The state of dinosaur games could be described as no less than endangered. It seems that no matter what happens with them there’s always something that just goes wrong, like cloning a mutated tyrannosaur.
It’s no coincidence that this feature comes in the wake of the announcement of ARK: Survival Evolved, a game with a title more cliché that anything with the word “Revenge”, “Returns” or “Resurgence” in.
As critical as I am about the title though the game looks phenomenal, and I know I shouldn’t be saying that. Just from one trailer I’m already having high hopes it, a mistake which has led to many a broken hearts over video games.
But the trailer for ARK shows a lot going for it. Aside from looking amazing it shows several dinosaur species, crafting and weapons, riding and taming of your new dino friends, and some rather nefarious and gruesome ways to use other players in this game.
It doesn’t just promise dinosaurs either. According to the game’s steam page they have “soooo many dinosaurs (and other extinct creatures” planned for the game, showing art of Mammoths, Dodos and a Megaldon shark.
But the trailers and screenshots speak for themselves.
The real question is why am I still sceptical about the game when it looks so good? Well past experiences.
So many dinosaur games have fallen, or at best held onto the evolutionary tree.
Games like The Stomping Land promised a similar survival situation, multiplayer online and a continued development through Early Access. But the game fell by the wayside and never got up after the developer went silent.
Granted not all dinosaur games have ended when they’ve made it onto Steam. Survival games like theHunter: Primal have been well received on Steam and by the community, but in general have come across as “meh” in terms of critical reception from a few publications.
Do all dinosaur games have to be survival based now? In recent years it seems there’s been a flood of survival based games which force you to manage your hunger, and have a mandatory crafting system. The formula is the same but there’s one variable: The Situation.
The situation is interchangeable with zombies, cannibals, mutants, nature or just life. Survival games have almost become a parody of themselves with each one following the same format of making it to Early Access. It’s there that some of them never leave.
It’s gotten so much that even Goat Simulator poked fun at them with the description to their latest add on, GoatZ
“That’s right. You’ve found the only survival game on Steam that’s NOT in Early Access.” It reads. Along with the features of “Mandatory crafting system, because everyone else is doing it.”
If Goat Simulator is making fun of an entire genre of games then I think we know that the survival genre needs a culling.
But as I’ve asked do all dinosaur games need to be survival? No. There are some good and quite strong dinosaur games in recent years that have not been survival.
Primal Carnage: Extinction is one of them. The class based multiplayer shooter pits humans against dinosaurs and does a good job with team balancing so that not one side is overpowered.
Indeed going all the way back to 2003 we had Operation Genesis, the Jurassic Park builder game that let you build your own park and create dinosaurs.
Turok is probably the famous example of dinosaurs being an enemy and not sucking, but again these examples are not survival games.
I honestly think the problem is not dinosaurs, it’s the survival genre. So many games enter Early Access and never leave it.
Survival games and Early Access go hand in hand in a very toxic relationship, but it’s one we have to accept. For as long as people are willing to pay to get their hands on a game which doesn’t have any right to be finished then it’s a cycle that’ll never be broken.
Do not mistake my cynicism of the survival genre for cynicism of ARK though, the game looks amazing. The question remains is that can this be the game that doesn’t let the survival formula or Early Access curse drag it down? We’ll have to wait and see.
What do you think of survival games? Is Early Access as toxic to games as cyanide? Let us know in the comments below.