Capcom has had a strong streak of well-received titles over the past few years, so there should be a lot of interest in them launching a new IP with Exoprimal. However, there’s an apparent hesitation. Part of that is because it’s strange how many similar elements this has with their Dino Crisis series, while the rest of the uncertainty lies with whether a live-service team-based horde game can stand out in a market oversaturated with these elements.
I’m not going to say that Exoprimal perfectly sticks the landing, as there were times that left me feeling underwhelmed. However, I had fun a lot of the time, and I think those moments outweigh the bad.
Exoprimal Review: Occasionally T-Rexcellent
Exoprimal takes place in a future where time-traveling portals randomly appear and dump out hordes of dinosaurs. To fight back, special power suits called Exosuits are developed and used by Exofighters.
The main story follows your custom character and the rest of their “Hammerheads” crew after their ship crash lands on Bikitoa Island. It’s not long before you’re pulled into repeated time loops by a rogue A.I. known as Leviathan. He has a GLaDOS-level of obsession with tests, forcing you and other Exofighters to participate in dinosaur-filled wargames. You’ll need to keep fighting until your crew can piece together what happened to the island and why Leviathan is holding these wargames.
To be completely honest, I never cared for any of the characters. There’s a strong attempt to make me feel invested in them, and I do have to give credit that at least a couple of them feel like they’ve grown a bit by the end. However, even with those dedicated character moments and some interesting story twists, it just never panned out for me. It certainly didn’t help to go with a silent main protagonist with just a bit of personality.
The story didn’t pull me much in either, and I think a major reason why is due to how story progression works. Each wargame you play reveals new data that’s key to solving the situation your crew is in. You have to listen to some characters talk about the evidence in order to build up the Analysis Map, which goes hand-in-hand with cutscenes that play every few games.
A lot of people will probably skip over these to get back to dinosaur-slaying, but for masochists like me who want to go over everything, it can be a slog. There are a lot of conversations about the tiniest of developments. Worst of all, there’s no way to pause during a cutscene or dialogue. The latter can’t be skipped line by line, either. If you trigger these, you’re either in for the haul or going to start skipping them soon.
I understand it’s meant to be a slow and continuous build-up of clues to explain the outrageous circumstance. This is a game involving time travel, alternate dimensions, and dinosaurs, after all. I completely appreciate how wild the story is and how they tried to tie it into the gameplay loop too, but for many reasons, it just never caught my interest much. I’d also argue that this potentially ends up having a negative effect on the gameplay loop.
Ten different Exosuits are available, with three of them being locked until you reach specific player levels. They all feel wildly different, and I enjoyed trying them all out. Being able to push against a horde of raptors or a giant triceratops with Roadblock’s shield is a simple kind of fun, while I also enjoyed the more vertical mobility of Skywave.
Of course, I was happy to switch out to another exosuit if the team was in need of another role. It was a good excuse to play something different anyway. Each exosuit has its own experience bar that provides the BikCoin currency and unique modules to increase their stats. Between those, the season pass experience bar (which does have a pitiful free track), and the player experience bar, there’s a lot to level up in Exoprimal.
Only one gameplay mode is available at launch to support all of this. Dino Survival tasks two teams of five to complete objectives as fast as they can. Naturally, all of these involve dealing with hordes of dinosaurs in some way. A majority of these objectives are simply PvE, with the only competition being the completion time, but there are some PvP elements, such as invading the other team with a controlled dinosaur or facing each other more directly.
I do have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the visuals and performance. I played this on my Xbox Series S, and although it didn’t typically keep a steady 60fps, the drops honestly weren’t that bad in gameplay. The cutscenes had worse drops in them, if anything. Stronger consoles will be able to handle this with better textures and a more consistent framerate, which should always be the desired outcome, but the RE Engine pulls its weight well here.
When it comes to the gameplay itself, I’ve been left with some mixed feelings. I had a lot of fun with it, and there are definitely some high points that had me grinning from ear to ear. Conversely, there were some lulls that had me questioning whether I had already seen everything Exoprimal had to offer.
The reason for this is that you won’t have access to everything from the start. As you play more and progress further into the story, more gameplay elements unlock. This isn’t just in terms of exosuits or modules, but also maps, objectives, and enemies.
The trickling of gameplay additions likely looked good on paper. Tied with the story, it’s meant to foster a constant rollout of information and gameplay content. Unfortunately, the pace is too slow, and it all starts to feel tedious. The first five or so hours are especially rough. I felt as if I’d been playing the same maps three times over with only the Dinosaur Cull objective.
It’s unfortunate because I really enjoy the content Capcom works up to. All of the new dinosaurs they introduce help to round out the enemy pool very well, and the different objectives are fun to play. There are even some especially difficult objectives involving multiple large dinos or 10 times the amount of raptors you normally deal with.
My absolute favorite moments are when it’s required for both teams to unite against an intense onslaught and a special boss. Having a team of 10 Exofighters all working together against a truly absurd amount of dinosaurs or the Shin Godzilla-like Neo T.Rex is incredibly entertaining. Later boss fights only upped the ante and intensity.
As much as I love these big boss fights, I also played a majority of them a single time throughout my 30 hours. I know they can be encountered again, but in my case, the RNG only let me repeatedly play through one of the special early story scenarios.
I’m pretty sure other players also affected what I got to play. Since a lot of this content is essentially level-gated and it was possible for me to be matched with lower-leveled players, I was commonly restricted by what they had available to them. If a player hadn’t made it far enough in the story to have cool boss battles or even fight against an ankylosaurus, that meant I couldn’t either.
For what it’s worth, my experience did improve as I unlocked more stuff, and RNG worked better in my favor. I can’t look past that this wasn’t until I was many hours into playing though. I can imagine quite a lot of people dropping Exoprimal because it feels like you’ve seen nearly everything when, in fact, you’ve seen about half at best.
Exoprimal Review — The Bottom Line
- Slaying through hundreds of dinos is incredibly fun.
- Each Exosuit offers a unique playstyle.
- The boss fights are wonderfully hectic.
- Level-gated gameplay content is not implemented well.
- The story is not memorable.
I had so much fun with Exoprimal, and I’m looking forward to playing more. That being said, it feels a lot like recommending a show to someone where it doesn’t pick up until around 10 episodes in. I believe it’s worth pushing onward until the game opens up more, especially if you’re playing with friends, but I also wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to deal with it.
There’s a lot of content planned for Exoprimal, including a new mode and new exosuits for the first season. That should make the full price a lot easier to swallow if you’re interested in buying it, although my recommendation is to play it through Xbox Game Pass if you can. It might stumble a bit and naturally carry the uncertainty of a live-service title, but I wouldn’t count this as a mark against Capcom’s recent record. If they manage to support it right with quality content, life will find a way.
[Note: Capcom provided the Xbox Series copy of Exoprimal used for this review.]
Exoprimal Review: Occasionally T-Rexcellent
A promising live-service game that hopefully doesn't go extinct.What Our Ratings Mean