It was really tough to give up preconceived notions about what I imagined Far Cry Primal was going to be like. Even discounting the game's frighteningly mediocre announcement, I figured it was going to feel a lot like Far Cry 4, swapping all the bullets and vehicles for arrows and mammoths. And for the most part, that's what Primal is.
In the spirit of avoiding what would have likely been a "Far Cry 4.5" follow-up, Ubisoft Montreal has instead delivered quite the capable spin-off, a game set in the Mesolithic Stone Age roughly 12,000 years ago.
Far Cry Primal's DNA is very much representative of what a core Far Cry game is: gathering resources, crafting, overrunning outposts, skinning animals, etc. And I guess we can add tripping balls to the list as well, because it seems every Far Cry protagonist has a run-in with a mind-altering toxin that results in some kind of supernatural gameplay.
But as much as the game looks like a lateral step from the third and fourth Far Cry games, remarkably, Primal is able to carve out its own identity even if its layers of predictability seem to endlessly unravel.
Primal sidesteps its predecessors in a number of ways, most immediately noticeably in its level of brutality. This game is rough. I'm talking bloodier and grosser than you're probably expecting a game set in the Stone Age to be.
But beyond the guts, Primal has built out a small set of new mechanics to freshen the overall package and occasionally made me forget I was inside a Far Cry game. One of the best examples of this is the owl -- the ability to call an owl to survey the land in your general area, tagging enemies and animals, even doing a death-from-above owl kill. The owl's skills can be upgraded too, as long as you flesh out the right items in your village. Which leads to my second point: village upgrading.