Far Cry Primal Review
In many ways, Far Cry Primal is a Far Cry 4 mod. A clever, intriguing, and enjoyable mod, but a mod nonetheless. If you've played the past couple of Far Cry games, then a lot of the gameplay in Far Cry Primal will be familiar to you. And yet, the game is really a unique experience. Part of that is the game's setting. There simply have not been that many games set in the Stone Age. At least serous ones, cavemen are always a good source of comedy after all. But there's more than just a change of scenery here. In previous Far Cry games you were a heavily-armed army of one, capable of taking out fortified bases on your own. And now, well, you're not even at the top of the food chain anymore, and the only things that you have to defend yourself are whatever you can make out of sticks and stones.
Far Cry Primal opens 10,000 years in the past, during a Mammoth hunt that goes horribly wrong and that leaves you alone in a very dangerous world. You are Takkar, a Wenja who must bring together the scattered remnants of his tribe to prevent its annihilation at the hands of the rival Udam and Izila tribes. It's a difficult endeavor, especially when much of the local fauna wants to eat you, but you're far more attuned to the natural world around you than a modern man. The hunting and gathering activities that in previous Far Cry games were ancillary activities pursued for crafting upgrades are fundamental elements of survival here. Your Stone Age instincts are a click of the right stick away, helping you to identify useful plants and to sight and track animals. The latter skill is not just useful for finding the prey that will give you precious meat and hides, but for getting those materials as well. An arrow is not as effective at bringing down an animal as is an AK-47, and you'll often need to track the blood trail of an injured animal so that you can either attack it again or to find the spot where it finally succumbed to its wounds. And you better grab the arrows back from its corpse or have a spear at the ready because something bigger than you may show up to take your kill from you. Things get even more dangerous at night, when other and more dangerous animals come out to hunt - there are plenty of things that go bump in the night, and these things have really big teeth. Travel by night is dangerous, especially when the only thing to light your way is a torch, but if you're careful you may be able to hunt down some of the game's rarer and more elusive creatures.
Relatively early into the game you'll learn how to tame and train animals. Your first companion will be an owl who is more of a spirit guide than a pet - the game delves into caveman spirituality complete with shaman, vision quests, and the like - and who acts as your eye in the sky. Call upon the owl and you'll take control of it, soaring above the land and able to look for animals, enemies, and points of interest. All of these can be tagged so that when you stop controlling the owl you'll be able to track them on your screen or map. I have to say that using this Stone Age version of a drone and radar felt almost like cheating in a way, as if I wasn't being true to my caveman self. As such I'm sure that I didn't use the owl as much as the game intended for me to and may have missed out on a few secrets and such, but I wanted to be a caveman and it didn't feel natural to experience the dream of flying 9,900 years before the dream would be realized. The animals that you can tame on your own once you have your owl feel more like Stone Age helpers than cheats, though. I felt less like the prey and more like the hunter with a wolf by my side than I ever did while I was alone. You can give your animal companion rudimentary commands, the most useful of which is to attack animals and enemies, and it will either kill them outright or keep them so distracted that you can move in unnoticed to deliver the killing blow yourself. Part of the fun in the game is in trying to track down and train the full menagerie of trainable animals in the game, and then seeing what happens when you unleash a new animal companion for the first time.
While animals are a big part of your Stone Age life, your fellow humans are more important. Completing missions will increase your profile in the area and draw Wenja to your village. A thriving village will provide you with a safe zone and a place to find resource caches to resupply your pack and weapons. It will also attract specialists whose specialized knowledge will open new skill trees to you. You'll also encounter rival tribes attacking Wenja, and if you can kill the attackers before they kill your tribesman, the survivors will migrate to your village and expand your population.
Fighting fellow humans is in some ways similar to hunting animals and in others completely different. As with animal prey, keeping low and using stealth is important in order to get close enough to make a kill with your primitive weapons. Even armed with a bow you need to be close enough for it to be effective, it will probably take multiple hits to kill your target, and your quiver is too small to give you enough ammunition to take out an entire war party. And then things get really personal. If you're going to throw a spear, then you'd better see the whites of your enemy's eyes. Better to get closer and put your weight behind a solid thrust. Or perhaps all that you have left is your club, and that's when things really get nasty. Battles are more visceral and violent affairs than in any shooter where you fire off a few rounds at a distant silhouette and then duck your head behind cover.
You'll see the Far Cry DNA in the game in numerous aspects of Far Cry Primal. The towers that reveal new areas of the map have been replaced by campfires that also serve as safe zones to spend the night and fast travel points. Newly revealed map sections will contain markers showing the locations of mysterious sites to be discovered and investigated, zones that heavily populated with different animal species, and the locations of enemy forts. You can set waypoints to any of these and make your way to them, but at first you'll be walking everywhere - it's certainly evident that you're in a time long before vehicles when the distances to everything are measured in steps. Luckily, training and riding mounts is a skill that can be learned in the Stone Age.
I know that this is just a game and in reality probably doesn't come close to what the actual caveman experience was like, but Far Cry Primal gave me some appreciation for what the world must have been like for primitive humans. The game's setting and gameplay is certainly unique for a first-person "shooter", and I found the whole experience fascinating.
Final Rating: 90% - It's almost hard to believe that a first-person shooter set 9,000 years before the invention of gunpowder could be this enjoyable.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.