Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Plot: The Mesolithic Period. Takkar, a hunter from faraway lands, stumbles across a world filled with savage tribes and fearsome beasts.
Farcry Primal comes across as a fun experiment and little more when first purchased. Can the Farcry series survive when taken away from the modern day setting and thrown into the Ice Age? For the first few hours of gameplay it would seem so with the player thrown into the POV of a caveman, whose weapons are whatever he can craft using the landscape and the characters around him, speaking in a foreign tongue and unintelligible without the handy subtitles at the bottom of the screen. However, over time, Farcry Primal proves it can hold its own with the other Farcry games.
It helps that, with the unusual setting, there is a sense that the writers actually don’t have to do too much. In Farcry 4, extensive scripts were created to make the best Farcry game yet. With Primal, the landscape is so original and exciting, you feel that the story is a selection of randomised Farcry plot points and nothing more. But the genius of Primal is that nothing else is needed. In fact, with the language barrier, it helps having Farcry 101 the basis of the story, so you are never really lost. At all times, the adventure revolves around your hero building up a settlement of friendly, quirky Neanderthals and there being two other nasty tribes to wage war against. Despite the abrupt change in setting, you never feel lost or confused with this unfamiliar entry into the Farcry series. Everything else is a case of making the world of Farcry Primal your oyster. The entire point of this tonal shift in Farcry is not the story, but in having the set-up of a Farcry game include the dangerous world of the Ice Age. There are your usual enemy camp issues to contend with, using your caveman wits to defeat enemy soldiers. The Ice Age landscape also proves to be a fruitful area for exploration, mysterious caves hiding treats and mountain-tops keeping secrets to be found. But, of course, the best thing about Farcry: Primal is the wildlife. Roaming the open world of Farcry is much more exciting because of the prospect of having a run-in with a carnivorous Sabre-toothed Tiger or a chance to ride a Woolly Mammoth into battle. But Primal goes one step further and lets you become the Beast-Master, a man with the ability to tame wild beasts. It encourages you to actually seek out these exciting predators and try to, not kill them, but make them your personal weapons. You think that battling a pack of wolves is fun, wait until you’ve convinced one to tear into your enemies for you. There are also a group of special boss baddie battles with some truly violent beasts with the reward of taming them to join your side. After narrowly escaping a deadly giant Sabre-Tooth at the prologue of the game, a mission later on asks you to go back to the start and try to tame that same tiger. It’s a tough side-quest, but when completed, you will have your very own Ice Age titan to help you out. The later levels are so much more relishing when you have a horde of Ice Age beasts to call on at any given time.
There are a few brief moments where the novelty of Farcry Primal becomes more of a problem than a benefit. And all of these moments can be pretty much condensed into the category of weapons. A large part of that Farcry fun is simply taken away when the designers rob you of your guns. For a time, falling back on spear-throwing and archery adds a nice change-up from the norm. However, as the game gets trickier, it becomes so much more frustrating not to have an automatic rifle to fall back on. The saving grace is that your foes are just as ill-equipped with prehistoric weapons as you are, so in a fight, you might miss your enemy with a spear toss, but their projectile will likely soar over your head as well. If anything, you can really buy into the chaotic mess of a battle. Small skirmishes are definitely made fun, by the fact that so much can go wrong. It is merely the bigger battles, like taking over a major enemy camp, where you really begin to crave a handgun being in your back pocket.
Final Verdict: Farcry Primal turns a whimsical experience into an essential treat for any Farcry fan.