Far Cry Primal: same gameplay, but with all the prehistoric animal mayhem you could ever want
Out now on consoles (with an agonizing wait until March 1st for the PC master race), Far Cry Primal arrives just slightly over a year after the release of Far Cry 4 with a noticeably sped-up release schedule.
With the Assassin's Creed Unity debacle still fairly fresh in people's minds, there was understandably a lot of concern about the shorter development time. Many an online commentator speculated that this Far Cry entry would essentially be the last game copied and pasted into an ancient environment.
Far Cry Primal - More Of The Same?
In some ways (OK, a lot of ways) that's not too far off the mark. There are plenty of familiar elements: collecting local flora, upgrading your equipment and skills, “bases” to overtake for adding fast travel locations, the weapon wheel, and so on.
The skinning animations are very similar to past games (the exact same?), although here the collecting / skinning mechanic actually makes more sense than it did in the previous two games.
As expected, your pre-historic hunter Takkar will unlock new items and upgrades over time, although on this go around they become available after recruiting tribe members or improving huts on your quest to reunite the Wenja tribe.
Far Cry Primal isn't really dragged down all that much by the intense similarities, though, because this formula is still fun, and there are some changes to be found. Combat, for instance, has a heavier melee slant, instead of being almost entirely focused on gunplay like in the previous games. Stealthily taking down enemy encampments without an all-out confrontation can also be a harder route to take due to your animal companion.
Far Cry - Beastmaster Edition
Although you don't get one right off the bat, the animal companion system is really the heart of the game and what sets it apart from any other Far Cry entry.
From the adorable dhole (which can't help but make me think of the hyenas from The Lion King) to cave bears and bloodfang sabretooths, there's a wide range of fanged beasts to find, tame, and unleash on your enemies. They all work differently and provide different bonuses, so there's some fun to be had just in trying out different animals for overland travel or taking out camps.
It's interesting to watch the progression of the role animals play in the Far Cry universe between the more recent titles. While mostly for skinning in Far Cry 3, the real MacGuyver players used them to help take out bases. Setting a leopard free from a cage was an easy way to soften up a base, but there were other ways available if you planned ahead. One of the most satisfying was using molotov cocktails to light a section of jungle on fire and send all the animals stampeding into the base.
That accidental animal usage became more of a planned element in Far Cry 4, and now it's a central gameplay mechanic here in Primal. If that trend continues, I'd almost expect the next game to feature a shapeshifting, werewolf-type protagonist. I'm only half kidding – after all, who expected the '80s VHS extravaganza Blood Dragon or even for this game in the series to go back in time thousands of years?
Now onto the question you are all waiting for, though: are there dinosaurs? Nope, at least not that I've found yet. That's an area that's just crying out to be explored in DLC or a standalone mini-release along the lines of Blood Dragon.
Yes, I know dinosaurs weren't still hanging out with people around 10,000 BC but seriously, how did they not know everyone would want that as soon as the animal companion system was revealed? Instead of dinosaurs... you get a badger (mushrooms and snakes sold separately).
While the focus is on combat, animals aren't just for tearing out a tribesman's throat. You can ride quite a few of them, so there's actually less need for stealth when you can move around so rapidly, and like with that last game, there's an undeniable appeal to going nuts while riding a mastodon. The owl can be used for reconnaissance, like the stone age equivalent of a drone.
The setting should have tipped you off that animals aren't just your friends, though. Since we're in a pre-historic environment, there are more feral animals roaming around the open world – and in larger groupings.
While in Far Cry 3 you got to a point where even deadly beasts weren't particularly worrisome anymore with your fully upgraded and silenced weapons, that won't be as much of the case with Primal. Packs of animals are deadly and work together to take you down, especially at night.
Far Cry Primal's Story And Characters
Many of the exaggerated characters present in Primal are actually memorable (despite the absence of fan-favorite villains like Vaas), although the story is essentially a non-entity, only really there to give you an excuse to explore the environment and assault camps.
As a major fan of classic text heavy RPGs, normally that would be a problem for me, but Far Cry Primal is really more about the gameplay than the story.
It's a game that's named incredibly well – you will feel like you are a taking an incredibly primal journey for survival in the far past. There's loads of fun to be had using a bow and arrow, spear, or club instead of an LMG or sniper rifle.
While there's less opportunity for taking out groups of enemies with grenades (you get beehives instead this time around!), your animals companion essentially serve that purpose. Set a bear loose in an enemy camp and you'll effectively wreak just as much (or more) havoc.
The Bottom Line
For the tl;dr crowd, here's the what you need to know: this is essentially Far Cry 3 / 4 in a different setting, with a bigger focus on animals mayhem.
While I hope the series doesn't go the Assassin's Creed or Call Of Duty route in the future, in this particular instance, the quick release time and similarities to previous games didn't actually kill the game, and if you couldn't get enough of the previous two titles, you'll probably love this one too.