Have you ever found yourself pondering midway through an FPS campaign how everything just seems to be a version of the World War story? Sure, different shooters might have you fighting futuristic wars, or journeying through different battles in World War II, but the basic idea remains the same. You have a gun, you point it at your enemies, and shoot. If you’ve ever wondered what combat would be like if you didn’t have any guns, Far Cry Primal is the game for you. Yes, it’s 10,000 BC and you don’t have any automatic rifles or armor-piercing rounds. It’s just you versus nature.
Far Cry Primal puts players into the shoes of Takkar, a badass who’s trying to find the surviving members of his tribe – the Wenja. These members are scattered all across the open world of the Oros Valley, a living, breathing ecosystem filled with dangerous predators, hostile terrain and climate changes. You’re tasked with restoring the Wenja to their former glory. As you meet the different members of your tribe such as shamans and warriors, you’ll unlock new weapons and abilities. It’s a familiar system for gamers who’ve played the previous Far Cry games, but it still works well within the prehistoric setting. During your journey, you’ll face opposition from sabertooth tigers, crocodiles, mammoths and the two other tribes that inhabit the valley. Each of the tribal factions within the game have their own agenda which leads to several skirmishes between them.
Humans aren’t your primary enemy in Primal. In this game, you’re up against creation itself. Packs of hunters threaten to overwhelm you while you’re trying to sneak past an enemy patrol. When day turns to night, predators in the jungle turn more aggressive, making every section of foliage you pass through more dangerous. When you’re in the frozen regions, you’ll have to keep yourself warm by finding bonfires. Each day that you survive is a blessing. The game still uses the genre tropes of upgrading weapons, skill trees and zone capturing, but these systems lend themselves perfectly to a world where humanity had primitive tools.
As a Stone Age era human lurking alone through the wilderness, you don’t have the luxury of a pistol or a machinegun to ward off threats. Instead, you’ll have to use your spear, your bow and your club to keep yourself alive. These changes make the overall combat in Primal much more deliberate, slower and tenser. Make no mistake – you will die often, and in several disturbing and sometimes hilarious ways. Even so, the game manages to balance the difficulty setting so you never feel too underpowered. You’ll have to gather wood for torches, manage your resources well and pray for a little bit of luck to navigate through the valley. When the game places you in one of these tense situations, it really shines.
While the Stone Age setting lends itself well to certain mechanics, its limitations begin to become clear during certain others. For example, the simplicity of your tools and the limited options you have in combat situations become apparent once you’ve spent a couple of hours in the wilderness. When you want to kill someone stealthily, the bow is your best option. If you’re in melee combat, you can use the club. Primal gives you other options and weapon types as you go along, but the basic options still prove to be the most effective. And later in the game, you’ll have a tough time with high-level enemies even if you have upgraded your weapons completely.
The best thing Primal brings to the Far Cry formula is the Beast Master abilities. With this skill tree, you can truly tame nature, bending great beasts and helpful animals to your cause. You can use the animals you have tamed to fight, scout and even hunt on your behalf. Owls make great scouts. Jaguars are well-suited for taking out a lone enemy within a group. Wolves can attack enemy archers and distract them while you move closer. And, not to forget, you can ride bears and mammoths, unleashing a trail of carnage across the landscape, racking up the enemy road kills. The Beast Master tree offers a lot of depth into each animal’s unique strengths and weaknesses, and understanding how to use your animal allies is critical to survival.
When Far Cry Primal pits you against the elements, it triumphs. The lush landscape and stunning graphics make the world an absolute treat to behold on current generation consoles. The prehistoric setting and limited resources create a lot of tense, thrilling moments that will have you on the edge of your seat. Although the primitive nature of your weapons can be a bit limiting at times, Far Cry Primal is a triumph of open-world goodness.