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Far Cry Primal's deadliest weapons are the predators you can tame

Become the beastmaster, no portal of time required

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The next Far Cry sends the open-world franchise back to the Stone Age, trading guns and explosives for spears, clubs and bows. But Far Cry Primal, Ubisoft revealed today, adds a powerful new weapon to its primitive arsenal: the ability to command Mesolithic era predators, like sabre-tooth tigers, wild dogs and even bears.

Core to the gameplay of Far Cry Primal is the ability to become a "beastmaster," to tame wild animals and hunt alongside them. With a leopard or wolf at one's side, it's not impossible to take down the megafauna of the era or lead a one-man assault against an enemy tribe.

Far Cry Primal gives players control of Takkar, which the game's creative director, Jean-Christophe Guyot, described as an experienced hunter and the lone survivor of his hunting party. He's a capable warrior on his own, but as players progress through Far Cry Primal, they'll learn to how to tame wild predators, making Takkar a force to be reckoned with.

During a preview event Polygon attended in Los Angeles this week, we had the opportunity to go hands-on with Far Cry Primal for a few hours. The section of the game we played was roughly "mid-progression," according to Guyot, and Takkar was already well-outfitted with a set of powerful skills and a handful of already-tamed predators.

you can also pet all of your furry friends

From the start of our session, Takkar could summon a leopard, brown bear and white wolf with little more than a whistle. We could only partner with one animal at a time, and each had its own strengths and special skills. A leopard, for example, might excel in stealth over strength, where a bear might be powerful, but slow and draw enemy attacks away from Takkar. Each predator appears to have its own set of skills: a dhole can spot and gather nearby resources; a wolf can warn of nearby enemies; a jaguar can silently attack an enemy without alerting its allies.

According to Ubisoft — we didn't see this for ourselves — players will even be able to ride some beasts, like mammoths and tigers. Better still, you can also pet all of your furry friends. Even the bears.

Far Cry Primal screenshots

Taming these wild beasts simply requires the unlocked skill, some bait to distract them and a little patience. In our playthrough, we managed to tame a sabre-tooth tiger by luring it in with some meat, but later failed in our attempt to tame a wolf — and were summarily mauled by the thing.

"It's primitive man versus gigantic nature."

Like any good beastmaster, Takkar can also summon a feathered friend; in this case, an owl. Takkar's owl is used to scout areas from a bird's eye view, target potential threats and even take out enemies. Guyot likened the owl to Far Cry Primal's version of a set of binoculars. When players assume control of the bird, they can fly around nearby areas, surveying the terrain and any potential threats.

Takkar is immensely powerful once he's unlocked his beastmaster skills, but in early portions of the game, players will need to exploit their most basic tools to survive. "You start really naked," Guyot said. "It's primitive man versus gigantic nature." Nighttime, he said, is pretty dangerous, and players will have to rely on the bare necessities, like fire, to fend off predators.

"Our goal is to really recreate the primitive style of living in the Stone Age," he said.

Takkar's arsenal of primitive weapons includes various types of clubs, spears and a bow and arrow. Based on the version we played, there are various subclasses of those weapons: one- and two-handed clubs, and short and long bows. Some weapons can be set on fire to make them even more dangerous. Takkar can also craft a small number of projectiles, like stone throwing daggers and a "sting bomb," which appears to actually be a handheld hornets nest.

Far Cry Primal screenshots

Crafting appears to be a big component of Far Cry Primal. Appropriate for the hunting and gathering requirement for survival of the time, Takkar must scavenge for wood, stone, plant life, meat, skin and bone, then combine those raw materials to create weapons, tools and medicine. Digging into the game's menus, which we're not permitted to show, it appears there's a large array of items to collect and craft.

The world of Far Cry Primal is a mix of visually distinct biomes. In our relatively short journey through its map, we encountered lush, wide open plains, riverbeds and dense forests. Not far away were frozen tundras, where the intense cold provided a new threat to Takkar. Players will expose new regions of the map simply by traveling and visiting new places. Unlike many other open-world Ubisoft games, players needn't climb a tower (or some equivalent) to "fill in" the map. Far Cry Primal's world unfolds as players wander through the ancient region known as Oros.

The moment-to-moment activities players will experience in Far Cry Primal will feel pretty familiar to anyone who's played an open-world game. There are camps controlled by the cannibalistic Udam tribe to liberate; friendly, captive tribesman to free; and stealthy assaults on enemy strongholds. The emergent gameplay possibilities of Far Cry Primal seem to be where the potential for excitement lies. In our hands-on time, we encountered the odd cluster of Udam tribesman transporting a prisoner, only for a pack of mammoths to cross their path and bloody chaos to ensue.

Far Cry Primal is coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Feb. 23, 2016. A Windows PC version arrives the following week on March 1, 2016.

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