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Giant Bomb Review

171 Comments

Far Cry: Primal Review

3
  • XONE
  • PS4

Far Cry: Primal feels like one long, optional side mission.

There are even more skins and plants to collect in Primal.
There are even more skins and plants to collect in Primal.

Though I may have obsessively collected almost all of the animal skins and tried to craft every single upgrade in the past few Far Cry games, I don't know that I was quite ready for Far Cry: Primal, a game that rewinds time back to 10,000BCE, when even the weapons had to be crafted out of wood and various animal parts. The gunless combat ends up being more exciting than I initially expected, but Primal's forgettable attempts at a story and obsessive focus on crafting turns it into a pretty tedious endeavor.

You're a Wenja, one of the three tribes at play in Far Cry: Primal. The two other factions, one who lives up north in the ice and one who lives down south and likes to burn things, are trying to stomp you and your kind out of the history books. So you set out on a campaign to find the other survivors of your clan, build a village, and take the fight to the other two groups. The game has cutscenes and attempts to make you care about the characters it introduces, but it really fails to successfully build tension as you go. Exterminating the leaders of the opposing tribes leads to basic, uninteresting boss fights that don't really wrap things up. When I finished what is considered the last main story mission, I didn't even realize I had achieved anything other than defeating a boss. The thin narrative keeps focus on the combat, sure, but it also helps ensure that all of Primal feels like one long, optional side mission.

Compared to the previous games, there are more resources to gather and more opportunities to craft upgrades. Gathering includes the standard plants and animal skins from the previous games, though you'll need things like animal fat if you want to set your weapons on fire at will. You'll need hardwood and animal hides if you want to build more spears. You'll need wood and stone for arrows. The items used for weapon crafting are easy to come by, and as long as you aren't just running past every single resource node you see, you'll rarely run out. As in previous Far Cry games, you'll also need specific animal skins to craft bags and upgrade your weapons and personal equipment. If that all sounds boring, that's because it is. Previous Far Cry games did a better job of making the upgrades feel more meaningful and the resource gathering felt like a fun diversion with real rewards.

You play as Takkar, a fact I would've forgotten if not for these subtitles.
You play as Takkar, a fact I would've forgotten if not for these subtitles.

Over the course of the game's first half, you'll go out and find specialist villagers. These people serve as mission givers back in the village, and some of them are also tied to specific sets of upgrades. Unlocking the higher-end upgrades requires you to gather stone, wood, skins, and more to build and upgrade huts for these villagers. You'll also acquire generic villagers along the way, and these members of your group provide XP bonuses over time.

As much as I enjoyed this style of upgrade system in the past few games, the gathering and crafting feel like they're stretched to their breaking point in Far Cry: Primal. It's crafting on top of crafting on top of crafting as you gather materials to build weapons so you can hunt animals so you can upgrade huts so you can unlock more weapons so you can upgrade those weapons, all so you can hunt some more. (And maybe unlock an upgrade or two.) Outside of the game's final confrontations, nothing in Primal is especially tricky, and you're given so much meat--which is used for healing--that even sloppy players probably won't run into too many roadblocks. So going out of your way for additional upgrades doesn't feel like it's worth the effort.

A lot of the standard Far Cry systems and mechanics show up in this open world, and the few differences revolve around the tools at your disposal. There are outposts to clear and horns that serve as the alarm boxes found in the previous game. But you can't just hang back with a sniper rifle and shoot up the entire location from a safe distance. Instead, you'll need the long bow to do that, and even that doesn't give you as much range as the old sniper rifles did. Beyond the bow and a a couple other ranged-only weapons, most of the weapons in Primal serve double duty. By default, you'll swing clubs and jab with spears. But if you hold the left trigger, you can throw clubs and hurl spears with surprising accuracy and often devastating effects. Unless you're facing a "heavy" foe, which is armored against your attacks, you can usually just toss one spear right through any opponent. I found the spear tossing to be incredibly satisfying whether I was hunting boars or taking out enemy guards. Since you can't carry many spears, tossing spears is usually followed by running over and collecting your spears before doing it all over again.

It's another Far Cry game with another map with... a zillion tiny icons on it.
It's another Far Cry game with another map with... a zillion tiny icons on it.

If you don't feel like running, though, you can always get someone else to do your dirty work for you. Far Cry: Primal has a beast taming mechanic that lets you call upon some of the game's predators and have them watch your back. You can order them to spring into attack and attack a target, or just let them kill on their own and see how it goes. The beasts are incredibly helpful, but I occasionally had to mess around with dismissing and recalling them to get around some cases where my sabertooth tiger would get stuck somewhere in the environment. At least the stuck tiger couldn't take damage and managed to distract half the outpost while I slowly clubbed them from behind.

I spent around 14 hours spearing and clubbing my way through the game's main missions while completing what feels like a decent chunk of side content, but the game still considers that to be around 36% of the game. There are tons of secondary missions that just show up on the map, and these are analogous to many of the secondary missions from the previous games. You'll find two guys escorting a prisoner, animals running amok on your people, and all sorts of little ambient things for you to... actually, I ended up ignoring most of them once my village's population got above 40, which is the requirement to upgrade your huts to the second and highest level. In a game filled with primary objectives that feel like busy work, the secondary and tertiary goals are probably not worth your time.

Ultimately, that's my main issue with Far Cry: Primal. It feels like it has even less of a story than Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has, but that's because that story is spread incredibly thinly across a large world that's packed with cookie cutter content. There's nothing inherently wrong with Primal, and I found the game's combat systems to be pretty exciting at times, but the structure of the game and most of the tasks you're given are one-note. It's a monotonous grind that gets a good lift from its approach to combat and a handful of other tweaks to the formula, but it's still the formula. And it's not an especially great take on said formula, either. Far Cry: Primal feels like it's trying to use every part of the animal, but the overwhelming majority of it is filler.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+

171 Comments

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Naoiko

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I'm honestly surprised it is as good as it is considering how it looked in trailers. Great review Jeff!

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mr__kamikaze

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wait...this is out already?

Wasn't this announced like 2 months ago or am I just THAT out of the loop these days?

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L33T_HAXOR

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@mr__kamikaze: Yeah, it was announced in like October I think. It does seem kinda crazy.

So many of these high-profile releases are coming out and getting underwhelming scores, what's going on this year?

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IshimuraD

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Edited By IshimuraD

As fun as you make the spear throwing sound, I just can't seem to get interested in gunless combat here.

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moregrammarplz

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Looks like February's turning out to be a 3-star kind of month.

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simplySY

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Edited By simplySY

Its games like this that don't do the 5 star review system many favors when you consider that X-com 2 and street fighter 5 both got 3 stars also. Yes those games have some problems and issues but on the same footing as this... I don't know.

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Ravelle

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wait...this is out already?

Wasn't this announced like 2 months ago or am I just THAT out of the loop these days?

Nope, you're correct. They announced this a couple of months prior to release.

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wrecks

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Man, I love this series and I was looking forward to Primal because they were doing something different. Not different enough it seems. And more of what was becoming increasingly tedious in the last one does not do it for me. Summer Steam sale it is, maybe. Thanks Jeff.

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Atwa

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Edited By Atwa

Kind of what I expected. I don't really think that the Far Cry shenanigans would be that fun without straight up guns.

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Solh0und

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Screams "rental" to me for some reason.

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deactivated-5dac8b1b10957

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Yeah, I don't remember anyone saying that we needed another Far Cry game already, and I further don't remember anyone asking for these particular systems and ideas from the series being this in-depth.

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Luxus

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I think i'm done with FarCry games for the time being. Nothing from the trailer seems interesting, and if the story is as thin as Jeff says it is, i'm just not interested. Saw Gamespot and Polygon gave it 8 and 8,5, which to me seems crazy.

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baka_shinji17

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The writing was on the cave wall with this one.

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AMyggen

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I'll probably buy this when it's $20.

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CaLe

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I got bored of 3 and 4 before even getting half way through them, was hoping this one might just be novel enough to hold my interest but from everything I've seen it seems it suffers from all the same problems that made me PREMATURELY EJECT from the Island game and the Mountain game. They need to change the formula. Stop being so UBISOFT, Ubisoft.

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mmarsu

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I was gonna get this as a big FC fan but you convinced me to wait awhile Jeff, thanks

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thelastgunslinger

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I was burned out after Far Cry 4 so Primal is definitely one I'll be skipping. They'll have to do some serious changes to make me interested in Far Cry 5, whenever that gets announced.

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Jash530

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Its the year of middling review scores! isnt that on the Chinese Zodiac?

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Jimbo

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Ace, sounds like everything that's wrong with Ubisoft games dialled up to 11.

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kasaioni

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Is it just me, or does the structure of the land masses on the map look really similar to FC4's?

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AMyggen

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Steelboom

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@simplysy: Actually, I think it still works quite well. You just have to take the scores in relation to other games in the genre. I think it would be hard to compare Far Cry to Street Fighter or XCOM even on a 100-point scale. But if you look at Far Cry as 3 stars compared to other games of its genre, it still conveys that I'm going to get an OK experience for an open-world action game.

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OMGFather

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I think I've hit that point where open world games just aren't doing it for me anymore. One look at that map in the Quick Look and it puts me straight off.

Thanks for the review Jeff.

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AiurFlux

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I just don't get who was asking for a game like this or who it was made for. People that have liked the Far Cry series want dumb shit and explosions. They want a mission to burn up a pot field with a flamethrower while getting high in the process.

Then you get to the dimishing returns of this series. Far Cry 4 was already far to similar to Far Cry 3, with people even calling it Far Cry 3.5, and this just seems worse. It's typical Ubisoft. Hit on a winning formula and then just milk it, beat the fuck out of it, and suck everything out of it that they can. The beast taming feature, while new, isn't exactly something that's super stupendous omg I must play this now. It just seems like a dumb gimmick in a game that nobody really asked for.

Shame. I loved 3, and 4 to a lesser extent. But this is just Ubisoft being Ubisoft. Every fucking time they do it. They're worse than EA and Activision in this regard, combined and multiplied by 10. It boggles my fucking mind how they continue to do the same shit time and time again. They made that great trailer with Vaas for Far Cry 3 about insanity. By that definition they are literally insane. And French. Very very French.

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musubi

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Edited By musubi

This will be on sale by the summer for $20 I almost guarantee it. Unless you REALLY need you some Far Cry right now prob should wait it out.

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eloj

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No PC code given out apparently (hence no PC reviews), buyer beware.

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ShaggE

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Hmmm...

Primal has a prehistoric setting. Rage has a post-apocalyptic setting. Primal Rage has prehistoric creatures in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Now, I'm not saying that id Software and Ubisoft have been building toward an absurdly complicated Primal Rage reboot reveal, but...

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MJHAYLETT

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Edited By MJHAYLETT

I had to force myself to finish Far Cry 3 (and Far Cry 2 is one of my fav games ever) and barely started Far Cry 4 before never touching it again that I think I'll pass on this one. Although the no guns aspect is more appealing to me than 3 or 4 was.......

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iowcatalyst

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Edited By iowcatalyst

Was looking forward to this game since it was announced, but watching the quicklook earlier put me off a bit. Not a fan of melee in 1st person 'shooters', though that's mainly down to how you want to play I guess, I played far cry 4 for the most with the bow and arrow and cross bow anyway but this seems like it's easier just to batter them to death. Maybe it's better on hard settings? This and x com 2 have saved me 80 quid this month by not being great or broken. More time for Devil Daggers.

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EricSmith

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I've played about 25 hours and I fully agree. If you really, really liked FC3/4, this game is worth getting. Otherwise, it's not worth getting until it has dropped in price.

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ToxicAntidote

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The optional side missions are usually the best ones in open world games though.

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skinnyluigi

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ubisoft

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fightingfalco

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Hopefully the decline of Assassins Creed, Far Cry, and the disappointment of Watch Dogs will make Ubisoft change up their formulas. Somehow I doubt it though.

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Gaminggumper

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From the videos I've seen the other tribes seem to have features from different species eg Neandrathal Cro Magonon. So is the overarching theme basically genocide?

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simplySY

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@steelboom: Thats a good point well made. I'm not sure the very casual gamer would think of in that way though but then again they wouldn't maybe even read a review all the way through or be on giant bomb to begin with.

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Gaminggumper

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@cale: i had the same reaction. I got 60% of the narrative with some side stuff of FC4 before going from "this is a blast to, oh or more of this?"

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KillEm_Dafoe

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Yup, about what I expected. Really, who the hell asked for this game? Based on that survey Ubisoft did after the release of FC4 that asked players what they wanted next from the series, it turns out they just ignored their fan base and gave us this instead. The concept of Primal couldn't sound any less interesting. I will assuredly be passing entirely on this one.

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deactivated-5dac8b1b10957

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@shagge said:

Hmmm...

Primal has a prehistoric setting. Rage has a post-apocalyptic setting. Primal Rage has prehistoric creatures in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Now, I'm not saying that id Software and Ubisoft have been building toward an absurdly complicated Primal Rage reboot reveal, but...

Haha, let's hope so.

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Nmckee503

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"Far Cry: Primal feels like one long, optional side mission." Jesus, that's a real brutal line!

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Y2Ken

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I really like Far Cry 4 a lot, so I'm still interested in this because funnin' around in their worlds is a good time. But I'm not going to rush out and pick this up straight away. I'll wait until I have some downtime and it's a little cheaper, then might give it a shot.

The pre-review cycle has been so weird to me, with embargoes only lifting today but plenty of YouTubers having let's play content up for some time now - and, to add to that, all the advertising I've seen for this game has been "here's a let's play clip of someone talking over the game" which is super weird to me even as someone who watches a bunch of people playing games on the internet.

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Sounds good to me. Can't wait to play it.

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vibratingdonkey

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Well, I like that they made the effort to design a language, and the beast taming, and particularly that there's a pet button. I'm hoping you'll be able to pet the pigs in Ghost Recon Wildlands.

It's weird. I feel it's cool that this caveman game got made, but unfortunate that it's as part of the Far Cry brand, which is why it got to get made.

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phishyphishy

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The reviews seem to be all over the place with this game.

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Cybexx

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I would probably enjoy this game a bunch but there is way too many other games at the moment and I still haven't finished Farcry 4 so I'll give this a pass for the moment. I do like throwing spears though, this kinda reminds me of Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, which was alright not just because of the easy gamerscore.

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Robbie_Twin

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@aiurflux: But they don't do the same thing over and over expecting different results, they do *almost* the same thing over and over expecting the *same* result.

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andrewf87462

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Well I was going to either get this or The Division, and seeing as how I enjoyed the Division beta, it looks like that's the winner.

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Maluvin

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I guess that's okay. Important thing to remember is that 3 stars isn't necessarily bad so much as not great or particularly interesting. I burned out on Far Cry 4 about halfway through it even though by most standards it was a solid game. Feel like it's a good formula that needs some time to rest or a real change up that goes beyond just changing the setting.

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ObsideonDarman

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I hope the PC version turns out OK. No review codes being given out for it may be a sign of it's performance, but hopefully not.

Great review anyway, Jeff.