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The animals are the real stars of Far Cry Primal

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Friends and foes

The Stone Age is a remarkable moment in history ("moment" meaning 3.4 million years, in this instance) because it was a period when mankind wasn't at the top of the food chain. Beasts ruled the roost and humanity had to tread lightly. The technology needed to defend against these monsters wasn't yet invented -- hell, controlling fire was a new concept at the time -- so one ill step likely meant certain death.

Animals were undoubtedly the star of the show. Ubisoft's Far Cry Primal is an imagining of Stone Age events, and it rightly thrusts these creatures into the spotlight. In both the roles of friends and foes, they subvert the traditional Far Cry formula because, for once, it feels like the beasts have the leg up.

At a preview event this week, I spent an hour with Far Cry Primal. Free rein to the game wasn't quite permitted, as there were no story missions available; Ubisoft seems to be keeping that under wraps for now. Instead, I was left to wander from campfire to campfire ticking off side objectives and open-world encounters along the way.

No matter which direction I traveled, from the glaciers of the north to the swamps of the south, there were ferocious animals all along the way. At first, I'd actively seek them out. Sabretooth nearby? That sounds fun to kill, let's go.

I never found out if they were actually fun to kill. My defeat was swift each and every time I encountered one. By the end of the hour-long session, I went out of my way to avoid them. I'd watch them chase around other animals, holding my breath until they were finally out of sight. Safe for the time being.

The reason for being appropriately underpowered had everything to do with my arsenal. Primal is the first Far Cry game that doesn't prominently feature guns. Clubs, spears, and arrows are the weapons on-hand, and the adapting process isn't necessarily easy. No longer can you rely on spraying bullets until you're out of a sticky situation. There's a world of difference between unloading a gun's clip and throwing spears one by one when a mammoth is charging at you.

To soften the cold, harsh reality of the Stone Age, Ubisoft has taken some liberties with man's connection to creature. Far Cry Primal features a beast-master system that allows for the taming of animals, which can then be summoned to help in battle at any time. There are 17 variations, but I only saw three: a small jaguar, a white wolf, and a bear. Not only do they serve as a great distraction in battle, but they actually take care of some enemies on their own.

As seems to be the theme with Primal, your beasts are at their best when facing off against other humans. There are plenty of enemy people wandering the game's sizable map, but they never feel as formidable as the wild animals. Maybe it's because, like you, they also have to get into position to throw a spear. Whatever the reason, these interactions seem as if they pose a considerably simpler challenge than an unfortunate surprise encounter with a good number of the game's many animals.

For all the animal-controlling Far Cry Primal asks the player to do, it's a more passive tactic that proves to be the most delightful. With the press of a button, an owl can be summoned to fly overhead and scout out the surrounding area. Basically, it's Primal's response to not having a camera to tag enemies. The owl comes in particularly handy when checking out human outposts. Once you feel satisfied that you've seen enough, you can divebomb an unsuspecting human and murder him. It's a great way to get a jumpstart on a camp before sending your next animal in.

That owl is probably the least threatening thing in Far Cry Primal, but even it has no problem asserting its dominance over mankind. That's just kind of how it goes as Far Cry sees the tables turned for the first time; humans weren't yet the dominant force they'll eventually be. Emphasizing animals seems like a good direction for the franchise. It required turning the clock back a few million years, but consistently befriending and battling beasts feels right in line with the Far Cry spirit -- a savage and brutal affair that's more about surviving than anything else.

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Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby... ... more + disclosures


 


 


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    Filed under... #Action #Far Cry #open world #PC #Previews #PS4 #Ubisoft #Xbox One

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