By: Matt C. on March 17, 2003
Cambridge Studios, one of SCEE's subsidiaries best known for Medievil and Medievil II on the original PlayStation, has finally put the finishing touches on its promising third-person action adventure game called Primal. The idea of Primal came up shortly after Medievil 1 was completed. Medievil was a somewhat 'dark' game itself but Cambridge Studios' creative director, Chris Sorrell, wanted to explore a different and darker direction.
Over 3 years in the making, Primal can be best described as a subtle video game equivalent of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, or even Dark Angel for that matter. The game starts off in a world called Mortalis, which is basically the name of our world (or dimension, if you prefer to call it that). However, in Mortalis, it is no secret that demons really do exist, although people still go about their lives like normal. Jen Tate, the game's main character, is an everyday girl spending time with her boyfriend when a group of creatures kidnap him back to the demon world. Naturally, Jen wants to rescue him.
Soon after, Jen meets a gargoyle named Scree, who takes her to the demon underworld and along the way he tells her about the current situation. I don't want to get too deep into the story, but the kidnapping of Jen's boyfriend was not an accident...
Primal's gameplay consists of action/combat, puzzling solving, and good old exploration. In the beginning, Jen does not have many powers, so users can switch between her and Scree on the fly by pressing the "select" button. Scree can access areas that Jen cannot reach because he has the ability to climb stone walls and ceilings. This will obviously help in solving puzzles and finding new places to explore. Scree can also possess statues, turn into stone, and he can even give you hints on where to go next with the press of a button.
As for the combat elements, it accounts for at least 50% of the gameplay, so Cambridge Studios spent a considerable amount of time making sure the fighting system in Primal is satisfying and deep, yet easy to play. Much like other 3D adventure games, Primal offers a simple lock-on feature that allows players to "attach" his or her focus to an enemy of their choice. You can then move towards, back, or around your foe. Of course, you can also toggle between enemies too.
In addition, there are 2 basic attack buttons for left and right, which are pressure sensitive to allow the player to easily trigger weak or strong attacks. Even more powerful attacks can be executed by pressing both attack buttons. All moves can be joined together to form combos. According to the developer, these are completely customizable so that any move can be followed by any other move, giving the player more than a couple of ways to deal with enemies. Blocking can be used to defend yourself and if timed correctly, you'll parry incoming blows, which are followed by a devastating counter attack.
Later on in the game, Jen can morph back and forth into human or demon forms -- each with different sets of moves. For example, her Ferai form fights with razor sharp energy claws, whereas her Djinn form fights with a large two-handed sword that can be freely split into two smaller one-handed swords.
As you can tell from the screenshots below, Primal is one impressive looking game. The environments are promised to be quite massive and detailed -- with realistic lighting and shadows. One realm in the game is locked in permanent winter, so in order to create some convincing snow textures, the games' artists actually went around the Cambridgeshire countryside with digital cameras at the first hint of snow. The character models look excellent as well due to the high quality textures.
To complete the package, Primal will ship with Dolby Pro-Logic sound, which is becoming more common in PS2 titles. The English voice of Jen is being provided by Hudson Leick (who plays Callisto in Xena) and Andreas Katsulas (who plays G'Kar from Babylon5) is providing the voice of Scree. And since the original voices are in English, character speech will match the movements of their lips in the cutscenes.
Primal is expected to ship March 25, 2003. Until then, please enjoy the beefy screenshots below.