You may remember how skeptical I was: mundane dino action and a weird mix of PvP and PvE, with two teams each scouring checkpoints to kill some ancient lizards… When I played Exoprimal a few weeks ago I didn’t want the spark to jump over. However, I now know that there is a very specific reason for this – and fortunately this reason no longer plays a role in the finished exoprimal.
It was simply because Exoprimal replaces human players with bots if matchmaking does not find any players. But of course there can be no question of that, just so shortly after the release. And I can tell you one thing: When I finally played in and against a team of human players as planned over the weekend, this previously missing spark suddenly kindled a real fire.
I don’t want to make Exoprimal seem any bigger than it is. The story about dinosaurs suddenly appearing on earth, literally tumbling out of the sky from huge time travel balls, is hardly worth mentioning in my opinion and revolves around the terribly clichéd members of a patrol unit. To make matters worse, Ace, the alter ego put together in the editor, doesn’t get a single sound out of his mouth, which is why he only grimaces with strained facial expressions through sometimes more, sometimes less short cutscenes.
Don’t worry, I’ll get straight to the actual game. To understand this, however, you still need to know that the plane of this unit is stranded on an island where an AI named Leviathan distributes both Ace and nine other stranded people to two five-person teams and then lets dinosaurs fall from the sky through the mentioned time holes. Leviathan uses it to test the skills of the fighters, pitting the teams not only against the dinosaurs but also against each other.
So for both of them it’s about grazing through the given checkpoints as quickly as possible, and because they’re doing it in the same level but in different dimensions, they don’t even get in each other’s way. After each checkpoint, you find out whether you’re faster or slower than your competitors, and you can also see their silhouettes for a few seconds. But you cannot interact with them directly.
Only in the final section, when Leviathan teleports both teams to the same dimension, do they meet and are allowed to rake each other. Depending on the mission, they then have to guide a vehicle safely to its destination, similar to Overwatch, occupy up to three checkpoints, pick up resource canisters, just scour more checkpoints and pick up and charge a huge hammer to get to the destination like this to break through various barriers as quickly as possible.
The variation in these last sections is good – but you can also do without it and completely deselect the PvP sections before activating matchmaking. You can always find variations. Of course, little changes in the basic process, but soon larger waves of enemies and dinosaurs with tricky abilities tumble from the sky, so that you always have your hands full. And as mundane as that may sound: When literally thousands of them fall out of particularly large dimension gates, it’s just damn cool to “wipe” them out of life in a furious battle festival.
At least that’s how it feels when you take out a dozen dinosaurs with one swipe, blow them up with a grenade or trap them in a gravity bubble and then fire a laser in the middle. This is because many ranged weapons deal area-of-effect damage, making them extremely satisfying anti-lizard tools. Depending on the character, you handle grenades, a sword, similar to Reinhardt with a wide shield, or energy projectiles that heal fellow combatants and inflict damage on enemies.
Where “character” is not quite right, because in fact you always play the same character. Ace only slips into so-called exosuits, each of which has its own weapons, abilities and types of movement. One masters quick dodges, the other shoots freezing ice cubes instead, while the next hovers high above the action.
When you use an exosuit, you gradually unlock modules that you can use to strengthen or customize your skills. Of course, this happens in the base between the missions and is a great incentive for me to deal even more intensively with my favorite combat suits. After all, the properties of these modules can be further increased in five stages, for which you need money received in battle and from loot boxes. On top of that, there are also a number of general modules that can be installed not only in a special suit, but in any one of them.
Last but not least, you decide on one of six other components, called rigs, which include a strong weapon and a short-term shield. And of course there are numerous decorations here too, which you can buy for the most part with money earned in the game, but also partly with real currency. Luckily, Exoprimal doesn’t force these optional purchase options, including a Battle Pass, on you. But they are always clearly visible.
Exoprimal was released in both digital and physical form. The latter is available from Amazon and Saturn, among others, with both versions included as usual in the case of the Xbox versions. The prices are around 60 euros each.
- Amazon – PS5
- Saturn – Xbox
- Exciting PvP competition in a cooperative PvE game
- Characters complement each other in a familiar and meaningful way
- Motivating upgrade and customization of the exosuits
- Partly massive dinosaurs, through which some attacks go like butter
- Story, characters and also the scenery are rather functional
What’s important to me is that I’ve had a lot of fun with all the exosuits so far, and that’s why I’m very motivated to keep upgrading them. The motivation also comes from a completely different direction, because the team play works really well, meaning the abilities of the different suits complement each other very sensibly over long stretches. Incidentally, any number of suits of the same type can start in the same team.
Take the nimble and damn powerful melee Zephyr, for example, who unfortunately falls apart faster than a house of cards. However, if you have a support on your team like Skywave, for example, who heals him constantly because he’s floating ten meters above the action and can therefore always reach him quickly enough, then this can be a powerful combo. And if the composition of the team – often there is at least one random person on the road – is not quite right, then you simply change suits. This takes a few seconds, but is possible at any time.
At the latest when the last section is against the competing team, such a change is worthwhile, because what works against the lizards summoned by Leviathan sometimes has no chance against human players. It is therefore often advisable to save the dominator for the last moments of a game. Didn’t I even mention that? These are particularly powerful dinosaurs, including a T-Rex, which you pull out of a dimensional gate in order to then control them yourself.
Now the Dominators are not available at all times, but must first be provided by Leviathan. Usually there are one or two of them per match or team and the player who collects them can then summon them at any time. So he should know when it’s most effective to use it to disrupt human opponents.
You’ve already noticed: This constant competition with the other team, the tug of war to get rid of the dinosaurs as quickly as possible – that’s what Exoprimal is all about. And I have to admit that while I knew that, I didn’t realize how important it would be to the dynamics of the game. This is also due to the fact that the checkpoints are not just about eliminating five to ten thousand people from the Cretaceous period. Rather, Leviathan requires the elimination of very specific species.
So while you already have your hands full with a pack of dinosaurs, you actually have to put down the giant Triceratops that is raging somewhere behind it. And with the thought of the constantly ticking clock, because the other team is doing exactly the same thing, you are almost always in the competitive fever and accordingly try hard to play as effectively as possible. It’s PvP without the stress of direct confrontation – even more so when you’ve completely deselected the final phase.
Exoprimal in the test – conclusion
Or to put it the other way around: Exoprimal is reasonably relaxed cooperative PvE action that generates a lot of momentum through indirect competition with an opposing team. It’s amazingly entertaining, especially when you coordinate with up to four friends as a team – much more entertaining than the pictures and videos with thousands of dinosaurs in front of a more functional backdrop would suggest. For the fact that you always do the same thing in Exoprimal as in any other co-op shooter, the missions are even pleasantly varied and continue to develop, at least as the campaign progresses. What comes next? Capcom promises additional content including special challenges, new modules and rigs, exosuit variants and fresh dinosaurs. And what I would not have thought in the middle of last week: I am really happy that the supposedly funny mix has turned into such a well-rounded game that the end of the road seems to have been reached.