When you look back at the titles Capcom has released over the past nearly forty years, it’s quite a list. Which includes some huge franchises (I dare not list them, because then everyone will get angry that I forgot their favorite franchise), but besides that, Capcom still takes a risk quite occasionally with a new idea. That doesn’t always lead to huge successes, but a Lost Planet or Dragon’s Dogma have managed to attract a good number of fans and achieve a kind of legendary status. Exoprimal seems to fall a bit into this corner. Unremarkable at first glance, but with much more up its sleeve than you might think.
Mechs vs dinosaurs
At the trailer reveal, everyone was hoping for a return of the legendary Dino Crisis games, but alas. Exoprimal is a so-called online-only PVPVE shooter, in which two teams of players dressed in mech suits take on hordes of dinosaurs. In itself an excellent concept with a lot of fun to be had, but unfortunately Exprimal is limited in its elaboration by its chosen revenue model. The title is full of loot boxes, online-only commitments and, of course, a season pass full of unlockables. Fine for a free-to-play title, but putting your hard-earned pennies on the table for Exoprimal doesn’t feel like getting value for money. Fortunately, the game is also available on Gamepass, which still makes me hope people will give Exoprimal a chance, because the game behind the microtransactions does some interesting things.
We find ourselves in 2043 in a world overrun by dinosaurs literally falling from the sky
Thus, Exoprimal has a striking focus on story, which is largely told to you between missions, but which very occasionally takes place suddenly during a random mission. We find ourselves in 2043 in a world overrun by dinosaurs that literally fall from the sky. You are hired by an obviously untrustworthy corporation to pilot an exosuit and sent to the island of Bikitoa.
Bikitoa has been cut off from the outside world since the outbreak of the dinostorms in 2040, and this is apparently because a loose AI called Leviathan is doing war simulations here. These take place in multiple dimensions side by side, allowing the AI to collect data and immediately making a nice statement for two teams in different dimensions to compete against each other. Once the player arrives, his team crashes on the island and the task is to figure out exactly what is going on and how to get off the island again.
Most of the story takes place in cutscenes between matches and additionally in what is called the analysis map. During the matches you play, you gather information to fill in this map and reveal a little more of the mystery each time. The map itself is about as readable as the conspiracy chart you know from the It’s Always Sunny meme, but fortunately there is a button next to it to quietly guide you from discovery to discovery. The question is how much the average player will do this, though; the tendency to skip these interludes was very high during the review.
Sometimes the story suddenly intrudes on the normal matches, providing some much-needed variety. Especially in the beginning you notice that progression is very slow, and you often play the same kind of missions in the same environments. From about ten missions on, this slowly starts to expand and you visit other parts of the island and get to see different objectives and missions as well. It might have been nice to have the choice to fill out the main menu of Exoprimal a bit more as well. Because you really only have 1 gamemode (within which you can still choose between PVE and PVP) the main menu looks downright spartan.
Gets off to a slow start
An average match starts with a face off, where you can still quickly switch mech if your team doesn’t have a tank or support class, for example. Awkward in this is that each mech levels up individually, so you don’t always have the choice to play the mech you have the most unlocks with. On the other hand, this encourages playing multiple classes.
Everyone is teleported to their individual dimension, after which both teams are presented with the same missions. Certainly in the beginning no more than: demolish a load of dinos or defend this area, but later in the game this fortunately comes with more variety. Eventually this even leads to a full-fledged raid, which is definitely a highlight of the campaign.
The goal is to complete all missions faster than the other team, after which you are teleported to the endgame dimension, to take on the other team directly. Also here are familiar game modes like escort an object as we know them from Team Fortress 2. Nice addition is that the Leviathan AI regularly decides to assign one of the teams (or both) a dominator, where one of the players can take over a dinosaur to thwart the opponents. Used properly, this can completely tip the balance of a game.
A suit makes the man (or woman)
The gameplay itself is excellent. The mechs are nicely mobile and all the weapons actually do exactly what you expect of them. Despite constantly chasing huge loads of bullets through them, even the standard guns feel fine. Especially the larger enemies can take quite a bit of damage, but you never feel underpowered. There is a noticeable focus on synergy with your other teammates, which suits a game like this well. The team that works best together almost always goes home with the win, so make sure all classes are well represented, and work on a solid strategy if at all possible.
The mechsuits are divided into three classes, each with their unique traits and skills, which fit together excellently. This clearly takes a good look at other “Hero shooters” like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun. These titles are widely played for a reason. You can choose from three roles: four mechs for assault, three tanks and three support robots. Each with a distinctly different slant in role execution, so you really feel like there’s something to choose from.
Assault obviously has a sniper, a more average machinegunner with the Deadeye, an explosives expert and a melee bot. With the tanks you can choose from maximum firepower with Krieger, the more defensive Roadblock or the melee-oriented Murasame, of course with giant sword. If you choose support you can focus on buffing your team, perform crowd control while hovering over the battlefield or quickly switch between doing damage or healing with Nimbus.
With the RE engine, Capcom can continue for years to come
On the PC, Exoprimal performs just fine, which should come as no surprise with the RE engine. It is capable of conjuring up beautiful graphics without leaning too much on your hardware. There is support for FSR 1.0 and 2.0, so you also have some choice about which upscaling method to use if you need some extra breathing room. The game does play in a somewhat odd resolution on ultrawide, with the sides of your image containing gray bars. Not insurmountable, but it still bothered me a bit.
The overall audio and music is certainly on point, but the voice-acting in particular stands out. Despite relying heavily on stereotypes, the characters’ voices still appear sincere, and that’s quite an accomplishment with all the clichés they are allowed to handle. Still, this just lifts the story sections to a slightly higher level.
Exoprimal leaves a very ambiguous feeling. The game itself plays fine, the classes match up well, the guns feel good, and it’s just always fun to shoot down hordes of dinosaurs. But the sixty euro price tag is painful for a title that contains relatively little content and also leans on loot boxes and a season pass. Especially when you consider that if the servers ever close, you simply won’t be able to play the game anymore. On Gamepass, the offerings are a lot more enticing. So I can heartily recommend anyone with Gamepass to try Exoprimal, you might be surprised how much you enjoy the game.