Assassin's Creed isn't the only blockbuster franchise to travel through time and offer wildly different virtual playgrounds. Far Cry started in a lush tropical paradise but has since roved around the world; the last entry let us visit the Himalayas, for instance. Now, the successful and popular IP is taking the time-traveling plunge, as the recently announced Far Cry Primal will catapult us back through history. This isn't Victorian Era England, Italy during the Renaissance, or even 15th-century Constantinople. This is well before any of that; well before even the Egyptian empires. We're talking 10,000 BC, a primitive do-or-die time when humans were just starting to become human.
That's right, the new Far Cry adventure drops us into the Stone Age, when men vied with fearsome beasts for sustenance and survival. Called a "full-fledged single-player experience" (always music to my ears), this compelling quest will put us face-to-face with legendary creatures like the woolly mammoth and sabertooth tiger. We will have to use every ounce of strength and strategy available to us in order to take down such overwhelmingly powerful foes, so expect this new game to test your skills beyond the standard first-person challenge. Remember, there were no guns then so perhaps it'd be inaccurate to call this a "FPS." Rather, it's a first-person action/adventure that will constantly demand our vigilance and ingenuity.
We will play as Takkar, a hunter and last surviving member of his group, and we will explore an area called Oros. Even though Takkar is the last of his tribe, he will meet other "memorable characters" as the story progresses, and it's interesting to note that Takkar will be the "first human to tame the wilderness and rise above extinction." He will have to fight his fellow man as well, because combat was simply a part of survival in that time period. Takkar has a goodly set of skills at his disposal, and this includes the ability to craft tools and weapons from resources he gathers. He can make highly useful things from simple bones and hides, for example. He's well-suited to his environment but like previous entries in the series, this is an open-world sandbox structure so be careful when wandering!
As Takkar explores and meets other people, he will begin to garner a following, which must in turn be protected. As the wild landscape features everything from swamps to forests to caves, danger lurks around every corner, so the fledgling group can't afford to rest. You will soon find that the recent discovery of fire will be a huge asset, as it can be used for protection at night and can also factor into combat options. Animals are none too pleased with fire, remember. This is why, more than ever before in this franchise's history, the player will have to think outside the box. Survival is the name of the game and in such an ancient time period, you can't rely on the standard assortment of weapons and gadgets. You might think this poses some design difficulties but as Ubisoft creative director Jean-Christophe Guyot said:
"The Stone Age is the perfect setting for a Far Cry game. Far Cry usually puts you at the edge of the known world, in a beautiful, lawless and savage frontier. The Stone Age is, in a way, the very first frontier for humankind; it's the time when humans put a stick in the ground and claimed land for their own, the time when we started climbing the food chain. That came with conflict, against other humans of course, but also against nature itself."
It'll be interesting to see how the team implements harsh survival elements into a generally accessible action IP that has often put a heavy emphasis on gunplay. While it's certainly a compelling idea, and one that might result in the most unique and challenging Far Cry experience yet, you have to admit that it's a bit of a risk. Will die-hard FPS fanatics like this new direction? How do they feel about being stuck with weapons like spears and bows? And just how difficult will it be to survive and flourish in such a forbidding landscape? We've seen survival-based games in the past that have been absolutely brutal in terms of difficulty and of course, as the series in question must remain mainstream, the developers can't go too nuts.
It'll be a balancing act, that's for sure. We'll see how it turns out when Far Cry Primal launches on February 23, 2016 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The PC version will be ready in March.