Here’s A Good Way To Play Far Cry Primal

Here’s A Good Way To Play Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal is a game about a caveman who explores a new land. If you play on the game’s default settings, it’s also about a caveman who methodically conquers that new land thanks to his helpful smartphone GPS.

I started playing Primal on PC last night, and so far I’m feelin it. (“I’m feelin it” – Kotaku.) I’ve seen Stephen and others talk about the overfamiliar Far Cry formula, and how despite the prehistoric top layer, Primal is as much a Far Cry game as the last two. I haven’t felt that way yet, and I think it’s to do with the way I’ve been playing.

Here’s how I’ve been approaching things.

1. No Minimap

The most important change I can suggest is to turn off the minimap from the very start. (This won’t surprise longtime Kotaku readers.) I’ve yet to turn the minimap on and barely even know what it looks like; my screen has thus far been empty of the cursed little navigational circle.

So far, Primal has made it easier than any past Far Cry game to play without a minimap. The protagonist Takkar’s hunting sense (AKA eagle vision/detective mode) lets you spot crafting resources and downed animal carcasses easily, for example. Objectives and events appear on the HUD when you’re close to them, so there’s no need to track them on a map.

Without a minimap, the game’s flow is significantly changed. I spent the first two hours simply wandering around, seeing what I could find and hunting what I could. I’d do sidequests as I stumbled across them, but have yet to really seek them out. I figured out that a distant mountain was directly to the north, and have been using it to orient myself. I track enemies with my ears; I hunt with my senses.

2. Play On Hard

I’d heard that Primal‘s default difficulty quickly becomes too easy, so I decided I’d start on hard difficulty this time around. It’s worked great so far: if I run into more than a couple enemies I have to play very defensively and be ready to run for my life. Any time I’ve run into a deadlier predator it’s been game over.

And that’s how it should be, you know? I’m sure I’ll unlock abilities that help me take on the most dangerous enemies in the game, but for now, at the start, I’m fine with things being hard.

3. No Healing Items

As in past Far Cry games, Primal hero Takkar can craft all sorts of quick-heal items that he can munch down in the middle of a battle. I’m making a soft rule that I can’t use those.

“Medicine” in these sorts of games becomes a crutch too quickly, essentially resetting a battle multiple times and letting me win with careless strategies that should have gotten me killed.

Instead, I’ve limited Takkar to the patented Far Cry Grisly Heal™, where he pops a finger into joint or pulls an arrow out of his forearm in order to recover a block of health. I can still heal mid-fight, but it takes long enough that I have to be smart about it. It’s made the game harder, but in an interesting way, and has led to some exciting, protracted battles.

4. No Fast Travel

Sometimes the game will tell me I’ve unlocked a fast-travel waypoint. “I don’t care!” I try to tell the game. I’m playing with no fast-travel, and am walking (or, soon enough, riding) everywhere I need to go.

5. (Extreme Tip!) Try Turning Off Subtitles

Something to at least try, if not something to stick with. Primal‘s cavemen and -women speak a made-up language, so the entire story is subtitled. That fact alone has already pushed the narrative to the margins — it’s much easier to ignore subtitles than it was to ignore, say, Vaas — and I’ve been experimenting with pushing it even further by removing subtitles entirely.

With no subtitles, I’m left to infer what’s going on in a given cutscene. So far it actually hasn’t been that hard: The shaman likes me, this one lady seems cool and I can command animals. There are good guys and bad guys, and I’m supposed to kill the bad guys. If I really need to know my next objective I can just check the map, but so far I’ve found that removing subtitles gives the story an abstracted quality that I like.

I asked Stephen if I’d be able to keep this up for the whole game, and he said it was unlikely, and that I’d be missing some cool story beats. I’ll probably turn them on at some point. For now, it’s certainly changed things up.

5. Just Sort Of Wander Around

I’ve played Far Cry, man. I’ve chased the icons across the map. I’ve cleared all the outposts. I’ve collected all the stuff. I’ve crafted all the things. I’m a little tired of that, so this time around I’m treating the game more as a structureless sandbox that I’m free to explore however I want.

Primal barely has a story so far — even with subtitles — and I’m fine with that. I actually hope the story never really develops past “get new animal powers, defeat the other dudes, recruit more people into your town”, or gets so complex that I feel like I actually need to pay attention to what’s happening.

I’ve let go of the standard sort of progression one usually makes in games like this. I basically just wander around. With no minimap, I have few things commanding my attention as I explore. I’ve barely been checking the world map for things to do, and mostly have just been taking challenges as I come upon them. It’s already led to a bunch of cool moments, in particular some breathless ambushes and near-death hunting showdowns. But it’s all just sort of happened, as I’ve learned my way around the opening area.

Thanks to this approach, Far Cry Primal has yet to transform into that familiar Ubisofty spreadsheet of tasks to complete. Most of the time I feel like a caveman carefully exploring a new frontier, rather than a guy inching his way through the latest big-budget sandbox game. I’ve been having a great time, and the longer I can keep things wild and unstructured, the better.


  • The whole premise of Far Cry Primal seems lackluster and kind of empty of opportunities to me. I’ve heard of people getting bored of it after about 6-8hrs play time and that’s pretty much what I expected.

    Playing it without the map or fast travel might improve the experience but still wouldn’t be enough for me to bother buying it.

    • I’ve certainly not feel any burning urge to play it. I loved Far Cry 2 and 3, but 4 pretty much extinguished my enthusiasm for the series. It’s not that 4 was bad, it just felt like a reskin of FC3, but one that they charged full price for. Ubisoft have dug themselves into a rut with their open world games, and changing Far Cry to a caveman setting won’t help it any more than changing locations and time periods has helped Assassin’s Creed. They really need to ditch this formula that they’re applying across all their games. Their most interesting stuff in recent times has been their smaller downloadable games – their AAA retail stuff has got very stale.

      • Yep, I agree. I don’t tend to play many Ubisoft games in general these days and never bothered to try Assassins Creed.

        I’ll likely buy The Division. It was decent in the Beta but I’m still a little on the fence about how long I’ll end up playing it. Got to experience some of what the end game will be like – continuously running co-op instances for loot and then going into the Dark Zone for more loot….

      • This is how I feel, I finished FarCry3 100% 3 times, and I’d just play for playing sometimes just exploring. Even did a no capture no upgrades and no buying stuff playthrough which was amazing. Farcry4 just had no love from me, played it but didn’t try to 100% and got bored quickly to much of the same same without the feeling of the dynamic gameplay 3 had. Had the same issue with blood dragon, probably overplayed FarCry3. With about 190 hours.

    • I loved Far Cry 4. I’m finding I hit the boredom wall in Primal. Even though the time period really interests me I’ve just found there’s a lack of variety in weapons, regions, enemies, animals, quests, story etc. For the first 3-4 hours I was hooked then it’s just kind of meh. Especially once you tame the animals and anything below hard mode becomes easy with a sabre tooth tiger. I’m still pushing on but I think I’m just going to focus on finishing the story to say I finished it now. The story seems to have no depth though.

      I don’t think the far cry formula needs to change, it just needs a more interesting story. Way more work on story, side stories etc are needed. GTA isn’t just great for it’s world it’s good because it has numerous interesting story lines to complete, same for the witcher 3 or any open world game that’s been a hit. Far Cry Primal feels like it went half sandbox survival and half low content funnelled story mode.

      • You’ve managed to re-cap my thoughts on Primal perfectly from the time I heard of it’s existence. Just the setting in general felt like it would lack substance…there’s only so much you can do with a prehistoric setting and it runs out pretty quick.

        • Yeah. The caveman genre really hit its peak with BC Bill on the Commodore 64 back in 1984. Nothing since, including Far Cry Primal, has really manged to advance things any further 😛

        • That’s not what I meant. I thought the setting had more depth than just another civil war situation. I thought they’d make some of the animals WAY more deadly and I thought the story would involved more than just tribes fighting each other.

          • Fair enough. I’m sure there’s more that can be done with the formula, it’s just hard for me personally to picture something that adds enough to make it interesting.

          • I kind of like how simple it is, though. It’s in keeping with theme, really… Thinking about complicated stories usually comes down to having multiple parties who want multiple things, and conflicting loyalties.

            Cavemen only wanted a few things. And it’s interesting how the only things you can loot from fallen enemies are the exact same crafting/healing shit that you’re carrying. There is nothing else. There is no vendoring of trinkets to accumulate currency. Currency didn’t exist.

            Cavemen loyalties were simpler. Their politics were simpler. The complex stories we tell now about the bonds of family, surrogate family, employer, factions by philosophy, morality, or politics, the very concepts of law and order and a criminal underworld defying it, or dealing with institutionalized discrimination… all that complexity arises from a series of social constructs that also didn’t exist.

            The game goes far enough in advancement to have SOME social and scientific advancement – division by tribe, development of language, tools, music, art. But all of those things are simple. Primitive. Per the name.

            I think it’s a fascinating period to explore. And I suspect it’s smaller as a result. Frankly, a smaller Far Cry game is not a bad thing, either. I’ve always struggled to stick with the Far Cry games after their second after. Your ‘death’ in 2, the South Island in 3, unlocking the North in 4… The collectible busywork – chased compulsively for the rich exp rewards – really drags out what’s there without anything particularly meaningful involved. A shorter Far Cry game I might actually complete.

          • You said it well – i think it works really really well and if people dont like it fair enough but I dont think its worthy of the amount of hate its getting!! lol

            And i platinumed 4 so i dont think this is going to be a hassle to me – im just enjoying exploring and crafting – feels very prehistoric and going out for a hunt at night is fucking evil still for me so there is quite a few elements going on which create a sense of environment and a different culture that im playing in

          • I see what you’re saying, but I disagree about the ‘simple’ setting only leading to simple stories. Most people want simple things much like cavemen: money/land, power and sex. You can do that on wall st in 2016 or you can do that in this pre-historc setting. When you have multiple tribes/communities, leaders, motives, allegiances, loves, settings you have a recipe for interesting stories.

            I reckon you could set most if not all of Shakespeare’s plots in this same prehistoric setting and it would work perfectly, because it’s not about the setting, people are horrible no matter when/where they are.

          • How would you do something like Much Ado About Nothing? A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, a Comedy of Errors… they’re so many scenarios that arise almost entirely out of social constructs and pushing back against them for the sake of primitive desires.

            At best you’d get some hierarchical dominance stories.

            Maybe some love stories about being separated by tribes, maybe, or – again – the dominance story of a mate competitor. But beyond that, the richest stories come from the constraints people have placed on them, and ‘advanced’ society places many. It seems clear to me that the obstacles we face in the way of our primal desires are more complex than they were, as are our resolutions to those obstacles.

            Look at art. 3D perspective in drawings seems so simple to us in retrospect, but we spent literally tens of thousands of years not even thinking about it, and it blew everyone away when the technique was discovered. The same is true of any kind of thinking.

            Seeing through the eyes of the Udam and their struggle against sickness and weakness driving their aggressive expansion is reasonably complex, insofar as hinting at something more than a black-and-white ‘good guys vs bad guys’ story of warring tribes. And maybe there’s more that I haven’t seen yet. But the best stories come from having multiple layers of conflict, and those layers just straight-up weren’t that many back then.

            Romeo of the Wenja, Juliet of the Udam? Pretty basic and not that compelling. A bit of Macbeth, if you want to get into spirit journeys and mysticism. Start moving into Othello and Hamlet territory though, and you’ve got buckley’s. I mean, it’s POSSIBLE to come up with a King Lear scenario using the primitive backdrop, but it’d be just as much fantasy as including an Alien Builders/gene-seeder subplot. The societal structures COULD have been that advanced as to generate those kinds of conflict, but more than likely weren’t. Brains and personalities and societies evolved as much if not more than we did physically in the last tens of thousands of years.

            (And that’s not really addressing the mechanical complexity that @outbreak talks about.)

          • You could totally do all of those Shakespeare plays you mentioned in a caveman setting. Obviously you wouldn’t have Jews, you’d have the caveman tribe equivalent, the stereotypical horder or controller of land and resources, basically the epitome of greed, a human trait. You’d basically be adapting the human story to a different setting, that’s it.

            One of the best examples of this kind of adaptation to a different setting/for a different audience in my opinion is The Departed. Scorsese took Infernal Affairs and changed it from a hong kong based shooter, to a boston set, irish gangster film. Still totally works and appeals to a completely different audience, but it’s the same story at it’s core.

          • Sorry I didn’t have much time to reply before, but reading your response through better it seems you are really getting caught up in the details, and not looking at the bigger picture.

            Art is a great example you brought up, and it really highlights the misconceptions that people who don’t know much about art have towards art. Just because something is really detailed or realistic looking, doesn’t mean it’s ‘good’, look at abstract art for example: No representation, no figurative aspects, just pure fields of colour and texture that are meant to appeal BEYOND the constraints of the easily recogniseable to appeal to the senses. If you paint a picture of something culturally specific, someone from another culture may not be able to understand the painting the same way someone would who has that prior knowledge. But if you do away with the constraints of trying to make it ‘look like something’ then it opens itself up in a more interpretive fashion, allowing people to read beyond what it looks like, to what it actually IS.

            What i’m saying is that you have to look beyond the constraints of things to see what the MEANING of the story is, just because you can’t depict a jew or a medieval king, or a witch doesn’t mean it can’t be re-interpreted into another form that still gets the same point across. Plenty of times this has been done, like The Departed, like The Magnificent 7 and even Baz Lurman’s Romeo and Juliet, if the core of the story, the interactions between humans, the greed, the lust, the hatred etc is all there then it’s totally possible to tell almost any story in any setting.

          • No, no, I get where you’re coming from. And I am seriously actually trying to indicate that key concepts didn’t exist. Not the details… the underlying concepts.

            Yes, dominance existed. Lust existed. Love that doesn’t involve lust probably existed. We know there was art and storytelling, and assume music.

            But the concept of using someone’s non-physical/abstract power (law) against them, as in Merchant of Venice? I imagine that in this setting there is no primitive analogue for that without inventing Law. The core of that story was about a social structure in place of dominance by strength. It doesn’t matter what space and time that structure applies to, just that there was one, and that the formerly powerful had it turned against them.

            Same goes for the concept of inheriting power (which Shakespeare was kinda fixated on). Completely alien to might-makes-right power structure.

            The point of the perspective art example was not the form, but the big picture you describe and the method by which we invent.

            ‘The Hero’s Journey’ (not the naming of it, but the standard it describes) was invented. There was a point where it did not exist. There was a time when narrative did not exist. And when it did, it was unrefined. I like the idea that the time we are playing in is that time. Similar to when a child tells you a ‘story’ that has no point to it and is simply a recollection of an event, described without narrative connection. The prehistoric equivalent of, “Hey, remember when we did that thing that was cool? Yeah… that was cool.” Narrative was likely born of instruction. “Thog ate fire. Thog’s mouth was burned. We no longer eat fire.”

            But it’s not just that there are no stories from that time, to cover events that we are probably familiar with (because since when has human nature ever changed). But some concepts, such as those you describe, are so ingrained to us, so seemingly natural or obvious that it is refreshingly alien to conceive of a time before the experiences they convey themselves were invented.

            ‘I loved someone and they died and I was sad’ is not a complex story. It’s probably near-universal, but it’s not complex. It’s simple. The things which make that story complex are the conflicts that arose around it; the challenges and solutions. I am contending that emotions themselves, that higher-level motivations were not developed enough for those ‘complex’ stories to even exist. And that attempting to tell a more nuanced, complicated story set in that time is basically trying to cram modern sensibilities about high-level human motivation into one of the few times in human history that they might not have actually applied because they didn’t exist yet.

            And that would be a waste.


            When it gets down to it, I feel like you are saying that deep, rich, nuanced events as a result of conflicting human motivations and actions means that regardless of being able to tell the stories, the events which could be classed as complex or deep themselves were still happening since the dawn of time, and you think they could have been portrayed in this depiction.

            MY contention is that the rich, deep events were not happening. What makes something complex or deep is its context; otherwise it’s just events. Most ‘interesting’ contexts are born of our social and emotional constructs.. I expect there was a time when those constructs (even self-awareness) were so primitive that there was nothing complex about the stories of base motivations being acted upon. And I think that this is the story already being told.

          • This has been a great discussion, but unfortunately at my new job i don’t get a lot of time to read through/post thorough responses so here goes my brief conclusion.

            I think we are actually at cross purposes here, I still believe that many different stories/plots (including Shakespeare’s works) can be adapted into a similar prehistoric setting, but also also kind of agree with what you are saying, I just think we may be attaching different meanings to the terms we are using ala ‘pre-historic’. In Far Cry Primal’s setting there are communities, tribes, families, languages, laws, rites, territories etc all of which are probably what you would call ‘society’ and have modern day equivalents, which is what I’m talking about. You can have your romeo and juliet, sure, but you could also have your King Lear, at it’s heart a tale of madness, manipulation, family and defying the natural order, and also merchant of venice, where greed and spite fuel one’s need to revenge by way of exploiting the law.

            From what you are saying though i gather you’re implying that in pre-historic times there was no ‘society’, however rudimentry, and thus works like Merchant could not happen, as the subtleties of human interaction through the conventions of some form of society simply don’t exist as there is no society. I totally agree with you on that, but it doesn’t seem to apply to the particular setting of FC Primal, much earlier certainly, but the conventions definitely exist in FC Primal as the human in it are significantly evolved to have constructed some form of society or civilisation. Even though concepts of religion, territory, control of resources etc have existed for a loooong ass time, more developed notions of society came later, and thus so did the drama. Otherwise it would be more akin to having animals stage King Lear, as they communicate but have no language, and no real need for kingdoms or the like it wouldn’t work. Trying to get a bunch of cats to act out Othello would be goddamn nightmare, oh the scratches…

            So yea, I agree with you that there definitely needs to be a significant amount of human evolution in order to be able to adapt complex works of literature and make them work in a specific context, however you wrangle it, BUT I also think it still would be possible to transplant Shakespeare’s works, or almost any other ‘story’ and preserve the meaning behind it to the actual setting of Far Cry Primal as there is enough of a society to accommodate the complexity of such stories. Cool.

          • simple is fine but it lacks depth still. you could have had some epic quests to tame each of your animal pets and given them more attachment than just unlocking a skill and going and taming a random animal. Could have linked your pets in to the story line more on an individual level seeing as you are the beast master. Just felt no attachment to anything in the game.

            I don’t mean they need complex political stories going on but they could have done more even with a simple story line.

  • I think it’ll be the sort of game that I’ll enjoy once modders get a hold of it and comprehensively change things in that vein.
    Very much over the Ubisoft formula.

  • I’m something like 12 hours in and I’m still loving it. Despite the fact I’m playing on easy, with full use of the mini-map…

    I guess I like it so much because I haven’t played the other Far Cry games. It’s kind of interesting the previous releases can tarnish a new release so much.

    • No ive played them all and im loving this release – fair to say im only 4 hours in but ive been having fun!!!

      The use of the bow is not something i usually go with so to be forced to only use the bow for range attacks ive found to be really refreshing

      And i kind of just wander and hunt animals then run into a mission at the moment so i dont see what the issue is

      One issue i’ve found is that Far Cry players are very fucking hard to please!!! Far Cry 4 was just Far cry 3.5 according to most yet now we get a whole new game and its just “lackluster”

      Whingers the lot of them!!! Remember where you came from – gaming is brilliant these days and not everything needs to be critiqued so damn hard!!!

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