Primal Carnage Review

Primal Carnage is a class-based multiplayer shooter from the folks at Lukewarm Media. This time around, fantasy meets pre-history as humans fight off marauding dinosaurs. A few weeks ago I wrote a beta preview, and not much has changed mechanically since then. Much of the retail content will be similar, so for a more in-depth explanation of the game itself, head there. As for the final product as a whole, it’s very similar to my beta experience, and that’s not a bad thing. A few improvements have been made to the UI, and a few new maps are available, but other than that, it’s the same enjoyable chaos.

Two more maps have been added since my previous impressions, and they both provide some interesting combat scenarios. Open combat in dense forests becomes more of a factor in the newer maps, and can really give the game a stressful feel. Overall, the design choices are similar to the maps from the beta, with certain sections providing strategic advantages to both sides. Structures provide cover and choke-points for humans, but open expanses allow dinosaurs to wreak havoc on any strategy their soft opponents might have. While there may not be that much content, with only five maps and ten classes, there is a great balance to all that is included.

As for how the dinosaurs control, T-Rex’s still need to run through groups of humans, scattering them about. Raptors still slaughter stragglers, while Pternadons provide support from above. The only major fault with the controls on the beasts’ side is that they occasionally lack responsiveness. While playing as some of the swifter classes, jumps don’t always register, and abilities don’t always seem to trigger. Determining what exactly one did wrong when failing to perform some of the dinosaurs’ key abilities is difficult at first. But, learning these parameters comes with time. Each dinosaur has a momentum players need to learn, which determines when and where they can perform certain actions. The longevity of Primal Carnage will come from mastering each character’s unique attributes.

On the other side, humans must still stick together at all times. When skulking through the dense foliage of some of the new maps alone, the human’s limited view really shows, as the game becomes surprisingly claustrophobic. Sprinting back to your fellow humans after re-spawning can prove to be quite nerve-wracking. But, again as with the dinosaurs, the most important thing is everyone has a weakness. Balanced classes make a game like Primal Carnage playable, and Lukewarm has done a commendable job keeping the asymmetrical fighting even.

In spite of this balance, a problem some shooter fans may have with Primal Carnage is its lack of persistence. The game resembles an older style of FPS game design. There are no upgrades to shoot for, no levels to gain, and no equipment to unlock. It’s a server list with a lot of team deathmatch going down, that’s it. I don’t want to present Primal Carnage as anything but what it is. Players already invested in another FPS may not be willing to migrate, but this minimalism also means the game doesn’t require the same investment. Everyone is always on an equal footing, but the only goal to shoot for is your current kill/death ratio.

With a game like Primal Carnage, a digital release that transitioned from a beta directly into it’s “retail release,” it’s tough to decide what to point out regarding problems at launch. But, as of this writing, there are a few. Many of those who pre-ordered  have yet to receive their bonus skins, Steam achievements are currently disabled, and a few other surface layer problems exist here and there.

However, after spending some time digging through the official forums trying to deal with my own minimal problems, I found there were quite a few people experiencing much more difficult roadblocks. There are reports of players getting stuck on load screens, a problem I encountered in the beta, and other such game breaking bugs. The good news is, the official forums are filled with players trying to help, and the developers appear to hop on when they can. Within a few days these hiccups should hopefully be ironed out, but it’s worth noting that they are there now. Most importantly, none of these problems seem to bleed into the matches. Once online and fighting, the game runs smoothly, and there are a good number of people playing.

Primal Carnage is not like most modern shooters, but it’s not trying to be. What attracts me to it is hard to define. There’s a purity to the game which reminds me of my days playing the original Unreal Tournament, and shooters of that sort. It’s simple to dive into initially, but there are nuances that will require time to learn. The game has its flaws, and may lack the hooks needed to keep some players coming back, but it still has genuine moments of greatness.

Primal Carnage was developed by Lukewarm Media and published by Reverb Communications Inc. A PC copy was purchased by the editor for the purposes of review.

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