When I stumble onto the location where I'll build my town, there isn't much of anything here. A single settler, and a dead dinosaur, surrounded by woods and bushes that bear fruit. To call it inhospitable would be a bit of an understatement I think. But aside from the lack of...well...anything, it's a good place to start. I send the settler to start chopping down trees for the wood we'll need for buildings, and I harvest the dinosaur for the meat it can provide us. Soon there is a food depot, and lumber yard.
I am the Mayor here, and soon this will be my town. This is Dino Frontier.
Build your town
It's true that when you first arrive in Dino Frontier, there isn't much of anything built. What there is, is an adorable landscape filled with roaming dinos, trees you can down for wood needed to create buildings, and items you can harvest to feed your growing town. From the first moment you set foot here, you are absolutely in charge of everything that is going on. The first thing you'll need to do though is start building.
In order to feed your people, craft new buildings, and heal wounds, you'll need specific buildings. Namely a Food depot, Lumberyard, and a Clinic. Realistically though, these are the just the beginning. As you level up and attract new settlers to your town, you'll need to expand buildings in order to keep everyone safe, sane, and fed. As you complete various different buildings and tasks, you'll get experience which increases your level.
You'll want to be careful where you place everything, or you can start to run out of land.
As you level up, you'll get access to new buildings, more settlers, and a larger tract of land for your town to grow into. Planning ahead is key though because the game lets you decide where to place each building. Initially, this doesn't matter much, because you're just trying to survive. Down the line though, you'll want to be careful where you place everything, or you can start to run out of land for new structures.
One of the fun parts of building new structures for your town is the fact that your settlers don't get a say in it. They'll continue going about their tasks as a giant mallet appears next to the structure. You'll need to pick it up and hammer away until the new building is complete. It's such a small, silly feature, but it added a layer of fun and a feeling of being a part of the town, rather than just it's omnipotent ruler.
As the Mayor of this wee town, you're in charge of everything that is going on. This means telling settlers what they ought to be working on, ensuring you have enough food, and checking on the various different resources that you will slowly start to collect. The controls in Dino Frontier rely on a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, which show up in the game as a pair of hands. You'll need to manipulate the world in front of you by rotating, zooming in and out, and picking up items.
It's the last one that drove up straight up the wall. See, when you tell a settler to go chop wood or collect food, they do half the work. They'll chop, or collect, until the item that you need pops onto the ground next to them. It's up to you to collect these resources and drop them onto the correct building so that they can be used. Except that roughly half the time when I'd reach for a cord of wood, or basket of fruit, I'd get to see my glove go floating away somewhere up and to the right.
My resources were still sitting there waiting for collection.
This isn't really a strange occurrence, thanks to the occasional tracking issue with PlayStation VR, but it was really frustrating. Specifically, because there is so much going on in Dino Frontier. At one point I was arguing with the game, trying to pick up the wood I needed for a new building while dinosaurs viciously mauled one of my settlers who was trying to collect food for the town. I wound up having to abandon my resource collection in order to pick up the settler in trouble and drop him off at the clinic before he bled out in the wilderness.
Granted, my resources were still sitting there waiting for collection, but not being able to grab them and then pivot to the next task I needed to handle made things more difficult than they really needed to be. This only got more frustrating when it came time to capture my first Apex Dinosaur — which basically involved having my settlers attack it until it can be stunned and put in a cage — and I couldn't pick up my injured units to drop them at the clinic.
If Dino Frontier were a game were time didn't matter much, then these small frustrations would be just that. Small frustrations. However, because time does matter within the game, losing precious moments because your controllers don't want to behave themselves can be the difference between life and death.
Be ready for trouble
As your town grows larger, then you're going to eventually run into some trouble. This comes in two basic forms, humans riding dinosaurs who want to raid your town for anything they can get their grimy little hands on, and wild dinosaurs who would like nothing better than to gobble up your settlers as soon as they leave the safety of your town's limits.
In the early game, you won't need to worry about raiders, but there are dinosaurs who want to eat you for lunch. They won't ever wander into the limits of your town, but they will prey upon settlers who need to venture out in order to acquire resources necessary for survival. You'll hear a message if they have been attacked by a Dino, and when this happens you just need to pick them up and drop them off at the clinic. Just be aware that your settler won't heal, or move until you pick him up and bring him to the clinic to be healed.
Of course when you're building up a new frontier town in the wild west, you always have to keep your ears open for the sound of bandits. Bandits don't tend to show up until you've got the start of a bustling town, but when they do you can expect them to ride into town in order to steal your resources, shooting anyone who gets in their way. The first bandit raid is a shock, but after that you can build a Sheriff's station, to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't keep happening in your town.
Wrapping it up
Dino Frontier brings a fun twist on city building simulators by throwing dinosaurs directly into the mix. You'll have to attract settlers, collect resources, build new structures, and train dinosaurs if you want to survive here, but it isn't an easy task. Dino Frontier has a lot going on, and for the most part it's a fun time. However the issues I had with my PlayStation Touch controllers put a serious damper on things.At $29.99 it's a fun time, but might only appeal to fans of city building simulators.
- Fun graphics.
- Interesting take on a city builder.
- Fun and easy to pick up.
- Game controls can be frustrating.
- Fast paced gameplay may be problematic for some gamers.
- Knowing what you are doing wrong is extremely frustrating.
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