Far Cry Primal is only a couple of weeks away form release at this point, and we were shipped off to a quiet little room in Shoreditch to get an exclusive hands-on session with the game they’re already billing as, ‘more fun than enduring a second Ice Age.’ Okay nobody is billing it as that. But it will be. Probably.
So, what’s it all about then? There hasn’t exactly been an outpouring of info on what Primal is about. It’s mostly just been a montage of pointy sticks and mammoths and angry cavemen. Which is understandable, since it’s pretty much about throwing pointy sticks and mammoths and angry cavemen.
You play as Takkar – a skilled and badass hunter in Central Europe circa 10,000 BC, who loses what remains of his tribe to hunger/ mammoths/ crippling teenage angst. Except not that last one. Not being one to take that kinda shit lying down, Takkar decides to set up his own tribe in the fictional land of Oros called the Wenja. Naturally, not everybody is cool with this as it’s cavedog-eat-cavedog out there, and rival tribes rear their heads to make your life more difficult. And so the game begins.
The story itself is pretty simplistic, cut-and-paste stuff. You must grow your tribe by completing quests, defeating enemies and being an all-round top bloke. If you’ve played a Far Cry game in the past, then you’ll know exactly what to expect here. I played through about three hours of the game from the start, then two hours of later game content, and the story was very simplistic. Go here, do that because reasons. I guess people don’t come to Far Cry for the story, but something a little more engaging would have been nice.
Being a master huntsman, Takkar has a number of abilities at his disposal to survive in the harsh wilderness. For starters, every weapon must be crafted from the world around you. This sounds more daunting than it actually is, as materials are scattered around quite readily. For example, the first thing you must do is craft a bow and some arrows from some sticks and reeds found near a pond.
Once made, the bow can be put to use doing bow and arrow-like things. Shooting goats in the arse, shooting rival cavemen in the face etc etc. You’ll need to gather meat and resources from the inhabitants of Oros to keep yourself and your fledgling tribe alive, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Takkar has ‘hunter vision’, that basically allows him to scope out the world and find any useful morsels and bad guys. While a useful feature, I never actually used it until prompted for a mission.
The big deal in Primal is undoubtedly the ability to tame wild animals, and it’s by far one of the most endearing features in the game. You get the ability fairly early on from a quest that enables you to tame an owl and use it as fucking binoculars.
Hey, nobody said any of this was going to make sense.
After you’ve got an owl under your belt (not literally) you must tame a white wolf who goes from scary to adorable in no time flat. From then on out you can tame your way across Oros, collecting things like bears and saber-tooth tigers to destroy your enemies with. It sort of reminded me of playing World of Warcraft back in the day as a Hunter (yes, I was a noob) with the ability to tame and command a pet. With that in mind, I’m really looking forward to getting to grips with taming in the full game.
The environments are just as beautiful as you’d expect. Oros is washed in bronze sunlight that dapples through the lush, green trees, and animals frolic freely through the undergrowth. That is until they get attacked by the various carnivores that stalk the forest, triggering random events just like Far Cry games in the past. The most spectacular random encounter I came across, was a bunch of rival tribesmen attacking a bear with fire. They managed to set the bear on fire, sure, but that’s only half the job done. Not knowing when to quit, the flaming bear went on a rampage through the forest for a good five minutes, torching everything in its path.
If that’s where AI is heading, then I’m all in.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, there is an element of base building involved – or cave building if you’re being picky. As you complete missions and gather resources, your tender tribe-baby will grow with more and more people wanting in on the action. You can upgrade certain huts for better weapons and new skills, which are necessary to keep up with the various nasties that await you.
While a neat addition, it does feel slightly hollow. There’s no great incentive to care about your people, and I think it would have benefited from taking a more hands-on approach. Saying that, it’s very difficult to get a feel for what Ubisoft have tried to do with it having played so little of the game.
Overall, I came away from the preview no more or less interested than I was when I went in, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. It’s a pretty game with some interesting features, and having enjoyed the past Far Cry games, you pretty much know what to expect. But does it feel a little too safe? Full judgement will be reserved for the game’s full release on February 23.