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Review: Dino Frontier for PSVR

Dino Frontier from Uber Entertainment is now officially out for PSVR ($29.99). It’s a game of gargantuan proportions my friend. You have the Wild West and you have dinosaurs a plenty. Does this game wrangle up some good times…or does it need to be fossilized? Let’s find out buckaroo!

I have a description of the game from Uber Entertainment, you know, something you can really sink your teeth into!

‘Dino Frontier lets you build and manage a frontier settlement in a world where the wild west and Jurassic collide. You assume the role of Big Mayor overlooking your settlement in tabletop scale VR. You must carefully balance resources while growing your town. Wild dinosaurs roam the land acting as both dangerous foe and tantalizing assets.’

Woah there cowboy, I even gotsa trailah for ya! Check it out down yonder!

Audio: 

There are so many little sounds squeezed into every nook and cranny of this game! Things that I just simply wouldn’t have even imagined would have made noise, does. The sheer inventiveness of the developers is crazy. I mean I heard the sounds of fireworks from my fingertips at one point for a celebration that I had built something. Seriously, I never would’ve expected that out of this game. But I really, truly mean that everything had a sound. From choosing between items in my “HUD” to lava bubbling in the final boss fight, I swear to you, they did not forget anything. And as far as the audio quality was concerned, it was freaking great. With this game, you are generally far away from things but you can pan and zoom to change your distance and see better. But not only can you see better as you get closer to these objects, but the audio effects also become easier for you to hear. And of course, the opposite is true. As you slide back away from them, the sound dynamically gets quieter. The developers had to have a heck of a time creating sound and sound quality that was so dynamic. I hope other players appreciate it as much as I do, of course, it is the way that games should have it, but it has seemed to be trickier for other devs to pull off. Unless you’re someone who hates sound you’re absolutely going to love every little squawk, wooden smack, tick, laugh, and everything else the developers of Dino Frontier have packed into this game. 10/10

Soundtrack:

I think this may be the shortest section of my entire review. Where I loved the sound effects and audio quality, I think the music just kind of existed to try to set a mood. There’s a Johnny Cash-esque song in the main menu as it’s waiting for you to press the T button to begin. But other than that, they have some songs throughout the game that seem to just be on repeat maybe? There is a song that sounds like your stereotypical western saloon piano song. There’s also your tried and true western guitar type song, one you might hear an old settler play by the fire at the end of a day. You also have your cut and dry random whistles(?) in and around these songs. All in all, it’s exactly what you would expect to hear in a western game, albiet original songs, nothing seemed to be pulled from a movie or something. They definitely sound great, but they definitely take a back seat to the visuals and fun. I can’t really think of a way to improve it, I just did not really care too much about the music in this game for some reason. 7/10

Visuals

The visuals shine through fantastically in a stylized way with a wonderfully cartoonish look. It took me a long time to write that previous sentence for the simple fact that I was trying to figure out a way to convey everything I feel about the graphics in one sentence. I think that we can break that sentence down a bit to really explain what I mean though. “The visuals shine through” was the first part of the sentence and I meant it. The visuals absolutely have so much essence when the game starts that they’re practically atmospheric. You have lighting and a day/night cycle that helps bring this quality to life. And even though it doesn’t look exactly like the world around you, it still follows the basic rules of the color of things and how they appear in these lighting scenarios. The second part of the sentence was that it is designed “fantastically in a stylized way”. All that I meant by that was that aside from following the basic rules of the universe visually, they also came up with a few of their own rules. Diamond shaped clouds, realistic hands for the player with unrealistic dinosaur facial expressions, rock formations that probably have never existed, etc. But to clarify, all of these are fun and perfectly chosen rules. There are plenty other rules that the developers had to choose to stylize their game, but I won’t dwell on all of it. Lastly, I mentioned a “wonderfully cartoonish look”. As I said before, they didn’t choose to make this game look like it was 100% real. This would’ve probably put too much stress on the PS4 and made the game probably pretty unplayable as certain things in the real world would’ve been too small to see from as far up as your ‘eyes’ are. I think having this cartoonish look, not being over the top, and choosing wild colors for the dinosaurs and the animations for the settlers are what give this game so much heart. They absolutely won me over because I could’ve looked at this world for hours on end in awe. 10/10

Gameplay: 

Oh boy. How do I even begin to explain the gameplay? You are the mayor of a settlement that needs to be built. Furthermore, you need to inhabit it with people. Those people need dinosaurs to help them complete various tasks. You can level up the people by making them stronger and healthier. The same can be done with the dinosaurs, naturally. This is all done by building places on the settlement for them to eat and drink and sleep and work out. All of these places can, of course, be built by having wood (and other supplies), so you have said settlers do these tasks. Anyway, it’s all very cohesive and plays well. But ultimately you’re doing it for one major reason, to defeat your arch nemesis, The Bandit King. He’s always there waiting and ultimately becomes the penultimate end boss by sicking a gnarly dinosaur on your people who are attacking. And that’s the whole game. If you do everything that I just told you, along with mining some gold and planting crops to feed your settlers, you’ll be done in no more than 5 hours. Yes, this game is lovely. It is intuitive as heck as well. But with a 5-hour game, I can’t help but think that it was intentional. And when I say it was intentional, I don’t mean that they did something devious. I think that the price of the game is worth 5 hours. I just meant that it would stand to reason that maybe they didn’t want to keep you in a VR setting for terribly long.

I loved everything that I came across though. From grabbing a settler by the back of his clothes to smashing the ground with a wooden mallet or the stone mining minigame. I could not have been happier. I probably could’ve done all of that infinitely. And alas, I could not. My biggest gripe about the gameplay is not, at all the gameplay, but rather the game. I wish that there had been a larger space for my settlement, I also wish that you could continue the game after defeating the final boss. I know that this isn’t the Sims. There’s no dating or baby making, but a part of me feels as though they could’ve expanded it just a bit further. What they did with this game in every aspect is so memorable and unique. They made the panning and zooming like nobody else has before. They gave you hands which is one thing that I find integral to a VR experience. But they also made the experience easy and fun. I mean, to see your objectives, you just look at the watch on your wrist! It’s just the best game that is hindered by being cut down in its prime. I feel like there could be more bosses at least. I don’t know what could make it longer, but there has to be something! I wanted so badly to give this game a perfect score for gameplay, but it’s a 5-hour game at best. Note to the developers, people would gladly pay more money for a longer experience! 7/10

Replay-ability: 

This is another place where the game, in its current form, gives you no real extras. What I mean is, unless you happened to miss something in your first play through, you’ll most likely have completed everything the first time. So the replay-ability aspect is quite low. This would be for those of you that genuinely had such a good time playing it once through and want just do that same thing again. Sure you could build your town differently, but mostly, you’re going to have to put up the same locations to do the same tasks or make your settlers happy and/or strong and healthy, tame the same dinosaurs, etc. The whole game is pretty linear all things considered. Don’t get me wrong of course, that is absolutely not a bad thing. It’s a 4-5 hour game for the price that you pay for it and all of those hours are fun, so the value is there for a single play through. If I were to say it had any replay-ability in any respect it’s to show your friends a truly fun PSVR experience in hopes of getting them to buy one as well. Otherwise, it may also be one of those games that you come back to in a year or so and play through it again, forgetting just how fun it was. My hope is that they add some downloadable content for more dinosaurs and some extra settlers or something that would also give us more to do. Or maybe even just letting us have multiple settlements as we make our way through the coming industrial revolution. 5/10

VR Reflections: 

I have never had a VR experience like this one. Since you essentially stand still the whole time and only look around, I felt just little to no motion sickness.  The panning and zooming was absolutely the thing that made this game tolerable in terms of VR. If the camera just moved for you when you needed it too, it would be so jarring. Looking off at something with a reticle and then hitting a button to jump over to it would’ve killed this game. I was able to stay in this game so long that I experienced odd things that I had never experienced before like my face just getting too tired to hold up the PSVR anymore. I cannot stress the following sentence enough. More games need to be like this. I think that fast paced games are going to die off from VR if they do not figure out a way that doesn’t just cause you to hurl every 2.4 seconds. I never felt like I had to squint to see something in the distance. I never felt the need to wipe the sweat from my forehead due to uncomfortable movements. The whole game can be played sitting down and having the two PlayStaton Move controllers instead of defaulting to a DualShock 4 was just another thing that made this game ever better than other VR games. They gave me intuitive controls with a 3rd person view, with 1st person hands, and let me do my own thing at my pace. 10/10

If you’re fond of dinosaurs and a VR fanatic, I have the game download right here for you.

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