Exoprimal feels like a return to form for video games. It goes back to a time when every game put out by a large publisher wasn’t a cutscene-heavy cinematic experience, a trend-chasing battle royal, or the yearly installment of the dorm-bro shooter. Exoprimal chose to take a risk right when the gaming industry is the most risk-averse.
You can find a video version of this review on YouTube!
The duality of that risk cuts in two directions. Exoprimal turned out to be brilliant. In my opinion, it’s the best competitive multiplayer game to release in years. On the flip side. Internet gaming culture opted to kick Exoprimal in the ribs for having the audacity to be different.
Exoprimal is a game about piloting mech suits to fight against waves of dinosaurs, in addition to other mech suits. It puts all of its energy into taking that absurd idea and manifests it into a game where every cog turns with the pure purpose of making that silly idea play great.
|Gideon’s Bias||Exoprimal Information|
|Review Copy Used: Yes, Provided by Capcom||Publisher: Capcom|
|Hours Played: 30+ hours (105 Matches played)||Type: Full Release|
|Reviewed On: Xbox Series X||Platforms: Xbox Platforms, PlayStation 4/5, PC|
|Fan of Genre: Yes||Genre: Third-Person Multiplayer Shooter|
|Mode Played: N/A||Price: $59.99|
Time Travel Shenanigans
In the year 2040, a rogue AI continually pulls pilots from various timelines to take part in its deranged wargames where they must battle both, dinosaurs and each other. Story beats occur in a pretty novel way in Exoprimal, they are integrated directly into the multiplayer.
Once you complete a number of matches, a cutscene will play, or special missions will activate with in-game cutscenes. Each time this happens, the game unlocks additional mission types and dinosaurs that can appear in your future matches.
Exoprimal’s story largely serves as a simple foundation to justify having a game where you fight dinosaurs in mech suits. I’m more than happy to have a game be a game as opposed to a movie. But I also don’t want to undersell the story, because there’s a lot more to it than the game has any right to have, given the strange nature of its setting.
The cutscenes can feel disjointed, and your character being a silent protagonist definitely makes for some super weird moments. But the characters themselves are interesting and entertaining.
You acquire data sets after most matches. These datasets provide additional audio logs and cut scenes that you can view at your own pace outside of matches. They fill in the gaps between the main story beats and help tie everything together a whole lot better than I was expecting.
I really appreciate this method. It means I can always catch up on the story when I’m ready, rather than be bogged down by it when I’m more interested in the gameplay. It’s a clever compromise that meshes well with Exoprimal’s multiplayer-focused nature.
Exoprimal has a laser focus on its core identity. From the outside looking in, that can make the game appear rather narrow. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It simply pours its energy into making a core experience the very best it can be.
That experience is pitting teams of exosuits against hordes of dinosaurs and other exosuits. While you can select a preference for PvP or PvE in the main menu, the game always has elements of both, and that’s one of its biggest strengths.
Instead of having two dozen modes that split the player base. Exoprimal takes a single mode and expands it outward, that mode is called Dino Survival. Any given match in Exoprimal can go in a number of directions, but they always begin as a type of race.
Both teams play their own stage but have identical objectives. These objectives can vary but always revolves around fighting dinosaurs. Completing these objectives faster than the other team gives you an edge later in the match.
Every second matters, and it meshes well with the respawn system. If you go down, you can respawn after 15 seconds, but your teammates have plenty of incentive to revive you first because that lost time can be costly.
For half of the match, you don’t interact with the enemy team directly. But at some point, both teams will have access to a dominator that allows them to take control of a dinosaur and invade the enemy team.
During the second half of a match, you will either be given a second objective race with much harder objectives or be thrust together with the enemy team on the same map where you must complete objectives while fighting them directly, amid the dinosaur swarms. You might both be escorting a payload along a track, capturing points conquest style, or charging a mega hammer to break down barriers. There’s a good variety among the objectives, and each one helps change things up.
Sometimes, both teams will even be thrust into epic raids where everyone has to team up to fight against powerful bosses and massive hordes. These epic co-op battles are always a blast and are used sparingly enough that don’t get repetitive.
The unique blend of PvE & PvP is really something special. The core of the game feels familiar but plays out in a way that is unlike anything else out there. While Exoprimal has a single mode, it includes a great variety of objectives and dinosaurs within that mode to keep things fresh. All while keeping the game’s focus on its strong points.
Exoprimal has a real sense of weight to its gameplay that provides an incredible amount of physical feedback to the player. For example, the Roadblock exosuit can use a large energy shield to guard his team. Hordes of smaller dinosaurs will literally pile up against it, the force of which will push him back as his heels dig into the ground. Roadblock can also use that same shield to catch the horns of a charging Triceratops.
Skywave can use a gravity well that lifts dinosaurs off the ground, while explosions from Barrage or Deadeye send dinosaurs flying in every direction. Meanwhile, Zephyr can slam dinosaurs backward and into walls, which can be particularly effective with the explosive gas Neosaurs. Then you have, Krieger, whose minigun can physically hold back a horde of raptors as the deluge of bullets shoves and suppresses those that don’t die outright.
The dinosaurs are also animated beautifully. You can definitely feel the Monster Hunter influence when it comes to some of the larger dinosaurs, as they can be stunned and knocked down in similar ways.
That weighty physical sense also applies to battling other exosuits. I’ve caught half a team in Roadblock’s Whirlwind and thrown them off a cliff. If you fall prey to Murasame’s counter stance, he’s going to send you skyward.
That type of force feedback makes the core gameplay of fighting swarms of dinosaurs, big behemoths, and other players feel so much better than the floaty weightless nature that a lot of games employ. Exoprimal simply feels good in your hands, no matter which Exosuit you choose to play.
Every exosuit falls into one of three roles, assault, tank, or support, but no two exosuits play remotely the same, even within the same role. The shield-bearing Roadblock plays nothing like the Minigun-wielding Krieger, for example.
Since Exoprimal’s gameplay is so focused, its mission structure meshes well with how the exosuits are designed. All ten exosuits seem remarkably balanced, they have strengths and weaknesses that ebb and flow fluidly depending on the given objectives, enemy types, and what your teammates are playing.
More importantly, is just how easy Exoprimal makes it to work together with random strangers. The roles each exosuit fall into are easy to grasp, and the game highly incentivizes you to play your roles properly. I have a friend who exclusively plays damage-focused characters in games, However, his favorite exosuit is Roadblock, because the game highlights how much he contributed by protecting the team.
You have the ability to change exosuits mid-game, so you can always fill holes in your team’s composition. All exosuits also have access to a number of rigs that can help you fill weak points. You could put a long-range laser on a melee-focused exosuit to take down those pesky flying dinosaurs, or you could carry a healing pack to take some pressure off your supports.
While you will inevitably come across daff teammates every now and then. For the most part, people seem happy to work together and play the objective. Watching half your team get blasted only to see a Roadblock jump in front of a downed player to shield a third player attempting to revive them. All without a single word spoken between them is an inspiring sight to behold.
It helps that every Exosuit has fun abilities to play with, not just the damage dealers. Exoprimal is the only game of its type where I get to play all characters equally rather than being shoehorned into the tank role that nobody wants. The random players I have encountered have opted for a variety of exosuits and it’s made me enjoy the game that much more.
Even the bots are impressive. While an entire team of them is no match for a team of players, they do an admirable job of filling the spots of players who leave a game early. They play their roles well, which is definitely something I wasn’t expecting.
While Exoprimal is accessible, and it is easy to jump into it. There’s so much nuance to each exosuit and situation that there’s plenty of room to grow your skills. It’s easy to work together with randoms, but if you do play with friends, new tactical avenues open up when you coordinate.
As you play you also gain access to modules to further customize each exosuit. These modules definitely make a difference but they don’t alter the core of how an exosuit plays. This means you have the benefit of being able to tweak an exosuit to your liking, while still being able to identify what any given enemy exosuit is able to do. It’s a graceful balance that I really appreciate. If cosmetics are your thing, there’s plenty of that to go around too!
I definitely enjoy heaping praise on Exoprimal. But It’s not without fault. The most glaring omission is the inability to have cross-parties. Exoprimal features crossplay matchmaking, meaning you can play with players on any platform. But you cannot invite your friends from another platform to play together. It’s completely baffling that this feature is missing given the game is cross-play and you have to link a Capcom ID to play it.
The second issue is that the game’s pacing is a bit off. The more matches you play, the farther you progress the story. When you progress through the story, it unlocks mission types and new dinosaurs for you to encounter in future matches. The problem is, the game doesn’t tell you that. You have no reason to believe your 20th match will be different than your 1st as no other multiplayer game gates content in this manner.
You have to play several matches with a limited pool of content before it starts to expand. To make matters worse, if you happen to be playing with friends who haven’t progressed as far as you, the game will hold you back from that new content until they catch up. Exoprimal is not at all clear about this.
There’s going to be a large demographic of players who abandon the game, thinking it has no variety, long before they reach the threshold to unlock that variety. The missions become much more varied and intense as you progress through the game. It just takes too long to get there.
There are a few other nitpicks I have. I wish you could view your exosuits’ abilities in the hangar menu. You can only view them in-game, or in the training yard. Any mission that’s linked to an in-game cut scene, doesn’t allow you to skip, or vote to skip the cutscene. But those are largely inconsequential. The slow pacing and lack of cross-party are by far the much larger issues.
Exoprimal’s core gameplay is stellar. The exosuits are a blast to play, and the game’s entire structure lends itself to team play really well, even with randoms.
Its novel blend of PvP & PvE is incredibly unique and makes each match a fluid ever-changing experience. The game’s use of epic 10-player cooperative raids to break up the cycle is a nice touch. You always look forward to them, but the fact that they aren’t used constantly keeps them from getting stale.
It has a strangeness to it that just works. It’s akin to the same feeling I got back in 2004 when I first played the original Monster Hunter on PlayStation 2.
At the time it was this weird, slow, and methodical game about hunting massive monsters with oversized weapons. Where you cooked meat as a mini-game, and your character flexed after drinking a potion. That strangeness somehow made the game better, not worse, and I feel the same way about Exoprimal.
In my opinion, Exoprimal is embarrassingly underrated. I’ll consider it a giant mark of shame on the gaming community if it doesn’t end up with the large fan base it deserves. It’s truly one of the best games to release in years. And with Capcom’s roadmap for the game, it’s only going to get better.
At the time of writing this review, I’ve already played 105 matches in Exoprimal. I have no intention of stopping anytime soon. I’m giving it my golden shield award.
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- Fantastic gameplay with a sense of physical weight
- Dinosaurs are animated beautifully
- Every exosuit has a unique and fun playstyle
- The games focused structure makes teamplay easy, even with randoms
- AI bots do a good job of filling the holes left by players who leave a match early
- Most of the story is relegated to an optional menu so you can experience it at your own pace
- The unique blend of PvP and PvE is fantastic
- The use of epic 10-player co-op raids helps break up the cycle of standard matches
- Plenty of mission and enemy variety packed into a single mode
- In-game cutscenes are rare, but unskippable
- Mission and dino variety doesn’t appear until you have already played several matches
- Lack of crossparty is a glaring and painful omission