Far Cry Primal

Far Cry PrimalUbisoft goes prehistoric with its back-to-basics adventure…We’re used to games stacking the odds against you. An army against one rebel. A city that needs liberating by one hero. A single soldier taking on a universe full of nasty aliens. But in all of these you’ve got the edge; a big-ass gun, a unique piece of technology, or a team at your back. Far Cry never bothered with that; you get dropped into a shitstorm and it’s up to you to survive. And in Far Cry Primal, that’s going to be harder than ever, because this time around there isn’t a bullet in sight.“Maybe there’s this idea that we have all these Far Crys planned, but the reality is, at the end of each Far Cry we sort of think to ourselves ‘Where do we want to go next?’” explains Dan Hay, executive producer. “A team came to us and basically said ‘We have an idea for Far Cry’. So they sat us down and they talked about the idea of a Far Cry that was primordial, that took place at the beginning of time, the beginning of mankind.”Ubisoft couldn’t be going back to basics any more than it is with Primal. Gone are the guns, the cars, the helicopters and the purple-suited baddies. In are loincloths, spears, and giant, terrifying mammoths. The game takes place 12,000 years ago, meaning even language may be a barrier. But, as with any Far Cry title, the biggest danger comes from nature itself.“I think all Far Cry games are about survival,” says narrative director Jean-Sébastien Decant. “They’re about survival at first, and then it’s about going from being the hunted to the hunter. When Takkar arrives to Oros he is exhausted, he’s lost everyone, he is alone, he has no weapons, and he finds himself in a place where actually you don’t know if beasts or men are the most dangerous.”The Takkar that Decant is talking about is you. You’ll take on the role of this survivor when the game hits Xbox One in February, and you won’t be in good shape. The ancient man is the sole survivor of an ambush on his hunting group, and while seemingly everything in the fictional Oros is trying to kill him, he must fight, hunt and form his own tribe in order to survive. We have to admit, while the setting is a little different, it does sound like classic Far Cry – especially with the crafting at the core of the game. Takkar will need to arm himself against the dangers of the world, with spears, axes and, of course, a trusty bow.“The idea is that you don’t buy your weapons; you make them,” explains Thomas Simon, game director. “At the beginning you have to find wood and stone and start making your first weapons. Little by little, players will find more resources to make increasingly stronger weapons.”Oh, Thomas, you make it sound so easy. In actual fact, these resources are animal bones, furs and feathers. Stone will only get you so far in this prehistoric land, so finding new, stronger materials and crafting them into deadly weapons is the only way to stay alive. Of course, the animals themselves may have a little something to say about you killing them and harvesting their remains… So far we’ve seen only a small number of the many animals we’ll be encountering come February. The most common so far (as you can probably tell from these screenshots) are the mammoths, which appear to be one of the more difficult-to-kill animals, as they move in herds and, well, they’ve got huge freaking tusks. However, there are more deadly creatures than that in Oros – including sabre-toothed tigers, grizzly bears (classic Far Cry) and what looks like a pointier rhinoceros.
Well, it wouldn’t be a Far Cry game without a menagerie of deadly beasts running about the place, trying to eat your face. We expected nothing less – although the lack of dinosaurs is definitely disappointing. Imagine taming a Triceratops and storming into an enemy village riding on its back! That’s the dream, people. We managed to jump onto an elephant in Far Cry 4, so is that too much to ask? Oh, and we wouldn’t mind a pet sabre-tooth, either…Far Cry PrimalBut we’re getting ahead of ourselves. You know the Far Cry system – it’ll be hours of gameplay before we’re strong enough to take on a creature as deadly as a tiger. And they’ll be the least of our worries in the first few hours anyway, because night brings a different set of problems…“It’s a really huge world, but it’s also really dense, with loads of activities, and animals, and humans busy hunting,” says Simon. “As day becomes night, things change – predators come out and the prey goes to sleep. Players are in the thick of it; each time of day has its surprises. That’s what we like.” We’ve only seen a little of the night-time sections, but it already looks like a completely different game. Fire becomes essential to survival, and without a torch you’re as good as dead. You’ll be able to light some weapons on fire to deal more damage, but at night your best friend will be shelter. If you think it’s all starting to sound a little like Minecraft – with its crafting, adventuring, night-time hiding and hunting – you’re on the same track as us. This is no bad thing, especially if there is an engaging story – something vanilla Minecraft still lacks. But we’re a little concerned about how much longevity the gameplay will actually have.
In most Far Cry games, there’s a desire to push forward to unlock new weapons. You can fly, you can snipe from a distance, and you can travel quickly by jumping in cars. Will the world for Primal be as big as Far Cry 4? If so, traversing it may become a chore. And if not – if it’s more dense – will there be enough variety?A spear can only get so advanced in the Mesolithic period, right? It’s not like you’ll ever be strapping rockets to it. We’re hoping that Ubi can find that feeling of progression that we’ve had in previous games, whether it’s in the mystical mumbo jumbo that’s bound to be involved, or if it’s just in an ability to gain near-super abilities (like slowing down time, or using the bow from a huge distance). But even with this progression, this feeling of becoming more powerful the further in you get, we’re concerned about limitations.
Thankfully, Far Cry usually has one excellent component: its villain. Far Cry 3 gave us the alarmingly unhinged Vaas; Far Cry 4 offered us the deadly Pagan Min, a baddie so bad that the ending of the game really left us torn (no spoilers). If there’s one thing that can make Primal truly memorable it will be the villain of the piece. So far, it seems that the majority of the conversation will take place in ancient language – it would be a little odd if every Mesolithic human had a drawling American accent, after all – meaning there might be a lot of reading involved for those looking for story. But with the game focusing on storming strongholds and taking control of the game world, like previous Far Cry titles, it’s likely that there will be a head honcho calling the shots. If Ubi gets this right, it could be all the motivation we need.
There’s potential here, and it’s great to see a studio taking a series in a completely new direction like this. Will it work? We’ll know soon – the game is due for release on 23 February 2016. Expect some hands-on time very soon indeed.Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair. Far Cry has always had beautiful environments to explore, and the Mesolithic era presents the game designers with a new set of challenges. “Oros is a wild, primitive world. It’s a cornucopia,” says Thomas Simon, Far Cry Primal’s game director. “An ancient glacier melted at the end of the Ice Age and became a super fertile valley with very different ecosystems where a huge number of animals now live, including large predators and massive plant-eaters.”For the first time in a Far Cry title, the animals that are being designed don’t have real-life counterparts to build models from. Instead, the designers have had to use fossils and ancient artefacts to create their world. There are Megafauna (that’s giant animals to you and me) like the mammoths everywhere, and everyone is competing for food.
But Ubisoft is taking some creative liberties with the past in order to make a game that will actually be fun to play. There’s no point just having your character die of a common cold three hours after you start the story, after all. “What’s ‘primal’? How do we get back to our roots?” wonders Jean Sébastien Decant, narrative director. “All the organic remains have disappeared. What did they wear? Did they use leather? We don’t know. Were they using wood? We don’t know. What remains are rocks and bones. So, for me, it was very interesting because we actually had great grey areas that we could dive into.”We know Ubisoft – it isn’t exactly a bastion of historical accuracy. Even in titles like Assassin’s Creed, real history is more of a guideline. And we’ve never expected proper realism from Far Cry, which revels in magic, herbal remedies and taking down elephants with tuk-tuks. Nothing has changed here – with so little known about the prehistoric age, this will be Ubisoft’s version of the Mesolithic period, and as long as it’s full of stuff to kill, that’s fine by us.

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