Taming the Beast Comes With a Price
The Far Cry franchise has long been synonymous with dumping players into massive open worlds with a few basic necessities for survival – it’s been a staple of the series since day one. The good news is Far Cry Primal is no exception – players begin their journey as Takkar, a true survivalist armed with nothing more than a loincloth and the instincts of his Wenja warrior tribe. While Ubisoft’s newest edition definitely takes advantage of the lures that come along with an ancient way of life, its flaws lie within the fundamental composition of what a true open world sandbox adventure is all about. The hype was certainly warranted for a game of this magnitude, however, I’m just not sure if it will live up to expectations, especially when it carries the flagship Far Cry moniker.
The initial entrance into Ubisoft’s world of Primal is set up very much like the time period it encompasses – players are thrown into an unknown land with no direction on where to go. My first reaction to this opening concept was a mixture of intrigue and bewilderment. I was dying to know what the main purpose of the game was while also content with the sheer lack of direction. I think this simple mechanic will certainly appeal to those hardcore gamers looking for a fresh take on a somewhat exhausted genre. However, this might be a bailing point for the core crowd looking to immediately hack and slash their way to the top of the food chain. Either way, it’s a unique way to weave both the setting and storyline directly into the gameplay.
Ubisoft has been gloating about the Takkar’s ability to uniquely craft weapons and learn a series of life-saving skills since the announcement of the title was made public. The boasting was definitely worth it, and this is without a doubt the best part of Far Cry Primal . Not only can Takkar craft a series of rather awesome weapons, but he can also upgrade those prehistoric tools of destruction by completing tasks, side missions, and through engaging enemies in combat. Additionally, as players progress Takkar deeper through the jagged storyline, he learns new skills that make him a tougher opponent to the dangers lurking within the land of Oros.
Perhaps the most impressive skill Takkar learns has to be the ability to tame wild animals. He can recruit just about any predator in the game to join forces and fight with him. Takkar can eventually tame the famed sabertooth tiger and force him to attack enemy tribes on command. The impressive aspect to taming animals is the ability to swap them in and out on command. Once they have been tamed, they get stored within a side menu and can be rotated in and out at the drop of a hat. This comes in handy for some of the more stealthy missions where the enormous Cave Bear might alert enemies to your presence.
The unique addition tacked onto taming animals comes in the form of hopping in the saddle and riding your beasts like a horse. Yep, you read that correctly. Players can pull a prehistoric John Wayne by learning the ability to ride any of the previously tamed beasts. Not only is this skill ridiculous hilarious to witness, but it’s also rather useful for trekking the massive open world. Players can climb on the backs of certain animals and jog them around for an afternoon of brisk walking or they can charge directly into battle, slashing their way to victory all while being perched atop the greatest seat the Stone Age has ever seen.
Speaking of the open world that Ubisoft has graciously gifted for our prehistoric enjoyment – it’s mind-blowingly large. The map took me nearly three hours to survey from the top northernmost point to the southernmost valley at the bottom. Yes, I was forced to walk on foot and fend off a few wolves, lions, crocodiles, and a number of Neanderthals during the journey, but it’s still massive on a scale unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Let’s just say I’ve logged roughly 15-20 hours of gameplay and I still haven’t managed to hit every piece of land marked on the map.
Where Far Cry Primal flexes its impressive mechanics and innovative implementations, it’s certainly not without its flaws. Perhaps the most frustrating defect comes at the hands of Primal’s atrocious combat system. Fending off predators seems to be more about flailing your weapons around rather than strategically making contact. I can’t count how many times I nearly killed my own tamed beast while trying to fend off a hungry lion or wild dog with my club. It’s very difficult to lock onto opponents, with the exception of the bow, and it becomes more about getting lucky through button mashing than anything.
The visuals were also a sore point for me, personally. At times they looked great, especially when the sun perfectly reflected off the trees in the distance, but then other times they look downright terrible. The towering rocks surrounding the map look pretty cool when you first discover them, but then you catch a glance of the tamed sabertooth following behind you and he looks like something out of a PlayStation 2 game with his unrefined textures and fuzzy composition. The inconsistencies were difficult to navigate and eventually became more comical than anything.
Things can also become repetitive with the constant encounters with wild animals trying to rip your limbs off, not to mention the other tribes looking to send you straight into extinction. This should be expected, as it might very well be the way things were back then, but nonetheless it can become cumbersome. Allowing Takkar the ability to stealthily move through the vegetation would have been welcome, but instead we’re forced to grind out small battles in order to properly navigate the terrain.
Similarly, I still couldn’t quite figure out my overall purpose, even after spending some quality bonding time with it. I came across what I think are main story missions, but I was never given a full explanation as to why I needed to complete them. I think the underlying purpose of the game is to free as many fellow Wenja tribe members as possible, but I could be wrong.
All in all, Far Cry Primal does a lot of things right – nailing the prehistoric setting to a T, providing players with a real sense of being a Stone Age warrior, the countless amount of weapon upgrades, and the awesome skills Takkar learns along the way. Yes it is somewhat foundationally good, certain aspects are a lot of fun to toy with, and it’s certainly highly addictive on a level I find it hard to explain.
However, it also manages to let players down, and for some that’ll be in a big way. The flimsy combat mechanics, inconsistencies in gameplay graphics, and the general misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the overall concept leaves Ubisoft’s latest offering with slightly more questions than answers. This one is worth your time if you’re simply looking for a unique take on the classic sandbox genre. Otherwise, it might not be a bad idea to lay low and wait for a price drop in the future.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
At times the game looks great while other times it looks like something out of the ’90s. 2.0 Control
Maneuvering the main character during battle is clunky, controls feel out of place at times, and climbing tiny hills is nearly impossible for unexplained reasons. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sounds blend perfectly with what’s happening on the screen. The FX and voiceovers are really impressive. 4.0 Play Value
The game has a tremendous amount of replay value but gamers might be turned off by its overall lack of concrete direction. Still a 4 for its robust content, even if it’s disorganized. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best