I went hands-on with Far Cry Primal, walking away impressed with the game’s visuals and interested to see where the prehistoric narrative will take players.

When Far Cry Primal was first unveiled to the masses in late 2015, it was met with equal parts excitement and confusion. Gone were the traditional guns and modern-day narrative that the series has been known for, and in their place stood one of the earliest looks at human history that any game (let alone a Triple-A one) has tackled. Once extinct wildlife, such as mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers, had found new life in a current-gen video game, but with this new setting came a range of questions by gamers.

One of largest fears that I had pertaining to the primitive setting was how combat itself would handle in Far Cry Primal. As I found out, the different technical approach to encounters varied greatly from past iterations, but this wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I found myself taking down small tribes sparingly, knowing I had to either preserve what weapons I had in my possession or retrieve them from corpses after I’d unleashed upon rival tribes. Once in an encounter, however, there’s very little need to stay behind cover for too long, thanks to my handful of gore-inducing weapons and a tamed companion.

To clarify: replacing the wide array of armaments that littered the in-game worlds of past Far Cry titles, Ubisoft has opted to give gamers the opportunity to tame a number of the more terrifying beasts found roaming around the land of Oros. First and foremost, the new character that players will be taking control of is a veteran survivor that goes by the name of Takkar. The protagonist seems intimately acquainted with his surroundings as a result of his, presumed and unnumbered, years spent there, taking on the title of ‘Beast Master’ in the process. This title doesn’t come lightly either, as the character is capable of befriending a number of creatures, ranging from dire-wolves and jaguars to bears and sabre-toothed tigers.

Far Cry Primal Screenshots 3

Players can, for the first time ever, take command of these otherwise hostile creatures by lobbing slabs of meat on the ground and then approaching them once they begin to eat it. Once tamed, these kill-ready partners can act as the ultimate distraction against a herd of angry mammoths or a solid line of defence against other hostile tribesmen. The best part about these animals is that they can be summoned and dismissed on a whim, allowing players to run around with their partner of choice at any given time. It’s more or less the most adult take on Pokémon ever been seen in gaming.

In case there was any concern, the ability to ride elephants in Far Cry 4 has been flawlessly transferred to mammoths – and sabre-toothed tigers are also said to be mountable, but I didn’t experience this in my play session. Sadly, in the build I played, it didn’t seem possible to tame the giant, furry pachyderm and summon it at a moment’s notice, but they weren’t all that hard to come by. This is because the world that Primal takes place in is absolutely teeming with life. In fact, most harm-inducing scenarios are caused by the wildlife rather than man, which is why it’s so important that players have their aforementioned fierce friend by their sides at all times.

Far Cry Primal Screenshots 2

Among all of these new aspects, those familiar with the franchise can expect to see a lot of what makes the game a true entry in the Far Cry series. Outposts are scattered throughout Oros that need to be liberated, and friendly tribes have missions that can be completed for experience points to level up your character. Combine these elements with the massive open world that houses all of these missions, optional tasks, and obscene amount of natural predators, and gamers are in for one of the more unique twists on the series to-date.

Primal strikes even more life into a world that’s already coated in random acts of happenstance, ensuring me that it was a world worth exploring more. It’s hard to speak for the narrative that will presumably fill it or the newfound lack of transportation via car, boat, or the helicopter-like Buzzer that’s been present in the games until now. Still, it’s the best the series has ever looked on consoles, and the urge to dive back into Oros is certainly there. Whether or not that will remain after being better introduced to Takkar and his friends remains to be seen, but it’s an intriguing venture to say the least.

Far Cry Primal is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 23, 2016. Meanwhile, it’ll arrive for PC on March 1, 2016.