Review – Turok: Escape from Lost Valley

If there’s one beloved 90’s gaming franchise that, weirdly enough, has received quite a lot of attention over the past years, it’s Turok. Although we haven’t gotten a new game in the series ever since the disastrous reboot from 2008, we’re able to play fantastic remastered versions of the first two games (aka “the ones that actually matter”) on PC, Xbox One and Switch, all thanks to the heroes at Night Dive Studios. Yet, from out of nowhere, a totally different developer and publisher has suddenly released a brand new Turok out in the wild with absolutely no promotion or fanfare. I totally understand why. The less people know about the trainwreck that is Turok: Escape from Lost Valley, the better.

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And you suck.

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley is a weird game. It’s not a shooter, like every previous mainline game in the franchise. It’s not set in the same continuity as the the Nintendo 64 games or the godawful reboot. Hell, it’s not even particularly violent. This game is a bizarre action-adventure with some bizarre influences from Dark Souls, set in an isometric perspective and a brand new art style.

The most striking thing about Turok: Escape from Lost Valley is its art style. Gone is the gritty mixture between sci-fi and the “cowboys and indians” settings the series has always adopted. Instead, this game features a very cartoony graphical style. It looks more like Steven Universe or Adventure Time, rather than the Turok we all know and love. Even though the graphics are quite cute, I can’t say I ended up falling for the visuals at all. They are adorable, but they get tiresome pretty quickly.

The game itself, in a very weird way, is quite loyal to its source material, most specifically the original Western Publishing version of Turok which ran from 1954 to 1982. In here, Turok and his inept younger brother Andar need to escape from the titular lost valley, all while fighting cavemen, dinosaurs, beasts, and other forms of non-alien life. This very simplistic (and franky, uninteresting) setting was exactly the plot from the original Turok comic books. I’m grateful Valiant eventually rebooted the franchise into the magnificent sci-fi nonsense which the N64 games were based on.

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Your AI partner is incompetent to the tenth degree.

I’ll be honest with you. The graphics weren’t even all that great, and yet that’s the only aspect in Turok: Escape from Lost Valley that I can actually praise. The rest of the game is a hodgepodge of terrible design choices, awful controls, horrendously cheap production values, and overall poor ideas. This a very bad game. It’s not fun at all to play. It’s tailor made to irritate you with its incompetence.

Its gameplay is a joke. Although I appreciate the attempt of bringing the core concept of the Souls games into a jungle-esque survival setting, the combat mechanics are so faulty that each encounter with an enemy becomes an exercise of patience, and not something to look forward to. The isometric perspective does nothing to improve the experience, as Turok himself can’t aim diagonally, while he, as well as his foes, can move freely around the map. Using the bow and arrow to try to defeat anything that moves is basically useless, and his knife has a ridiculously short range and minuscule damage output.

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The visuals are cute… but why did they decide on those visuals for a Turok game?

Escape from Lost Valley is not long, yet it feels like a semi-eternal chore because every single boss encounter is a lot harder than it should. The fights aren’t challenging, they’re unfair. The first boss encounter against a mere bear infuriated me more than fighting Ornstein and Smough in Dark Souls, as I was constantly fighting not only the boss itself, but also the game’s poor control responsiveness, schizophrenic collision detection, and the fact that my damage output was ridiculously small, while the boss could easily kill me by touching me three times. You can’t properly improve your stats throughout the game. All you can do is increase your health bar by creating a few pieces of armor, which result in you being able to withstand five or six attacks instead of three. Hooray.

Finally, I need to talk about the sound design, or lack thereof. I can easily summarize the entirety of the game’s sound department with the following: during boss fights, a very uneventful and repetitive MIDI-based string riff is played in the background. Whenever you attack something, or something attacks you, a small “thud” sound is played. That’s it. We went from high-octane tribal drums and enemies screaming in pain to a string riff and a “thud”. Oh, and terrible gameplay, because I had to remind you once again about what I went through.

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I appreciate that the developers even remembered of the fact the original Turok called dinosaurs “honkers”. Yet they failed in everything else.

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley is a masterpiece of incompetence that might have some adorable graphics, but falls flat in every other conceivable department. I’m grateful that Night Dive Studios is doing one heck of a job by keeping the franchise relevant in this day and age with their remasters, because this could easily kill any chances of bringing Turok back to life if we were depending on it.

 

Graphics: 6.0

Escape from Lost Valley might have an art style that doesn’t fit at all with either the classic Turok comic books or the games inspired by it, but it does feature some cute designs and animations.

Gameplay: 4.0

The Dark Souls-influenced gameplay loop is completely hindered by bad controls, glitchy collision detection, and an isometric perspective that is here solely to make your life miserable.

Sound: 1.0

It’s pretty hard to talk about this game’s sound department because there’s barely anything in it. The sound effects are laughably atrocious and you can count the amount of (lame) tunes on one hand with fingers to spare.

Fun Factor: 3.0

It might be cute, but it’s completely devoid of charisma.  Escape from Lost Valley is short, uneventful, glitchy, and extremely unfair in its difficulty spikes. It’s not appealing to fans of the older games, nor will it help revitalize the franchise to a new generation.

Final Verdict: 4.0

Turok: Escape from Lost Valley is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

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