The Udam are a brutish tribe of cannibals, hardened and barbaric even by the Stone Age standards of Far Cry Primal, and they’ve made it abundantly clear that my tribe is not welcome in the land of Oros. As the hunter Takkar, who builds a reputation as the wolf-taming Beast Master, I’ve been working to restore the Wenja band a few members at a time, finding scattered survivors out in the wilderness and sending them back to our growing camp. The Udam have done their best to get in my way, capturing or outright devouring the people I’m trying to protect. Now that I’ve finally got the beginnings of a thriving camp, they’ve arrived at our front door, ready to scatter us again.
Leaping over a barricade, I charge at their leader, and find myself staring into a wild-eyed mass of scar tissue. This is Ull, the hulking Udam chieftain, and he isn’t happy to see me. “You leave,” he says in the subtitled, Proto-Indo-European language of Oros, “or you die!” He lays me out flat with a single punch, and then apparently decides not to give us a choice after all, ordering his warriors to kill everyone.
This moment comes a couple of hours into Far Cry Primal, and while Ull’s is a name I’ve heard before, he doesn’t have the kind of constant, looming presence in the world that villains like Vaas and Pagan Min have primed us to expect. In truth, Ull hasn’t made much of a mark on the land of Oros, because Oros resists such marks. It’s untamed and incredibly dangerous, and although three tribes have converged there to fight for their respective futures, it is a friend to none of them. Oros itself is the real antagonist of Far Cry Primal – not Ull, and not his more advanced rival Batari, who we’ll get to later. This is a story of survival against harsh elements and deadly predators, and it begins with a hunt gone terribly wrong.
Hunt and Be Hunted
Far Cry Primal opens somewhere outside of Oros, where Takkar and the remnants of his hunting band are stalking a herd of mammoths. Sneaking through the brush and following the instructions of the leader, Dalso, I get a firsthand view of how half-naked men armed with spears take down a massive beast: using torches, a team of fire throwers separates a small mammoth from the herd, after which those of us on the ground are free to move in and jab it to death.
Just as the Wenja are preparing for their first taste of food in days, however, a sabretooth tiger moves in to claim the kill, quickly mauling our torch-throwers to death. Not content to let us leave empty-handed, it backs us to the edge of a cliff, where Dalso makes a snap decision to hurl us both down the slope and onto jagged rocks. Waking in a daze, I hear Dalso’s dying words – “Find the land of Oros. Find our lost Wenja brothers” – and then I’m on my own.
Crafting has been an important part of Far Cry for some time now, but in Far Cry Primal, it’s central to everything. The weapons and other items you wield are ones you’ve made yourself, and so long as you’ve got the raw materials, you can always make more. To begin with, I need to make something to fend off the attentions of the sabretooth, which means gathering wood, reeds and slate until I have enough to craft a bow. The raw materials are out in the open and not difficult to find, and I can highlight them by turning on Hunter Vision, meant to represent Takkar’s awareness of his environment. It’s a feature I’ll increasingly rely on as the story moves forward. Not only does it point out crafting resources, but it helps spot predators, human enemies and prey animals. It also lets me track wounded creatures by way of a billowing airborne blood trail, which comes in handy as I shoot, follow and skin my first real kills: a trio of goats.
Hunter Vision even helps me find my way to Oros. Discovering recent evidence of traveling Wenja, I craft a club, light it on fire and use it as a torch while following a trail of footprints visible only to a hunter’s eyes. These eventually lead me to a cave where I meet another Wenja, an initially hostile young woman named Sayla. As we escape from a sabretooth’s jaws, I learn that she has a real thing for collecting the ears of dead Udam – and, more importantly, that she has a camp nearby.
A Place to Call Home
Sayla’s camp will soon grow into a (relatively) bustling Wenja village, as well as the center of the game’s narrative. Instead of taking a strictly linear path, Far Cry Primal’s story missions revolve around building up your little settlement by crafting useful structures, rescuing imperiled Wenja and recruiting people with new skills. Once they’ve joined the camp, those people then open up new skill trees and missions for Takkar to pursue.
The first such recruit is a shaman named Tensay, who may actually be a lunatic. My first glimpse of Tensay is of a bony man draped in wolf furs, dancing himself into a trancelike state in front of a fire. Almost immediately after being disturbed, he slaughters a rodent, cuts Takkar’s hand and orders Takkar to drink the resulting mixture of blood from a skull. This sparks a mystic vision in which I take flight and follow a glowing owl through forests, caves and storms, eventually convincing it to respond to Takkar’s call and sit on his arm. When Takkar finally wakes, he has the power to summon the owl and see the world through its eyes. Following Tensay’s command, I learn he also has the power to tame wolves, and before long I’ve subdued a rare white wolf and convinced it to be Takkar’s constant friend.
Takkar’s new animal companions quickly prove their worth. In addition to scaring off smaller predators, the wolf can bring down startled prey and is wickedly effective in a fight, whether I order it to attack or just let it follow me into battle. When it’s not around, I immediately notice its absence; suddenly I’m vulnerable to attack from any number of threats, and have to be continually alert. In situations like that, the owl is an even bigger help than usual; replacing the binoculars from earlier Far Cry games, it lets me scout ahead from an aerial view, marking targets and – after I’ve leveled up my skills a bit – attacking enemies by dropping primitive bombs or just diving straight for their eyes.
Unsurprisingly, the animals are instrumental in defending the village when the Udam finally attack, letting me pinpoint where the next wave will come from and defending me as I smash the invaders into submission with a nasty-looking two-handed Udam club (a gift from Sayla). Ull leaves the scene, but once the dust has settled and the dead are counted, I retaliate by busting up an Udam settlement and claiming it for the Wenja, destroying a few of their creepy “bone trees” along the way.
Civilization and its Dangers
The Udam aren’t the only human threat in Oros, and they’re by no means the worst. After playing through the early chapters of Far Cry Primal, I jump ahead to a point later in the game, where I met a new threat: the Izila, also known as the Sun Walkers. A technologically advanced tribe based loosely on the ancient Mesopotamians, the Izila understand advanced concepts like agriculture, organized religion and craftsmanship. Rather than being docile farmers, however, the Izila are ambitious and cruel, kidnapping members of other tribes for use as slaves and burning their victims alive.
It’s through one of their victims that I’m introduced to the Izila. Following a series of agonized screams to Tensay’s hut, I find the shaman tending to a horribly burned Wenja man. He was part of a group that was attacked by the Izila, and I learn the ones that were captured might still be rescued.
Reaching the Izila camp means a lengthy trek across Oros, and the path is frequently blocked by cliffs. Fortunately, by this point in the story I’ve unlocked a grappling hook, which lets me climb and safely rappel down any steep surface I find. None of it quite prepares me for the Izila settlement where the Wenja captives are being held, however. In stark contrast to the chaotic jumbles of huts that pass for Udam villages, this place is organized. Built around a mountainside cave complex, the camp is ringed by rough wooden fences, complete with guard towers. Lashed-together barns hold bundles of grain. At the center of the camp is a huge pit, ringed with wooden stakes and littered with burnt corpses. And just past it, held behind barred wooden gates, are the captive Wenja I’ve come to save.
I try to play it sneaky at first, scouting with my owl and picking off the Izila sentries, but they’re not as easy to surprise as the Udam. Before long, the camp is crawling with masked archers out for my blood, and I rush to free the Wenja, making it a more even fight. It’s not enough to escape, however; the Izila need to be taught a harsh lesson about messing with the Wenja, so I light my spear on fire and begin setting their wooden structures ablaze.
With the Izila settlement a smoking ruin, the Wenja free and the Izila safely mauled to death by my new bear companion, I make my way toward the exit… only to be knocked out when a club-wielding Izila lunges at me from a cliff. I wake up next to the body of a Wenja who didn’t make it, and watch as a couple of masked Izila toss her into the corpse pit and follow up with a couple of firebombs. Just as they’re about to throw Takkar in after her, the Izila chieftain, Batari, takes an interest.
The Izila are a matriarchal society, and Batari – a woman born during an eclipse – is their god-queen, with a regal bearing that contrasts sharply with her more primitive surroundings. Impressed by Takkar’s fire-wielding ingenuity – which she interprets as a desire to be like the Izila – she offers to make him great, demanding he serve only her. Takkar replies that he serves no one, and Batari doesn’t take his defiance well, shoving him into the fiery pit and bringing our time with Far Cry Primal’s story to a close.
There’ll be plenty more to experience when Far Cry Primal releases on February 23 for PS4 and Xbox One, and March 1 for PC; in the meantime, keep your eye on UbiBlog, where we’ll have more Far Cry Primal coverage in the days ahead.
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