I never got into the Far Cry franchise. Just never got into it, probably because it released in 2004 and I had a Gamecube and was much more interested in stuff like Killer7 and Metroid Prime 2; also I didn’t have a computer that could run anything more complicated than Minesweeper. I always meant to get into Far Cry 3 when it was a phenomenon, being touted as “Skyrim but with guns.” I thought, I like Skyrim, I prefer swords and magic, but guns are OK! But I never did.
What better place to start my entry into the franchise than the dawn of man itself. Far Cry Primal strips all the guns and psychopaths telling you the meaning of insanity, and replaces it with spears and cavemen telling you the meaning of insanity…I mean survival.
In the brief demo I was given a vast world to explore, although not enough time to explore it, teeming with woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and a host of prehistoric humans to slaughter and loot. The game looks incredibly gorgeous but in today’s gaming industry that’s basically to be expected.
But exploring and survival aren't the only goals in Far Cry Primal; within the demo players were tasked with raiding a small tribal camp in order to take it over. This will play a large role in the main game as players take control of Takkar and seek to conquer the land and rebuild his destroyed tribe. There may be a lot more to the final game, but for now we'll have to wait and see.
The big new selling feature of Far Cry Primal is the “beast master” mode, wherein certain animals can be fed a piece of meat, which will trigger a prompt to tame them and have them become your sidekicks. Different animals have varying skills ranging between strength, speed and stealth. While on the surface this seems like a pretty good idea, it never felt incredibly necessary when taking out a camp of Neanderthals is just as easy when you have a bow and stealth.
It was suggested that the animals would feel like partners to your mission rather then just items, but I couldn’t disagree more. So many times I sent my wolf to attack bears and when it died as I was running for my life I just thought, “Well I guess I’ve got to tame a new wolf.” From what I can tell there doesn’t seem to be a leveling or skill system for animals, so it really does come down to: if your animal dies, just go get a new one. And this is an opportunity that was seriously missed. It’s just as easy to tame a saber-toothed cat as it is a bear, or wolf and never did it seem like I needed to create a degree of trust with these animals. You give it a piece of meat, and suddenly it’ll do whatever you want.
One other major feature of Far Cry primal is the crafting system in the game, that has you build all items you will need for your play-though. Really what more can I say about that other than Far Cry Primal felt as if it was trying to jump on the Minecraft bandwagon a few years too late. Fallout 4 tried that too and it wasn’t very good; shoehorning crafting into you game just because Minecraft is popular with the kids just kind of comes off desperate. Although, I guess it makes sense, since this is set in the Stone-Age and you can’t exactly just pick up ammo off dead bodies. At some point, we need to see man make fire.
Combat is pretty rough and tumble, although not so limited that you can't just stealth kill everyone with your bow. Given the time period, weapons take the form of spears, clubs and a mixture of natural ingredients that can be used as bombs. I'm inclined to rate this favorably since it does give you the ability to throw bees at people, and that always makes a great game to me. Also, since your weapons are mostly made of wood, almost every weapon can be ignited for fire damage and given the lush green setting, fire can spread like crazy giving you a tactical advantage in combat.
You can also ride a mammoth. And while it's unfortunate that you can't tame mammoths, you can just ride any wild mammoth, and storming into enemy camps on the back of a mammoth is pretty amazing.
Although I have to gripe about one thing, it’s extremely tedious how almost every action in this game requires you to hold down whatever button you need to do it (mainly square on the PS4 version). It’s an extremely poor gameplay mechanic that adds nothing that just pressing a button to do something couldn’t. In fact, it constantly broke the immersion for me as every time I tried to press a button to search in a bag, nothing happened and I was consciously reminded that I was playing a video game.
Overall, I can’t say much more about Far Cry Primal, given only the alpha version vertical slice I experienced. It seemed like an interesting experience and with a proper single-player narrative, it could be exciting and there really aren’t many games that deliver a proper prehistoric setting, that look as nice as this one.