Creating the Prehistory of Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal is set in a world that modern humans know relatively little about; there are, after all, no written records from the Stone Age to tell us exactly who was doing what. It’s more than just caveman fantasy, however; Far Cry Primal and its wide-open land of Oros represent an attempt to build a world that, while not necessarily reflective of actual history, is an earnest re-creation based on what we know about the time – including the root causes of humanity’s earliest conflicts. To find out more, we asked Creative Director Jean-Cristophe Guyot about how Oros, its people and its hulking predatory animals came to be.

Period Drama

“To choose a location, we really decided to zoom into the Mesolithic Period,” says Guyot. “That’s the transition between man as a hunter-gatherer and as a settler. It’s the moment where you start to own land, and start to have conflict.”

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To pick a backdrop for this moment, the developers followed what Guyot calls “the highway of immigration at the time,” a path leading up from Africa and along the Danube River through Europe. The team wanted a setting that would have had a glacier, so they settled on the Carpathian Mountains, somewhere in Slovakia.

The story, Guyot says, has a basis in the history of how Europe’s population was formed, but takes events that happened over thousands of years and condenses them into one moment in prehistory.

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“It’s a collision of several waves of immigration,” says Guyot. “The initial one was stuck in the ice age, and there’s this concept of archaic homo sapiens that we based the Udam on. They got stuck in the mountains during the ice age, and they are starting to become extinct. They are having a problem breeding, so they are resorting to cannibalism in order to get strength from the other tribes.”

Scary New Friends

Animals, predatory or otherwise, are a key component of Far Cry Primal. They’re enemies, allies and a source of crafting and healing materials, and each has a perk to share with you once you’ve leveled up enough to tame it. The dholes – little wild dogs that were last seen in Far Cry 4 – can provide you with resources while you travel, while wolves are better for helping you hunt prey. Jaguars will crouch alongside you and can avoid detection when you want to stay hidden, and sabretooth tigers will let you ride them. (So will the smaller mammoths, once you’ve unlocked the ability, although you can’t tame and keep them.) Additionally, each predator has a place in the world’s roughly established pecking order.

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“When you start, you don’t have anything, so every predator is a danger,” says Guyot. “Then you have the wolf, and he starts to repel the smaller predators. As you climb the food chain, it gets easier to travel the world.”

Wolves, for example, can chase away dholes, and as your predator friends get larger, you’ll find they can chase away smaller predators with relatively little effort. The only exception we’ve seen so far is Far Cry Primal’s badgers, which are so mean that they’re capable of killing animals several times their size.

“The badger is a real pest, actually,” says Guyot, laughing.

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Mother Tongue

The denizens of Oros speak in fictitious languages with English subtitles, but they aren’t gibberish. Demanding realism, the developers consulted with linguists who specialize in Proto-Indo-European language. Even their efforts didn’t feel quite right at first, however.

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“When we first started recording, it felt very modern,” says Guyot. “It was like listening to a language coming from Eastern Europe or something. It was very verbose. So we worked with them to regress this language to something that would be even earlier than that.”

In order to bring the language spoken by the Wenja tribe to an even earlier time, linguists identified certain ancient features of Proto-Indo-European as the baseline, resulting in a “Proto-Proto-Indo-European.” This newly created language, now called Wenja, was both quicker to say (a good thing for gameplay) and easier to pronounce (great for the actors).

The end result, Guyot said, was a set of three distinct languages that felt appropriate for a prehistoric setting – but once they were nailed down, other challenges arose.

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“When actors start to talk, OK, now you have the language, you’re happy – but some of the characters are very apelike, and some of them are very modern,” says Guyot. The actors delivering the lines also had to perform motion capture in a way that fit not just their language, but their tribes and body types, so the team hired Terry Notary – a movement coach who’s worked on movies including The Hobbit trilogy and the recent Planet of the Apes films – to make sure they moved convincingly, something that also comes across in the way they behave when they’re not paying attention to you.

The human encampments of Far Cry Primal work in the same way as outposts in previous games, in that you conquer them by defeating their inhabitants and trying not to trigger alarms, but the developers didn’t want them to have the same military feel as their predecessors. Your enemies might be brutal killers, but there’s more to their lives than patrolling and fighting.

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“Throughout the story, we give you good reasons why they’re here and why they’re dangerous to you, but we don’t want them to feel like stupid guards,” says Guyot. “So they have a life. We try to create a culture and religion for every type of tribe, and at some of the outposts, they’re actually playing music, fishing and doing other tasks.

“We want this to feel like a time period where it’s not war,” Guyot says, “but survival.”

For more on Far Cry Primal, check out these stories:

Far Cry Primal – Stone Age Survival and Weaponized Wildlife

Far Cry Primal Deluxe Edition Revealed

Far Cry Primal – Almost Everything is Trying to Kill You

Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal

Release date — February 23, 2016
Developer — Ubisoft Montreal
Welcome to the Stone Age, a time of extreme danger and limitless adventure, when woolly mammoths and sabretooth tigers rule the Earth, and humanity is at the bottom of the food chain. As the last survivor of your hunting group, you will learn to craft a deadly arsenal, tame fierce predators, and outsmart enemy tribes to conquer the land of Oros and become the Apex Predator.

ESRB Rating: RP
The Author

Mikel Reparaz has been an editor at GamesRadar, PlayStation: The Official Magazine, MacLife, and Official Xbox Magazine. He now works as a Communications Mercenary on the UbiBlog. Follow him on Twitter: @Wikiparaz