Fans of Ubisoft’s action-adventure video game series Far Cry get a romp into the Stone Age with the occasional detour into boredom in the game’s latest instalment, Far Cry Primal.
Set in 10,000BC in the picture-perfect woody glades, grassy knolls and mountainous ranges of the land of Oros, players take on the role of Takkar, a member of the Wenja tribe, tasked with the unenviable job of returning control of Oros to his people.
To accomplish this, Takkar will need to rove the land to develop combat and hunting skills, obtain side quests from helpful Wenja, establish a few villages and liberate fellow Wenja along the way. In all, it is a very masculine game.
Gone are the guns, the ATVs and the sadistic maniacs of previous Far Cry games, replaced by wild saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths and, erm, sadistic tribes of invaders – the Udam and the Izila.
Instead, players gather natural components from the environment, crafting weapons, equipment and medicine along the way, unlocking skills and power-ups in the process. Yes, the old ‘farming’ chestnut.
Beauty in the details
By day, the land is a primitive playground of roaming fauna, begging to be hunted and skun, delightful flowers, begging to be plucked, and inevitable bands of invaders, begging to be slaughtered. There’s also the occasional bear to scare the Stone Age poop out of you.
As the light fades and the moon begins its climb into the night sky, one can’t but marvel at the beautiful monochrome light that descends upon the land. If it weren’t for the myriad of bloodthirsty nocturnal animals that appear every night after sunset, a moonlit stroll around Oros might actually be peaceful. But they do, and it isn’t.
To complete this immersive primitive illusion, Ubisoft have even gone so far as to create an entire language for the Wenja, with the help of two linguistic professors, Andrew and Brenna Byrd.
“We looked to Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of a large number of the world’s modern languages, such as Hindi, Greek, French, German, Welsh and English,” Professor Andrew Byrd told The New Daily.
“We created roughly 1250 words for Wenja and the same number for Izila, [which makes] the cultures believable and feel ‘human’, versus the caricature that is so often portrayed in caveman games.”
Without a doubt, this element adds unique depth to the gaming experience.
Also, you can set fire, intentionally or completely accidentally, to almost anything in Oros. Fire. Good.
For all the mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, bears and wild boars (just about the only things that won’t attack you are the butterflies and ants … although …) that will charge and gut you as soon as scratch their butt on a tree, you’ll be pleased to know that big game hunting is not the aim of the game in Primal. Becoming a Beast Master is.
Early in the game Takkar is taken on a mind-bending trip by a local Shaman, where he – you guessed it – communes with the creatures of Oros. This ability to tame and control the wildlife becomes a key element in combat and survival.
Far Cry Primal can be an intensely satisfying and fun game. Imagine sneaking up on a group of Udam as they huddle around a fire in the dead of night, watching and waiting for your moment to strike, when suddenly a pack of wolves leap from the darkness and tear the camp to shreds. It’s wild and chaotic.
Rinse and repeat
But for all the spontaneous moments there is just as much tediousness, which is sadly a hallmark of many farming games. At the end of the day, if you don’t spend time stocking up on wood and stone to craft into weapons, you run out of gear pretty fast.
It’s tempting to pass off Primal as too great a deviation from the tried and tested Far Cry formula. Other game franchises, like Battlefield, have learned the hard way that straying from the elements that make a series popular can lead to player fall-off. If you approach Far Cry Primal as a dedicated continuation of canon, you will be disappointed.
That said, if you’re a fan of ignoring the main storyline and love getting lost in open-world games the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed and Fallout, you will love Far Cry Primal. It’s prehistoric fun wrapped in a familiar skin.