Far Cry Primal

Gamers become pre-Stone Age hunter-warriors in ‘Far Cry Primal’

Nature has a way of capturing our attention. There’s something about the struggle for survival that mesmerizes us. I’ve seen people spend breaks watching a spider spinning a web or visit a park to observe seabirds diving into the bay for fish. The outdoors offers its own array of spontaneous entertainment.

As video games evolved, several companies tried to emulate the magic of the wild, but few have done it well. One of the best attempts to simulate nature is the “Far Cry” series from Ubisoft Montreal.

Its developers have used animals as one wild card among various random game elements. Sometimes players will experience moments of serendipity, as when a tiger wanders onto an enemy base and wipes out the mercenaries inside. At other times, they discover animals can be a hindrance. On a mission in the jungle, for instance, I’ve run into an angry rhino that stomped me into the dust.

Despite such challenging moments, the “Far Cry” series’ unpredictable creatures and bow-and-arrow combat are some of its best features. Apparently, Ubisoft Montreal noticed this, too. The studio has figured out a new way to showcase both, by sending players back to “10000 B.C.”

That’s right. “Far Cry Primal” takes gamers back farther than the Stone Age. Specifically, it’s in the mountains of Central Europe that they step into the role of Takkar, a member of the Wenja tribe who is on a hunting expedition when most of his party is killed. Upon returning home, he discovers that his village has been pillaged, too, and his people scattered across the land of Oros.

In the role of Takkar, players strive to reunite his people, rebuild his home and wipe out two factions bent on destroying the Wenja — the Udam clan of cannibalistic neanderthals and the Izila, who have achieved mastery over fire but force the Wenja into slavery.

Takkar, meanwhile, is a beast master who can tame predators, including wolves, badgers, tigers and bears. These creatures are the most effective weapons at his disposal, and he can command them to attack enemies and/or defend him.

Advanced players can also use the animals to distract their foes, so Takkar can sneak up from behind and dispatch them. By unlocking more game possibilities, players can even ride the sabertooth tiger.

The only problem with the animals is that several of them have little differentiation. So once a player tames the most powerful beasts to be his brute-force weapons, capable of tearing apart adversaries, there’s little reason for him to use the other animals.

When it comes to more conventional weapons, Takkar can access an arsenal of clubs, spears, bows and shards, but the most effective one is the bow and arrow. Veterans of this series will have no problem conquering enemy outposts, since the bow allows them to kill silently from the shadows or take out a slew of foes with a shower of rapidly fired arrows.

One of the better touches in “Far Cry Primal” is the leveling of the playing field that comes as the new Wenja village grows. After Takkar finds and rescues refugees, they join him in his clan’s new home. Those allies and their upgraded huts open up new possibilities, giving players tangible proof of their progress and making them feel invested in their territory.

Ubisoft Montreal has done a remarkable job of making the pre-Stone Age believable. The team enlisted linguists to simulate an Indo-European language and sprinkled this world with complex A.I. features. For example, players may encounter bears and other predators brawling over territory, and at night wolves prowl the darkness. Giant eagles have the strength to lift goats off the ground.

Everywhere in the land of Oros, players encounter a kind of savagery seldom seen in other games, giving “Far Cry Primal” a raw, primitive edge. Problems are solved with brutal violence, and motivations are unambiguous. Unlike players of earlier games, “Primal” gamers won’t face hard choices. The dining equivalent would be eating a bloody steak with your bare hands.

The straightforward “Primal” storyline is refreshing, since gamers needn’t second-guess their decisions or fret over complex systems or stats. They can just dive into the pre-Stone Age arena and lose themselves in its vividly imagined natural world.


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