Far Cry Primal is the latest installment of Ubisoft’s long-running series of open-world first-person shooters. It’s a departure from previous installments, which took place in modern times. This one turns back the clock to 10,000 B.C.E. and puts you in the animal-hide shoes of Takkar, a great warrior of the Wenja tribe. From there, you do many of the same things previous Far Cry games had you do, but with a number of new additions and subtractions that make it feel like a distinct, worthy sequel.
But just how worthy is it, and better yet, should you buy it? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if Far Cry Primal is for you.
1. Pro: Fantastic opening
This game eases you into its setting and gameplay systems in a gradual, engaging way. It winds back the clock and drops you into a hunting party approaching a herd of woolly mammoths. As you take one down, you learn the basics of combat, like how to throw a spear. After the hunt, you end up weaponless and separated from your party, so you have to collect resources like hardwood and slate to make a bow and arrows. This is how you learn crafting, another key component of the game.
Next you need to eat, so you hunt some goats grazing in the valley and build a fire — two other skills you’ll need throughout the game. The whole introduction seamlessly teaches you the basics, preparing you for when the game sets you free in the open world shortly thereafter.
2. Pro: Brilliant interlocking systems
The systems for hunting, crafting, and expanding your abilities make up the core of Far Cry Primal. You can collect plants, save allies from attacks, befriend specialist characters, conquer enemy outposts, and hunt animals. Not only is each task enjoyable to do on its own, but these systems feed into one another to improve your character’s abilities. They combine to create an irresistible gameplay loop.
Hunting and collecting lets you craft items and weapons. Saving allies populates your village, which allows you to craft new items and rewards you with daily resources that the villagers have gathered. The specialist characters will teach you their skills to fill out your ability tree. Conquering outposts makes the wilderness less dangerous and allows you to fast-travel around the map.
The result is that nothing you do in Far Cry Primal feels like a waste of time. Each action is a step toward making your character more powerful. It’s a brilliantly designed game.
3. Con: Weak story
The past few Far Cry games have featured interesting (and completely unhinged) villains who drove the story forward by doing awful things to undeserving people. In this game, the story is pushed to the background. Not only is the voice acting performed in an invented prehistoric language, requiring players to read subtitles to follow along, but there’s also just not much to it.
That’s not a huge problem when the rest of the gameplay is as good as it is in Far Cry Primal, but don’t come to the game expecting a memorable narrative. There are many reasons to play this game, but its story isn’t one of them.
4. Pro: The lack of guns isn’t a problem
As a hopeless fan of Far Cry 3 and 4, I didn’t think a Far Cry game could work without guns. After all, much of the appeal comes from running around with items like guns, grenades, rocket launchers, wing suits, and buzzer helicopters — all the modern conveniences you’d want when going solo against an army. Far Cry Primal has none of those.
Fitting with the prehistoric setting, you’re limited to clubs, spears, and a bow and arrow for your primary weapons. You can tame certain animals, and it’s great fun to sic a sabertooth tiger on an unsuspecting enemy. But for the most part, you’ll feel like a cave man because that’s what you are. This has the effect of streamlining your options when facing enemies, but it doesn’t feel as limiting as it might seem.
5. Con: Melee combat could use improvement
That said, since your arsenal is so limited, it would have been nice to see Ubisoft add new layers of depth to the game’s melee combat. Unfortunately, it didn’t. All you can really do is swing your club or stab with your spear. There’s no blocking, dodging, or heavy or light attacks. The game just isn’t as fun when enemies get all up in your face.
6. Pro: Taming animals is the best new addition
Your character in Far Cry Primal is a Beast Master. As such, you can cajole animals into doing your bidding. The first incarnation of this is to use an owl to survey enemy locations from above, marking them for when you approach on the ground. This is a smart workaround for the lack of the binoculars your character had in previous Far Cry games. You can also tame attack animals like wolves and bears, which will accompany you as you explore the dangerous world.
These beasts are reliable fighters that will pounce on enemies at your command. You have to be careful, because they have a health bar of their own, and if you can’t heal them before it runs out, you’ll lose them for good. When it happens, it can be a surprisingly poignant moment. In fact, I still miss my first wolf companion, who died saving me from a bear attack. Rest in peace, buddy.
Conclusion: Buy it
Overall, I’m completely hooked on Far Cry Primal. The game looks great, plays great, and has tons of hooks to keep players coming back day after day. Who needs automatic weapons when you have a spear and a pet leopard to keep you safe?