Far Cry Primal review – Walking with beasts

Ubisoft took a brave and bold decision to move Far Cry to an era where one of its most defining features would, by chronological necessity, be absent. Far Cry has always been about saving a group of downtrodden revolutionaries from some sort of despotic tyrant – usually by shooting everything in the way by using a plethora of guns, explosives and other bits of terribly destructive ordnance.

Set in a time before the discovery of gunpowder, running water, and fine dining, Far Cry Primal instead travels back to 10 000BC – the beginning of the Mesolithic period around the end of the last glacial period. It puts you in the bare feet of Takkar, a member of the Wenja tribe. During a hunt for a mammoth, Takkar and the rest of his hungry brethren (they’ve not eaten for many suns) are blindsided by a ferocious Sabretooth. The hunt gone awry, our hero sets off to fulfil his fallen kin’s dying wish; discover the promised land of Oros, and find the rest of the Wenja.

We love living in an Oros world…

To his dismay, when he gets there he finds that Oros is not the proverbial land of milk and honey. Largely that’s because neither cattle nor bees had been domesticated, but also because the Wenja lie scattered, beaten into submission by two other stronger tribes; the savage, cannibalistic Udam who live in the frozen wastes of the North, and the fire-obsessed Izila, a perhaps more civilised bunch – though equally savage in their brutality and incendiary fondness for setting things and people ablaze.

It becomes Takkar’s job to reunite the strewn and separated Wenja people, while battling off the Udam and Izila. There are no real grand overarching plots, no single tyrannical autocrat to dispense with and the intertwined political themes that run through Far Cry’s narratives here only extend so far as you’d expect from a game about people on the verge of civilisation; mostly it’s all about “me want land, me hit thing that has land.”

The narrative’s a little disappointing as a result. The game’s writers have attempted to make it a little more personal, with you fulfilling the needs of specific tribespeople and running through their own stories as the game progresses. Instead of a linear structure, you’re able to do these stories for each of the mission givers in the order of your choosing, but it feels a little flat as a result; there are no great big moments, no fantastic set pieces that help string along a cohesive story that you’re actually eager to see the conclusion of. In fact, it doesn’t even really seem like anybody is the good guy; you just have three groups of Mesolithic savages vying for the same territory, unable to peacefully coexist. I suppose though, that that’s precisely what would happen. Still, it felt like 15 hours that could have been spent doing something more engaging.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

As brave and as bold as the Antediluvian setting itself is, I do wish there had been a greater departure for the gameplay itself. For better or worse, this is still very much Far Cry. Just about everything you know and (perhaps) love from Far Cry in modern settings has an analogue in this primitive one. That is, except for those infernal radio towers. Much to my delight, I didn’t have to scale a single structure to unlock new bits of the map.

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