We never asked for Kanye West's latest spate of rants on Twitter, and we never asked Ubisoft to make Far Cry Primal. It's crazy, bombastic, and surprisingly entertaining, and not something you'd expect from a first-person open-world game set in the Mesolithic age.
With most games taking on fantastical or futuristic settings, this seemed like a poor choice. It's a backdrop where cutting-edge weaponry means spears, clubs, and bows and arrows. It sounds weird, but it comes together in a fashion that works brilliantly.
Taking place in 10,000 BCE, Far Cry Primal puts you in the role of Takkar. You're a hunter who belongs to a tribe known as the Wenja. After a series of unfortunate events, you find yourself in the land of Oros in search of your fellow tribesmen. It's up to you to rally the Wenja and stave off attacks from warring factions - the Udam and Izila.
(Also see: Far Cry Primal Will Take You to the Stone Age)
The first thing that struck us is how good Oros looks. From its snow capped mountains to the tiny flickers as you light a fire, Far Cry Primal is easily one of the best looking games this generation. And that's coupled with an immense sense of freedom as the entire region is open for you to explore from the very outset.
Which is something you'll spend a lot of time doing. The game features the usual tropes that Ubisoft has codified, and you're going to explore the map and capture locations, crafting gear and collecting items of importance along the way. Every now and then, you'll take part in an event that takes the story forward, such as protecting your village from attacks or laying siege on an enemy fortification.
These mechanics are similar to other Ubisoft games including Assassin's Creed and previous Far Cry titles, but Primal ends up feeling fresh for a number of reasons. For one, the combat is superlative. Sure, the weapons are primitive but there's an innate sense of satisfaction in clubbing a raging cave man on the head, or shooting fire-laced arrows at bears.
As you progress through the game, you can craft rudimentary bombs and train all manner of beasts such as jaguars and sabre-toothed tigers to fight by your side, allowing for options beyond the ordinary. You'll lure predators like wolves with bait, and hold down a button to win their loyalty. Each type of animal comes with a unique skill set, for example, canines are great explorers and gatherers, felines are good for stealthily sneaking up on foes, while ursines are a solid option for out and out attack. It adds a layer of strategy and depth to the game, giving you more choices as you plan your approach. This is an interesting system that works as it should, making up for the lack of weaponry in the game. There's enough variety and polish to keep things fresh even late into the game.
While the absence of guns is solved with a range of new ways to cause mayhem, one other concern remains, which is traversal. Far Cry games in modern settings included vehicles for you to use, allowing you to cover vast expanses of the map with ease. This time around, it appears that Ubisoft has increased the number of areas you can spawn at, and the locations you can fast travel to, by simply accessing your map. This somewhat alleviates our concerns, and as the game progresses, you'll be able to use a grappling hook to get to hard to reach areas and ride bigger animals as well. It's a competent set of solutions and for most part, we never did miss jeeps or helicopters.
This aside, there's a sense of mysticism about the proceedings that feels all too real. While we've seen such elements in earlier games in the series, it works better in Far Cry Primal thanks to its setting. Spirits, beasts, and shamans all have a part to play in Far Cry Primal's narrative and their understated presentation makes all the difference.
Along the way you'll discover key members of your clan including ace hunters, beast masters, and inventors. Each of them have a part to play, not just in granting you access to new skills and abilities but help furthering the the plot. They're unique, well thought out characters that are a perfect foil to Takkar's straightforward demeanour and do wonders for keeping you interested. This is further heightened by the game's language spoken by the characters. Since it's fictional, you will be playing Far Cry Primal with subtitles.
Our grouses are few and far between. Without spoiling much, series veterans hoping for the usual twists and turns from a game bearing the Far Cry name should keep their expectations in check. The straightforward story-telling ensures that the gameplay and overarching plot don't seem as disconnected from each other as they did in Far Cry 3 or Far Cry 4.
(Also see: Far Cry 4 Review: A Superlative Sandbox)
Far Cry Primal might be the most retrograde addition to a franchise known for vast open spaces and guns galore, but it's also one of the most refined entries as well. It's not something anyone asked for, but it's welcome all the same.
Rating (out of 10): 9
We played a review copy of Far Cry Primal on the PS4. The game is available on the PS4 and Xbox One for Rs. 3,499 from February 23. The Windows PC version will be available from March 1.