Wouldn’t it be great if you could bust out your dinosaur and cowboy action figures and have them fight bandits while expanding your town to accommodate new villagers? Remember how fun it was to catch and ride dinosaurs into battle? Growing up I didn’t have cowboys, but my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures mixed with my Jurassic Park dinosaurs quite often in what can be described as a 90’s kid mashup of popular IP’s. The latest game by Uber Entertainment, the studio who brought us WayWard Sky for PSVR’s launch, is back at it again with Dino Frontier.
Dino Frontier is best described as a very lite town building sim with resource management and some RPG elements thrown in for unknown reasons—I’ll touch on that more in a bit. Right off the bat the art direction is pretty fantastic, with that signature look seen in Uber Entertainment’s first game on PSVR. WayWard Sky (review) was a much larger game with many more art assets and more diverse environments, while Dino Frontier takes place mainly on one plot of land as well as on a really small farm you’ll visit every now and then. The audio is charming with pretty good voice acting, and the game is favorable overall for its presentation.
The biggest glaring issue I have with Dino Frontier is I don’t think it knows what type of game it wants to be. The main meat of the game consists of gathering resources such as wood and food to feed your villagers. You’ll also use said resources to construct buildings like inns and hospitals as you expand your town while new villagers move in to help. Each villager comes with their own stats like helpfulness, fighting ability, and so on which will level up over time. The thing is, in the end it doesn’t even matter (RIP Chester B. ?). These are where those lite RPG elements come into play, but I honestly couldn’t see a noticeable difference from one character to the next and frequently cycled through them without much thought. Every now and then there’s a small farm you can visit where you’ll plant and harvest wheat and carrots and set dynamite on a dig site to get gold and other types of ore. These ore deposits are used to upgrade the buildings of your town or craft lures that enable you to bait and capture new dinosaurs.
So the game is part resource management and part sim, and it doesn’t really commit to either one. You have dinosaurs and villagers that don’t serve a purpose other than to collect resources and fight off bandits who never seem to rise in difficulty. The main gameplay hook, while beautiful to look at and listen to, is far too shallow. Especially when you think about what it could have been. With that said, it’s a very cool experience in VR with controls that take the concept of pinch-to-zoom from smartphones and apply them to VR in a way that makes them feel innovative all over again. It’s hard to recommend this for $29, but it’s worth noting I did have a good time with Dino Frontier, I was just left wanting more depth, more challenge, and more gameplay length.