Sunday, February 28, 2016
So, Far Cry Primal.
There are a lot of reviews out there so I'll spare the general breakdown (the @Gamecritics review from Brad Bortone is still forthcoming) but I had a few thoughts I wanted to share.
Getting the hard data out of the way: I finished the game tonight, and clocked in about 21 hours. I captured all of the outposts, did all of the story quests (main and side) upgraded the entire village, tamed all of the companion animals, and upgraded almost all of the gear. A lot of that stuff was totally optional, but I was having a great time so I decided to go for it. I would imagine that someone could do a critical path of the game in far less time than I spent, so all told it comes in at a very reasonable, appropriate length. Even was doing all that extra stuff, it didn't feel like it overstayed its welcome.
Now about the game itself… Wow. I've never been a fan of Far Cry as a series but this one really clicked for me. By setting the thing in a prehistoric context, all the elements come together so sensibly -- the open world, expanding territory, killing animals, crafting… it’s all a great fit. Every aspect of the game’s design harmonizes, and there aren't many open world games where simply wandering around is satisfying to me, but it is here. Just taking in the scenery, cruising around with whatever beast was with me at the time and hunting down anything that came across my path provided me with far more entertainment than I would've imagined.
As for the story, I've seen a number of people complain about it, but I find this quite puzzling. I think it's pretty clear that this is a story about Stone Age survival, so I'm not sure what people were expecting. In general, it’s a tale of protecting your tribe, wiping out your enemies, and fighting to live. Beyond that, the game actually includes two proper antagonists- Ull of the northern cannibal tribe and Batari of the southern fire users. In addition, each major member of the player’s tribe has their own brief storyline. None of this is novel-length stuff, but I really don't think it should be. Keeping in mind that Primal is about prehistoric man, what’s here is quite satisfying. There were several moments that were laugh-out-loud funny, and certainly several that were quite interesting, or touching.
Along the same lines, I've seen people complain about the weapons variety, and again, I have to ask -- what were you expecting? Considering that the main character gathers sticks and rocks and uses animal skin as tethers, did anyone actually expect rocket launchers or automatic weapons? I mean, what can you logically make out of that kind of stuff? If you ask me, the game actually makes several concessions towards variety via two types of club, a spear, a sling, bait, traps, three types of bow, three varieties of stone dagger with different effects, three types of bombs (yes, bombs) and this isn’t even counting the animal companions.
After receiving a "beast master" power from a shaman, the main character can tame several different kinds of predator. The owl is used as a forward scout, is large enough to kill men on its own, and can drop the bombs I just mentioned. The other animals all have their own perks, from the black jaguar who can kill enemies without alerting others, to the wolf who enlarges the player's sphere of awareness, to the powerhouse cave bear who draws all enemy fire so that the player is safely ignored. It seems to me like there's plenty of variety within the game’s context, and frankly, a good chunk of it goes past the boundaries of believability. So, to hear people say they weren't satisfied with the variety of weapons… I just don't know what would satisfy them.
(And Real Talk: there are a million games out there that let people pack ridiculous arsenals. Did you really need that here too?)
Getting back to the story for a second, I think it's well worth saying that Far Cry Primal treats its women quite well. There are three prominent female story characters who are treated as either equal (or superior to) their male counterparts, and none are sexualized in any way. In the lower ranks of the player’s tribe, there are just as many female hunters as there are male. When approaching enemy fortifications, the soldiers are of either gender, so even in a prehistoric context where there might be an argument made for having women in a lesser role, the developers were mindful of this and made them clearly equal to the males. It's a great move, and very appreciated.
Although anyone who follows me on Twitter or listens to the GC podcast knows I've been very critical of Ubisoft in the past, it's clear to see that they have taken a major step forward with Primal, and I want to applaud them for doing so. This is a great game on many levels, and it shows the kind of thoughtful consideration that makes a piece of work appreciably better. I'm thrilled that they decided to do something more than phoning in another sequel, and hopefully other people will give the game a chance and feel the same.
Far Cry Primal? It's great stuff. Absolutely recommended.