With Far Cry Primal,developer Ubisoft abandons all political facades and focuses on what made Far Cry stand out from its peers when the series debuted: the open-world sandbox. You play as a stone age hunter named Takkar, and your goal is to secure a safe haven for your people, the wandering Wenja tribe. The prehistoric realm of Oros is chock full of lush foliage, massive game animals, and an absurd amount of predatory beasts. Melee combat and beast companions set Primal apart from past Far Cry games and make exploration feel much more personal and engaging. If you love the open-world exploration and freedom, Primal has that in spades.
The biggest change Primal makes to the Far Cry formula is the focus on melee weaponry. The left mouse button performs a quick attack, and holding the button unleashes a stronger blow. The right mouse button puts Takkar in throwing stance, which lets you toss a weapon at a target. This is ideal for hurling spears, but not so much for tossing clunky clubs.
Arrows are your go-to projectiles for most encounters, but even they have their limits. Arrows have a clear trajectory and a very noticeable travel time. Primal requires a good amount of familiarity with the weapon, which I found very involving.
As a struggling caveman, you have very restricted inventory space. With only two clubs, two spears, and eight arrows at the start, there is a hard limit on what you can hunt or defend yourself against. The game lets you collect used arrows and weapons from people you kill, which slightly lessens the inventory issue.
At the start, you have enough ammo to kill a bear, but that’s about it. There are much larger and stronger animals in Oros, but you don’t have the capacity to kill such beasts until you unlock more inventory space and improve the quality of your weapons.
Primal’s second major gameplay change to the Far Cry formula, beast taming, goes hand-in-hand with the inventory woes. You learn beast taming very early in Primal, so you will rarely hunt or explore Oros on your own. With so few ranged options at your disposal, tamed beasts are your go-to distance attack. You can command them to fight whatever you are aiming your cursor at, giving you a chance to melee the target while it’s distracted or shoot at other enemies.
Once you complete your first beast quest, you can tame small hunting animals, such as wild dogs and wolves. As you unlock new skills, you can tame hunting cats, lions, and bears. Aside from attacking any nearby threat and warding off other animals, your tamed beasts make fine companions. You will need to feed your pet when they are wounded or incapacitated, and you can pet them if you’re bored. The combat and beast taming blends together to make the world of Primal feel more personal.
Oros is a massive, open world sandbox, filled with ancient animals to hunt and primeval predators to escape. Primal uses a light RPG system that lets you unlock new techniques, weapons, and items as you earn experience through combat or exploration. You can also salvage materials to expand the Wenja village, which in turn earns you new abilities and experience.
The story of Primal evolves as you explore the region and recruit lost members of your tribe. The plot highlights the conflict between your nomadic Wenja people, the cannibalistic Udam of the north, and the fire-worshiping Izila tribe of the marsh. Past Far Cry games have had highly eccentric villains to keep you invested in the plot. In Primal, I found myself more curious about the world, rather than the antagonists or the tribal drama.
That said, Primal’s environment serves as the most memorable character, much like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Part of Primal’s appeal, at least for me, is that you’re running around a prehistoric Europe amidst extinct behemoths you can only see in museums. But Ubisoft did an amazing job with both sound design and visual fidelity to bring the realm of Oros to life. The creatures are just as detailed as the game world. Beasts have facial expressions that change when they are angry, calm, or pleased. You know a wolf is happy when it pants and wags its tail like a dog. You know a lion smells something by its flaring nostrils and sharp breaths.
You have plenty of skills to unlock and stronger weapons to earn, but these feel more like enhancements rather than an expansion of your abilities. The fundamentals you learn from the beginning are the ones you will be using in most situations throughout the game, which can be repetitive in the long run.
Far Cry Primal performs solidly on PC. Not only does it have a variety of sliders that let you adjust the visuals to your liking, but also a handy benchmark option lets you run a demo to see how well the game performs with those settings. You can opt to use the preset graphical setting and not fuss over the individual values, or you can go into minute detail to get the game to run however you’d like. Texture quality, shadow quality, post-processing FX, geometry, terrain, water, and volumetric fog can be adjusted from Low to Ultra depending on the setting.
Far Cry Primal supports both gamepad and keyboard and mouse controls. I found the keyboard and mouse controls to be very comfortable and favored them over the gamepad controls. Movement uses the WASD keys, while camera control and basic attacks use the mouse. You can adjust the sensitivity in the options menu, though I found the default setting to be quite good.