Pop culture paradigms tend to go in trends. The recent upsurge in sci-fi, for instance, can surely be traced to the immense popularity and cash-generating power of the Star Wars sequels. Awhile back we saw quite a bit of found-footage films (and even a game or two) thanks to the popularity of Paranormal Activity.
Meanwhile, it seems last summer’s blockbuster Jurassic World has led to some interest in prehistory, so it’s not surprising that 2016 brings us Far Cry Primal, one of the first caveman FPSes to hit the market.
Primal, set in 10,000BC, casts you as Takkar, a caveman traveling to the land of Oros where he’ll work to unite the members of the scattered Wenja tribe. There aren’t any guns here, of course, so you’ll have to rely on more primitive options like spears, bows and clubs when it comes to taking down your foes. Rather than a nuke or a high-powered super shotgun, your most powerful weapons here are the animals that you tame; you can sic these on baddies to help them get acquainted with the wild side of nature.
Primal plays a lot like other Far Cry games. This apparently came as a shock to some, who quickly took to the Internet to voice their complaints about how the latest game in the series is similar to previous games. The usual demands of innovation for innovation’s sake are present and accounted for, but in reality, the similarities aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Primal does follow the popular open-world paradigm of a huge area scattered with activities, but frankly that model works for most games and it works here.
Takkar will need to run around Oros seeking bonfires to light. Doing so will allow you to see points of interest around the bonfire; often these will include their own activities, like rescuing captured Wenja or defeating enemy tribesmen. Stealth is often the name of the game here; you can even the odds before unfair battles using proper positioning and carefully planned attacks. One twist is that since you’re using primitive gear, ammo becomes more of a consideration. Later on you can craft pouches to help with this, but for a lot of the game you’ll need to focus on melee combat and accurate throws to help whittle down your opponents.
Growing the Wenja tribe is central to Far Cry Primal, and as you’d expect this is how you unlock more missions, crafting materials and skills. Takkar steadily grows in power as the game progresses; while early on your focus will be on personal combat with wild animals and enemy tribesmen, the game shifts focus to cooperation with your tamed animal allies over time. Riding into an enemy encampment on a mammoth is a pretty fantastic experience, as is throwing pouches full of angry bees at baddies.
There aren’t a whole lot of big-budget stone age games out there, so Far Cry Primal’s presentation feels unique right from the start. Plants and animals all boast interesting deviations from their modern forms, and Oros as a whole feels like the untamed wilderness it is. Wild animals look suitably threatening, in particular. One nice nod to the historical semi-accuracy that pervades the game is the fact that nobody speaks English; instead, Takkar and co. use a crafted language that sounds legitimate enough to a layman like me. I played this one on PS4, where it bowed to the usual console compromises of a lower framerate and less impressive graphics overall, but on PC Primal really shines.
If you come into a Far Cry game expecting something that isn’t Far Cry, you probably won’t be very happy with Far Cry Primal. It is, at its essence, a prehistoric-themed iteration on what we last saw with Far Cry 4. If you’re cool with that, however, then you’ll probably enjoy your time as a caveman. There was clearly some love put into the development of this game and it’s a worthy addition to the series.