Published Mar 02, 2016Far Cry has become one of the most interesting franchises of the modern era. Free from the trappings of a convoluted continuing narrative like Ubisoft sister series Assassin's Creed or an iconic character like Tomb Raider or Uncharted, it can still leverage name recognition without succumbing to repetition.
There isn't even a game-defining gimmick; instead, the throughline is the dev team, first-person shooter mechanics and sandbox structure. This design decision has allowed the series to roam from the war-torn African savannah to pirate-infested tropical islands to the heights of the Himalayas.
This time out, they go back to 10,000 B.C. and, much like the series' last trek to a Nepal-inspired locale, the underutilized setting feels exhilaratingly fresh. This feeling is particularly amplified by the lack of firearms.
Even the nuanced politics of Far Cry 4 fell victim to rote FPS gunplay, while Primal has no choice but to rely on lo-tech Stone Age weaponry like arrows, spears and clubs.
It also eschews their traditional vehicular gameplay and makes the crafting more than a chore, because how else would you find food and create supplies in the prehistoric era but by hunting and gathering?
So be warned animal lovers — you'll have to kill a lot of them. But you'll also learn to tame them, the coolest new tactical feature — an owl becomes your high-flying drone, a wolf or bear your combat backup, a sabre-toothed tiger your prehistoric motorcycle.
That's how you, Takkar, will rise from a lone surviving hunter in the lush Central European valley of Oros to a leader of the Wenja people while fending off angry animals and rival tribes.
In fact, tribal management, including camp construction and people protection, is a major feature, as is the day-night cycle, since jungles become much more dangerous places after the sun goes down.
The larger story itself is the weakest link, rare for a Far Cry iteration despite its non-linear nature. Given the primitive people, conversation is simplistic and subtitled, which assists immersion, character development is minimal, moral ambiguity is absent and the endgame is really just survival.
But as with the best open-world games, narrative ultimately takes a back seat to experiential exploration of this brutal, beautiful and woolly mammoth-filled place. Ubisoft has used impeccable sound, art and character design to build an old world that feels new, a feature we'd thought largely lost to history. (Ubisoft)