Orion, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…
…Okay, “hate” is an overstatement, but as much flak as the original Orion had received, (Yes, this is a sequel, and its predecessor was called Dino Beatdown) this “new” (and I use that term very loosely here) version may have somehow managed to not improve on many of its flaws while simultaneously creating a number of new problems that make the game difficult to enjoy and one of those purchases you would have rather passed on to your annoying step-brother. Emily Barret Browning was certainly no Victorian-era game critic, but even in her day and age, passing off the same product with a new paint job doesn’t make it an innovative masterpiece– it makes it a poorly-crafted game with elements that, to some, could be considered entertainment. Unfortunately for Spiral Game Studios , Dino Horde provides a paltry amount of enjoyment that is disappointing, to say the least.
As a sci-fi first-person shooter, Dino Horde somehow took the typical formula seen in a wave clear survival game (like Killing Floor) and messed it up by implementing a few variables with less than stellar execution. The game itself is based on cooperative gameplay, as there is no campaign or dedicated single player mode. Naturally then, there should be an inclination for large team play, but the reality is quite the opposite. Communication in-game is negligible, not only because it feels slow and largely superficial (numbered commands, text chat), but also because it feels unnecessary — and to a degree, that’s how most of the features in Dino Horde feel: unnecessary. Between the character augments, weapons, and even vehicles, all of which should be a central part of the game’s entertainment value, each element feels superficial and a part of the game simply to be a part of it. Rather than add to the gaming experience, these typically beloved aspects of the game stand beside the its core instead of working in concert with it.
In terms of the graphics and ambiance, Dino Horde sticks with the standard, if even that. Dinosaurs sound like dinosaurs, and explosions sound like explosions, but there’s no real feeling of dramatic integration to make players feel they are there. Is it such an essential element that it singlehandedly destroys the quality of the game? No, but this, along with the uninspired map design and art direction, is indicative of how the game attempts to be excellent, but is just that — an attempt. For a game to be competent, it should be excellent, and while there need not be ostentatious grace in the graphical design of the game, seeing sporadic blood splatters as damage and the “swimming arms” sprint trademarked by Modern Warfare 2 in 2009, each sloppily put together element reaffirms that Dino Horde did not cross its t’s and dot its i’s. This, of course, is all in addition to the fact that vehicles are reminiscent of G-Nome. Yes, I mean 1997 G-Nome. But I actually liked that game.
Since the update from Beatdown to Dino Horde, five new game modes have been (besides many other features) added into the game, which should have been a good signal for the value of added content. Yet, Dino Horde had already broken the formula for a good game, so why not break these expectations, too? The game modes are, again, superficial additions that don’t feel like legitimately different modes rather than niche minigames that could have been created with player motivation. This is an overarching problem with Dino Horde, because the game as a whole feels like it’s been spread too thinly to be a master of any one aspect. Even the classic survival is monotonous and uninspired. While there are three different classes, there is no distinctive benefit of choosing any class other than assault since the objective is not to be covert or stand your ground through a barricade– it’s to kill an onslaught of dinosaurs, buy weapons, feel good about yourself, and to rinse and repeat until the stage is beaten. The addition of these game types in their current status make Dino Horde a step lower from the “Jack-of-all-Trades, Master of None” games.
For a moment, however, let’s disregard the fact that the central foundation of gameplay, cooperation, is easily ignored. Let’s disregard that servers are very much empty and therefore difficult to find or fill matches. Let’s disregard how the maps are designed to be maps, and not to complement gameplay. Let’s disregard how the gaming environment itself is largely standard and nonunique. Let’s disregard what seemed to be game modes put together in cursory fashion. Let’s also disregard how augments, additional weapons, and taunts don’t legitimately add to the experience. And even though it is a heinous crime no one should have to deal with, let’s disregard that you control the direction of a vehicle WITH YOUR MOUSE. Even with all these factors off the table, the game itself is still difficult to like. It isn’t anything new, which isn’t a crime in and of itself. Its crime is it being confused within itself as what type of game it wants to be — a crime largely caused by what I think was confusion during development. Does it want to be Killing Floor? Or the Jurassic version of Left 4 Dead? (I would enjoy my raptor mod much more, to be very honest) Hell, does it maybe want to be Lost Planet combined with G-Nome? The answer could be yes to one, or yes to none. It could very well want to be none of those games, but instead be one distinct and unique from the others– but the reality is that Dino Horde has brought nothing new to the table to change the dynamic of the genre, or even within the confines of its own series. With so many elements being superficial, the fun is just not in the game.
Available on: PC; Publisher: Spiral Game Studios; Developer: Spiral Game Studios; Players: Multiplayer (Online); Released: April 15, 2013; ESRB: T; MSRP: $14.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.