Uber Interactive’s Wayward Sky proved a hit with gamers when it launched alongside Playstation VR last October thanks to its unique style of gameplay, proving that virtual reality games didn’t have to be in first-person to offer an enjoyable and immersive experience. Following on from their initial success, they’re back with another interesting release that simply sounds unmissable on paper: Dino Frontier, a blend of Cowboys and Dinosaurs. Whilst the concept alone sounds like yet another tacky low budget B-Movie, it’s in fact a world-building sim that sees you mixing up the Wild West with prehistoric beasts. It’s unique, fresh, and much like Wayward Sky brings something to Playstation VR that’s a bit different to the norm.
Dino Frontier gives you a top down view of its little world, with everything controlled with the compulsory Move controllers (which are represented by a pair of giant hands in-game). Everything you do in the game is done with these hands, be it pinching at the map to move it around, picking up and throwing around the inhabitants of your blossoming world, or even handing all the tools at your disposal. It all feels intuitive and works well, alleviating the game of any awkwardness in a genre that is typically best played with the convenience of a mouse.
It probably helps that almost all of Dino Frontier’s mechanics are simplified when compared to the norm. It’s always incredibly easy to perform any in-game actions, with all of the world and its available tasks on full display right in front of you. All you’ve got to do is drag and drop your townsfolk to each relevant spot and they’ll do all the work for you, meaning you’re not left working your way through menus or potching around with buttons just to assign the simplest of tasks. Whilst world-building sims are often filled with intricacies, Dino Frontier keeps everything incredibly simple. It might lose the element of depth because of it, but its immediate accessibility more than makes up for it.
The core gameplay behind Dino Frontier revolves around building your town up, recruiting news townsfolk, capturing dinosaurs, and then taking down the evil Bandits. All of these mechanics come together nicely to offer an experience that’s easy to get into, though it might leave a bit more to be desired if you’re used to the more thorough experience that’s typically offered by the genre.
Building your town is easy, with it simply being a case of selecting a building, placing it, and then smashing it with a hammer. That’s right – you literally smash things with a little hammer to build them in your world. It’s a novel little mechanic and adds to the game’s light hearted nature, plus it’s pretty satisfying to actually do in-game. Of course, you can’t build up your town without resources, but that’s where your townsfolk come in.
You get your townsfolk to complete tasks by simply dropping them next to the relevant resources. Want them to gather wood? Drop them next to some trees. Need fruit to feed everyone? Drop them next to some fruit bushes. Want them to help capture dinosaurs? You get the picture. It’s a simple approach that ensures it’s never any fuss to complete any action in-game. It’d have been difficult to work through menu after menu after menu, but the game’s intuitive design ensures that almost everything you need to do is done with a click and a flick of the Move controllers.
Of course, who wants to use townsfolk when you’ve got Dinosaurs, right? It’s Dino Frontier’s main hook and probably the most enjoyable aspect of the game. You can’t just have Dinosaurs join your town with no effort though; you’ve got to lure them, fight them, and then catch them with a cage before they’ll get on board. Once you’ve got a small herd of different Dinosaurs on your side though you can have them help out in a variety of ways, be it gathering resources, fighting off bandit attacks, or even just lifting the morale of your townsfolk. They end up essentially feeling like the backbone of your town – not just because they look awesome in-game, but because they ease your workload too. Oddly, you can only have one of each Dinosaur type though, so don’t go expecting to make your own little army of Velociraptors or T-Rexs. You don’t really need more than one of each Dinosaur in-game so it won’t take anything away from your experience, but it is peculiar given that the game prides itself upon its prehistoric beasts.
Whilst building up your town is a priority, you’ve also got to defend it from the countless Bandit attacks that come your way. It’s a neat little element of the game that should add a bit of excitement (especially with Dinosaurs getting involved), though the simple nature of Dino Frontier could make it feel a little menial. It’s so convenient to simply drop townsfolk in locations when you need them to complete tasks for you, but doing the same when fighting Bandits took away some of the fun. It’d have been better if you had to actually think a little or be a bit more careful in your approach, but instead it simply boiled down to sending your best fighters their way and leaving them to it. Sure, it works, but it isn’t as exciting as battles between Bandits and Dinosaurs should be.
Whilst most of the action takes place in and around your town, you do eventually get to visit a farm-like Garden and the Mines that are full of valuable resources. Each of these areas adds something different to the game, with the Garden allowing you to gather different resources for your town and the Mines putting you in a tower defence scenario as you balance out your resource gathering efforts with a defensive one. It adds a neat tactical element to the game that isn’t always evident whilst simply looking after your town; it’s something I enjoyed doing and thought that the game could’ve done with a lot more of.
Dino Frontier has a fair amount of meat to it thanks to the different ways you can develop your town, your townsfolk, and the plethora of Dinosaurs you’ll have running around, but unfortunately the experience as a whole doesn’t last all that long. You’ll easily be done with it in less than four hours, with nothing really offered that’d encourage you to come back to it other than to go through the same experience all over again. It could be argued that it’s a nice length for a virtual reality title, but it cuts the satisfaction of building your own little world short. It’s quite a pricey release too so it might not be enough for the average gamer – even if what you are playing is a lot of fun whilst it lasts.
Dino Frontier offers an incredibly charming world-building simulation for gamers to play through, with the blend of Dinosaurs and the Wild West working together perfectly in offering a world that you’ll actually really want to be a part of. Add to that the accessible controls and intuitive gameplay mechanics and it’s easy see why you’d get absorbed into the game almost instantly.
There just isn’t really enough of it, especially at the game’s high price point. This isn’t a title that you’re going to find yourself spending hours upon hours lost in, but one where it’ll all be over in just a few hours. Whilst this is enough for some games, I would’ve liked to have spent a bit more time in Dino Frontier’s Dinosaur-filled world.
Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed Dino Frontier and its solid evidence that this kind of game works perfectly within the unorthodox confines of VR. There isn’t enough here to hook you in for too long, but what it does offer is of top quality.
Developer: Uber Interactive
Publisher: Uber Interactive
Release Date: 01/08/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR