I’ve never played a game in the Far Cry series, so let me tell you what I expect out of a Far Cry game from the various advertisements and articles I’ve read.
Far Cry is about taking a player, making them a badass and doing badass things in an exotic, open-world map. Simple enough. When I received a copy of Ubisoft’s newest iteration of the franchise, Far Cry Primal, I felt excited to finally see what all the fuss was about.
A good place to start is the atmosphere and aesthetic look of Primal. The game takes place in 10,000 BCE and a lot went into committing to the time period. This is clear from the second the game powers on, as the Ubisoft logo in the beginning credits is stylized into a cave painting.
The opening cinematic is impressive in how it plays appropriate sound effects per era as a year counter decreases steadily from 2016 CE to 10,000 BCE. Throughout the entire game, all the dialogue is spoken in an ancient language with familiar, yet imperfect words.
Players must rely on subtitles to understand, a beautiful implementation of the era’s mythos into the game world. Everything in the game contributes to the mood of the age of cavemen.
The graphics were average by the standards of today’s consoles, but by no means bad. There wasn’t an expectation for mind-blowing graphics in a spinoff title, so average fits the boot just fine. However, attention to the design made the game shine a little more.
The designs of every character, creature or man, was fitting and believable. Mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers looked like mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers, and every characters clothing, scars, and weapons told stories beyond what was shown on screen.
In terms of gameplay, Primal has triumphs and flaws depending on the mechanic. There is a basic crafting system for weapons and tools that is easy to pick up and learn at a steady pace. This is true with most of the mechanics of gameplay.
It does a great job of pacing when to give you new weapons and abilities for your toolbox of skills. A personal favorite skill, which was implemented well into the character, was how you can befriend different animals to help you in fights. There comes a certain satisfaction with yelling “sick ‘em” and watching a badger come in for the kill.
A downside to the gameplay – something I never thought I would complain about – is that it didn’t have guns. Of course, I don’t think guns belong in a game about cavemen, but there was just something about the combat that didn’t quite work without that quick-fire, long-range combat.
Fundamentally, this game is a first-party mod of Far Cry 4, so the initial design wasn’t meant for closer and slower combat, creating a civil disagreement between many of the base-level mechanics of the game. A gameplay spinoff of a shoot ‘em up should generally stick to having a shoot ‘em up aspect as the base of gameplay.
The map is big, as to be expected from an open world game; that’s a given. This map, though, is large and empty. The vastness made me feel that I played the game to finish it rather than discover new parts of an exotic world.
I find that sad because Far Cry prides itself on its largely interesting, exotic locations filled with many wonders. Another large problem is that the map shares the same shape and many identical landmarks to the map of Far Cry 4, once again giving it the feeling of being a first-party mod.
This bothered me and I had never even played a past Far Cry, so I couldn’t imagine the disappointment felt by players of Far Cry 4 when they got stuck replaying a map they’ve already worn-out.
A final note to make about this game is that the only thing that kept me motivated was the story. It was by no means the epitome of what a thriving game story is, but there was something special there… almost.
It was enough to keep me playing to finish the game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I forget what happened within the next month or so. The history of the tribes was fascinating, even though I was only given a relative taste.
There was a clear direction in which the story was going, unfortunately, it falls flat once I look at the story as a whole. There was a lot of potential, but not quite enough thought and execution. I feel like this goes for the full game too.
There really was a lot that could be salvaged and redeveloped into a greater interactive experience. While the first thought may be that the problem in Far Cry Primal is that you made Far Cry without guns, I think the real fault in planning was forcing an action-adventure epic about cavemen to be part of the Far Cry franchise.
It could have worked as a standalone title had they started from the ground up on game mechanics and created a whole new map more specific for the game world. This could have also allowed for gameplay that felt natural at 15 hours rather than beginning to drag.
Overall, Far Cry Primal feels like an incomplete modification of a past game that should have been sold as $20 downloadable content rather than a full title. I can’t help but feel disappointed at this being my initial firsthand experience of what the Far Cry franchise has to offer.