Exoprimal is shaping up to be the video game equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster. It’s set for release in July, so that’s the ‘summer’ bit checked off, but it’s also got a daft as anything story as your team of friends face off against hordes of dinosaurs, putting it right on the Jurassic World and Pacific Rim end of the blockbuster bell curve.
We’ve been following Exoprimal every step of the way since its announcement, and our most recent hands-on allowed us to get a significant taste of the single player story, and a glimpse of many of the multiplayer systems that players will be getting involved in. The result? I don’t think July can come soon enough.
You’re an Exofighter – a combat specialist that enjoys hopping into heavily armoured, highly weaponised mech suits, and doling out some justice along the way. You’re all set to head off on your first mission with new teammates Majesty, Alder, Sandy and Lorenzo when a vortex appears in front of your aircraft and you crash land in your Exosuit, sans teammates and with a newly acquired ‘friendship’ with Leviathan.
Leviathan is an AI that controls the island you’re unexpectedly stuck on, and it turns out that they have some ‘interesting’ plans for you. Leviathan is transporting Exofighters to a very specific moment in history, just prior to a disaster that levelled the island you’re on, and you’ve been drawn three years into the past to take part in the AI’s combat testing scenarios. These seem to largely involve fighting wave after wave of dinosaurs and, as yet, we have no real idea why. Still, it gives you and your friends the chance to wear mech suits, utilise a batch of destructive abilities, and fire round after round at stampeding dinosaurs.
Exoprimal is a hero shooter, but it’s also a PvE horde mode. You play the opening rounds asymmetrically against the other team, aiming to clear out the dinosaurs from each area in as quickly as possible in a race to the end. This means pulling together as a team and utilising every one of the formidable weapons and skills each suit carries.
Once you arrive at the final round, though, all bets are off. At this point Exoprimal turns into Overwatch, and your team focus shifts to supporting one another, trying to wipe the opposing team, and completing your mission. Even if your opponent has a head start thanks to clearing early stages quicker than you, it’s possible to disrupt them by assaulting them at a crucial moment, and there’s a really enjoyable push and pull that bodes well for the game’s full release. It’s fair to say that Exoprimal isn’t quite like anything else out there, though it’s drawing influence from Gears of War, Anthem and the aforementioned Overwatch. It’s a mix that works, but you need a team of friends to make the most of it.
In our previous tests we didn’t get to see the customisation options for each Exosuit, and you’ll definitely need to become proficient in Rigs and Modules as they upgrade your suit with new offensive options, improve their repair abilities or boost your movement. Each suit may have up to three modules equipped at a time so you can find the right set to suit your playstyle. You earn Bikcoins by completing missions, and you can then use these to unlock new items to customise your Exosuit with.
On top of the functional side of customising your Exosuit, you can also alter its visual appearance, at least as far as paint jobs and decals go. Both suits and weapons have skins you can grab, with a fair selection to choose from, and there’s a batch of charms to dangle off the back of your suit as well. Whatever you go for, they certainly add individuality, though I’m not convinced how many people want to deck their super-cool Exosuit out with a large egg on a chain.
Many of these options appear in the Battle Pass, with a steady stream of unlockables for those who opt for the premium path. As with all of these live service multiplayer games, Exoprimal will live and die on whether the progression feels meaningful and the rewards are worth the grind. The initial version for Exoprimal that’s visible here has a good array of skins for all of the different Exosuits, but it’s going to be annoying for anyone whose favourite suit is hidden all the way at the far end of the pass. My favourite so far? The construction style skin for Krieger.
One of the other new aspects we got to check out was the Analysis Map where you can analyse the data obtained by playing Dino Survival. Here you can start to unravel the mysteries of just what the heck is going, and there’s a wealth of material to wade through if you’re so inclined. I’m enjoying the pulpy sci-fi so far, though it feels as though there’s something of a disconnect between your ongoing missions against hordes of dinosaurs and the story that’s being told.
The extra beta periods have obviously helped the development team to tailor Exoprimal further to its audience, and they’ve just announced that players will have the option between the original PvP closing round where you can ultimately do battle with the opposing team, taking a more personal approach to their downfall, or sticking with PvE as the previous rounds do, fighting for glory by being the fastest team to complete all of the phases. It’s a welcome option, but I wonder whether the PvE-only players will ultimately find the option too repetitive, and head back to the more explosive and unpredictable delights of PvP.