When Exoprimal was first revealed, I thought Dino Crisis was finally coming back. It wasn’t, of course, but the combination of Exosuits, rampaging hordes of dinosaurs, and sleek AI conducting live-fire exercises in virtual reality was still interesting.
As time passed, many of the usual worrying things started to pop up – online only, a Battle Pass, a $60 price, post-launch plans, etc. I thought Capcom was simply jumping on board the live-service bandwagon several years too late, that too with something that looked tedious.
However, after playing the open beta early, I can confirm that Exoprimal is a ton of fun. There are still several unknowns and more than a few concerns, but the core gameplay loop is easy enough to jump into without feeling too mindless (for the most part). Let’s examine ten new things you should know before jumping in.
The beta for Exoprimal doesn’t start with you as the destined hero who will save humanity from the overwhelming threat of the dinosaurs. You join Aibius Corp as a recruit, waiting to be evaluated for your skills and unceremoniously shipped off to a unit. The character creation process is in the guise of a job interview, and there are several hairstyles, skin tones, and faces to choose from. It’s not quite as extensive as, say, Monster Hunter World or Rose, but it gets the job done.
When you first start the game, you’re thrown into Training to familiarize yourself with the different mechanics. It’s about as rudimentary as be, showcasing the roles, how to use items and even command a massive dinosaur (known as a Dominator) to wreak havoc on the opposing team. Again, it’s nothing too crazy – you learn to shoot, move around and use the abilities for the most basic Exosuits. You can always return to Training and test out different suits, but the real fun starts in Dino Survival.
A Crisis of Dinos
Dino Survival is the main mode of play, and it involves two teams competing in PvEvP matches to complete objectives at the behest of the AI. Each team has its respective instance, slaying dinosaurs, defending a VTOL and taking on boss-like dinosaurs like the Triceratops. Sometimes the boss will run away, forcing you to pursue, which you should do if you want to progress faster than the enemy team.
In the final round, you’re transported to a map where both teams can directly interfere with each other, so getting a headstart is key. While escorting a data key, you could run into the opposing team near the end and battle neck and neck for supremacy. Energy Taker is more PvP oriented as you gather batteries that spawn in specific zones to fill a progress meter. Alternatively, you can take down opposing Exosuits for energy while the dinosaurs try to rip both sides apart.
The Story Goes
Some bits about the setting are revealed before and after entering Dino Survival, thanks to a few cutscenes. However, not much is showcased in the open beta. We know the AI is sus, time travel is involved, and our teammates have quirky traits. At least, according to the robot in the main menu, who tells me about them instead of any actual interaction happening. That’s about it, though, and it’s funny because the actual storyline is somewhat intriguing. It would have been nice to see how it plays out through what’s primarily a competitive multiplayer experience. Maybe in the next beta, if that ever happens.
The core replay value of Dino Survival is in the objectives your team completes, the Dino upgrades the enemy team sends your way, and the PvP encounters that can occur in the final map. Objectives are randomised, and even if you get Dinosaur Cull several times in a row, the map design and dinosaur types provide some variety. Carnage Modules can also activate, resulting in something like thousands of dinosaurs raining from the sky towards your hapless squad.
It can feel chaotic at first, but it becomes easy to manage very quickly. Tedium does set in after several matches, but the final game promises more objectives, dinosaurs, and other options to keep things fresh. The PvP aspect also certainly helps, though if there aren’t enough players, the game will add bots to speed up matchmaking. They’re serviceable but not nearly as fun to play against.
Of Slashing and Shooting
The most appealing aspect of Exoprimal is the core gameplay. The combat and the movement feel smooth and responsive with little to no lag, but the times when connectivity was an issue resulted in healing projectiles failing to register on allies. Again, these were few and far between, but it remains to be seen how network performance will hold up once everyone gets access.
Slashing or shooting through hordes feels great – launching dinos into the air or unleashing a hail of bullets into a horde feels awesome every time. Each Exosuit felt powerful in its own right but not invincible, which helps encourage team play.
Like any hero shooter, Exosuits are divided into three roles – Tank, Assault and Support. Within these three roles is some interesting diversity – Roadblock is your typical barrier tank which can taunt enemies and knock them back. However, Muramasa is more of an off-tank, inflicting decent damage while also wielding a devastating counter-attack that sends dinos flying.
Zephyr is a melee-focused Assault suit which can knock back enemies and use short-range teleports to dash. However, Vigilante is a sniping Exosuit, dealing immense damage with charged shots and being quite the menace in PvP. On the Support side, Nimbus offers this interesting balance of DPS and healing as you switch between modes for your guns, while Skywave is about staying airborne and deploying fields to slow enemies.
Each Exosuit feels fun, even though some may be slightly more overtuned than others (see: Krieger). Furthermore, switching Exosuits on the fly or when respawning based on your team’s needs is also great. Except when everyone decides to use an Assault frame and completely neglect any tanking or healing, thus losing us the match, but them’s the breaks.
I’ll admit – I was initially skeptical at hordes of dinosaurs being the main PvE threats. Thankfully, they’re a lot of fun to fight. Tearing through legions of raptors feels cathartic. However, you could just as easily become overwhelmed if you’re not careful, especially as a Support unit or Assault suit out of the line of sight for healing.
Meatier threats like the Pachycephalosaurus present more challenges, especially as they charge and knock you off balance. And while a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex will annihilate you if you’re not careful, the Neosaurs also present serious threats.
Gas Neosaurs explode when too close, making crowd control essential. Stealth Neosaurs can approach objectives unseen and cause damage if you’re not paying attention. Sniper Neosaurs assail from a distance. It feels frantic but not stressful; challenging, and yet mindlessly fun. Plus, rampaging around as a T.Rex and slaying enemy Exosuits feels good.
And now we come to the strangest part of Exoprimal’s beta – the customization. As you complete matches, you’ll level up your character and the Survival Pass, which is the de facto Battle Pass. Progression felt smooth enough with enough XP doled out per match, though this could change in the final game.
The larger issue is that I couldn’t figure out how to equip the different Modules, some providing game-changing passive benefits like reloading while dodging. You can change out different RIGs, like a Cannon, Field (which provides a small area of healing), Shield, and Catapult to quickly boost forward, but that’s it. If the customization is deep, then it could help the replay value all the more, but it’s still up in the air.
As it stands, Exoprimal is fun to play and nice to look at, but the same concerns crop up, as they do for every multiplayer-focused game. How deep will the customization be? Once the story is complete, what will be the player’s main reason to stick around beyond the fun gameplay? What is the long-term grind and progression beyond leveling each Exosuit and unlocking Modules? What is the monetization like, and what does the Survival Pass offer in terms of cosmetics?
Will there be other modes to look forward to at launch or later on? A co-op PvE mode without any PvP would be nice. Perhaps some raids with more complex mechanics, a rogue-like mode with escalating difficulty. There’s just Dino Survival, but will that be enough?
What is the post-launch content plan, and can Capcom sustain it with updates like events, new Exosuits, cosmetics, and whatnot? Time will tell, but Exoprimal has a lot of potential, and it’d be a shame to see it fade away like so many other live-service titles. For now, at least, the beta is pretty fun and well worth jumping into for some dino-slaying action.
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