Editorial

Far Cry Primal – Can We Give Up the Gun?

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I’m a pretty big fan of the Far Cry series, a franchise I’d consider definitive in the open world FPS genre. Four main games and various spinoffs in, it’s developed a solid formula: exotic settings filled ferocious animals and amoral warlords, a wide variety of weapons, vehicles and upgrades, base assault and map control objectives, plus a vast scale that allows the player to wander, explore, and hunt down various collectibles and objectives. Story-wise, the series has its hits and misses, but it’s always featured colorful, memorable characters, and Far Cry 4 marked a high point for the game’s narratives. All of this means I could happily go for more of the same, another title in another far away land.

Yet familiarity breeds contempt, or so the saying goes, and Ubisoft is looking to shake things up on the newest entry in the franchise, Far Cry Primal, which follows a tribal struggle in the fantastic Stone Age world of Oros. Whether this will be a wise move for the series or a footnote entry soon forgotten depends on how the game uses its established formula while breaking new ground.

There’s plenty that’s familiar. Ancient Oros is every bit as lush as Africa, the South Pacific, or the Himalayas, and filled with even more dangerous wildlife. The story of tribal conflict is similar to previous factional struggles, too, while taking the biggest improvement from 4 and giving the player a personal stake in the conflict, rather than making them a fish-out-of-water outsider. The overall gameplay framework is also familiar, with a huge map to explore, camps to conquer, and bonfires to light (what, no towers?). There’s also gathering, crafting, and a skills system, the nice little RPG-ish touches that I enjoy. So all of that sounds great.

Far Cry Primal

On the other hand, the prehistoric setting necessitates some big changes. The biggest, and so far the cause for most early skepticism, goes right back to those strengths I listed in the beginning: vehicles and weapons. While I’m admittedly the cautious (cowardly?) sort of player who goes around sniping everything from a mile off, my most intense gameplay came from those moments where everything goes sideways and the only option is “going loud.” Nothing quite says love like ramming a Humvee into a checkpoint then hopping into the turret to spray survivors with a Dushka, but obviously there’s a shortage of Soviet heavy machine guns in the paleolithic. Ditto dune buggies and heavy trucks.

Can Far Cry Primal overcome this issue and get FPS players to embrace a game with few real guns?

I’d say it probably depends on your playstyle. A bow is nothing new for Far Cry, and its gameplay looks very familiar, including the use of special ammunition like flaming arrows, which can set the terrain ablaze like in prior titles. So if you’ve been a big bow hunter, the game already has everything you need. There are other analogues, like bee-hive bombs instead of traditional grenades, primitive traps instead of mines, and so on. The melee mechanics also look similar, with positional take-downs like those introduced in Far Cry 3’s skill tree. This sort of combat is mostly single-button QTE-like, though, and I always found it more of a novelty for stealth missions than a substantial mechanic.

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Then there’s the beast-taming. Building on the war elephants in 4 as well as open world mechanics in prior games that would see wildlife attacking each other or human enemies, Far Cry Primal allows the player to tame various prehistoric beasts, using them as mounts, companions in combat, and even for scouting.  This is where the game looks to make up for whatever has gone missing in terms of heavy hardware, and it’s going to be what makes or breaks the title, mechanically. The animals all have different stats and functions, and are probably pretty familiar to anyone who’s played an RPG or MMO with a pet class: bears for tanking, stealthy jaguars, dire wolves and saber tooth tigers for offense. While the commands look a little simplistic, the WoW hunter in me is excited by this, especially by the tactical depth it brings to the game.

All of this leaves me cautiously optimistic. I’ll definitely miss the heavy machine guns, RPGs (of the explosive, rather than skill tree variety) and vehicles, and I’m not that enthusiastic for a lot of ‘walk up, press the button, see a pretty animation’ melee combat. At the same time, the world of Oros looks amazing, and I’m absolutely excited for riding around on a mammoth flinging spears at people. The biggest what if for me is what sort of variety upgrades will bring to ranged weapons, particularly the bow. Done right, the game may have just enough shooter in it to keep things interesting.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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