Dino Frontier is for any kid that went to visit their grandparents and all they had to play with were some plastic dinosaurs, some building blocks, and a tin of cowboys and Indian figures. Sure, I had my GI Joe’s and my Transformers at home, but for that week away from them, I mashed together a glorious nonsensical world and ruled over it. That is what Dino Frontier captures so beautifully.
Uber Entertainment isn’t breaking new ground on VR, nor are they looking to be the first step in some fantastic new direction of graphical fidelity. Uber Entertainment seems to see VR in much the way I do, a way to enhance already proven genres that should seem obvious for the VR marketplace but possibly beneath the AAA’s attention. You saw this in Wayward Sky and you are seeing it again here.
The controls are pretty basic for the Move wands as they represent your hands in the game. The Move button allows you to navigate around the board (holding in one and pulling or pushing), rotate the board (hold in both and turn), and zoom in and out (hold in both and separate or bring in closer). The trigger is what you use to pinch your fingers to pick up, then release to drop what you are holding. The basic controls really go a long way in making most every other action pretty intuitive, which is a good thing as it does little else to instruct you on how to play. There are no glaring blinking arrows showing you how to handle everything and other than the instructor letting you know when a person is injured, bandits are attacking, to drop a lure, or what you should build next, it relies on that intuition and you exploring the system.
From the title screen, I was already pulled in and invested in the style. I felt as if I was sitting in a diorama that an 8 year old me built depicting the wild west, but cooler. Dino Frontier starts off like any standard RTS or resource management game. You have a single grunt with a single objective (in this case, making meat from a dead dino) and a fog of war is on. Once that is done, you then get tasked with making a food depot. Then you go to chopping trees, harvesting berries, building a lumber yard, farming, etc. As you build more and more, the fog lifts and the options grow. You don’t get new frontier men by building housing but rather as you level up. Dropping lures and using your men to then fight the lured dino is how you capture them. Once you capture, you then train the dino’s to assist in your everyday duties to help free you up for advanced management. You level up as you make progress, your men level as they contribute to the town, and you can level up your building to grant you or your men advanced or different abilities.
Resource is managed by tilting any wrist to look at a Menu System “watch” that keeps track of gathered resource quantity. Player management is done rather easily as well. If you let things go too far, you will be notified that food is low or that your men are hungry. Individual management is done by picking up your man and then turning your hand over to hold him in your palm (this also level’s him/her up if they are in need of that). Here, you see a breakdown of where he might need some help. If he is tired, you can send him to a tent. Hungry, to the mess hall. Sad, to the saloon. Injured, off to the clinic. They will do all these things on their own if the need is there, but better to handle these things during times where you aren’t getting attacked.
If there is one flaw, it would be that the wild west never felt, well, wild. I felt like for the most part, the dino’s kept to themselves and really only attacked each other. I never worried about any settler wandering too far from town. The clinic was only used after a dino hunt or a raid defense which I could easily prep for. This isn’t so much a complaint but something that does need to be noted.
Where they change things up rather nicely is when you need to mine for materials. That is when the game turns into a Tower Defense mini game as you continue to juggle resource management while defending against the villain, the Bandit King. While mining for needed materials for your town, you will have to fend off waves of his bandits that try to attack your depot. You can choose to keep all your mined material or use some of those resources to create defensive stand points to assist in extending the amount of time you can use to mine more material. It is a careful balance of spending your resources that you need for town in order to defend your miners to collect more of those resources. If you spend it all to defend and still get defeated, then you head back to town with nothing. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this and how much I wanted to get back there with some different strategies to try out (and hopefully more people).
The end game is you taking on the Bandit King with your leveled settlers. This happens maybe four or five hours from when you first laid eyes on your new frontier and by end game, if your settlers and buildings are fully leveled, it isn’t too difficult of a task. And, unfortunately, makes it so there is little reason to continue playing other than collecting more resources. My hope is that there are DLC levels where I can venture out and create more towns, fight additional bandits, have further goals because all the way up to the end game, I was fully invested.
All in all, this is a must play game for me. I am left wanting more of this oddly familiar world and I hope Uber Entertainment gives me reason to come back soon and often. I now have an 8 year old son myself and I can’t wait to see him break open all the bins, scatter everything on the floor, and begin creating his own glorious nonsensical world… just like I did all those years ago at Grandma’s.
Review copy of Dino Frontier was provided by Uber Entertainment.