Jun 22, 2017 Last Updated 10:14 AM, Jun 22, 2017

Far Cry Primal Review

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Far Cry Primal has several neat mechanics and moments buried beneath a sluggish tar pit.

In this primitive society, you're more gatherer than hunter. The bulk of my time was spent on a monotonous grind for materials. It is by far the longest scavenger hunt I've ever embarked on in my entire life, and I didn't receive much reward for my efforts. I wholeheartedly disapprove. There was so much potential, but none of it was fully realized.

Allow me to start with enjoyment: Most of these experiences were only possible after I got the right skills, so you're likely to see none of it for the first half-dozen hours playing. A humongous owl acts as a drone that scouts, dive kills certain enemies, and drops bombs. If you tame some bears or sabretooth tigers, you can eventually ride those around. Mammoths can't be tamed, but you can ride young ones. After getting the blood-drug shaman to join your village, a handful of vision quests show up sporadically. My favorite was becoming a fire demigod for a couple minutes. I got to shoot fireball arrows and blow up the moon.

That's the payoff: owl drone, animal rides, and extreme hallucinations. To get those satisfying tidbits, I had to break through a barrier built from hours of hoarding. Combat had no variety, so hunting and killing held no interest. Gathering was about as much fun as picking up litter at beaches, minus the gratification from helping mother nature out. I figured out one way to swiftly gather a bunch of materials; I could ride my sabretooth in a straight line while holding the interaction button. Being a paperweight on my keyboard turns out to be a viable strategy.

There are a lot of modifications available in the options menu.

You can turn off quite a few notifications and HUD information. The most valuable option for me was toggling off the animation for picking up items and skinning animals. Considering the countless junk piles needed to make progress, turning off that animation probably saved me a couple hours.

Being in the Stone Age is lame justification for how disappointing combat is. There are three main weapons: club, spear, and bow. You can either do simple attacks with those weapons, or do heavy attacks by holding down left-click. Clicking repeatedly makes one recurring basic attack animation. You could throw certain weapons and items. Main weapons can be lit on fire, so you can shoot fire arrows, but flaming clubs and spears are only held forward when used. Big endgame fights often spiral into whacking sprees against hordes, while small skirmishes feel tiresomely repetitive. Bosses are massive health tanks that take hit-and-run time commitments. Due to melee hit detection issues, close quarters combat is dangerously unreliable.

There is no significant story. You meet cousins in some big forest valley, then join their three-way gang war. Players have little reason to invest or immerse themselves. Characters all have their own little cut scenes to show off quirks, but the quests they send you on are boring distractions. Few missions have any progress. The introduction sequence is among the only interesting moments. After that, the player becomes Tribal Chief of a small village that experiences limited growth. Completing missions and objectives will cause additional villagers to join. At first, the amount of villagers gave certain benefits. After the population surpasses sixty villagers, any additional increase grants experience bonuses. Experience bonuses becomes completely useless, though, after all skills are obtained, and that renders the villagers equally meaningless.

A good deal of skills help players gather faster or craft more as, by the time players get them, they'll be halfway to the point where they're unnecessary. Besides the handful of genuinely interesting skills (animal riding and owl attacks), all the rest seem dedicated to reducing frustrations. Every morning, a reward chest also gets filled with several materials, but the player won't need those when it actually replenishes at a useful rate. You're also incapable of storing your items in this reward chest, despite it having a huge maximum item space. The materials that are so desperately needed either allow weapon upgrades, or can upgrade the huts of your village. There is no point to upgrading most huts more than once, since most huts only award exp for their second and final upgrade.

Tamable animals were interesting, but their differences were few.

Helpful animal abilities were often assigned to weaker tiers. Dogs were the weakest beasts, and automatically took items from what they killed. Such an ability would be an incredible convenience for endgame hordes, but dogs couldn't kill any enemies at that level. At least the sabretooth was the fastest animal, since riding it is the replacement for a lack of vehicles on the vast open world. Pets are also the most reliable attacks in combat, since they don't suffer from the poor melee hit detection.

It keeps cycling back to the point of unrealized potential. So many good ideas got started. If more time was spent following through, then Far Cry Primal could've been astonishing. Instead, all we got was a few treats lodged between a load of padding. Think of how great it'd be if all pets were controlled similarly to the owl. A drug or other method of integrating vision quest mechanics to the world could've opened the gates for a new dimension of interaction. Small scale wars that actually reduced your village population could've given more meaning to accumulating villagers.

What was released to us is a full-priced game that's a substandard first-person shooter. Its most unique feature is a setting that isn't often explored, and I hope this doesn't scare other developers away from diving into the past. At its current state, I see nothing more than a fresh layer of paint and cosmetics on top of an all too familiar foundation. An innovative direction of ideas must be met with changes in mechanics and design, not just textures. Overstuffing games with menial chores is inexcusable.


The Verdict

I am disappointed with Far Cry Primal, and rate it a 6 out of 10. I had to trudge through far too much muck to find bits of satisfaction. It's playable, but has no substance to act as backbone. There are no new challenges for people to face. No story presents itself for an audience to get engaged. No advancements are in sight, making this title thoroughly undistinguished.

Paris Forge

I am Paris Forge, a child of the PC age. The net has been a part of my life since surfing on Netzero dial-up at the turn of the millennium. I've begun to rely on it a bit more than I probably should, but it's a wonderful world. Writing is a huge part of my work. I have authored several articles and stories, and enjoy writing in my spare time. PC gaming is among my favorite sources of entertainment, and I find immense value in learning from an interactive environment.

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