When you think of the words Capcom and Dinosaurs I know what franchise comes to your mind… Exoprimal! Dino Crisis nods aside, we are taking a look at the latest Dino vs. Mech project from the guys and gals at Capcom.
Exoprimal puts you in the character-created suit of Ace, an exo-fighter pilot and most likely the Macguffin that is going to fix everyone’s problems.
Dinosaurs from the Future
The year is 2043 and portals keep opening up around the planet. Your newly assigned team ends up falling into a vortex during their mission and ends up back in 2040, the year when genetically altered dinosaurs started laying waste to the world and the portals first started appearing.
Behind all of this time-travel and dinosaur abuse is a sinister Shodan knockoff called Leviathan. He’s testing the world’s supply of Exo-fighters in their “WarGames”, constantly pitting fighters stuck in a time loop against an ever-growing Jurassic threat.
The story has all the trappings of a traditional Sci-Fi narrative. It has time travel, parallel universes, and dinosaurs; the only issue is that it’s presented in a way that doesn’t do it any favors. Outside of the actual in-match cutscenes or unlockable cutscenes gained after a certain amount of matches, all your narrative and lore are presented through an intense-looking menu that has you listening to audio clips and reading files to get the full low-down on why a rogue A.I. is hammering time travel and dinosaurs to harvest battle data.
The narrative issue isn’t through a lack of writing skill or passion. Sadly, due to the game’s nature as an online multiplayer experience, this is likely the best way it could have been presented. Unfortunately, by the time I’d muddled through the menus and unlocked a chunk of lore, I had already tapped out and had just accepted I was stuck in a time loop with dinosaurs and mechs.
Everything is My Enemy
Exoprimal, as mentioned briefly, is an online, 3rd person, multiplayer shooter combining Player vs. Enemy with Player vs. Player to hit that sweet spot of PvPvE. Simply put, it isn’t just the dinosaurs that will give you a hard time.
You can pilot 1 of 10 initial Mechs with another 3 to unlock using in-game currency. These fall under the roles of Assault, Tank, or Support giving the game a team-building focus. A good team dynamic can sway the match in your favor much quicker than everyone playing as the same Exo-fighter.
As it stands, there is only the singular mode called Dino Hunt. This throws your team of five against another team in a race to see who can complete their objectives the fastest. This then culminates in a final mission which can either be a PvP mission or PvE depending on what playlist you pick at the start.
Objectives usually boil down to killing X amount of dinosaurs in a horde situation before you bolt over to the next objective. You’ll get some variation where it involves fighting a larger dinosaur like a T-Rex in the vein of Monster Hunter but it isn’t until you’ve already invested well over a handful of hours into the game before you start seeing the more interesting content the game has to offer.
As a reward for reaching the final objective, you are given an item for your team that allows you to summon and control a dinosaur. What to do but use it to lay waste to the other team? It’s a lot of fun throwing players around as a carnotaurus, but it is over far too quickly. There are also match balancing bonuses you get later on where if you’ve fallen behind you can power up the other team’s enemy dinosaurs depending on how well you do in an allotted time.
As you progress, you can level up each Exo-Fighter individually and can purchase upgrades for them to put your particular spin on the Mech, these range from generic upgrades such as shorter cooldown phases to Exo-Fighter-specific ones where you can lean into their unique playstyle.
In terms of controls, they aren’t anything unusual for a third-person shooter. Each Exo-Fighter has a range of moves to compliment their playstyle. As you’d expect, Tanks focus on taking damage and holding back hordes whereas Assault are your damage dealers and Support buff and heal. It’ll take a few games for you to pick your favorites, but it’s worth having one of each on the team. The online experience isn’t always the best when your team decides to ignore the need to heal!
Kill, and Kill, and Kill
Up until a certain point in the story, you’re stuck doing the same playlist over and over again. You occasionally switch stages but the objectives remain the same. Slowly, more modes creep into the rotation and you start to see just how special this game can be when it just springs on you over a thousand velociraptors falling from the sky while also having to take down a couple of carnotaurus. There are also giant “Raid” battles that team up all ten players to take down some challenging scenarios where teamwork does save the day.
The combat feels great and the moment-to-moment gameplay does hit a sweet spot, especially when the game starts challenging you and throwing all kinds of dinosaurs at you with attributes you haven’t had to deal with yet. Even when you reach that final mission and you push a cube across the map or collect energy for a hammer while the other team tries to stop you, in these moments Exoprimal does shine.
Sadly I feel the issue with Exoprimal isn’t so much in the content, it’s more in the arduous grind to get more of it to open. After the initial fun factor, you’ll be hammering away at the same 3 to 4 rotations for hours until you trigger a cutscene which starts to add more content into the rotation. Once you hit that point, you get a lot more to take on in matches and the additional content doesn’t take quite as long as that initial unlock. It feels like far less of a grind once you hit the 8 to 10-hour mark.
While the main issue isn’t the content, for a full-priced title the lack of additional modes is almost criminal. Yes, you have the training mode and Dino Hunt varies its playlist, but when the maps are for example a giant city in ruin, why not have a free roam or horse survival mode? Why isn’t there a solely PvP playlist for gamers who enjoy that element? It just stinks of rush and possibly future updates but that isn’t acceptable when it’s a full-priced title!
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that because it’s an online “Games as a Service” title you’ve got the usual “cosmetic only” loot boxes along with a battle pass called the “Survival pass”. There’s nothing particularly egregious here, aside from it being in place before additional modes or even minor points such as the fact that the trophies on Playstation haven’t been translated from Japanese.
Explosions and Dinosaurs
Visually, Exoprimal is an absolute treat. From the prehistoric predators to the Evangelion oozing exo-suits, the developers took the time to make this game sing despite its rather civilian art direction. While I can’t speak for the previous-gen versions, I played the PlayStation 5 version and it gave me that wow factor more than enough times.
The game hits so right when you have dinosaurs pouring from the sky while a triceratops is flipping cars and stuff is just exploding everywhere. It has such a unique brand of chaos that works oh so well with its frankly PS3/360 Japanese third-person shooter identity, which while never quite broke the AAA market, certainly had its fans, this writer included.
On the audio side of things, the music sadly hasn’t left any impression on me at all. This is very sad considering just how many earworms Capcom has created over the decades, and then the voice acting is average to downright skip fodder depending on what member of your team is speaking. For the most part, you’ll just hear Leviathan saying the same lines over and over again, which I suppose is to be expected of a time loop.
Exoprimal is a game I enjoy playing. I’m still playing it post-review, and in the smaller sessions, it does provide a kick that few other games have given as of late. It inhabits that weird AA space where there is a clear effort made here but either not enough or the budget won’t stretch.
Hopefully, Capcom supports Exoprimal beyond the roadmap it has already put out and does enough to keep the already low player base from dropping further. At the moment the game has great bones, but they do need just a little more meat to them.
EXOPRIMAL IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Capcom for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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