For the past week, I’ve been playing the new game Far Cry Primal, set in the prehistoric world of Oros. I started off in Tutorial Land, rescued Sayla, found our shaman Tensay, tamed a wolf, and then found some specialists to join our fledgling village. My latest mission is to go and find out what happened to a Wenja hunter who ventured into the ominously-named Bone Cave and never returned. What could possibly go wrong?
Running towards the Bone Cave, I came across a Wenja who had been taken captive by a few Udam. With the black cave lion that I tamed earlier, I made short work of them and freed my fellow tribesman. Fulfilling missions like this adds more people to the Wenja village, which in turn unlocks new hut upgrades that give various bonuses (from extra experience points to new skills, and so forth). You never have to go back to the village to report in or anything like that, so these missions don’t exactly interrupt the flow of the game in any meaningful way.
But there’s a main story to complete, too. I always get hopelessly distracted by the side missions in open world games and Far Cry Primal is no different. So I quickly continue on my way. I find the spot highlighted on my map, revealing the cadaver of an Irish elk. I follow the tracks using my hunter vision and soon find myself at the Bone Cave. I venture inside and hear the growling of cave lions. My pet, however, seeks them out like a heat-seeking missile, and usually ends up killing them before I even see them. Soon, I find the missing hunter, who’s wounded and managed to crawl into a crevice. With the help of my cave lion, I defeat a sabretooth tiger and rescue the hunter.
Where to go next? I check the map and see that, some ways to the east, there is another specialist that needs to be rescued. He is an Udam and he tthey are keeping him in a very well-defended Udam fort. The game tells me that the difficulty is ‘very hard’, but undeterred I decide to try my hand at assailing the fort anyway. Of course, the presence of a ‘fort’ in ca. 10,000 BC is unlikely, but the way that the developers have designed these forts show that they really tried to make it look plausible, with some simple wooden walls and a collection of regular huts. They don’t look anything like what a Roman fort would look like, for example.
I don’t make a beeline straight for the fort. There’s too much to see and do, really. I snake my way through Oros, visiting a few camps (which serve as spawn points in case of death), setting a few bonfires alight (which serve as fast-travel points), and capturing a few easy outposts along the way. Outposts serve as span points, fast travel points, and will also have Wenja roam there after getting rid of the rival tribesmen.
In the northern region of Oros, I manage to capture an outpost that includes a hut made partially of mammoth bones. It recalls the mammoth-bone huts I mentioned in an earlier entry in this series. It looks great, and seems plausible enough. Naturally, outposts in the north tend to be occupied by Udam, while those further to the south, where a warmer climate predominates, are home to members of the Izila tribe. I will write more about the different tribes of Oros in the next installment in this series.
Anyway, I eventually make my way to the Udam fort. I have to grapple my way up to another grapple point, and then find myself on a ledge close to the enclosure. I hear Udam voices in the distance. The first time, I decided to plunge headlong into combat, accompanied by my cave lion. It ended in disaster. Two of the heavy Udam warriors, wearing skull masks, cornered me and slaughtered me. The second time, I tried a more stealthy approach, setting fire to parts of the camp and trying to lure the enemies towards me. This, too, ended in disaster. I then tried sending in just my cave lion, but it didn’t stand much of a chance. Again and again, I failed. Until finally I realized that I probably shouldn’t have attempted to assault this fort in the first place. I need to become stronger.
And I should get a stronger pet. The black cave lion isn’t bad at all, and is great at taking down enemies. But I need something tougher, and a sabretooth tiger seems like just the thing the doctor ordered. And so I spend some time doing other stuff in Oros, like fulfilling a few side missions and capturing some easier outposts. Finally, I have enough skill points to unlock the ability to tame ‘apex predators’, most notably bears and sabretooth tigers. I check the map and, sure enough, there’s supposed to be some sabretooth tigers not too far from the Udam fort.
I head to the location. I hear people yelling. One of the beautiful things of the Far Cry games, is that they allow emergent behaviour. I have seen patrolling Udam get surprised by a bear. I have seen Udam and Izila patrols run into each other and then fight to the death. I have seen three-way battles between Wenja, Udam, and Izila be interrupted by a pack of wolves, who tried to take down some of the humans who were previously solely occupied with each other. And in this case, I saw three Udam fight a sabretooth tiger. I watched as the animal took all of them down, then threw some bait in its direction. A few moments later, I had tamed the tiger.
I’ve commented earlier on the fact that sabretooth tigers, rats, and dholes don’t belong in Central Europe. But you can add a few other odd animals to that list, too. Tapirs roam the landscape of Far Cry Primal, despite the fact that these – like the Smilodon felines – were (and still are) only found in the Americas. Similarly, there are jaguars, but again these are only found in the Americas. Snow leopards are from Asia, rather than Europe. Yaks also didn’t exist in Central Europe. Furthermore, water in Far Cry Primal is sometimes home to a fearsome species of crocodile. But crocodiles, too, didn’t live in Central Europe during the Upper Palaeolithic or later. (Although we should be grateful, at least, that they’re referred to as crocodiles rather than alligators.)
There are also a few problems when it comes to birds. One side mission, for example, has you collect eagle feathers. Only it seems that these eagles are all bald eagles. Of course, eagles did (and do) indeed occur in Europe, but the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is native only to North America. And, finally, while I was wondering through the forest, I was quite surprised to hear the sound of a chicken (Gallus gallus). Chickens are certainly common in Europe now, but they are originally from Asia and were only introduced into Europe by the ancient Greeks, probably in the sixth century BC. Chickens don’t belong in Central Europe in the Stone Age.
A lot of the other animals are either attested zooarchaeologically or seem plausible enough to be included in the game. I’m thinking of the wild boars, the various kinds of cave lions, bears, dear, crow, and so forth. Even some of the reptiles included, like the snakes and tortoises that you can run into every once in a while might be plausible if the climate is mild enough in the central and southerns parts of the valley of Oros. The most curious thing about the animals in Far Cry Primal, however, is the omission of reindeer. The period of the Magdalenian, one of the key cultures of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe (ca. 17,000 to 12,000 years ago), is referred to in French as l’âge du renne, ‘the age of the reindeer‘. However, it might just be that Oros is, overall, too mild as far as climate is concerned and the reindeer simply migrated away.
I do like the inclusion of the Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus), though. This giant species of deer died out about 8,000 years ago and did indeed roam Europe during the last Ice Age. The size makes for an impressive quarry during the hunt, and a few hits from its antlers are enough to send you to meet your ancestors. And as commented in earlier posts in this series, at least mammoths and woolly rhinos are more or less accurate, though they should be well on their way to extinction in Europe, at least, by 10,000 BC (they moved out of Europe from about 14,000 years ago). Also, if the area is as mild as it seems to be, you do have to wonder if these animals aren’t a little hot. I also find it a little strange to find a couple of mammoths (rather than a larger herd?) wander around in a narrow, wooded area quite high up a mountain. These animals really should be in more open and colder terrain.
Speaking of mammoths, I felt so confident in my abilities as a hunter, now that I had also tamed a sabretooth tiger, that I decided to try if I could bring down one of these behemoths. Looking for mammoths, I came across a trio of woolly rhinoceroses. My sabretooth tiger had no problem taking each of these down. Emboldened by this, we continued until we found a mammoth. This proved to be a lot more difficult, with my tiger downed twice and me nearly being killed in the process, but eventually we succeeded. The mammoth died, but, falling in a funny way, got propped up by a very small tree, as you can see in the picture a little above.
I next spent some more time running around, clearing a few more enemy outposts. One tactic in particular seems to work really well. I approach an outpost, run by either Udam or Izila, and then hide nearby. I call my owl and have it scout out the area, tagging enemies for my sabretooth tiger to neutralize. Once my tiger is badly wounded or only a few enemies remain, I get out from cover, heal my pet, and help it in taking down whatever remains of the enemy. In this way, I was able to clear out a few outposts quite quickly, one after the other. Right now, I’m feeling quite sure of myself. It’s time to try my hand again at taking out that Udam outpost in the northeast.