Far Cry goes Primal

The next Far Cry game was revealed the week before last with the trailer above (well, after an elaborate time-wasting/hype-generating (?) live streamed cave painting thing). The noteworthy thing is that, for the first time, the game isn't set in modern times, but in 10,000 BC!

You play Takkar, a hunter who's lost his tribe to the bellies of sabre-tooth tigers and/or the now-squishy feet of woolly mammoths. The game takes place in a land called Oros, where you will climb the food chain and tame the wilds! Or something..

Coming so soon after the November 2014 release of Far Cry 4 (Primal will release in February 2016), many suspected that this was maybe a standalone expansion pack to that game, in the same way that Far Cry Blood Dragon was for Far Cry 3. But no, this is a full priced game, at $60 for PC.

Very little is known about the game yet, so for now let's just give it some benefit of the doubt and assume that the game is of full length and going to be worth the money. If you'd like to gamble on that now, however, Ubisoft has you covered! You can of course pre-order immediately and get the Legend of the Mammoth content, whatever that is.

I'm not here to complain, though. I think this is a very bold move for Ubisoft and I'm very glad to see it happen. While I'm sure another team is busy cranking out Far Cry 5 somewhere, (which will be very similar to Far Cry 4, which was very similar to Far Cry 3) the Ubisoft Montreal team (with help) has stepped outside of the normal comfort zone of their franchise and tried something different. That at least has earned my respect and attention. Can you imagine Call of Duty setting their next game in a time period that had no guns?!

This also isn't a magical or mythical 10,000 BC (to the best of our current knowledge). There are no dinosaurs, no magic, and seemingly no cop-outs. The game is discarding a lot of the things that the Far Cry series is known for. These would be:

  • luscious open-world environments (okay, check) 
  • guns (oops) 
  • explosions (doubtful) 
  • fire physics (yeah, okay, probably) 
  • vehicles (nope) 
  • and -of late- wing suits (surely not) and riding elephants (probably).

What do they get in return for these sacrifices? Well, not a whole lot that we've seen so far. Spears and bows? The series already has bows and throwing knives. It also already had factions and crafting to a limited degree. Primal promises these things, but hopefully it'll build them out in worthwhile ways.

We get mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers, but we already had elephants, tigers, rhinos and sharks. There's no massive difference there, except maybe scale. This also has me a little nervous. Those two animals are featured prominently in the trailer and marketing material. Presumably, this is them putting their best foot forward, as is the marketing way, but these are not particularly innovative creatures for the Far Cry series. The elephant was new to Far Cry 4 and was a point their marketers tried to sell relentlessly. I don't think a mammoth and no guns will make many people splash out $60+ for the new game. But, as I said, we know little about the rest of the game yet. The video below offers some French-accented clues.

My Concerns

They won't commit

PC Gamer had a good article  about what they would and wouldn't like to see and, like me, were also concerned that "no guns" doesn't really mean no guns. Maybe you could put some 'boom powder' in a stick to shoot rocks and things. Yeah, that's a gun! And a crap gun, at that! I hope they commit to the vision, otherwise there was no point in tying their hands by setting the game in the Stone Age. But hey, the game launches in 4 months. Whether such a feature (or any others) is in or out has been decided long ago and won't change now.

I'm also concerned that they'll stretch some leather hide into a wing-suit "because Far Cry needs wing suits now. Put in in". If you do that, you also need a parachute, mate, and earliest credit for those goes to Leonardo Da Vinci. Just commit, and we'll be fine.

That this will be anything like the movie

I don't mean the terrible Far Cry movie, but the even more terrible 10,000 BC movie, with an honourable 8% on Rotter Tomatoes. Seriously, am I the only one who's seen it? Nobody has mentioned it in connection with this game yet, so far as I can tell.

10,000 BC (movie)

10,000 BC (movie)

Far Cry Primal (set in 10,000 BC)

Far Cry Primal (set in 10,000 BC)

I'm not saying these two things are similar, but they are both set in 10,000 BC, open with a pack of hunters sneaking towards a herd of mammoths, have the hero's tribe slaughtered, and relocate the hero to a jungle environment. I hope to God the similarities end there. The resemblance is uncanny! It can't have been accidental, and I'd be very worried about anything taking story tips from 10,000 BC the movie.

Why I'm Optimistic

As I said, we know so little yet, and my concerns may be totally unfounded. My optimism is equally unwarranted, but Ubisoft wouldn't have taken a bet on stripping away core gameplay pillars if they had nothing to prop the rest up with (I hope). We could see some great new stuff!

Melee Combat

In my swordfighting in games article last month I lamented how far melee combat in games had come (not far at all) over the years. The enemies in Far Cry Primal are known to not just to be wild beats, but also other hostile tribes, seen in the trailer wielding clubs. With no guns in the game, up-close combat is going to be very important. This could also be on my concerns list, because if we are expected to just repeat the tired old "step-back-to-avoid-enemy-swing, swing-yourself, step-in-to land-the-swing, repeat" formula this game will get old fast, and definitely mean that Ubisoft missed a trick. A AAA studio like them should be able to deliver us something interesting in a gun-less first person action game, and I hope they do! Blocking and different attacks at a minimum!

Boss Animals

In all other Far Cry games, taking down any hostile animal has simply been a matter of hitting it with enough bullets or explosives.. or cars.. or some combination thereof. If you look at something like Horizon: Zero Dawn, we can see multi-staged approaches to weakening enemies, avoiding their attacks, and hitting different critical areas. I find it hard to believe that killing a mammoth in this game will be as dumb as hitting him with 100 sharp sticks. I'm hoping (and not spending a penny if it's not the case) that taking down the mammoth, the main feature on the box art, will involve avoiding its charges, luring it into traps, and/or tricking it into rising up on its hind legs so you can then attack the soft underbelly. Any less than something resembling that would just be phoning it in, and unworthy of a Far Cry game.

Factions

It's known that you need to work with friendly tribe members to conquer other tribes. The problem with games marketing is that it can be deliberately vague when it's trying to inflate a feature. For example, I could say about Far Cry 2, 3, and 4 that you work with certain groups to conquer other groups, and it's only technically true. In a practical sense, you do everything, and there might be a couple of other guys around to get shot for you. 

If this has been expanded upon in any meaningful way, like having squad orders or abilities, there could be something unique in the game. It wouldn't be hard to do for a studio to do in this day and age, but I somehow don't expect much from this feature.

Crafting

Same goes for crafting. Games 3 & 4 had crafting of limited items, but it wasn't overly important. Crafting weapons and medicines for survival in the stone age would be very important. Ubisoft seem to be making a fuss over the crafting system so let's hope there's something to it.

I watched some commentary and the host didn't know what this was. Clearly a sabretooth Tiger skull with a dagger through it! Right?

I watched some commentary and the host didn't know what this was. Clearly a sabretooth Tiger skull with a dagger through it! Right?

Finally

I do think the announcement of this new direction is newsworthy, as it's a bold move! Charging $60 for a game that seems like it's been in production not much longer than a year is also a bold move, but we'll see what it's worth as details emerge in the run up to a February 23rd, 2016 console release (March for PC). I've my gripes with all the Far Cry games (and especially the Crysis ones) but I've always been a fan of the series (except Crysis 2 & 3). I can't imagine that Primal will be too disappointing to a life-long Far Cry fan like myself, but I've been wrong before..

Hopefully, though, we'll be getting a unique First Person (non-)Shooter. Are you excited? Guarded? Totally cynical? Do you know anything about this that I don't? (If you're from the future you're cheating!) Leave a comment!

Until next time..

PS Check out my own game Sons of Sol: Crow's Nest. A new combat demo has just gone up for browser play or PC download. I'd love to hear your feedback.