Just this past evening, I wrapped up getting the Platinum Trophy in Far Cry Primal on PS4, and I essentially knew that I needed to have a quick chat with folks about it, because I feel like it is definitely going to be a part of my conversation when it comes to game of the year. I'm not even that much of a trophy hound, as I find a lot of them to be a bit silly (and multiplayer trophies are never going to happen), but Primal, was a game that I enjoyed so damn much, and I seemed to play in every way possible (more on that in a bit), that I was naturally just getting close to 100 percenting the game as it was, so I figured "why not?"
Long time The Guys From readers may recognize the fact that one of the first gaming articles I wrote was actually about how juzzed I was that Far Cry Primal was a thing, plus I included it into my "Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2016" article as well (most of which, now looking back, was delayed into 2017...which made this year...special...), so in the end, this article was inevitable.
For those of you unfamiliar with Far Cry Primal, the game is a spinoff of Ubisofts FPS series Far Cry, which is essentially a super fun, open-world shooter series with RPG elements (specifically skill trees and crafting). In Primal, the designers stripped the FPS concept back and set it in Europe circa 10,000 BCE...which means this is a "caveman" FPS, wherein you only have stone age weapons.
Here's the official announcement trailer (that actually shows you a chunk of the very beginning of the game):
As the player, you take on the role of Takkar, a man from the Wenja tribe who arrives in a new land (called Oros) to find that his tribe is being attacked, killed, and in some cases enslaved by two different tribes, the Udam (a more neanderthal tribe who have turned to cannibalism) and the Izila (sun-worshipers who BURN EVERYTHING), and it is your goal to unite your tribe, provide them a safe village, and clear out camps (in Far Cry parlance: outposts) of these rival tribes in order for your people to prosper.
This essentially boils down into fairly standard Far Cry gameplay: you spend a lot of time wandering around a gigantic, beautiful map, doing small missions (kill invaders, find captured Wenja, etc.), larger story missions for well-written and fun characters, hunting dangerous animals to make equipment upgrades out of their skins, and eventually building yourself up to where you are able to go after the bosses of each opposing tribe. The main difference in Primal, however, is that you have a spiritual side; Takkar's spirit animal is an owl, but thanks to this deep connection, he is able to tame wild animals to help him on his journey.
I'm not going to lie, I was not sure how well this was going to work going in (I thought it might be neat, but I probably wouldn't use it too much), but rarer was the occasion when I did not have an animal with me than not. Having each animal with a small bonus, or skill set was brilliant, as not only did it push me into wanting to train every animal I could, but it meant that I was using different ones in certain situations, and would rotate freely based on what I was up to...until I got a sabretooth tiger that is, and then we just wandered around mauling things for hours...because he was ride-able (I don't care what you think about video games, riding a sabretooth tiger in first-person perspective mauling jerks and then hurling spears through their faces got me through some rough days this past month).
The gameplay itself is smooth and intuitive, the lack of weaponry (in the end, you only really have a bow and arrow, club, and spear) never really bothered me as it was a thematic and necessary choice...though I do acknowledge that a caveman with a machine gun would've been fun for a bit, but then the novelty would wear off and you'd just feel overpowered, the graphics are gorgeous, the characters were all enjoyable (I was particularly fond of Tensay, the Shaman), and all in all, this is one of the best pound for pound games that I have played this year, and perhaps even all-time. I had baskets of fun finding interesting ways to take out sentries, flying around as an owl, and sometimes just hurling bee clusters at enemies and clapping.
I feel like I have been pretty clear about the fact that I think that this game is fantastic, and I could go on gushing, but I feel I should point out a few things that I found bothersome, and address a couple things that I have seen people complain about instead:
- The XP Cap was annoying. This would only come up if you are trying to 100% the game, as I did, but it was a seemingly arbitrary moment when I no longer earned experience points for anything I was doing, and I had to do special missions that gave me skill points. This changed the way I was playing the game right at the very end, and was a little bit silly to me; I would rather there had been a trophy/achievement for doing all of the side missions instead of just skipping some as they no longer felt like they had a point.
- I fell through the world once in 50+ hours of gameplay, and it was not that big of a deal, but as I am playing the game well patched, it is something to be aware of (I have seen some "this game is buggy" complaints, and had practically no problems, but I am playing later than many people, which would more consistently reflect what a new player would experience (at least on PS4).
- The entire game is subtitled. I loved that, as it stuck us with a stone age language (that I began picking words up as I went)...but it is something to be aware of, because that is a pretty big part of the game.
- The game is very different than other Far Cry games as Primal essentially has you fighting up close and personal almost the entire time. I liked that, as it made things interesting (balancing healing, when to retreat a bit, feinting), but the hit-weight is a little floaty, and I could see that bothering some folks...but if you're an Elder Scrolls player, you'll be right at home.
- As you are never really "overpowered" for an area, everything feels a bit more dangerous, but upgrading the village so you always have crafting materials made that part of the game painfully easy. The last half of my playthrough, I barely harvested ingredients at all for crafting, I'd just stock up at my next spawn point. I get that I put the work in to have this happen, but there is that little something in Far Cry games about having to find rare things in order to make your weird new belt...
As you can see there...I'm nitpicking...and even then a lot of those points are things that bothered other people (which I felt a good idea to address).
In the end, Far Cry Primal was awesome, I loved (almost) every minute of my playthrough: it ran beautifully on my PS4, the light effects were occasionally picture worthy, the story, while occasionally slipping to the wayside so I could run around and take over outposts, or go hunting, was interesting, engaging, and ended in a way that I really loved (though, full disclosure, the story is loose--you can do it in any order you want, I just decided to end my gameplay with taking the Izila leader down). The sound was beautiful, the companions (trained animals) were useful, and a joy to have around, and...man...I just loved Far Cry Primal.
If you have not tried it yet, and anything I said above is interesting to you, check it out--if you look for it, you should be able to find a great deal on the game (as it has been out for almost a full year now)...and Black Friday/Cyber Monday are on the horizon, and it is on all systems. As for play time, I know I said I put in 50+ hours, and I did, but that was doing everything, I feel like you could easily finish the "story" in half that...but that feels like a rush to me...
Hit me up on twitter (below) to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions about my playthrough, or just want to tell me I'm crazy because something XB1 exclusive is "teh best".