Far Cry Primal is an FPS without the “S,” deconstructing a tired franchise to its basest parts to create an engaging survival simulation game.
Published and developed by Ubisoft, Far Cry Primal strips away the over-the-top explosions and gunplay from previous entries in the series and replaces them with clubs, spears, and bows. Aside from a crude grappling hook fashioned much later in the game, that’s about as advanced as your weaponry is going to get. Since you can’t just grenade your way out of a tough fight now, the strategies you use to take down groups of enemies has to change accordingly.
As Takkar, a tribal leader on the rise in 10,000 BCE, players are tasked with expanding the size of their group while surviving the wild. There are a handful of named NPCs that you’ll meet on your journey, but for the most part, they’re quite forgettable. Like Tom Clancy’s The Division or Destiny, the most memorable stories aren’t the ones delivered by in-game characters or cinematics, but the ones created by your own personal experiences in the world. The characters you do meet in Far Cry Primal deliver lively subtitled dialogue, but for the true caveman experience, you could simply turn the subtitles and use context clues to get a gist of what’s going on. It all works out about the same.
Speaking of the true caveman experience, there are still a few features in Far Cry Primal that forces you to suspend disbelief. Leveling up eventually gives you the ability to commune with animals, having them act on your behalf to pounce on enemies or scout the land. While I could totally buy into Takkar’s beastmaster abilities (think Chris Pratt in Jurassic World, but with bears and wolves instead of raptors), using an owl to tag enemies on the map feels a bit farfetched. The same goes for Takkar’s Hunter Vision, which works like a primitive version of the Detective Mode feature used by Batman in the Arkham game series. Years and years of living in the wilderness could eventually hone one’s senses to detect animal blood and footprints in the wild, but forcing players to look for themselves takes the training wheels off the whole experience.
In fact, if you want to experience the open world of Oros as a caveman would, go ahead and avoid using your owl as a modern-day drone with gliding capabilities. Rely on your instincts to avoid detection, memorize terrain, and scout for rare herbs to craft new tools. Get rid of the subtitles, Hunter Vision, and fast travel abilities unlocked as you conquer new encampments, clean up your HUD, and THEN you’ll be getting closer to the digital representation of what a caveman would have to do in order to survive. See if you can hunt for food and traverse the land for just one in-game day/night cycle in Far Cry Primal with all the extra trappings stripped away. You’ll soon realize how much the fancy weaponry you use in other FPS games isn’t a play feature, but a crutch.
Far Cry Primal can be a downright brutal game, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. While devoid of a modern arsenal or a memorable storyline, the experience alone makes this game worth hunting down.
Far Cry Primal is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.