With game-studios pumping out open-world shooters every few weeks, Ubisoft decided to diversify its “Far Cry” franchise with a little stone-age mayhem. The new installment trades assault weapons for spears and bullets for stones, but the game doesn’t offer that many mechanical upgrades over its predecessor. The new options that lie await for players are enormously fun, and the game should be considered a welcomed addition to the franchise.

“Far Cry: Primal” hit store shelves on February 23rd and is now available via PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Underneath the fur and primitive character-models, the gameplay stays true to the franchise and the core-game plays very much like a standard Far Cry installment despite the setting.

Players are charged with surviving the world of Oros, facing many of the same terrors that our Mesolithic ancestors once battled. In the game however you have a lot more help from the animal kingdom, which is one of the newer additions to the game that I think players will find the most entertaining.

One-part caveman and one-part Beast Master, players will fight against wolves, Saber-toothed tigers, badgers and rival tribes, all while crafting and collecting items that are scattered throughout a gigantic map filled with splendid scenery.

The early stages of the game have you fighting alone, separated from your tribesman after a disastrous hunting trip. You learn the basics of the game at this point and are soon reconnected with fellow Wenjas (the name of your tribe). Once reunited with your people the overall story-arc begins. Players quickly learn of rival tribes that have become a serious threat your to family and fellowship. Thus begins the questing, crafting and collection portion of the game that has made the “Far Cry” series so popular with fans.

While the game tries to take a mostly ‘realistic’ approach to survival in an unforgiving time period, there are a lot of psychedelic-fantasy sequences that take part within the game. This won’t be anything new to players that enjoyed “Far Cry 4” or “Far Cry 3,” which had a lot of hallucinogenic and spiritual segments woven into the story.

Players are introduced to the Udam tribe early on in the game, that’s the rival tribe that you will eventually have to hunt down throughout the story. The game does ramp-up the survivability difficulty from “Far Cry 3” and “Far Cry 4” when simply exploring the map. In those previous games the creatures of the wild served more for sport and item-quests rather than be a dangerous element to avoid, but in “Primal” they are much more aggressive, and much more deadly.

Predatory animals like wolves take the place of roaming guards, which are quick to sense you lurking about the bushes and eager to gnaw you down to size. Wander too far into the wilderness and you are sure to stumble upon a tiger, which will more likely find you first and scare you out of your seat.

In “Primal” there aren’t towns, cities or mansions to explore, so you are never really safe and/or separated from the beasts of the land. Predators can, and will, attack you almost anywhere, so it adds a fun sense of danger to exploration and gathering portions of the game.

Unlike other “Far Cry” games, your character is home in the world of Oros. You’re not an outsider or visitor or tourist to the land, you’re a local and that change comes with a few advantages. Your actions, quests and gathering objectives strengthens your tribe and unlocks new opportunities to advance. Instead of small towns or forts to liberate, you have a home that you can bolster and support.

This isn’t new to Ubisoft games, the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise also added the “home base” mechanic to add another bit of mastery for the series’ completionists. This also isn’t a dramatic change to the idea of rebuilding the Assassins from scratch, or having to rekindle the Thieve’s Guild in a popular Bethesda game.

What is new to the series is the Beast Master portion of the game, which is done through domesticating the wildlife around you. Players can use the beasts and fowl of Oros to gain an advantage throughout the game. One of the first is using Owls as lookouts.

Probably the most useful of the animal perks, players can “see” through the Owl’s perspective as it flies on ahead, scouting the wilderness for any potentials stalkers that you may want to avoid. You can even befriend larger animals to help you attack your rival tribe or take down a much larger predator. I think players will enjoy unlocking their beast-friends straight away because it’s so new to franchise, but the quests are much harder than the rest of the game.

That leaves me with “the rest of the game,” which isn’t exactly a bad thing, but far from new. The storyline quests borrow heavily from previous installments, not so much exact copies, but in nature. When Ubisoft has someone that works, it tends to run it into the ground. If you found the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise growing stale by the time you beat “Syndicate,” then you might get the same feeling from “Primal” by the time you are through it. To be fair it’s a terrific game, but it’s a delicious treat that you have had before.

I think creating a fun-filled and open-world game set in the stone-age is a tremendous accomplishment for the studio, and one that few developers could rightfully pull off. The game plays exactly like you would imagine a “Far Cry” game would, but with many of the same elements carrying over from earlier games. The few, new mechanics that were added or refined in “Far Cry Primal” really make it worthwhile overall, and fans should be more than satisfied with the results of the new stone-age perspective.

(4 out 5 stars)