Game review: Wild animals and warring tribes clash in Far Cry Primal

The radical and refreshing game bounces us back to 10,000BC, into the Stone Age. There are no machine guns or rocket launchers – just clubs, arrows and a few animals that will fight by your side if you keep them fed.

Far Cry Primal

Ubisoft

PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Four-and-a-half stars

For almost a decade, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed series has been messing around with history, creating chaos as far back as the 12th century.

But humanity's capacity for mayhem goes back even further – and now another long-running Ubisoft franchise, Far Cry, is taking us on a trip back in time.

Far Cry Primal bounces us back to 10,000BC, into the Stone Age. There are no machine guns or rocket launchers here – just clubs, arrows and a few friendly animals that will fight by your side if you keep them fed. It's a radical and refreshing departure that feels entirely new, while retaining the game's identity as a Far Cry chapter.

The protagonist is a cave-­dweller named Takkar. His clan, the Wenja, has been scattered across a mythical region called Oros, part of what looks to be a prehistoric version of Europe.

His first task is to avoid being eaten by the bears and tigers roaming the wilderness. His second job is to track down his people.

Some of the Wenja he finds teach Takkar useful skills, including tracking and healing. Others show him how to make more effective weapons.

His most important new buddy, though, is a loopy, old shaman who mixes hallucinogenic concoctions that let Takkar ­communicate with animals. Slaughtering enough boar and deer to keep the Wenja clothed and fed becomes a lot easier when you have a friendly wolf ready to pounce.

Before long, Takkar stumbles across two other tribes – the cannibalistic Udam and the fire-happy Izila – who are also vying to control Oros.

The drama shifts from man verses nature to man verses man and, before you know it, you’re riding on a mammoth, crushing your foes.

As you might expect from the Far Cry team, the landscape of Oros is breathtakingly rendered, from steaming swamps to icy tundra. The animals are so beautifully animated that you'll find even the most vicious ­sabre-toothed tiger somewhat endearing.

There’s a ton of stuff to do. If you’re in a laid-back mood, you can recruit stragglers for your village or simply explore the caves and mountains.

If you’re looking for action, you can raid the outposts of rival tribes. Eventually, you’ll have to take on their bloodthirsty leaders, but you might as well enjoy the scenery before tackling those apocalyptic battles.

Far Cry veterans might miss the firepower of previous games, but it is more satisfying to take down a rampaging mammoth with a few well-placed traps and ­carefully aimed spears. And while the hundreds of side missions do get repetitive, the main story demands a versatile set of skills.

Fans of prehistoric epics such as The Clan of the Cave Bear and Quest for Fire will love it – but even if your knowledge of the Stone Age starts and ends with The Flintstones, you'll still have a yabba dabba doo time.

* Associated Press