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Far Cry Primal preview: Tribal Warfare

For Ubisoft's last outing in the Far Cry franchise, it dove into a plot surrounding complex and charismatic characters. There was social and political intrigue, wrapped in a tale of revolution and shaping the future of the world. The upcoming Far Cry Primal, on the other hand, appears to aim much simpler than that with its story and that's something to be expected, given the game's setting. This isn't the uncertain, complex, morally grey modern period. This is the prehistoric era. The only goal is to survive.

During our last hands-on preview, we learned that Far Cry Primal tells the story of a hunter-gatherer named Takkar. This time around, Shacknews got to go hands-on with the first couple of hours of the game and learned that the story doesn't get too much more complex than that. Takkar is part of a tribe called the Wenja and its main goal is to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the Stone Age. That means finding more lost tribal members scattered across the world, but it also means taking the fight to a rival tribe of cannibals known as the Udam, a tribe that is seeking the Wenja's total destruction.

The game's opening minutes sets the stage capably for the story that's to come. Takkar is out hunting with his fellow tribesmen, as they come across a herd of woolly mammoths. The beasts are far too big to take down and it's foolish to attempt to take down the full herd, so the goal is to find the runt of the litter and take it down. This offers the backdrop to work on the game's mechanics, many of which are taken from previous Far Cry games. But rather than using firearms, it's all about using melee weapons, throwable spears, or bows. The game's opening minutes conclude with a successful kill right before the tribe is attacked by a sabretooth tiger.

Even with its simplistic goals and its less-than-complex characters, Takkar is still not alone in this journey. His first encounter following the opening is with a Wenja woman named Jayma, who sends him out to find the lost tribespeople. The first of those tribe members is an eccentric shaman named Tensay. Finding Tensay kicks off one of the game's most distinguishing feature, as he teaches Takkar to tame the many wild beasts that can be found in the game. The first mission following this encounter sends players out to tame the white wolf, which is a useful starter beast. It's good for warding off predators and for taking out hostile Udam, but as I quickly learned when encountering a brown bear, it's definitely not an invincible beast. In fact, the bear took out the wolf and myself no less than three times over the course of this session. It's a fearsome beast, indeed, but as Takkar levels up and upgrades his skill tree, he'll eventually be able to tame even this massive furball.

When the game begins in earnest, numerous main and side quests pop up, most of which revolve around either finding more lost Wenja or taking out enemy Udam. One such mission had me escorting a lost group of Wenja safely across the world, giving me a chance to scope out some more of the landscape. But Far Cry Primal is still Far Cry, so even these missions can sometimes be derailed by random wild animals that decide to nose around the vicinity. And while I didn't bump into any in my last hands-on, the eagles were back in force this time and they're just as irritating as ever.

There's also a base-building element to Primal, which gives Takkar something to put resources towards. Gathering plants and skins can help upgrade either his own settlement, Jayma's tent, or Tensay's tent. Upgrades mean additional missions and extra reward possibilities. There's also the option to simply explore the world, where lighting bonfires can open up fast travel possibilities and friendlier spawn points.

Far Cry Primal looks to be a much simpler Far Cry affair, so those that aren't so much into the story element can find a more engaging survival-based affair here. But while the story appears primitive (wordplay unintended), there still looks to be more in play, as the narrative pointed to a second hostile tribe lurking the world. Beyond the story, the game's Beast Master mechanics are still refreshing one to see and breathe some life into this game. I didn't have the same upgrades that I had in my last hands-on, so I can say that certain tools like the owl aren't all that useful when they're first unlocked. But with a rich skill tree in place, it looks like those tools will grow much more useful over time.

Look for Far Cry Primal to hit PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 23, while PC is set to get the game on March 1.

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