A modern blockbuster video game with no guns—based on the current gaming landscape, filled with games like Halo, Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, it would seem impossible, or at least improbable. But that’s exactly what developer Ubisoft (also responsible for Assassin’s Creed) set out to make with Far Cry Primal.
The game is set in the Mesolithic period of the Stone Age, an era seldom (if ever) explored in games. You play as a hunter-gatherer, a type of early human you may or may not remember learning about in grade school. The game’s Production Manager, Danielle Engels, explained the plot to me thus at a recent gameplay event in Los Angeles:
“You are Takkar, and Takkar is the last member of his hunting party. He was viciously ambushed when he was out hunting, and everybody in his hunting party was wiped out. So now he finds himself alone in the world of Oros, and he must overcome a number of obstacles in order to survive. So really it’s a tale about survival, and reuniting his people, the Wenja, who are scattered all over Oros.”
Along the way, Takkar communes with a shaman and gains mystical powers that let him befriend predatory animals like giant wolves, sabertooth tigers and bears. Said Engels:
“We really want to have that emotional connection between the player and their beast, because ultimately the beast is supposed to be their companion and their protector and their friend and their weapon, one of their ultimate weapons, and that fills a huge space in the player’s mind and their play style, and hopefully in their hearts. So we really wanted to have that option to connect. We do see people just petting and petting and petting and petting and petting and petting and petting…you know, whatever works for you, we’re happy.”
Narrative Director Jean-Sebastien Decant told me they decided on this particular period of human history “because it was the moment when man invented the bow, and we wanted to have that as the central element.” They contacted filmmakers and anthropologists to ensure that at least some elements—the way the hunter-gatherers look and dress, how the animals behave, etc.—were historically accurate.
Then again, one of your available weapons is a “bee bomb” that’s exactly what it sounds like, so I asked whether Takkar is really a dude from the future who gets sent back in time to the Stone Age. The other Far Cry games feature a fish-out-of-water hero stuck in an exotic foreign land, and Assassin’s Creed has players switching between past and present-day points of view, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise.
“We joked about it, but no,” Decant laughed. He and Engels also confirmed that there are no dinosaurs in the game—though I’m still skeptical of that one, actual timelines of human history be damned.
“Authenticity was where we started, but then it’s also Far Cry,” Decant said. “It’s also a game that has to be fun.”
“We like to give players frontiers in Far Cry, and I think with Primal this is kind of the first frontier for humankind,” Engels added.
With that lofty introduction, watch the video above to see what happens when you let a player loose in a world like that in Far Cry Primal and tell them to “have fun.” Spoiler: I spent most of my time in the game killing stuff. And between the beastmaster powers to befriend and control animals, the authentic clubs, bows and spears the game gives you, and the dense prehistoric world it offers, Far Cry Primal could be something awesome when it launches in February 2016.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. In real life he’s a vegetarian. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.