Saturday, 20 April 2013

ORION: Dino Horde (Video Game Review)

So yeah, this… thing. It exists. It’s also effectively a con, trying to make an additional few bucks out of gamers. You know those bargain bin films you sometimes see on shelves? The direct to DVD ones with exactly the same cover, but a different title to try and make them look like something different? Behold the video game equivalent.

ORION: Dino Horde is supposed to be a sequel to a game which was released not too long ago, called ORION: Dino Beatdown. It is in-fact almost the same damn game with a handful of tweaks and tightening of the mechanics. It’s not so much a game as it is a patch.

Let’s make one thing clear: This is not a good title. While worse ones have definitely been made, this is undeniably bad and, at many times, the quality is closer to that of a mod. More on that in a minute. Going into this is like Revelations 2012 all over again. It’s clearly been made with not too much cash, has ambitions which far exceed Spiral Game Studios’ capabilities, and feels like it’s another title with a new paint-job and more problems.
So let’s talk about some of those problems.

The first one is that Dino Horde lies. No I don’t even mean the fact that it claims to be a sequel. Instead that the first thing you get upon opening up the game’s main menu is the words “MULTIPLAYER BETA” gleefully under the title as if it’s leapt out of hiding. Look on Steam and the words “beta” are nowhere to be found on its page. So already you’re buying an unfinished game which makes no effort to advertise the fact it’s still under construction.

Though that fact does explain a hell of a lot.

For starters Spiral apparently decided to use powerpoint presentations to construct their menus. Every single bloody one looks like it could have been created in paint with a few gimmicky effects and has a font only one better than comic sans listing information. The few times it does manage to do show something halfway decent, like the artwork or finding games screen, stick out like a sore thumb. Were it not for the fact they actually show the units from Dino Horde you’d swear someone working on it had taken to raiding google images for stuff.
Even after you pick up a gun things don’t get much better. Horrible optimisation problems aside, it looks like something which would be squirted out at the start of this console generation. Textures and details come across as oddly flat and so two dimensional you’ll start to get flashbacks of Skyrim. Actually that’s being unfair, at least Skyrim had the excuse of being a continent. These maps are an acre wide at best, filled to the brim with hazy details, oddly familiar technology and exceptionally dumb dinosaurs.

Let’s stick with the technology first. Hands up everyone who looked at the trailer and made a Halo joke? Congratulations, you’re not blind. Huge portions of the gameplay, vehicles and guns both look and feel like they’ve been pillaged from John 117’s garage. Big offenders are things like the Falcon, Gladiator and Cobra, which might as well be copy/pastes of the  Hornet, Warthog and Scorpion. While there’s nothing especially wrong with taking ideas from one game and putting your own spin on them, these will always feel beat for beat like something directly from Halo 3. Like someone has just taken the game and given it a new splash of paint. This becomes so bad that with things like the Gladiator, there is no discernible different between using the Warthog’s M41 LAA Gun and this thing’s minigun.

Some weapons are slightly better with the CV-10 looking more like a modified SOCOM pistol than a magnun, but even then the odd similarity crops up. Still that can be forgiven when there are so many other problems with them. Along with having no bloody recoil leaving them with the bullet hose PEW-PEW syndrome so many titles suffer from, many are bloody huge. Take the Trek12 shotgun as a weapon and you can expect to be blind on a big part of your right hand side. Even half the stats are usually wrong, with the aforementioned shotgun having supposedly “good” quality accuracy while giving no indication of range. Not to mention having such a wide cone of fire it’s only useful at melee range with the dinosaurs.

Most of you probably only looked at Dino Horde because of the dinosaurs didn’t you? So how are they? How do you think. As you’re trying to fight your way through the reptile zoo it becomes blatantly obvious that someone has been giving booze to these god damn things. Their AI pathing, movement, animations and general design makes them look openly drunk if not entirely insane.

In the games I played through the fliers are rarely brought down by gunfire so much as they were their own stupidity. Rham-phorynchus in particular repeatedly swooped down and brained themselves by smashing into the sides of vehicles I was driving or crashed into static objects. When this didn’t kill them it left them slowly flapping in the air, turning desperately to change direction as they hung there, pinned in place.

The raptors are even worse. Along with having quite possibly the most laughable attack animation seen in any title to date, lunging slightly forwards, they suffer from constant visual glitches. While all of the dinosaurs suffer from major clipping issues and animation de-coupling the Raptors seem to be the worst. Both are displayed almost continuously every time you’re fighting them, with them seemingly electric sliding into battle before crashing into one another trying to get to you.
Even when they die it’s more hilarious than triumphant.
When one chokes on that final bullet they’re first standing up fine, then have a portal of exploding blood appear around them and teleport onto the ground.  This would be funny in of itself but its effects makes your brave space marine look like he’s firing epileptic fits more than bullets. Along with juddering, half-baked responses as they take damage, the corpses continue to move. Half phased through the ground and continually flipping about. These issues might have pushed Dino Horde into a state where it would be so bad it’d be funny. The problems with each mission and their programming does not.

Half the time the dinosaurs don’t seem interested in you. Often you’ll have ones which for no reason aren’t interested in you or the location you are defending, instead option to up and bugger off. This might have been a good mechanic in response to superior firepower, but it simply happens at random. With swarms of dinosaurs teleporting in going all over the place. And yes they do teleport in. While it’s not entirely obvious at first, if you’re standing in the right place it becomes painfully obvious the oversized lizards are materialising out of thin air. Swarms will come out of absolutely nowhere and just swarm you, but sometimes only half your kills will actually matter.

This is where the mission problems come in. Let’s stick with Survival mode just as a main example, where you have to survive wave after wave. Killing certain numbers of dinosaurs before the next lot beam in via the Enterprise. A small counter keeps track of what kills your lot make, except that you can kill hundreds only for the counter to not change at all. Dino Horde apparently deciding at random which kill actually matters to you. Riding around GTA style and killing everything in sight ends up being the only sure-fire way to actually activate the next wave. Especially when the lizards keep trying to get the hell out of dodge than fight.

I could go into further depth but it ultimately comes down to a few things:
  • The vast majority of the game feels like things which have been directly lifted from other titles. Only being tweaked very slightly.
  • It's obviously unfinished and barely changed from its supposed prececessor.
  • Playing as dinosaurs is nowhere near as fun as it should be.
  • Despite a visibly sub-par quality and having a $15.00 price tag, the developers had the gall to add that ever so popular money grabbing choice: A micro-transaction store. Yes, it features a lot of hats. How did you guess.

I can’t even call this a trainwreck. Sword of the Stars II (the unenhanced edition) was a trainwreck. This? This is like watching the train pull out of the station, spontaneously combust and start falling to bits as it accelerates. It would almost be so bad it’s good were it not for the fact you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to run it. While there was clearly some effort put towards it, any goodwill there might be towards Spiral Game Studios will evaporate under the blinding heat of this blatant cash grab. Don’t bother with this one, unless you hear of some major improvements somewhere down the line, and even then remain cautious.


ORION: Dino Horde and all related characters and media are owned by the Spiral Game Studios.

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