Far Cry Primal Review: When Nature Calls

Far Cry Primal takes Ubisoft's annual FPS exploration formula and thrusts it back in time to the Stone Age. But does the formula work well in this new environment? Or does the game deserve its own extinction event? Our review.

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Far Cry Primal is an intriguing idea on paper, but I wasn’t really sold on how Ubisoft planned to transition its annual Far Cry formula twelve thousand years into the past. Primal has the potential to be an engaging journey into the prehistoric era, and a personal story of a single man's journey to bring his people together. Sadly that journey suffers from a critical blow to such quickly successive sequels: its promising story structure is buried beneath copy-and-paste mechanics that beg the player not to look any deeper than the same old Far Cry players have grown accustomed to since Far Cry 3 released in 2012.

Back to the Stone Age

Far Cry might be changing its time period, but it isn’t quite ready to give up the mechanics that have made the series so famous--or in some cases, infamous. Bonfires have replaced the radio towers of Far Cry 4, and outposts have returned as well, remaining almost exactly the same as they were in the previous two Far Cry games. This isn’t a huge issue, because the mechanics do work, but it does become rather bothersome after a while. Of course being able to mount and ride animals like the sabretooth tiger make for dynamic new ways to fight, but overall the Stone Age doesn’t feel much different from the tropical paradise or frosty Himalayas that we experienced in Far Cry 3 and 4.

As mentioned, the story is very weak on the surface. At this point you might call it Far Cry-esque. A much stronger enemy is attacking your people, and you’ll have to complete quests to strengthen the protagonist until he’s ready to take on the enemy commanders. The Beast Master aspect makes a nice addition to the myriad of upgrades available to players, but the amount of animals you can tame feels small compared to the amount of creatures roaming the world. Predators are the only animals you can tame, and there are only two types of tameable beasts that can be ridden. I’m not counting mammoths, though, because technically Takkar can’t tame them.

Early on in the game, around the same point you unlock the ability to tame animals, you gain access to an owl, which you can use to tag enemies and recon enemy encampments before you attack. This is the most striking example of borrowing liberally from previous games. It's clear that the owl is mean tto replace the camera feature, so it keeps an important mechanic intact in a way that makes very little sense in the world. It still works well, but feels too much like a prehistoric coat of paint on the existing Far Cry structure.

Unlike its predecessors, Primal’s arsenal of weapons is fairly simple, with players only able to make use of a bow, spear, and a club. Of course there are a couple of upgrades for your club and bow, including a double bow, which fires two arrows at once, and a two-handed club which deals a little more damage than the traditional club, but requires more time to attack. Other than that players really only have the option of a sling, which is fairly useless aside from distracting enemies, and several different throwable weapons like fire bombs, sting bombs, and stone shards. Despite the lack of weapon variety though, Ubisoft actually has done an outstanding job with the weapons. Each hit with the club feels good, the sound of the heavy wood crushing flesh and bone resounding through the air, and the spear takedowns were a personal favorite of mine as I roamed around the game world.

Similarly, the wild forests of Oros feel alive. Enemies, allies, and wild animals roam the land and side events are plentiful along the way. Sometimes all the animals, people, and events can be too much though and oftentimes I found myself feeling overwhelmed, as if the world was too busy. This is really reflected in the game’s world map, which features icons for every collectable in the game. This isn’t really a negative, but it does make for a cluttered mess when you’re trying to find something specific.

The Beast Master’s Journey

Takkar’s journey through Oros is fairly straightforward. Takkar has been gifted with this amazing power that he must now use to destroy the Wenja’s enemies. It's a basic "Hero's Journey" structure, with the somewhat superficial twist of being set against an unusual time period. While the story didn’t ever pull on my heartstrings, or play with my emotions at all, it did have a few witty moments that made me chuckle. After spending a fair amount of time roaming around Oros I managed to finally take down the Wenja’s biggest enemies. Assuming my journey was over I sat back and prepared myself for the game’s main ending--which is why it completely surprised me when I realized you had to complete every single quest given by the village specialists to actually end the game.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the specialist quests were actually interesting, but many of them hold no more story than the side events you happen upon while making your way through the forest. This was extremely disheartening, because it meant I was forced to go through with these mundane experiences just to be able to see the game’s real ending. Had the quests been more interesting, like the Master Beast Hunter quests, and less “fetch this and build my hut” then I wouldn't have minded the forced nature to reach the end of the game.

Becoming Wenja

Overall Far Cry Primal is a promising idea, but the underlying potential of Takkar’s journey is wasted on a stereotypical surface level story that keeps players from really connecting with the protagonist and supporting characters. The Master Beast Hunts are exhilarating, and require tons of preparation if you want to pull them off without a hitch, but aside from the few hunts offered up in the end game, the forced specialist quests are just as much a letdown as the game’s underwhelming story. In the end the new abilities, like taming animals and riding them, are great additions to the game, but they just aren't enough to save Far Cry Primal from being a fairly average and mindless adventure in a time long forgotten.

Guides Editor

Review for
Far Cry Primal

6

Pros

  • Stunning visuals bring the world of Oros to life
  • Scattered NPCs and animals make the world feel full of life
  • Ability to ride wild animals like Sabretooth Tigers, Mammoths and Bears
  • Weapons combat feels great

Cons

  • World feels too busy at times
  • Lack of weapons in player's arsenal
  • Cluttered world map is hard to read at times
  • Required quest completion to reach game's ending forces player to complete mundane and uninteresting fetch quests
  • Story is underwhelming and the protagonist's potential as an interesting character feels wasted

From The Chatty

  • reply
    February 22, 2016 3:00 AM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Far Cry Primal Review: When Nature Calls

    • reply
      February 22, 2016 3:30 AM

      Ouch. So, Far Cry without guns.

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      February 22, 2016 4:36 AM

      For me, they really messed up the IP with FC4. I acknowledge it was a decent enough game, but they managed to mess it up just enough and on the right areas to piss me off. The absolute worst thing was how it performed on the PC at launch. FC3 was pretty solid, whereas FC4 still doesn't run completely smoothly, even if better than at launch. The setting tried real hard to be something memorable, but... just wasn't. They overdid the random animal encounters. The characters were not as memorable as in FC3. Just an endless list of small things that add up to me not wanting to finish the game, let alone buy a new one with mediocre reviews like this.

      FC3 is one of those games that was superb not because it did something wholly new or awesome, but because it was well put together and polished. They should have kept that.

      • reply
        February 22, 2016 4:40 AM

        I was hoping for more fc3 with 4 but I got bored.

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          February 22, 2016 5:43 AM

          Me too, they changed the setting which meant different accents, buildings and terrain, but it was still too similar to 3 (which I really enjoyed).

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          February 22, 2016 10:59 AM

          I was hoping for more FC2 but got more FC3 was pretty pissed.

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          February 22, 2016 12:48 PM

          Strange I felt like that's exactly what FC4 was, more FC3.

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          February 22, 2016 12:55 PM

          Wasn't that exactly what FC4 was, minus the most painful writing ever in a game?

      • reply
        February 22, 2016 5:46 AM

        Yeah FC3 just had this really perfect balance of gameplay elements that was always going to be hard to recapture. It was more fun than the sum of its parts, in a weird way.

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        February 22, 2016 5:53 AM

        FC4 was so much fun, just as much fun as FC3

      • reply
        February 22, 2016 3:50 PM

        I enjoyed FC4 a lot more than FC3 and thought the characters were much better. Vaas was cool but he didn't even last long. FC4 felt iterative to 3 but in the right ways.

      • reply
        February 22, 2016 4:23 PM

        It was great for me. ???

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      February 22, 2016 10:34 AM

      Go back and look at the original Far Cry and ask yourself if Primal is even a Far Cry game at all? Ubisoft just uses the name Far Cry like a branding strategy ( just like they do with Tom Clancy's name who BTW is dead but still has his name attached to The Division ).

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        February 22, 2016 10:41 AM

        Ubisoft bought the rights to use his name long ago. Pre-death.

        http://www.shacknews.com/article/51857/ubisoft-purchases-tom-clancy-name

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          February 22, 2016 1:31 PM

          I know, but the whole buying-the-rights-for-the-name thing reeks of marketing brand strategy. Pee-yoo!

          • reply
            February 22, 2016 4:19 PM

            well, duh. that's what it is.

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        February 22, 2016 11:10 AM

        They bought lifetime rights to the Tom Clancy name for use in games, and even spin offs from their games in other media.

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        February 22, 2016 12:52 PM

        Hell, go back and look at the original Far Cry and ask yourself if Far Cry 2 is even a Far Cry game.

        Crysis is the evolution of the original Far Cry. Far Cry 2 took the series in a way different direction and it grew from that.

        But what defines what a Far Cry game is now? Is a series of games supposed to be defined by the very first game and if it's not like the first game it's not truly part of that series? There have been a lot more Far Cry games in the format of Far Cry 2 than the original Far Cry so honestly I'd consider Primal to be more of a Far Cry game than the original Far Cry.

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          February 22, 2016 1:23 PM

          Those are interesting comments. I agree Far Cry 2 was disconnected from Far Cry 1 ( mostly because Crytek of Crytek's departure ).

          I would define the Far Cry formula ( up throughFar Cry 4 ) as a first person shooter set in a very remote, isolated location.

          Far Cry Primal is so far off from that! It looks to me more like a spin-off, stand-alone expansion pack / total conversion mod of Far Cry 4. When it's on sale on the Steam store for $7.50, I'll consider buying it.

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            February 22, 2016 1:31 PM

            It's been a minute, but Far Cry was a mostly by the numbers shooter that takes a left turn at mutant apes and ends up a cruel slog. That is far away removed from Far Cry 2's "open world" aspects. I think the idea that Far Cry 2 really set the premise to what we can expect from these games is spot on. Also, it very much looks like Far Cry Primal is 4's version of Blood Dragon with more content and heftier price.

        • reply
          February 22, 2016 2:00 PM

          The amount of badass looking tattaus I can have

      • reply
        February 22, 2016 1:46 PM

        It's true - the original Far Cry has basically nothing to do with most if any of the sequels.

    • reply
      February 22, 2016 11:16 AM

      Good review, Josh.

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      February 22, 2016 11:18 AM

      Well I am getting it, from the videos I have watched on YouTube it looks awesome. I have always wanted a cave man themed open world game and really enjoy FC3 & 4.

      Those not sure just go watch this video below or the others that GhostRobo made on Far Cry Primal:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCI1zTdfljg

      * he has more vids btw on it, just go to his video listing *

      • reply
        February 22, 2016 11:29 AM

        It's a very enjoyable game for the most part. The animal riding and things are really fun. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, there are just so many issues that it really keeps the game from reaching its full potential. It's not a bad game by any means. It's just not the best that Ubisoft could have done with the idea which is why the game falls so low on the review scale. If you've been looking forward to it, don't let this review stop you. These are simply my opinions on it. I'd be interested to hear everyone else's opinions on it when the game releases tomorrow.

        ^-^d

        • reply
          February 22, 2016 12:07 PM

          Cool glad you enjoyed it :), thanks for the review. The beast riding reminds me of He-man, except you don't have a big ass sword :) Damn... actually can you imagine a open world He-man game full on RPG!

          Personally I hope it does well so they make a follow up and make it even better next time. I think it has a lot of potential there are so many gun games its a nice change of pace.

          We all have different opinions that is what makes us human, and makes you a good writer.

          Back in the day I was crazy about B.C. on the original Xbox but it got canceled. So this is basically my spiritual successor to that game that never became a reality. This is why I am really excited to play it(and of course I am a FC fan). After watching the vids online of the gameplay I was sold but that is just me.

          Hopefully I will be a happy camper tomorrow.

    • reply
      February 22, 2016 12:13 PM

      While I enjoy the stealth moreso than the gunplay
      I will wait until it's on sale unfortunately.

    • reply
      February 22, 2016 12:29 PM

      finally a peeing in the forest game

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      February 22, 2016 1:25 PM

      I don't get why they thought this was a good idea.

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        February 22, 2016 1:42 PM

        Other sites put it a little higher than Shacknews does, so some people do think it's a good idea.

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          February 22, 2016 1:53 PM

          could be a good idea. simpler combat? non twitch non shootery stuff? maybe the story is super awesome? NPCs are super awesome? written by the witcher 3 folks? lydia makes an appearance to help me with my burdens since I will be skinning 10000000000 animals and collecting 99999999 plants? who knows maybe it's a prehistoric skyrim and it's a nice holdover to the actual.... next skyrim! :D

          also it's probably consoled to fuck like battlefront. very simple overall, very engaging. you probably ride the mammoth over a +100 trample powerup

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            February 22, 2016 1:54 PM

            If I get to put skill points into "Trample", they've already sold a copy.

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          February 22, 2016 2:19 PM

          It's not that I didn't think it was a good idea. As I posted above to Valcan, I really enjoyed the gameplay features and things I just really feel like they could have done a better job with it. Instead they simply went for the same copy/paste ideas instead of using the potential of the story to create something unique.

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            February 22, 2016 2:58 PM

            I didn’t insinuate that you thought this, but countered OutawSundown's post.

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              February 22, 2016 3:33 PM

              You invoked the good name of Shacknews, good sir. At Shacknews, we've done something wrong if we aren't 1 less than meta critic's average.

              • reply
                February 22, 2016 3:34 PM

                In re-reading it, I actually see how shitty it actually looks, even though that wasn't the intent :/

            • reply
              February 22, 2016 3:42 PM

              Ah. Well, was just trying to make sure my feelings on the game were clear. I've enjoyed it. But it's not a great game by any means.

    • reply
      February 22, 2016 3:38 PM

      Man, remember the original Far Cry? Banging around in the jungle boppin' mercs. "Hey you, in the shirt!"

      Looked amazing and super fun. The ending in mutant land was silly but what the hey.

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        February 22, 2016 5:13 PM

        Game was a blast! I remember trying to get the demo island level to run well on my crappy PC. It looked so amazing when I finally upgraded. Used to play through it 1-2 times every year. Love how it balanced the linear and openness in maps. Kinda wish FC would go back to that style at some point. Giant open world is cool, but can be overwhelming and generic these days.

    • reply
      February 22, 2016 3:56 PM

      No more fucking tower climbing, Ubisoft.