Cynics and lazy thinkers might take one look at Far Cry Primal and think it’s simply a prehistoric skin tossed over the same formula we’ve seen before, but that is just that, lazy thinking. Far Cry Primal is about more than just the usual gunslinging, vehicular destruction; it’s about a bold new step for the franchise.
During a recent hands-on demo with an early PS4 build of the game, I quickly noticed one of the most striking differences of Far Cry Primal, and that is how much combat has changed. The substitutions of a spear and bow and arrow for an assault rifle and shotgun have impacted the very fabric of combat in the Far Cry franchise, and therefore the experience as a whole.
I played through the first three hours or so of Far Cry Primal, and the main three weapons I had at my disposal were a spear, bow and arrow and a club. These three things seem simple in their design and function, however, they have a wide variety of uses, mostly dependent upon the player’s creativity and strategy.
While the usual gun formula for Far Cry is an entertaining one, I was surprised at how much more tactful and thoughtful I had to be with my decisions, even when I was going into combat absent of any stealth approach. Running into a group of enemies was a fantastic way to get killed, as firing off automatic round after automatic round was not an option.
Each arrow shot or toss of a spear required a conscious awareness of how many enemies were surrounding me and how vulnerable I would be to incoming enemy attacks, all the while Takkar, the game’s protagonist, reloaded his next round. Spears are few and far between, as are arrows until you have the ideal upgrades, and this element of scarcity makes combat less about reckless firing and more about frugal ammo usage.
During the early parts of Far Cry Primal, it’s a real possibility to find yourself running for ammo as you are being attacked by a wave of enemies. In Far Cry 4, I could easily switch between one gun and another in order to kill my enemies, but in Far Cry Primal, there are less weapons to choose from and the same aggressive enemies coming to hunt you down.
You may sit there and think that because Far Cry Primal has a different form of combat that it’s not possible to create those wild, systemic and unique moments that Far Cry is known for, but that wouldn’t be true. Chaos can be incited simply by the release of a bow.
One of the ways that you can make your bow and arrow even more deadly is by dipping an arrow into a flame, and then firing it off into an enemy or wooden structure. I did the latter multiple times with an enemy or two perched on top, and the result was a crumbling disaster for the men on the structure and those below it.
The beast master feature is shades of the feature we saw in Far Cry 4’s Shangri La level, which saw players control a tiger. In Far Cry Primal, you will be able to possess a number of different animals, from a sabertooth tiger to a honey badger. Being able to possess new animals is based on how you progress your beast master skills.
Gamers will need to be mindful of their beast’s health because if they take too much damage, they will then become injured. To heal your animal, you simply feed a piece of meat and that restores its health back to full strength. This is yet another example of how Primal changes the series’ combat formula.
If there is one concern I have about Far Cry Primal, it’s whether or not the game’s setting and color palate will be diverse enough to prevent the experience from becoming stale. There are a lot of vibrant colors and environments, but from what I saw, they are mostly the same. Hopefully Far Cry Primal’s later levels will turn out to possess differing landscapes and color.
It wouldn’t be a Far Cry game without a few kooky characters, would it? Far Cry Primal does not come up short in the insane, odd and sadistic departments. One of the game’s key characters, ally of Takkar, is Sayla. This lovely lady has a hobby you wouldn’t typically find on any dating profile and that is her interest in collecting the ears of dead people. There are other interesting individuals we’ll surely meet along the way, but it looks like Far Cry Primal won’t disappoint in the way of unique personas.
Like in previous Far Cry games, crafting seems to work the same way as before. Collect a certain amount and type of animal skin or plant will yield an upgrade to your inventory capacities or will enable you to wield a more powerful weapon. Some resources have been changed for Far Cry Primal as things like Clay, Slate and other resources are new.
There are a number of progression trees that players will be able to upgrade throughout the course of their playthroughs. Skills can be upgraded, whether we’re talking about your gathering, combat or beast master skills. Like we see with more progression systems in gaming, players will need to think carefully about how they apply the skill points they earn to the various options they’ll have.
This game is looking like something that truly does grant gamers a new lens to view Far Cry through. We’ll see how the full product comes together when Far Cry Primal stampedes into retailers on Feb. 23 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.