February 29, 2016

Far Cry Primal - Review

Less than 12 months after the release of Far Cry 4, we were treated to the announcement of a new Far Cry title, lots of people expected it to be like Far Cry Blood Dragon, a smaller Far Cry experience, but Ubisoft were adamant in telling us it was a full game and now that Far Cry Primal is here, it does not live up to that promise.

You play as Takkar, a member of the Wenja tribe who are upon the verge of starvation and on the hunt for some food and as you and your fellow hunters down a mammoth, a very large sabretooth tiger attacks and kills everyone, sending you and another down a cliff, before he dies, he tells you to seek out the other Wenja living in Oros and you make your way there. Along the way, you are instructed on the basics of the game, but once you meet Sayla, things really get moving. It turns out the Wenja are not living together, because they are being hunted by the Udam and their leader Ull, so they wander the land of Oros in the hopes of surviving, but Sayla believes that Takkar can bring their peoples together and defeat Ull and his kind.

As far as personal motivations go, it is far stronger than the player motivation for Far Cry 4, but apart from an early battle when the Udam attack the newly formed Wenja village, the rest of the villagers do nothing to assist, making it a one man show again. What drives the story forward though is not Takkar, but it is the people that you interact with, Tensay the Shaman, Karoosh the Hunter and even Ull and Batari the villains, they all have strong personalities that make them believable. Tensay is the most important of them as he is the one who helps you achieve the ability to tame the beasts of Oros, but once you know how to do so, the others gain equal importance, thanks to the skills and missions they provide. While the main story for me, fell by the way side, I enjoyed all the interactions with the Wenja of the village, because they all had spirit.

The Wenja village is located in the west of Oros, meaning you have the rest of the compass to explore and for the most part the world is really well designed, to the north is ice and snow, the south is a warmer climate, while the east is mountainous. While each direction on the compass does offer something different for the player to explore, the only dangerous one, at least for a while is the north, as once you enter the snowy area, your body will start to react to the cold. You are able to upgrade your clothing to provide more protection, but until you max that out, you will be subject to the whims of nature, there is a downside to this danger though and that is the range of it, between the two zones is an area where they mix, snow seeps down the hillside and as you go into it, you will still see the green grass and trees from below, the danger here is non-existent, meaning that you will not have to worry about the cold, even if you are standing in the snow, but once you hit the full snow fields, the cold will kick in, leaving you helpless as your tolerance dwindles. What makes it odd is that, there is no middle ground, you are either in the cold or not and the moment you pass the invisible line, the meter refills very rapidly.

While the north is a little odd with how it treats the environment, the rest of the world is very peaceful, the south has more sunlit glow to it most times of the day, providing different sights to see and the east has more open plains, but as they are dotted on mountainsides, with steep cliffs taking hold, they can be pretty dangerous as well. While the landscape can be pretty, it is very rough, which is to be expected from a historical setting, man has not attempted to shape it to his will, but that is not the only thing I mean, there were countless times that I got stuck on rocks, or while attempting to jump a fallen tree. Towards the end of my time, I would instinctively go the long way around something, because I was afraid I would find myself stuck on some invisible element again. While the locations themselves have dangers, they are even less of an issue that the animals that populate the world, from the outset, you meet a very dangerous sabretooth, but once you are in Oros, the dangers start out very small and then ramp up from there. Dhole are perhaps the most annoying animal danger you will encounter, at the start they might seem like threats, but as you gain more skills, weapons and eventually beasts, they end up feeling more like deer, always around making noise, just never an issue.

The rest of the animals, specifically the ones you can tame are more of a threat at any given time, assuming that you don’t have an animal companions of your own.  Bringing a tiger or wolf with you, will keep other animals of equivalent size at bay, for anything bigger, you will need a bigger animal yourself. This means that if you choose to go solo, you will always need to be aware of any predators that might be stalking you, but while that might be a downside, it can also be a worthy trade when your animal buddy gets in your way for the hundredth time. Controlling the animals is not an involved process and for the most part they will act on their own, helping you out, though should you need them to target an enemy, you can always direct them to attack your highlighted choice, the problem comes with then running off on their own to chase after someone, or another animal, leaving you to wonder what they saw. While they do this, you can recall them back if you want to, though until they are close by, you are on your own again. In a fight, most of them will draw the attention of your would be attackers, letting you focus on taking them out, but should you not down your foes before your animal friend is taken down, you will have to revive them before they die. It is a complex system in play with the animals, you can heal them, pet them and even ride some of them, but for all the benefits they give you, them standing in your way, usually in a narrow passage, leaving you stuck until it moves or you make it move, becomes a real pain.

The strange thing about the world though is how empty it feels compared to past games in the series, all missions basically revolve around you hunting for something, picking something or freeing someone, it does not matter if they come from the villages, or the Wenja event missions that happen in the world. The Wenja event missions themselves are even more of a nuisance than they were in Far Cry 4, as completing them will usually reward you with new members for your village, if you fail them, you will lose members, so if you accidently get to close to an event and it triggers, you are better off finishing the mission. The other thing is that outside of any missions, there is little else to do in the world, you can gather supplies to upgrade the village, which unlocks new skills and missions, but that still falls into the gathering group of activities. The lack of other things to do comes down to the time period of course, they never had races, not contests like we know today, it was a world where you killed to survived, but as you wander your village, you will see people playing drums around a fire and others dancing, so even a mini game based around that would have been nice. There are collectables to be found, but as the number of them is closer to 200, many people may not even bother.

Thankfully exploring the world of Oros is a treat, at least visually, walking through the thick forests, with bursts of light coming through the trees, it really is something incredible to see. When you hit up the snow covered locations, you will see snow fall all around, ice cracks under your feet and even fire makes the world feel alive, with how it can latch onto burnable objects, letting them crackle and roar as the fire spreads. It is not perfect visually though, there are some rough areas to be found, most of them were texture based, there were times when the rocks would have a strange line texture applied, but only on one side. A much more common issue, would be that Wenja events and animals would just vanish from the world, I spent over 45 minutes attempting to locate a rare white Yak, so I could upgrade my cold resistance, only for the first one I saw, literally vanish from before my eyes and this was not, me loosing track, it was simple there one second and gone the next, this occurred many times, with cave bears, cave lions, tall elk and even enemies in my site, but then once a certain distance was between us, they just disappeared. When it comes to the sounds of Oros, the animals sounded as one might expect them to, the language of the people was well acted and convincing, even if the on screen subtitles tended to linger too much, but perhaps the most annoying aspect audibly, was that you had no control over the levels. The music was nice, but there was very little differentiation in the score, which means it feels like it repeats far too often, you can turn it off, but as the music would kick in whenever you entered in combat, it helped to hear it, in case you did not know you were being shot at. But as you can’t lower than alone, its either on or off, the animal noises are great, but the number of times I heard Deer and Goats, baas and bleats became to numerus to count.

Far Cry Primal feels like it’s trying to be a full game, but there are so many times it feels like an expansion, wonky visuals, lack of content and missing game options all highlight that fact. Adding up the sum of its parts, it shows its lack of depth, but none of that really matters, as the game world is fun to explore and the denizens of the world are interesting enough to help gloss over the flaws, at least for a little while.

Thanks to Ubisoft Australia for supplying the game for review

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