Far Cry Primal: Some ThoughtsComplications Ensue
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Saturday, March 19, 2016

I've enjoyed the Far Cry franchise, particularly Far Cry 4. Exotic locations, solid combat, open world, lots of different strategies to try; but most interesting for me, Far Cry 3 and 4 told good stories. Far Cry 3 was about a privileged white kid who becomes a badass, and what that costs him. Far Cry 4 made you choose between two or three allies, each of whom had serious flaws. Oh, and the hero is non-white! As is almost everybody in the game.

So I was pretty excited about Far Cry: Primal. And it does indeed have exotic locations, solid combat, a big huge open world to explore, and lots of different strategies to try. Oh, and the only white people in the game are Neandertals!

And it has colorful characters, oh yes, from the crazy shaman to the badass queen of one of your enemy tribes. But with the exception of one joke character, none of them has flaws. They are all just fighting for the survival of the clan.

It could have been possible to give the player some flawed characters, and some of the choices that flaws lead to. As written, your tribe is in an existential crisis, squeezed between cannibals and human sacrificers. You can kill them or be wiped off the face of the planet.

Suppose one of your allies wanted to try to reach out to these enemies? Suppose one of the enemies was willing to be an ally, at least against a third party? Without making the whole game about factions, developing one or two characters so that they present choices? You could make "kill'em all" the straightforward, low-risk road, and "reach out" a high-risk, high-reward road, where if you play it right you get an ally, but if you play it wrong, some of your people get killed.

Or, even, if you don't want to go that far in re-tooling the franchise, do what Far Cry 4 did, and demand that the player choose between two visions for the society he's building.

Or even simply, have some of the allies ask the player to do things that are not purely 100% good things. E.g. an optional mission to slaughter all the mammoths to deprive the Neandertals of their food supply, reducing their number.

Or even simply, give them some character flaws of the personal sort: an ally who does not like you, who has to be placated with gifts. An ally who leaves you in a ditch to die, who you need to work with anyway.

As it is, the game is strangely flat. Although it has tons of atmosphere and lovely rendered animals and mountains you can climb and combat that is simply yet flexible... I'm not as engaged as I was by Far Cry 3 and 4.

Character flaws are why we care about characters. Can a AAA single player game really afford these days not to have emotional engagement?

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