Far Cry Primal hits shelves at the end of the month and the title faces the difficult task of offering something new, whilst living up to its predecessors’ commercial success.
2014’s Far Cry 4 was a huge success, with retail ordering 7m units during its first six weeks on sale. It follows the massive sales of 2012’s Far Cry 3, which sold-in more than 10m units.
Now we have a new Far Cry spin-off called Primal. Yet unlike the previous spin-off in the series - 2013’s Blood Dragon – Primal is an altogether different, and bigger, beast.
“The main path and the world are as big as in Far Cry 4, and we even have more factions, wildlife and biomes than previous games,” says Far Cry Primal’s narrative director, Jean-Sébastien Decant.
Primarily developed by Ubisoft Montreal, the title was made by a team of a similar size to Far Cry 4. “But a project of this scope required the contribution and support of other major Ubisoft studios in Toronto, Shanghai and Kiev,” Decant states.
Like its forerunners, Far Cry Primal is an open-world first-person shooter, but this time it is set in the Stone Age. After the Himalayas region in Far Cry 4 and the Pacific islands in Far Cry 3, players will explore the land of Oros. This new setting highlights Ubisoft’s efforts to mix things up.
REFRESHING THE EXPERIENCE
“We are taking you back to 10,000 BCE at the very first frontier, when men started to settle down and claim the land as theirs during brutal and savage times, and where the Megafauna was still ruling over the world,” explains Far Cry Primal’s narrative director.
In this new installment, you play as Takkar, a hunter who has the ability to tame and command wild beasts.
“As the Beastmaster, Takkar will re-unite his tribe and fend off the other competing tribes. It’s Takkar’s journey from prey to apex predator,” Decant says.
For Ubisoft’s teams, the Stone Age was the perfect setting for a Far Cry title, the narrative director continues: “The daily life of a Stone Age man could be boiled down to: explore uncharted territories, gather resources, craft tools and weapons, hunt or combat other threats. All of these activities already form the core gameplay loop of a Far Cry game, and we felt that there was a natural fit between the Stone Age and Far Cry.
“On one hand, we were willing to surprise our audience with a strong shift in terms of setting. On the other hand, we wanted to focus more on the hunting and survival aspects of Far Cry to refresh the experience.”
On paper, the Stone Age setting appears to have one big flaw: the relative lack of weaponry and vehicles that have defined previous iterations. But Jean-Sébastien Decant promises the game will have “lots of weaponry”.
“It’s just this time it’s made out of flint, wood and rocks! We have clubs, spears, knives and projectiles. We have multiple bows too, long range, rapid fire rate, double arrows. On top of this, we have pushed the interaction with fire and the player’s weapons. You can now set any weapon on fire to either inflict more damage, light your way in the dark or set the world on fire,” he continues.
Apart from this wide range of weapons, Far Cry Primal also introduces new abilities, such as the Beastmaster.
“It totally changes the way you approach enemy camps,” Decant enthuses.
“The felines are super stealthy, while canines can spot threats ahead of you and bears are like tanks, and can divert attention while you sneak in. We have 17 beasts to tame throughout Oros, and each one has a special trick.”
Some of the beasts can also be ridden, including mammoths, bears and sabretooth tigers. The latter was even described by Decant as “one of the coolest Far Cry vehicles ever.”
"We felt that there was a natural fit between the Stone Age and Far Cry"
Jean-Sébastien Decant, Ubisoft
A SINGLE PLAYER JOURNEY
Far Cry Primal also drops the multiplayer that featured in previous Far Cry titles.
“Bringing the Stone Age to life and providing the player with a strong gameplay experience based off of the Far Cry legacy meant that we had to reinvent our core gameplay loop, which was no small undertaking. Our focus was on delivering that fantasy, which required clear priorities for us. Therefore, in the early stages of the project, we made the difficult choice of focusing our efforts on the single player experience,” Decant explains.
To compensate for the absence of the multiplayer mode, the first-person shooter will mostly rely on its brand new massive open-world to try to provide an improved gaming experience to players.
“We put a great emphasis on player freedom,” Decant insists.
“After the introduction, the game opens up pretty quickly and leaves the player free to choose how he will proceed. Every Wenja you save in the wilderness, every camp you take back from the other tribes, every quest you complete, everything you do will strengthen your tribe and help you grow in return. There are no artificial barriers, the player can decide to go anywhere at any time. But will he survive? That’s another story.”
He concludes: “Far Cry has always been more than an FPS.
“It’s an open-world game, it’s a living and breathing world where there is always something happening whether you are there or not. It is a very cinematic game with lots of iconic characters and memorable moments. There are also shamanic visions taking the game in other dimensions, the possibility of building a village, the capacity of taming and commanding wild beasts... there is a lot, and a lot of it is fresh.”
The Land of Oros
The Far Cry series is hugely popular, but it has faced some criticism for lacking variety. And this is something Ubisoft is eager to remedy.
“We put a lot of effort in creating a world true to the Stone Age. A virgin territory in which humans would feel so small compared to the gigantic trees and the Megafauna,” Jean-Sébastien Decant states.
“We tried to make it as varied as possible too, with three distinct biomes spanning over Oros. The temperate forest, in which the player’s tribe has settled, the cold and icy mountains of the North, where the primitive Udam are hiding, and the hot and swampy marshlands in the South, where the more advanced Izila have built their agrarian society,” he continues.
The narrative director adds he hopes “everyone will be able to appreciate the level of detail and variety we brought to that recreation of the Stone Age.”