Far Cry from Prime

Far  Cry.

It’s a long while since I was excited about a Far Cry game. I’m not sure how long ago it was but it was 2004 when the first game was released. As I was back in the PC gaming fold (after my dalliance with early consoles – I had a new job and money to spend on new kit) I was excited. It was one of the first games I remember that used (the then fairly new) pixel shader technology and a new swanky graphics card. Back when Crytek developed the IP. Before the days of Ubisoft doing their “thing”.

I was excited about the sequel. Imaginatively titled “Far Cry 2” which utilised the awesome power of the PS3. This time however, no Crytek, Ubisoft had one of their own teams develop the game. I dutifully bought the game and revelled in the amazing graphics and open world. For about a fortnight. Years later my brother would borrow the PS3 and Far Cry 2 and thoroughly loved the game, but I didn’t get on with it at all.

Yes, the driving was kind of fun, and the plains of Africa burned like a BBQ when you set fire to it, but the game just wasn’t there. It was a sandbox with too much to do with too little direction.

And so, I fell out with the Ubisoft way of doing things.

Along came Assassins Creed, and turned my head. The “Ubisoft method” worked. They had ironed out the kinks and I was in love again.

And yet, Far Cry never drew me back in. For all the “Ubisoft method” that worked in Assassins Creed it never really hooked me again in the Far Cry universe(s). I was intrigued by the new Far Cry games, but never enough to dive back in.

So, when I signed up for Boomerang, the top of my list was the latest Far Cry game. Far Cry Primal. Supposedly a tighter, more focused version of the usual epic open worlds.

I’ll give it a try and see if they can draw me in…

This is their chance to win me back. I’m happy with the Ubisoft formula when it is tied to a tight story and my addiction (I’m not sure there’s a better word) to the AC games shows I’m happy to do the repetitive climb the tower, gather the things, move into a new area thing. So, how did it go?

Well. Here are my thoughts.

Setting and world

Okay, so this isn’t your typical game. It’s set in (roughly) 10,000 BCE. That’s a far cry from most of the games today (Sorry. A little bit), and it’s a nice change to jump back so far. It’s good to see a developer taking a bit of a risk and trying something new(ish).

The setting is well realised, they characters are well thought out and they even apparently created a whole language so they would be consistent throughout the game. Now that is dedication.

10,000 BCE, that means living in caves and hunting to stay alive. There is a full day/night cycle and staying out after dark means the bigger hunters come out and there is more risk to your character. Mostly I hunted during the day and found a campsite to sleep at over night.

The world feels pretty big and it does feel kind of alive. You do stumble across animals that you can hunt, and you actually do need to hunt some of them. (Which I’ll discuss in the game play section).

My issue is that, even though this game is much smaller in terms of size and setting than the other games in the series, it still feels a little bit too big. The opening section takes a good 10 minutes to navigate walking across. With very little in terms of landmarks to help with directions. In fact, as you progress through the game and unlock new skills, one of the skills, is the ability to show topography on the mini map. Yes, really. The map doesn’t initially show you if that is a mountain or a hill. Get to the bottom of a massive mountain and it’s a detour for you. Tough.

In some ways this means that you are forced to explore the world open to you, but in others it’s just frustrating. Especially when you’ve got a trek to get to a mission point that is so close you can probably smell it.

10,000 BCE also means weapons are somewhat different to what we gamers are used to. Bow and arrow for ranged attacks, a spear for stabbing (and throwing if you really can spare the wood) as well as a club or axe. That’s pretty much it. These weapons can be upgraded though world building and crafting, and can also be set on fire.

I have to admit that there is very little I have seen in the gaming world where you can fire a flaming arrow at a mammoth and watch it burn as it thunders towards you.

Graphics

Graphically this is a good looking game. Ubisoft know what they are doing in terms of art work and setting a scene.

The world is superbly realised, with the staple of Far Cry games, fire, looking stunning. Especially when it takes hold on the dry plants of the plains where the world is set. Little touches like brushing yourself if you get too close are nice and help to make the world feel a little more real. Running water looks good and there are lakes, marshes and pools dotted around to explore, all with appropriate life (including the odd croc hidden away).

Animals look pretty good up close too.

However, (you knew there was a “but” coming didn’t you?) Once the animals are a bit further away, they suddenly all blur together. Is that a bear (manageable) or a mammoth (Don’t even think about it)? No idea until it’s hurtling towards you like a flaming ball of fur. How about that deer in the distance. Is it a deer or is it a wolf? Does it matter? Well, yes it does. Pelts are important parts of crafting and if you have the wrong one then tough.

Tensay, the shama.

People have the same issue. Up close they look brilliant, the shaman looks superb (like a crazy human version of Rafiki from the lion king) and the Udam look appropriately Neanderthal like.

However, (again, that “but”) at a distance, is that human shape an ally or an enemy? Fire too soon and you’ve killed a possible ally, losing any chance of succeeding in that quest you were doing. Alternatively, fire too late, and there are five Udam flinging arrows and poisoned darts at you.

I am aware this is probably a design choice to make you play more stealthy, and to respect the world more, but in reality, it means that your ally is dead because a) you killed him or b) it took you so long to get to him that the Udam killed him. Frustrating to say the least. Which, in a nice flow bring us onto…

Gameplay

The general  game play is okay. It’s a first person shooter, with slightly Turok weapons. That pretty much what you’d expect, the team behind Far Cry at Ubisoft have been honing their skills for some time now and they know how to make an FPS, pure and simple. What they do do, however (again) is throw the kitchen sink in along with everything else.

Need arrows? You have to craft them. Break your club? Craft a new one. Urgh. Crafting. The antithesis of fun. Usually. The same applies in this case. If it’s optional, then I don’t mind, but in this case it is such an integral part of the game you have no choice but to hunt for items to craft additional weapons. This, tied in with the limited carry capacity force you to spend more time hunting for trees you can chop down, or slate you can collect, which distracts form the main game play, if you ask me (and you *are* reading my blog so I’m going to tell you anyway!)

Base building uses the same method, find the requisite items, return to base, and improve your huts. Then comes the complicated bit.

Crafting

Undertake missions in the world. Find those extra people who need your help, help them and they’ll join your small community. The problem is that as discussed (at least for me) the missions usually end in everyone dead. Allies and enemies alike. Which results in no one added to your population. Which would be fine were population not a requirement for upgrades. So, it becomes harder to unlock extras, which leads to it becoming harder to upgrade your weapons, which mean taking down bigger enemies is harder, which means… well you get the idea.

You have (as is now usual I guess for Ubisoft games) the ability to use Eagle vision.. sorry “Hunter vision”. Which means you can highlight items or animals or enemies in a wonderful glowing yellow. Which in no way helps distinguish between allies or enemies.

World map

You find (or more likely stumble luckily upon) the specific type of wolf you want a number of pelts of, purely by chance in a rough region of the map…They are highlighted but only roughly, and only on the full map. Until, that is, they are on top of you and you notice a red dot on the mini map. Hit the animal with an arrow and off it runs… forcing you to give chase, using hunter vision to track the blood splats. More frustration.

Overall, the game play is pretty good apart from the one or two annoyances. There is a certain finesse to the bow and a physicality to the club, while nailing something is a spear throw is particularly satisfying. It just feels let down by the usual Ubisoft methods. A more focused story with less of a kitchen sink approach would have made it much better. Deux Ex manages to create an open world, give you a ton of options and still feel that there is a focus and a story to follow.

Story

No idea. Apparently it’s something to do with you being a beast master and being able to tame animals, and then using this power to build up the village and defeat the Udam. To be honest, I don’t really know. It’s all spread out and takes too much time to get story beats to keep me interested. There are so many other things to do, but they don’t lead you back to the main story in the same way AC does. I have flown the eagle and used it to scope out new areas, and I have tamed a wolf, but I have no idea how it applies to the story.

Overall

Considering the size of the game and the number of creatures running around it’s a surprise how well everything interconnects. Small animals run away from you and larger animals will try and kill you. Some even fall from the sky.

I’m not complaining. It’s a good game. It just… still has the same issues. They’ve tried to tie in a story but they have also done the usual Ubisoft thing and thrown the kitchen sink in.

The base building feels unnecessary and the crafting just seems to add to the tedium. The game itself is fun, hunting is fun, but there is just too much going on to distract you from the basic story, which already feels spread out rather thinly.

I’m glad I’ve played this, I’m also glad I didn’t buy it. I have only played for about 3 or 4 hours maximum, and I feel like I’ve seen what it has to show me. As a result, I have returned it back to Boomerang (boomeranged it back?)

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