Far Cry Primal may be one of the riskiest games ever made. Ubisoft has managed to take the franchise, completely disregarded since 2008’s Far Cry 2, and turn it into one of the most successful games in recent history.
Far Cry Primal Review
Both Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 featured exotic world filled with memorable characters, unforeseen dangers, and an insane amount of weaponry. Far Cry Primal, on the other hand only offers one of those things: the exotic world. The franchise has traversed back in time to the stone age, forcing players to literally make do with anything and everything they can scavenge in the world.
It’s a risk that, on paper at least, sounds like it’s not worth it. After all, Far Cry is a shooter franchise and Ubisoft just made a shooter without much shooting. Sure, you can still perform headshots with bows and arrows or devastating range attacks with spears, but it’s not the same. As it turns out, the gamble pays off; the combination of a brutal world and limited resources help create an experience unlike anything else.
The rest of the game, however, falls a bit flat.
An important note I want to make: individuality isn’t enough to carry a game. Regardless of how special or unique your experience is, you still need three key elements to make a great video game: quality gameplay, an engaging world/environment, and a solid narrative and characters—you know, the works. With any game, not just Far Cry Primal, these are the key components that, when everything comes together, deliver in a top-tier release. It’s clear that Ubisoft went all out when trying to make the Primal experience as unique as possible; I can’t recall many games that kept its franchise’s core gameplay formula intact with so many other drastic changes. The problem is that everything just doesn’t work.
I want to start with the story, the weakest of the three. While Ubisoft has gone the whole nine yards to offer an authentic pre-historic experience, both character and narrative wise, Primal’s characters and narrative can’t help but feel like they’re nothing more than pieces of glue to bond missions the together. There aren’t any memorable characters, nothing stands out from the plot, and the decision to use native tongues with English subtitles somehow simultaneously detaches the player from the experience while also immersing them into the environment. Though our Editor in Chief felt differently about this.
It’s that very environment that is the true star of Far Cry Primal. Not the human characters you interact with on a regular basis, but the harsh, primitive world. Like never before in the franchise, players are tasked with relying on the resources they gather. This is doubly true because, well, there’s literally nothing else; it’s the Stone Age. You have to make-do with what’s available or perish. This motto, if you will, has remained true throughout the opening hours of the game. In “typical pre-historic video game fashion,” you’re able to tune into shamanistic ways and become one with the animals. Granted here that means you’re commanding some of the wildest beasts of all time, but this is your only escape from the harsh reality the game presents.
Gameplay-wise, the experience been enjoyable, yet sadly repetitive. Far Cry Primal plays it safe with the franchise basics: open world, dangerous beasts and enemies, attacking outposts, etc. There’s an increased emphasis on stealth given that you can’t just run everywhere and make it rain bullets anymore, but when you consider the tools at your disposal, such as having an owl scout the area ahead before calling a wolf to attack your enemy as the owl dives at another, thus allowing the player to hurl an arrow into a cannibal’s face, the experience overall is pretty enjoyable.
The first few times, anyway.
The game manages to feel rushed while dragging on, a combination I never felt possible. Sure, there’s plenty to do aside from the main mission and so many different sights to see, but when I find myself doing the storyline missions without actively seeking them out, I feel a little aggravated. I’m trying to prolong my experience with Far Cry Primal, yet feel tricked into making my stay shorter than anticipated. Sure, I suppose I could just venture out anywhere and everywhere without actively seeking missions, but then we come into the game’s biggest flaw: the difficulty curve.
When dealing with a traditional shooter, everyone is on a fairly level playing field when it comes to weaponry. Far Cry Primal isn’t a traditional shooter; you’re literally fighting bears and saber tooth tigers with clubs, spears, and arrows. This isn’t a fair fight, though that was purposeful design to be fair. Maybe it’s the game creating “native” barriers to high level areas I’m not ready for yet, but if that’s the case when why is this game open world? It doesn’t help when even the story missions offer challenges that feel far more difficult than they should.
Every major mission has a difficulty assigned to it, ranging from Easy to Very Hard. Easy missions are, to be blunt, an absolute joke. The most difficulty I have with them is realizing that I haven’t killed an enemy that’s hiding in some random nook or cranny in the outpost. My first medium mission resulted in my death multiple times over because an elk destroyed everything in its sight. My second medium mission required me to burn a village while dealing with a never-ending rush of high-powered natives that enjoyed taking multiple chunks of my health away with a single hit. After these missions, my tasks devolved back into affairs that could simply be described as a pushover with little to no challenge.
I’d like to state that, for the record, I have no issue with difficult games, but when a player isn’t eased into the swing of things, it creates a frustrating experience. Compound that with the repeated tasks you’ll have to perform (sneak up on enemies, track enemies, skin animals, capture outposts, deal with lighting quick animals), and you have part of the game that turns out off. Which is a shame; the emphasis on stealth and wisely using resources are all super enjoyable experiences. Having to drop everything you’re doing because a big bear wants to claw your eyes out is an exhilarating, albeit terrifying, experience.
If I sound frustrated it’s because I am. Far Cry Primal manages to deliver a, and I’m so sorry for this, primal experience. The world is brutal and unforgiving in a way that truly keeps you on edge like few games can. Sadly, you may fall off that edge from performing the same objectives that are reminiscent of MMO grinding. As I said earlier, this is one of the most riskiest games ever made. It’s a gamble that works in some places while failing in others.