First person shooters have always been a genre I have loved. From the original Wolfenstein, to the twitch gameplay of Call of Duty, they all offer that action fix I enjoy. Despite this fast gameplay, they also have felt stale as of late, so when I heard the newest iteration of Far Cry would be taking players to 10,000 BC, I was interested. What could Ubisoft do to the FPS genre to make it fit a pre-civilization style world, and how could they ensure all their new additions are actually fun?
Now that I have had some time to play the game, the first 4 hours to be exact, I can report that Ubisoft may have just pulled it off. They have managed to build an FPS game that not only improves on Far Cry formula, but also improves on the FPS genre as a whole.
Far Cry Primal transports players to the world of Oros where they are placed in control of Takkar as his tribe, the Wenja tribe, struggles to rebuild their society. Takkar is oddly different from other Far Cry protagonists. Where players are generally presented with a fish out of water story, in Primal, Takkar is a seasoned hunter, able to stand on his own. There will be plenty of things that can harm him, but through most of the first part of the game, even though he is not invincible, he still manages to hold his own, even solo.
Oros is a dangerous place, so the concept of someone who has never fought actually enduring in this hellishly beautiful world is not very believable. Oros is a world where everything is bigger, faster, and stronger than you; you need to be on your toes to even have a chance to survive. The first part of the game will give players a sense of power. You will be able to take on most forces, be able to take down enemies, and have little issue winning in battles, but this sense of power fades quickly. As more and more creatures, tribes, and dangers are thrust in your path, every move will count, and every attack could be your last.
It’s not only the world that is out to kill you; two other tribes are trying to destroy the Wenja, and they will stop at nothing to achieve this goal. From the barbaric Udam to the technologically advanced, sun-worshiping Izila, there will be plenty of human enemies to keep you on your toes. Each tribe will pose unique challenges for gameplay, requiring you to utilize all the skills you pick up as you slowly learn the game.
These challenges are why the Beast Mastery ability becomes so useful. Takkar is unusual for the Wenja people, as he is a beast master. He can tame the predators of Oros and have them fight alongside him. It will take some time to gain access to this ability, although once you do, it will be invaluable. The ability to tame the wolves, bears, tigers, and owls gives the player new ways to tackle the challenges and dangers the game throws in their path. Each creature gives a different way to play and, depending on your play style, can be used tactically to achieve unexpected results. When playing, I enjoyed cultivating the relationships I had with my animals, giving them food and petting them as battles finished. It was an odd bond that I did not expect to have in an FPS game, one that even with the short play session I found very rewarding.
It’s this sort of mechanic that I felt worked far better than in Fallout 4. Yes, the basic principle was the same, but there was far more consequence if I did not pay attention or take care of my companion. Often I would see them suffering in a fight, and I would struggle to give them much needed aid. Even as I tamed stronger creatures, I managed to go back to the wolf as my primary charge, using him whenever possible.
Predators, as impressive as they are, are not your only form of offense in Primal. With some diligence, you can build up your arsenal of weapons. Scouring the land for raw materials and crafting the clubs, bows, and spears can help to take down what opposes you. The weapons of Primal are as savage as the land of Oros. As you tear into the angry tribes that attack you, you will feel every blow, seeing every tearing attack as you get up close to finish off your enemies. Primal is by far one of the most brutal Far Cry games to date, forcing the player to put down the AK-47 and pick up a club.
The world of Oros is as beautiful as it is savage. Ubisoft has built a bright, lush landscape filled with many different biomes. From the lush fields to the snow-covered wastes, Far Cry Primal is right for discovery and rewarding with every new place uncovered. The megafauna litter the landscape ensuring things are constantly changing, and even in a short play session you will manage to see something that is truly awe inspiring. Walking across the fields to suddenly see a herd of Woolly Mammoths was a breathtaking sight. It was a feeling I did not imagine I’d have, considering I have been playing games for almost 25 years now. Somehow, Ubisoft has managed to capture this feeling and package it in a way that feels organic and exciting.
Before Takkar can take on all the forces opposing the Wenja, he must help re-establish a foothold in the region. To do this, players will need to build up their base, and slowly establish the Wenja tribe. This is where the brunt of the game comes into play. You must bring together the Wenja people though a selection of missions from NPCs, along with many scattered around the landscape. These range from fending off an attack, or taking down an enemy, to the standard escort mission that will put to the test all of your skills up to that point. Nothing is easy in the land of Oros, and even something simple can turn deadly very quickly. With all likes of animals roaming around the world, there is never a time where you can feel safe while roaming the wilds.
It would not be a Far Cry game without some level of RPG thrown in the mix, and Primal is no exception. As Takkar evolves through missions and building up his home camp, new character abilities will open up. These can range from the unlocking of new weapons to granting the knowledge to ride Mammoths. Sadly, I did not get to the point of actually getting to climb onto one of the great animals in the world, but slowly working through the progression tree, it gave a sense for how the unlocking in the world will feel. Throughout my 4 hour experience, unlocks worked well, and gave a sense of progression as I fought through each new mission.
Walking through the dangerous world is not a comfortable experience at the best of times, but Ubisoft has graced us with a fast travel system that makes everything feel a little bit more civil. Once Takkar manages to take over camps and light bonfires, you will have the option of fast traveling to that location. This quickly became a primary focus for the early part of the game. With each new bonfire, the world map felt a bit less formidable and made the overarching goals seem more achievable. The landscape of Primal may not be bigger than that seen in Far Cry 4, but when you measure distance in footsteps, every little bit counts.
Far Cry Primal was a game that felt familiar but new. It’s taking the best parts seen in other Far Cry games and building a new and exciting world. It’s hard to say if all the elements will play nicely together over the course of the full experience, but if the beginning of the game is any indication, Ubisoft are building something special. From the beautiful landscape to the brutal gameplay, Far Cry Primal is the break away from the standard formula that the FPS genre needed.
Far Cry Primal is slated to come out February 23rd, 2016 for the PS4, PC, and Xbox One.