‘Far Cry Primal’ Messes With a Winning Formula

Far Cry Primal, the next big game from Ubisoft, is set to launch on February 26, 2016. Despite being set 12,000 years ago, long before we had cars and sniper rifles, the game doesn’t look as dissimilar from the previous entries as you might think based on its premise. Still, it messes with a winning formula. The question is: Will it strike the same chord as Far Cry 4?

You play as a “beastmaster” named Takkar, whose daily life in the Stone Age is a lot more dangerous and exciting than that of your average modern day office worker. Takkar can control wild animals, taming creatures like bears, direwolves, and saber-toothed tigers to sic on his enemies. Who needs an automatic weapon when you have a muscular, toothy beast waiting to tear out the guts of anyone who looks at you sideways?

Not that the game is a walk in the park, even with a prehistoric beast at your side. Wild animals will still try to hunt you, and hostile tribes can still riddle you with arrows and spears before they pound you to dust with a club. Thankfully, you can build your own arsenal of Stone Age weaponry to fight back. And as you progress through the game, you can craft even more impressive feats of prehistoric wartime technology.

Other Far Cry games put a hefty emphasis on reconnaissance, rewarding you with scoping out enemy territory using binoculars by “tagging” enemies so you can keep tabs on them even when they’re out of view. Far Cry Primal has a similar function that sends an owl flying overhead to cue you into enemy positions and tag them as well. The owl can even “snipe” individual enemies by dive-bombing them and picking apart their insides.

You’ll still take over enemy territory, but this time you won’t have to climb any kind of tower to do it. Tower climbing to clear fog from the map has been a staple of open-world Ubisoft games for years now, but since most Stone Age tribes had better things to worry about than building towers, it wouldn’t make sense here. Instead, once you clear out enemy camps, you light bonfires that let you fast travel around the map and give you access your village stash.

Ubisoft hasn’t revealed much about the game’s story yet, other than to say that your character has been separated from the tribe and is trying to get back. Far Cry games have always been more about emergent gameplay than plot, but the series is known for having iconic villains, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with for this game.

I had initially worried that Far Cry Primal would end up seeming like a poor imitation of the core series, thanks to its lack of modern weapons and vehicles. But from the looks of it, I’m not sure I’ll even miss those things. Even though this still looks like a Far Cry game, it’s good to see developers who are unafraid to experiment with a popular formula. I would hate to see Far Cry settle into a repetitive release cycle like the Assassin’s Creed series. Annual releases like that wear out their welcome before long.

I’m sure we can expect Far Cry 5 to bring a whole arsenal of modern weapons when it launches in another year or two. In the meantime, hunting predators and hostile tribes in the Stone Age just might hold us over.

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