Coming into 2020, my New Year’s Resolution was to break into some franchises that have so far been distinctly missing from my Steam library. One of those franchises was Far Cry. For whatever reason, I sailed through my teens never having played a Far Cry game, and never really wanting to either. In hindsight, this seems like a minor miracle – these games are absolute staples in the open-world scene. I love a bit of open-world exploration even more than the next person, so I thought it would at the very least be educational to try one.
Most people recommended I start with Far Cry 3 which is, from what I can gather, the Far Cry series’ favourite child. However, I ended up going with the black sheep of the family – Far Cry Primal. This game is treated very differently from it’s more established and widely-respected siblings, like that cousin who comes to all the family functions but only manages to make small talk and mostly keeps to themselves. Once you get to know him, he’s actually a really cool guy.
Typically, Far Cry games feature stealth-orientated combat, and Far Cry Primal is no exception. However, one thing that stood out for me is that, although the game does reward you for using stealth, you don’t need to do it. Rushing in all guns blazing is a perfectly valid play-style in Far Cry Primal and, honestly, I love that. It’s great for people who either don’t like stealth games, or who haven’t played a stealth game before. I like to have the option of skewering my enemies with my spear and tenderising them with my club should the need overtake me.
Another neat little mechanic in this game is animal companions. I know that Far Cry 4 dabbled in using the local wildlife to help you in combat, but Far Cry Primal takes this a step further. It is so much fun to set your sabre-tooth tiger upon a lone scout or send a bear charging into an enemy encampment. Oh, and you can ride your majestic beast into battle. So there’s that.
The Weapon Variety
For most Far Cry games, a side arm, a mid-range rifle and a sniper are about all you have to work with in your arsenal. In Far Cry Primal, you have one-handed clubs, two-handed clubs, spears, bows, bombs made of bees, poisonous throwing shards – there are so many ways to dispatch your enemies, and it’s so refreshing that not a single one of those methods is a firearm. One of the most important weapons in the game turns out to be fire of all things!
Being honest, I always disliked gun-play in games. Relying on bows and spears instead of guns feels much more natural for fans of fantasy genres, or people who just aren’t used to (or don’t like) FPS’s.
From starting up the game, it becomes immediately obvious that lots of efforts has been put into creating some stunning natural environments. The trees, bushes, foliage, rocks and landscapes all look fantastic and are arranged in a really natural, believable way. Where the game really sets itself apart is in it’s dynamic lighting, not only outside with gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, but also indoors, with lovely deep shadows and warm lighting. The game is played almost entirely in outdoor areas which gives you plenty of opportunity to enjoy all it’s graphical loveliness.
Due to its unique setting, Far Cry Primal is definitely the most rudimentary edition in the franchise when it comes to story-telling. As it is set in prehistoric Europe, the dialogue between characters is very limited. Characters exchange few words, and when they do converse, it is done in a fictional mix of ancient Indo-European languages. Far Cry Primal’s story is told mostly through a character’s non-verbal communication like tone of voice, expressions, physical movement, etc – almost like watching a play or a pantomime (or possibly a mime?). Obviously, this greatly limits the amount of complexity and nuance in the narrative. Some people couldn’t care less about that, others will find it seriously detracts from the game’s appeal.
However, all that being said, it does make a great change from the wall-of-text style story-telling from some RPGs. And it is certainly preferable to rambling, pretentious dialogue.
As with all Ubisoft games, Far Cry Primal is rife with pointless collectables, side missions there’s no point in completing, and locations there’s no point in exploring. There are far too many peripherals in this game whose whole purpose is to distract you from the story/gameplay and waste your time. Although this isn’t surprising for a Far Cry game to be guilty of this, it’s still a very cheap tactic to make the game seem bigger than it is. My advice? Stick to the main story missions and village quests, and you’ll clip through game at a reasonable pace. It’s still such a shame that a game with such a large and beautiful world offers no incentive for players to explore it.
All Far Cry games can be accused of being a little bit repetitive. 90% of the game is capturing “radio-towers” and “outposts” – or in this case “forts” and “bonfires” – of varying difficulties. That’s a fact. To get enjoyment out of this game, you really need to enjoy the process of capturing the various forts and bonfires, because that’s what you’ll be doing for the majority of the 40 hours you’ll spend in-game. Ubisoft have found a formula, and they’re sticking to it. Aside from the beast-master quests, and some story missions, there’s not a great variety.
Videogames Make Me Happy concludes…
If you’d have told me 6 months ago that I would get so much enjoyment out of a Far Cry game, I would’ve rolled my eyes into the next century. The graphics and lighting are gorgeous, and the world feels dangerous and exotic. It was the combat which really got me coming back for more though – I had so much fun laying waste to the land of Oros in many destructive and fantastical ways, one bonfire at a time. I’ll admit that the story is bland, and outside of combat, the game-play is a little lacklustre. In the end though, combat and action is the mammoth meat of Far Cry Primal.
My experience playing Far Cry Primal has made me realise how many great gaming experiences I might have missed out on by putting myself in a box. We’re all guilty of it; how many times have you said “I don’t play [insert genre] games” or “I only really play [insert genre]”? There was a time when I would have said: “A first-person action-adventure game? Pah! Are you joking? I don’t play those.”
Maybe the joke was on me all along?