Ubisoft have firmly established themselves as a studio that is skilled at making very pretty games. Watchdogs was pretty, Far Cry 4 was downright gorgeous, and the same goes for The Division. But looks aren’t everything, So let’s see if their latest venture into the Stone Age via the Far Cry series plays as well as the aforementioned titles.
Set around 10,000 years ago, Primal places the player into Central Europe, in the fictional Oros Valley which is basically an open world area of exploration, filled with animals and fauna. Also in the valley are a number of tribes, each with their own characteristics. You jump into the animal skin shoes of a Wenja tribesman named Takkar who, after a Mammoth hunt goes awry, finds himself isolated in a very dangerous, but very pretty environment.
I should point out right now that Primal’s main focus is survival. It’s either kill or be killed, all while trying to re-build your scattered tribe, which essentially starts of with just you and one other, Sayla, a female tribe member who advises you to gather your people.
Far Cry Primal Predominantly consists of exploration, combat with opposing tribes or animals, gathering supplies for use, and crafting those supplies into tools, weapons, etc. Combat is straightforward, with hand-to-hand combat with axes and clubs, which you can set fire to for additional damage, and ranged weapons, such as spears and bows.
Despite the opposing tribes who want to bash your skull in and eat you, Oros is a very nice place.
Trying to survive in the middle of a dangerous but pretty valley may seem slightly overwhelming at first, especially when you realise just how much footslogging is required when exploring, but there are means of improving your odds of survival and speeding up travel. First off, you can fast travel to explored locations, such as camps, greatly reducing the need to tirelessly run around from point A to B and so on. Hunting is aided by ‘Owl Vision’, which basically highlights areas and items of interest. these include animals, trails and some threats. This makes it easier to gather supplies.
As for speeding up travel, besides using the fast travel option, taming animals allows you to do just that. And if you tame something you can ride, well, jump on and ride away, useful for attacking and exploring in equal measure.
Visually, the game is stunning. This isn’t immediately apparent very early on. But once you gain access to the valley, everything changes. If I could liken it to anything else it would have to be Halo. That’s right, I said Halo — the second mission in Combat Evolved in particular, where you crash land on Halo, emerge and gaze around and up at the surrounding environment in wonder. That’s how I felt. The only thing missing was the Halo ring stretching up into the sky from the horizon. It really is that pretty. And to top it all of there’s a day/night cycle for added realism, and danger. Additional threats emerge from the dark. And it’s not uncommon to see packs of wolves darting to and fro in the dim light, preying on other animals and other tribesmen, stranded out in the open.
Venturing out at night can reap additional rewards, but that’s due to the additional danger of being eaten. It’s best to find a camp and stay put until you’re properly equipped to take on the night-loving animal kingdom. My first venture consisted of finding a camp, tooling myself up, and watching the scene unfold before me from a vantage point. Animals of all kinds spent most of the night scurrying around, trying to avoid the larger predators, who by now were interested in a small band of tribesman gathered around their own tiny campfire. I took advantage of the situation and charged the somewhat preoccupied tribesmen, killing two, while a wolf finished off the third. I quickly collected my spoils and set off for my own camp, only twenty or thirty metres away, only to be chased down a torn to shreds by the same wolf pack that had been attacking the rival tribesmen. The use of fire in these situations is not to be underestimated.
The Ubisoft equivalent to Batman’s ‘Detective Vision’.
The sounds and language of Oros is very engaging, and immersive. Ubisoft drafted in linguists to bring the language to life, which works tremendously well. They even brought in Judith de los Santos, AKA Malukah as one of the voice actors and to add additional sounds to the game. The music itself was created by Jason Graves, who used traditional methods to make the music all the more authentic.
Though Ubisoft go a long way in trying to create an authentic and believable setting, which is undoubtable great to look at, it’s the plot where the game shows its failings. By creating an open-world experience that allows a great deal of freedom, the storyline and direction of the game provides a little too much in the way of freedom. There were plenty of occasions where I found myself aimlessly wandering Oros, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. But for providing clear direction and purpose in a single player game there’s definitely scope for additional motivation and guidance. Otherwise there’s a risk of players doing their own thing for a while, becoming a little bored and moving on to a different title.
Having said that, the freedom is hugely enjoyable. No doubt you’re picking up a theme here that Oros is a gorgeous place to look at and live in. And that’s true, which in itself does promote exploration and new encounters, but these don’t necessarily provide in-game progression.
All in all, Far Cry: Primal is a truly beautiful game, with plenty to explore, but lacks enough elements to steer you in the right direction and keep you constantly engaged.
Let us know your thoughts. Agree or disagree?