Dino Frontier for PSVR is a game that’s on the cusp of greatness. It’s so close to being something special that it hurts to see it fall short of its potential. The reason? Well, dear readers, keep on reading and I’ll tell you why.
Dino Frontier is a PSVR game, so you’ll need a PSVR headset. No, you can’t play without one. Yes, you do need two PS Move controllers. And no, there’s no bloody PSVR Aim support, before anyone pipes up with the usual question in the comments. If you’ve got a headset, a couple of Move controllers and a copy of the game – available via PSN – then you’re ready to take on the role of “Big Mayor”.
In Dino Frontier you play as the aforementioned Big Mayor, and it’s your job to grow your little town in the Old West. Within a few moments you’ll be picking up your townsfolk and ordering them around like it’s second nature. It works really well, too, thanks to the accurate tracking in the game, though I did have a few wobbles, as per usual with PSVR and its limited tracking tech.
You’ll slowly build up your town by having your settlers gather resources from nearby, and you’ll construct useful buildings such as a saloon, wood refinery, food refinery, and so on. Then there’s the dinosaurs… The big appeal of Dino Frontier is that it’s a “God” game that has the extinct beasts wandering around, but really they just felt a little useless. You’ll find them mooching outside of your town limits, either just wandering around aimlessly or fighting one another – typical dino behaviour. The gimmick is that you can lure dinosaurs before capturing and taming them. Once you’ve got yourself a specific dinosaur (you’re pretty much told when to get them by the game’s instructor) you’ll be able to put it to use. This is where things really fall apart.
Dinosaurs are used to help the settlers with their tasks. So if you’ve got a few dudes out chopping wood, instead of picking up the wood that has been chopped and putting it in the refinery – a task that takes seconds at most – your dinosaur will follow them around and pick up the wood which is then automatically transferred to your refinery. It’s the same with food, too, but it never really feels like it has a point. Sure, it’s cool to have dinosaur and man working together after having been separated by millennia, but is it worth it to just save a couple of seconds? Not really.
The only real use I found for the dinos was in security. Your town will occasionally be attacked by bandits looking to kill your people, take your women, and soil your land. They don’t specifically mention any of that, but I’ve seen enough movies to know what they’re up to. You can arm your peeps by building an armory, but if you want to guarantee the safety of your townsfolk, it’s easier to just get a dino on the case and let them have a munch, though they do occasionally die in the process if they’re outnumbered, or if they take on a dinosaur that’s a proper hard case. Which brings me to my next point…
You can only have one of each dinosaur at a time, so if one of them goes extinct, you need to go through the process of luring another one. This means making sure you’ve got enough resources to make a lure, then risking the lives of your people to catch the bugger. Catching a dino is quite exciting for the first few attempts, but after that it does become a bit of a slog. And that’s a recurrent theme, unfortunately, as you can only ever have one of each building type, too, though I have to admit that I couldn’t help but grin when a building was upgraded and I was needed to “build” it by banging my big VR hammer. ME CHRIS. ME LIKE BANG THING. MURRH.
My main gripe with Dino Frontier is the lack of clear direction. What’s the goal? What am I aiming for? What’s gonna pop-up on the screen and tell me that I’m doing a great job, reinforcing my belief that I’ve invested my time wisely? The game literally drops you in head first and has the smooth-talking instructor literally talk you through the game. He’ll tell you when to capture a dino, when to construct a certain building, and when to go on a journey to take on the Bandit King. This is your goal: Defeat the Bandit King.
Once you reach a certain level you’ll be able to build a little wagon station that’ll take a few of your subjects on a journey to the Bandit King’s hangout. It’s here that you’ll play a tower-defense like game while trying to mine as much gold as possible. It’s actually a pretty nifty little side-game that had me howling in frustration and itching to have another go. You need to manage your time wisely and build up defences against not only the bandits, but also his dinosaurs that’ll come and ruin your mining activities. I was a little disappointed, then, when I found that after a few of these excursions to what I have dubbed “Mini-Game Valley”, the game ends once you’ve defeated Bandit King and his merry band of cronies. It’s anti-climatic and it left me feeling a little disappointed that there wasn’t more.
You’ll get around 5-6 hours of playtime with Dino Frontier, though that could vary depending on how you play; manage your resources right and ace the Mini-Game Valley encounters and you’ll be looking at shorter playthrough. During this time you’ll surely enjoy the presentation – Dino Frontier’s strongest asset. Everything looks so clean, clear, and colourful, and it doesn’t hurt that you can zoom right in until you’re basically at ground level, eye-to-eye with your slaves, er, I mean lovely townsfolk. It’s a very well put together release with everything from the graphics to the catchy soundtrack being spot-on, it’s just a shame that it’ll go extinct long before it ever should.
Dino Frontier PS4/PSVR Review
Dino Frontier has a wagon full of great ideas, yet it never really gets them going. It's a nice enough game that you'll not be drowning your sorrows with buyers remorse, but the fact that it's not quite where it should be will leave you reaching for the moonshine anyway.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.