Okay, to be honest here, I’ve never played any of the Far Cry series up until this one. Granted, I have watched hours and hours of Far Cry 2 through Far Cry 4 being played by my husband. I know how Three and Four end. I’ve seen him gnashing his teeth at the ridiculous spawn rate of Far Cry 2, grumping at the various endings across the series. But despite these seemingly negative reactions, he generally gives the series high ratings, Four being his most favorite but followed very closely by Far Cry: Primal. And for me, it only took an hour of watching him play it before I decided to take up spear and bow and give it a shot.
BE WARNED, SPOILERS!!! (and probably swear words)
Fry Cry: Primal
The first Far Cry came out in 2004, followed by three “main” games in the series, aptly, if not boringly, named Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, and Far Cry 4. The series spawned a number of spin-offs, which technically includes Far Cry: Primal, but in my mind, Primal rather seems like a ‘Far Cry 5‘ to me (this was written before the actual Far Cry 5 came out). It is the most recent in the series, released in February 2016, developed and published by the mega-giant studios of Ubisoft (who has been the series’ developer/publisher since the beginning).
Usually the Far Cry series takes place in contemporary times, pitting your skills against some crazed dictator or faction types in Africa or some fictional country in the Himalayas or even remote islands in the Pacific. They are generally open sandbox-style games and there’re lots of guns, and usually lots of noise and explosions (although not as explody as Just Cause 3 by far). There is exploration, driving around in different vehicles, even grappling hooks and air vehicles. And of course, collections (as in finding and picking up items or doing tasks towards achievements). Far Cry 4 seemed to be the largest of the series that I had watched my man play, all culminating with the denouement against the baddie, which I’m given to understand could have gone a couple of ways. It looked vaguely intriguing enough that I thought I might go back and play it. However, we hit upon Far Cry: Primal first and this was my first plunge into the Far Cry world.
First off, compared to the previous games, this one is as silent as an electric car compared to a roaring Harley. We both noted how utterly quiet it was as we stealthily crept through the underbrush, bow and arrow in hand. I mean, natch, right, since you are in the times that exactly the title states: Primal. No guns or jeeps or even cities. Now we are transported back in time, somewhere in Europe 10,000 BC, to frolic with mammoths and sabertooth tigers, wielding bow and spear and brandishing burgeoning human wits.
Because you are Takkar, a Wenja hunter who has been separated from his hunting party. Well, okay, he is the barely sole survivor of a rather disastrous hunt whereupon his entire hunting party is killed. By a sabertooth tiger. Oh yes, bring in the big bad-ass cats!!! And not only the crazy kitties, but all the other prehistoric things we can stuff in there. Like mammoths! And cave bears! Lions and tigers, oh my? And cave… wolves.
Along with all the fun predators, there’s plenty of game to hunt in the form of goats and deer and woolly bison, prehistoric style. Truthfully, they don’t look that much different, which I would have thought they might, so far back. These are somewhat smaller and stubbier, but again, not that much difference. The land doesn’t look that much different either. Most of the trees and bushes look familiar. Maybe my brain is trying to match the period with dinosaurs or something, with the huge, prehistoric plants and trees that existed. However, what is different is that there aren’t really any roads, or even paths and there is very little by way of structures or even villages. I mean, at this point, people are just starting to come out of caves.
In terms of evolution, I have no idea where the Wenja might fall. There are actually three different tribes in the valley of Oros where Takkar ends up, where the game really begins. The Udam, who are portrayed as thick-skulled, heavy-browed, and brutish. Neanderthal man, I guess? Then there’s another tribe, who seems more advanced than the Wenja (definitely more than the Udam). The Izila are much more slenderly shaped and apparently can grow food of their own. The Wenja seem somewhat in between these two tribes in terms of technology. They still utilize caves, but also build huts; they do not grow their own food, but still hunt and gather. While the Udam wear rough furry skins, the Izila paint and adorn themselves with colors, jewelry and wear lighter clothing. The Wenja again, seem in between, wearing cured skins with more primitive jewelry. They all seem to have some spiritual and religious beliefs, with the Izila worshipping the Sun and the Udam worshipping… well, I’m not sure.
So you’d think that the Izila are the “next step”, physically looking like the next evolution of homo sapiens, and more importantly, being able to engage in a practice that would literally change the structure of the entire world: agriculture. However, they are not. Both the Udam and the Izila have, well, some serious issues. The Izila, unfortunately, have a bad little habit of burning people in sacrifice to the Sun. The Udam, on their way out evolutionarily anyway, eat the flesh of the Wenja in the beliefs that it will cure them of a disease that is killing them off. Great neighbors, eh?!!
So it is the Wenja, in this case, that will hopefully make the rise, with Takkar at the lead. He finds the rich valley of Oros and connects up with Sayla who seems to be a somewhat touched (I’m going to call a likely diagnosis of PTSD) Wenja woman. He takes a cave for his own and starts to gather the scattered Wenja to build a new settlement, whilst dealing with his oh-so-great-neighbors.
There are the requisite quests, both main and side; plenty of exploration with a huge map; crafting (of which you have to do everything, weapons and healing items, village building materials, etc). I mean, it’s a Far Cry, after all. And with that, of course, comes grappling! You get to make a primitive grappling hook that never fails! And vehicles! No, not really BUT you do get to ride a cave bear, a sabertooth tiger and mammoths! At some point, you bring Tensay, a truly, shall we say, unique shaman dude who teaches you to tame animals.
This is definitely one of the more fun aspects of the game, finding and taming all sorts of critters (all carnivores, naturally; I mean, I haven’t seen a goat I could tame) that then thusly serve as your companions (you even get to pet them!), your battle allies and in some cases, your mounts. You can order them to attack people or animals. They can die, so you have to heal them by giving them meat. They will also chase away other predators that might come looking to make a meal out of you, except for the fucking eagles. Who attack you out of the sky and drop goats on you. Well, not ON you, but damned close.
I remember the fucking eagles attacking my man as he played Far Cry 4. Out of nowhere, they come swooping in to claw at your face and harass you. Apparently, Ubisoft is fond of murderous murder birds (“murder birds” being what my vegetarian husband calls raptors).
However, speaking of murder birds, or “beards of prey” after the inimitable Ze Frank, you get your own!
You have an owl that Crazy Shaman Dude teaches you to tame and then you can use to scout, mark enemies, drop bombs on them and even swoop down and attack them. I dunno if you’ve ever seen some of the really huge raptors, but they can kill and carry off a deer in one stroke. Imagine a giant owl swooping down and hitting the back of your neck or crushing your skull at 30 miles an hour or more (depending on what kind of owl he is – looks a bit Great Horned Owlish to me).
With your owl and a stealthy kitty, along with a bunch of bushes and your trusty arrows, you can pretty much take down a camp without being seen. Unless you’re like me and like to charge in on your bear screaming, waving your spear, and going full frontal. Although, I do admit, despite that being my usual play-style, I had a fun time practicing engaging in more stealth this time around, giving myself challenges to see if I could take down entire outposts without an alarm (there’re bonus points in that too).
So, basically, your entire task is to “defeat” the Udam (and you know how I feel about cannibals… they all have to die) and the Izila (and you know how I feel about slavers… they all have to die) and usher in a new era for the Wenja and ultimately for humanity. But before you can do that… you must appease The Urki.
One of the best things about Far Cry: Primal is Urki. It’s pretty obvious that Urki is likely the great-great-great-great….. great ancestor of Hurk Drubman Jr. from Far Cry 3, 5 and 5. Urki looks like Hurk and he speaks Wenja with a fabulous southern hick accent (and please, no haters, I grew up in the South!). I’m pretty good at languages and I was starting to pick up some Wenja (I didn’t have the phrasebook that came with the more fancy versions of the game) but it was Urki that taught me the most for some reason. I think he had more careful diction. Or maybe it was so outrageous it just made sense. You do a bunch of really crazy quests for Urki, mostly collecting shit for his various impossible desires, like feathers so that he might fly off a cliff (and not fall to his doom, natch). But he’s not really successful at his endeavors with rather hysterical outcomes.
In Short Conclusion
I really liked my first real foray into the Far Cry series in Far Cry: Primal. It was quiet and reserved in some ways but also fun. There’s plenty of time and place for wild explosions, guns and roaring vehicles and there’s also room for these open, quiet and almost empty spaces. The game still has plenty to “do” in terms of quests and an ultimate goal to finish, as well as collections and side quests, explorations of Far Cry’s usually ginormous maps. (Also, I went back to try and play Far Cry 4 and I have to say, they improved on the actual gameplay mechanics in Primal. EVERYTHING was smoother and just worked better).
My absolute favorite parts of this game were riding the mounts, especially the big murder kitty (sabertooth tiger!) and dealing with Urki. He was truly the best. Such a great interactive easter egg. Over the top and ridiculous but still so fun. Thanks, Urki!!
What did I gain from the game, or think about?
I am often thinking about the “How did this thing come to be?” Like, how did humans discover alcohol in the first place and then decide to make beverages out of it? Did cavemen discover a container of berries had “turned” and it made them feel funny? Doesn’t it usually take a few repetitions for “association” to kick in? So, I’m often thinking of the very beginnings of humanity in general, not just the start of things we make and things we do.
As we evolved, as our groupings moved from hunter/gatherers to tribes all the way to nation-states, as broader scale agriculture kicked in and literally changed the fucking world, what was happening at each level? I don’t know how prevalent cannibalism might have been but we definitely eat less people. I can’t say as much for slavery nor religious fanaticism. What would have the next stage for humans been if they had been the Wenja, poised to move forward unchallenged in the world (which would have been the beginning or another step of homo sapiens).
It also goes to show, if you’re a cannibal or a crazy, fanatical slaver, it’s not you, dude, who’s moving forward. And we’ve seen this throughout history. We always seem to move towards more complexity and more progressive ways of interacting with ourselves, each other and the world. Sure, there are setbacks, The Dark Ages, WWII, etc, but what usually follows those periods? The Renaissance period may not have been possible without being a reaction to the Dark Ages.
So, we know that it is the moves forward that have brought us to where we are today, not being stuck in any particular stage of evolution. I think I take heart in that when I think about the world in its current state (this was finished in October 2020). No matter what, it isn’t the Neanderthal who are going to take humanity into a more complex, deeper evolution, culture and change.
Played on XBox One.
True Facts About Owls – Ze Frank
“Far Cry: Primal cover” – Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Far_Cry_Primal_cover_art.jpg