We've seen the reveal trailer and learned a little bit about Far Cry Primal, and it seems clear that this isn't simply Far Cry 4.5. No guns and no vehicles? That's a pretty big and bold departure for a series that was quickly becoming a formula. We're intrigued, at the very least, and we're already thinking about what we hope Primal will be. Here are the things I want from Far Cry Primal.
A real hunting system
Let's face it, hunting for your next wallet in the last two Far Cry games was generally a matter of going to marked spot on a map, injecting a magic animal-spotting potion, and violently deducting hit points from the nearest fur-based life form until its skin could be stripped and stuffed with cash. With what appears to be more of a focus on hunting, I hope the hunting in Primal is less like following an icon on the screen for thirty seconds and more like, y'know, hunting.
Hunting is a combination of patience and detective work. Looking for signs of your prey, carefully gathering clues about its size and what direction it's heading and how recently it was heading there, following, and looking for more signs. I know it sounds a trifle boring, creeping around looking for saber-tooth tiger poop and squinting at footprints, but a long, careful hunt is an extremely rewarding experience. Plus, don't worry, it's still Far Cry: there will be giant owls and venomous snakes and angry lizards leaping out of the bushes every few minutes to break up the fun-slash-monotony of the hunt. Which brings me to my next point:
More realistic animal behavior
The animals in Far Cry 3 and 4 were fun, no doubt, especially when they were horribly mauling your foes. Not really much fun to fight yourself, though, and not particularly interesting as animals: they were all basically eternally angry hitboxes with teeth. Some more realistic animal behavior is in order, because even the most vicious creatures in the wild don't act like the animals do in Far Cry, charging right at you no matter what.
One thing I always appreciated in the Stalker series were the irradiated dogs. They were supremely unsettling and unpredictable because they didn't always attack. Sometimes they'd run away. Sometimes they'd run at you, then run away. Sometimes they'd circle for a while, barking, before attacking. Sometimes they'd just be hanging out by a tree, like un-irradiated dogs (also known as dogs). You never quite knew what they'd do, just like you never quite know what an animal will do in real life. I'd like some of that unpredictability in Primal.
A return to a real in-game map
For all the complaints levied against Far Cry 2 (many of them completely valid) it's hard to find fault with its in-game map. It functioned like a physical object: if you wanted to use it, you held it in your hand and looked down at it (often leading to comical misadventures while driving). There was a real effort made in Far Cry 2 to keep you in the game, to never break that immediate first-person experience, and while a lot of that has carried over to the last two games, the map certainly hasn't.
I assume there will be a map in Primal—the primitives can paint on a cave wall, no reason they can't smudge up a strip of leather—and rather than the sprawling, game-pausing, overly-cluttered, effects-riddled maps we've been getting, I'd love to see something simpler, something that you hold in your virtual hand and look at in real time, just like real cavemen did when they were hunting for 221 briefcases that contained between one and three diamonds.
This may sound like a given considering the low-tech reality of the game, but I wouldn't put it past Ubisoft to think up something tall—temples made of stone columns with leather-bound wood scaffolding or a jungle-gym of elephant bones at the top of a massive tree-village or some shit—and then make you climb it. And I don't really mind the towers in the other games! Assassin's Creed, Watch Dogs, Far Cry 3 and 4, they were all fine climbing experiences. I just think we're about done with scrambling up the sides of tall things specifically to trigger a swooping camera that reveals new locations. It's begun to feel like some sort of contractual obligation in Ubi games.
We can just discover things by discovering things! If you've made a beautiful world, players will want to explore it, even if you don't populate their map as a reward for shimmying up a caveman's radio tower (there's no radio, they just go up there and yell at other villages through cupped hands). And if we do want to scale a cliff, we can discover things the old fashioned way: by reaching the top and looking down.
No guns means no guns
It's one thing to say there's no guns, and another thing to allow players to craft a 15-round miniature wrist-mounted auto-loading explosive arrow launcher and then pretend it's not a gun. Bows and arrows don't particularly thrill me personally, but if we're going Stone Age, let's go all-in.
I fully expect explosives: wrapping 'boom powder' in leaves and twine and and lighting it with a torch and then flinging it at a buncha jerks. I'm okay with that only because explosions are cool and blowing up jerks is fun and the Far Cry series typically does a good job with fire. But let's not take wooden tubes and stuff them with boom powder and pebbles and blast the flesh off someone's face with it and pretend it's not a shotgun.
Melee that matters
By the end of the Far Cry games I'm basically a special-kill machine, sliding from victim to victim, inserting machete blades into bodies so fast it's like I'm loading a dishwasher after a party that went on far too long. Special kills are cool, but most of these moves are learned by gathering XP and executed with simple button presses performed when prompts appear. It'd be great to see a real melee system, with blocks, feints, dodges, and more attacks than just clicking the 'Kill Man' button on your mouse until you have killed the man.
I want to face off with an enemy. Circle him warily while he does the same. Bluff, move, lunge, bash, retreat. Instead of giving me dozens of tribal goons to take down, give me three or four but make each of them a real challenge. Providing a real melee combat system that can be learned and then mastered will make me feel like the baddest caveman in Caveman Times more than earning enough XP to ram a tiger-tooth shiv through an enemy's throat by pressing 'F' will.
There's gonna be crafting of weapons and ammo and pouches and probably whatever mix of herbs/flowers/bark that gives you heightened senses so you can spot the mongoose you need to skin so you have a sheath for a third throwing knife. Crafting in the last couple Far Cry games, mechanically, has been nothing to speak of, which in a way is nice because it's quick and painless. Just click the thing you want and it makes it for you.
The other option is a more complex crafting system which will come at the expense of delaying all that mammoth-piloting you're gonna wanna be doing. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what I want from crafting. Either something I never have to think about, or something that I enjoy thinking about. One of the two. Just don't make it complicated and dull.
I was really happy to see no sign of dinosaurs in the Primal trailer. Just because people are running around in loincloths with stone axes doesn't mean we need to shoehorn dinosaurs into the world 65 million years after they all died of asteroid-related illnesses. But given the ridiculous Blood Dragon expansion for Far Cry 3 and Attack of the Yetis (or whatever it was called) for Far Cry 4, I think there's plenty of room for a crazy dinosaur-riding expansion for Primal as well. As long as dinos aren't mandatory, I'm fine with 'em arriving later.