hearing villagers yell and talk.  That's pretty cool.

Bottom Line

In the end, Far Cry Primal still retains a lot of the core components that make it a Far Cry game, but don't be fooled into thinking that it is just more of the same.  The change in time period and the shift in focus towards survival instead of being an overpowered demigod by the end make it a reasonably fresh experience even if you're still ultimately marking things off of the traditional Ubisoft open-world checklist.  It's fun.  It's brutal.  The animals are awesome.  Fans of the franchise and open world games in general will have a good time with Far Cry Primal, and there's plenty of content to make it worth a purchase.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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