Suchomimus, a long-nosed bipedal dinosaur, attacks players in Exoprimal.

Suchomimus, a long-nosed bipedal dinosaur, attacks players in Exoprimal. (Capcom)

It takes work, excellent execution and plenty of luck to carve a niche in an established genre. For every League of Legends that blows up into a video game powerhouse, there’s a Dawngate that never quite gets off the ground.

With Exoprimal, Capcom is hoping to attract fans that enjoy games such as Overwatch, but don’t exactly love the hypercompetitive aspects. It’s for players who enjoy teamwork and collaboration, but who don’t want to do it in a head-to-head situation, where teammates scream at each other or bicker over perceived slights and disagreements.

Flood of dinosaurs

Capcom solves this with dinosaurs. Lots and lots of dinosaurs. The developer throws so many terrible lizards at players they seem like a roiling, churning tide of teeth and fangs. Thankfully, players aren’t fighting these creatures with regular machine guns and conventional weapons. They don powerful exosuits that make them look like Transformers and give them the firepower to take down the beasts.

Dinosaurs and mechs are on opposite ends of the spectrum, like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” but Capcom makes the two disparate ideas work through a convoluted story involving alternate realities and time travel. Mysterious rifts in space-time have popped around Earth and unleashed deadly dinosaurs on the populace. The only defense are exosuits developed by the Aibius Corporation.

As an exofighter, players create a character nicknamed Ace and they join the Hammerhead squad to the defeat the dinos. Unfortunately, their aircraft crashes during a routine patrol mission around Bikitoa Island. When they wake up, they discover they’re in the past and the island is now run by a rogue artificial intelligence named Leviathan.

Creating combat data

Using its godlike powers, the AI forces people from other realities to fight dinosaurs in his “wargames” to gather combat data. That’s the premise that sets up the gameplay as Exoprimal pits two teams of five against each other. The squads are in a race to complete objectives (most of the time it’s killing dinosaurs) faster than the rivals. The quicker squad has an advantage in the final mission, which can be a head-to-head contest or one that focuses on killing dinosaurs. Players get to choose between PvP, PvE or randomly between the two.

Successful teams have to piece together a versatile squad. Usually, that’s one that has a healer, an assault-focused exosuit and another suit for defense and area control. The other two are wildcards but there’s enough diversity in the 10 exosuits that there can be some overlap.

Several exosuits will be familiar to Overwatch fans. It seems as though Capcom just lifted the archetypes of some characters and dropped them into Exoprimal. Roadblock has a shield that’s reminiscent of Reinhardt. Nimbus is a healer that can switch from attack to healing with two pistols that will remind players of Tracer. Vigilant is the resident sniper aka Widowmaker. Barrage deals damage by launching explosives like Junkrat.

Customization and upgrades

The developers add different touches to exosuits make them stand out. Some characters have a unique dodge or traversal move. They have helpful secondary powers as well. They can also be customized with Rigs, which is additional gear that adds a layer of versatility. If players want to add more damage, they can shoulder a cannon. If they want to offer an emergency heal, they can swap in an Aid.

The other big element are modules that give each exosuit slight perks. They’re purchased through BikCoins that are handed out after each match. Players can also upgrade them to make them bonuses more powerful. With three slots, they give players who put more time into the game an edge, but that isn’t an issue because Exoprimal hands out rewards consistently and over the course of more than 50 matches, players can earn all the exosuit characters and power up the modules they use.

Its Premium Rewards, which cost extra money or can be purchased through the Deluxe Edition, includes cosmetic items to make the exosuits stand out in online play. It doesn’t offer a gameplay edge.

The best parts of the game

Reaching more than 55 matches is magic number in Exoprimal because that’s how players complete the campaign. Although it may seem repetitive but fun to be playing wargame after wargame, that actually builds into a narrative. Players uncover secrets about Bikitoa and the cast surrounding Ace.

Occasionally, matches even veer off toward the unexpected, and instead of racing to complete objectives, Leviathan will whisk them away to a boss fight or an extra hard mission that requires teamwork from all 10 players. These surprise twists hit certain storybeats, but they’re a welcome change of pace that I wish happened more. It shows off more of the potential of this kind of play.

It’s where Exoprimal hits its peak. When you have a small group of fighters that were formerly rivals, working together against a swirling mass of dinosaurs, it feels good to win.

Although the story is overly complicated and the world building is odd but charmingly strange, “Exoprimal” does one thing better than other, newer team-based shooters. It has its own sense of gameplay and identity. It nails that competitive gameplay experience but in a less combative way. All it needs now is more content for players who finished the story.

Platforms: Xbox Series X and Series X, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4


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