Far Cry Primal launches on February 23rd for XB1 and PS4, then March 1st for PC. We’ve been spending the better part of the last week in the land of Oros, a primitive land embroiled in tribal warfare, and we’ve played enough to come here and tell you why Far Cry Primal is the survival game we’re hoping more survival games emulate in the future.
Far Cry Primal is an RPG, in a loose sense for some. Though there’s a wealth of character development and a wide open world to explore, there also aren’t too many game-changing choices you have to make. Your character can and will eventually max out all of the skills in his talent trees. You either succeed or fail on your missions, and if it’s the latter you just have to try them again. Far Cry as a series is what I’d call an RPG shooter, with a fair bit of survival thrown in for good measure.
Primal is, for all intents and purposes, still a Far Cry game. You still have locations to capture which then offer you fast travel, a myriad of random world encounters, and tons of side missions to extend the length of the main quest. As Takkar, one of the last remaining Wenja tribe members, you’re seeking the mythical homeland of Oros. Problem is, the tyrannical and genocidal Udam are terrorizing the land and hunting down the Wenja. But you, of course, are the Beast Master, and you’ll be The One to save the day and bring the Wenja back to Oros.
It bears noting that Primal is a bit more Assassin’s Creed this time around than I remember it being before. With the press of your right thumbstick, you go into Hunter vision, which highlights enemies and beasts with a yellow or red color. It’s very reminiscent of the AC series and while it works well here, I can’t help but feel like the two series are a narrative and a perspective shift away from being the same.
The bees! Not the beeeeeeessss!! Aiiieeeee!!
Along the way to saving the Wenja people you’ll make tons of allies, some crazy, some disfigured, but all useful. You’ll build up a home base, find lost Wenja and make them part of your village. You’ll build huts for your most potent allies, free camps, track down relics, and on and on and on. If you’ve played any Far Cry game in the past, you’ll know the drill here. It’s a dizzying blend of cinematic story-telling, excellent acting (complete with subtitled primitive language – no English accented cave people here), and loads of side activities to keep you busy. The key difference here is that Primal is not all about guns and crazed despots – it’s about a lost people and their struggle to find their home.
I’ll admit, I was a little worried that Far Cry Primal would wind up being a berry-collecting simulator due in part to the game’s tutorial. You collect wood to make your weapons, hunt down food to heal, and so forth. I’ve played far too many online survival games it seems, because I forgot that Far Cry does survival in a way that’s much more enjoyable than the likes of ARK, Rust, and H1Z1. You don’t spend the better part of your time playing picking berries and sifting through trash. Food isn’t used to keep a hunger meter up; it’s used to keep your health up. There’s no thirst meter, so you don’t spend the entire time looking for clean water.
Some would say that means Far Cry Primal isn’t a survival game. They’d argue that thirst and hunger are intrinsic to that genre. I’d say they’re holding it back from being fun. Instead, Primal’s focus is on survival the world’s inhabitants – both the other human tribes and the varied and deadly wildlife. That’s a far more engaging way to survive a world than foraging for berries and finding sources of water that don’t kill me. Is it less realistic? Sure. But it’s more fun, and this is a game so that’s how it should be.
The locals sure are friendly…
What makes Far Cry Primal stick for me, beyond the aforementioned harsh world you must traverse, is the setting. Far Cry 4, for all intents and purposes, was too similar to Far Cry 3 – the game that brought the series back to prevalence among the AAA pasture. Primal, though it is very much a Far Cry game in style and gameplay, gives the series a much needed facelift by way of time traveling all the way back 10,000 BC. The lack of guns and technology, combined with the fantastic visuals and incredible audioscape makes Far Cry Primal something all its own. The gameplay can be a little “grindy” feeling, if only because as an RPG player I tend to want to clear the map. If you’re not like me and just go where the wind takes you, you might not notice the same level of “must clear every little question mark”.