Welcome to Sonia’s Sassy Reviews, reviews of games from the unique perspective of a total newbie gamer whose only just started to indulge a lifelong love of video games, who also happens to be an adult(ish) woman. So, here we go!
Disclaimer: my little brother worked on this game, but I promise that his efforts here have not influenced my enjoyment of the game. Also, he gave me this game for my birthday when it came out in 2016. I’ve only played it now because I am the worst big sister ever.
Warning: Spoilers. Duh.
This game is first person, and so you can’t really know the sort of character you are unless you go hunting for the concept art. Which I did. Of course.
You play as Takkar, depicted here as a cross between Jason Mamoa and Mel Gibson, a Wenja man who is separated from his tribe by a sabre-tooth cat attack. I like this design.
I like that Takkar’s concept art makes him look like a regular person, or, as a regular person with a high protein diet who spends most of his life outside hunting for his food, and fighting other peoples for land and to free his kin.
The same is true for the other characters… more or less. As is usually the case in games, there was a fairly decent variety in shape and size of the male characters, from Takkar’s strong frame, to Urki’s pot belly, to the emaciated frame of Wogah, the vaguely feral Wenja man who had his arm eaten by the Udam, to the naturally slender frame of Tensay.
Women came in only one size.
Though it irks me some, I did very much appreciate that the singular shape was not weird or unnatural with impossibly small waists and overly burdened breasts, and none of the women were sexualised, even those that ran around without tops on. That was handled as a normal thing for women to do. The player’s gaze was never forced down to that level. It was never handled as something worthy of note. Good job.
I absolute loved this story for two major reasons; I got to play around in a world that was at the cusp of the Neolithic Revolution, and it the amount of work put into the research for the peoples of this world was absolutely evident. It made my prehistoric anthropologist heart so very happy, and I had a field day positing what each tribe were. Quite easily the Udam were clearly Homo Neanderthalensis, The Izila were trickier to place, but I am absolutely certain that they were the developers’ idea of the proto-Celtic culture of North and Western Europe.
I present as evidence the fact that the Izila were building passage tombs, not unlike those of Neolithic Ireland – the most famous of which is Newgrange. Also as evidence, their blue body paint, their standing stones, their own version of Stonehenge, and the rock carvings that look like they were pulled straight from the Newgrange’s kerbstones, particularly no. 52. I have photos of the Newgrange stuff, but it appears I’m the only one who got excited about the frakkin’ carvings on the stones, so I spent an inordinate amount of time scrubbing through my live streams looking for a clear shot of one of the Izila standing stones to compare. The quality is not great, but you see the resemblance, right?
Anyway, my little prehistoric anthropologist heart was having so much fun in this world. As for the story itself, it was a great premise. You, Takkar, are separated from your hunting party by a sabretooth attack. You, lost, end up in a new part of the world, a land called Oros where once Wenja like you had a home. Now Wenja are attacked by two other peoples, both of which are also at war with one another. Now Takkar must travel the land, taking on the enemies of the Wenja, to ensure Oros is a safe place for your people to live. Also, you get to tame various beasts and have them as pets. My favourite pet, and most constant travel companion was a sabretooth I named Buddy. Buddy was a goof, who sometimes got the zoomies, and was responsible for saving my life more times than I could count. I love my Buddy.
Special mention absolutely must be made of the two main villains in this narrative. They contrasted so perfectly with one another, and it created a great divide in how I personally felt about killing them.
Ull, brutal, ice-eyed leader of the Udam was a very sympathetic villain. In fact, as an enemy, despite killing and eating Wenja, the Udam were extremely sympathetic. Like their real life counterparts, the Neanderthal, when we encounter the Udam, they are already a dying breed, fighting only to try and ensure their people’s survival. Udam might be brutal, but it was clear he was afraid; afraid for his people. They were sick. They were dying. And poor Ull was presiding over the slow death of his people. That can’t have been easy.
Also, it’s clear Ull was a caring father. He takes his daughter on his lap when he first captures you, and it’s natural and kind. When you kill him, he gives you his children, asking you to care for them since he no longer could. In fact, I felt so badly for the Udam, and for Ull who didn’t understand why his people were dying, that his death brought me no pleasure whatsoever.
Contrast this with Batari, the leader of the Izila, who burnt her own son alive when he rebelled against her. Her motivations are less sympathetic than Ull’s. The whole Izila threat was taking Wenja to be slaves, working to raise Izila standing stones, passage tombs, and henges, or sacrifices to their sun god.
The reason? The Izila are just naturally better than everyone else. Superior. They’re basically Nazis. I hate Nazis. Killing Batari was not something I particularly regretted having to do as with Ull, though her death was a pretty horrific way to go.
Granted, this story did not have the emotional punch I have enjoyed from other games, but nothing about the story and the villains was unbelievable, and the story of a culture hero saving a people and making the land safe for them is always great. And Buddy was wonderful.
I really appreciated how equally this game treated women. Sure, the village warrior, Karoosh, was a dude, but their most accomplished hunter was Jayma, a woman.
You can find female warriors aplenty amongst the Izila, along with female hunters amongst the Wenja you encounter in the world, and they don’t hesitate to jump into battle if they encounter enemies. Amongst the women with speaking parts in the game, their personalities are individual. The afore-mentioned Jayma is understandably very confident, teasing Takkar for his loud elephant feet. But Jayma has a humour about her, and isn’t resentful of Takkar’s abilities, helping to guide and hone them.
The first Wenja you meet is Sayla, a young woman clearly recovering from trauma. She is the leader of your village, in truth, and doesn’t hesitate to direct Takkar. She, along with their shaman, gives orders. The rest make requests, or notes ‘shoulds’ in their quests rather than ‘do,’ Sayla is a little bit crazy, and collects Udam ears to help quell the screaming of the dead Wenja in her mind. Ull and his Udam, after all, were responsible for the almost complete annihilation of her tribe.
And of course, there is Batari, who’s a right… you know what, I’m not going to finish that thought. She was awful is all you need to know. Women were not absent in the world, and those with speaking parts were varied in personality enough that they didn’t feel like cardboard cut outs purely there for player gratification. Kudos to the team responsible for creating believable women.
Gameplay was hella fun. The game wasn’t so long and the map was not so huge that the sheer fun of watching the red of enemy territories recede to the pretty green of conquered lands ever wore thin. It was stupidly satisfying.
Combat was also fun. Thrown spears are the bomb, by the way. You also get actual bombs. I didn’t really use them. It also wasn’t so difficult that I found melee combat was unfair, despite my hilariously bad attempts at smacking fools with a heavy club. Sneaking was a little harder also, though that’s probably due once again to my ineptness.
Taming beasts and acquiring pets was also great fun for me. I enjoyed it all, and enjoyed coming up with names for each of my pets. Of course, once I got Buddy, I never used another pet unless I absolutely had to.
I adored the mechanic of using an owl (a great horned owl, I think), who I called Artemis for obvious reasons, as your eye in the sky, drawing in the recent mechanics of Assassin’s Creed Origins and having that owl attack your enemies for you. I made prodigious use of that particularly mechanic. Also drawing from the Assassin’s universe, the hunter’s vision makes for some fun tracking and finding things in the world.
However, there were a few pretty large bugs that I encountered in game. I fell through the world after sliding down vines more than once, to die crushed, I presume, by the pressure of the centre of the world I just tumbled through. I’ve also been trapped in rocks, unable to escape, and had to restart a quest or fast travel to a place in order to escape. That was really frigging annoying. Once I got trapped in a rock, in the water, only to fall to the centre of the earth after trying to swim out. Fun!
In the final boss battle against Batari, done to a brilliant song, by the way, was another one that was slightly bugged. In the final stage, she finally opened the gate to her platform and ran out. I had Buddy with me. Buddy was on her and she was dead before I even realised what was happening. My bad, true. But the game would not progress, and Buddy would not stop attacking her corpse, who would not stop cursing at me. It’s a little unsettling to be cussed out by a dead woman, FYI. The bug resolved only when I dismissed Buddy. Without him sinking his fangs into her, she could die properly, I guess? Despite these bugs, I had such a good time playing the game and exploring and conquering Oros, that I never got overly angry at the game (just ignore the shouting and cursing on my live streams. I promise I was not that mad).
My little brother worked on this game, and for that reason, I have a wee bit of insider’s information. Far Cry Primal was created in about a year. A year, to create this world, the characters and the story; the research alone was impressive. I’ve also learnt that Ubisoft hired linguists to develop three dialects of proto-Indo-European. I so very much appreciate that level of detail, one that is often unnoticed and uncelebrated.