Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dino D-Day

Genre: FPS (Multiplayer, team-based)
Developer: 800 North and Digital Ranch
Publisher: 800 North and Digital Ranch via Steam
Released: 2011

Zolgar paid: $14.99 (for 4 copies)
Beaten: N/A
Zolgar's rating: 5/10
Replayability: Since you can't 'beat' it, you I suppose you're never 'replaying'?

This is one of those games that when I first saw it, I busted up laughing and knew I would have to try despite my general aversion to FPS. Then of course I forgot all about it, until Steam ran a 'free weekend', so I tried it. That free weekend happened to coincide with a 50% off sale, which happened to be shortly following the devs decision to half the price.. so I bought it, too.

Now, you can't mean to tell me you've never been looking at a history book, reading about World War II and thought “Maaan, what if they had dinosaurs? That would make this history stuff worth reading about!” and then spent your history class daydreaming about Nazis riding dinosaurs, instead of reading about the concentration camps.

Well, now you can stop daydreaming and start fighting! Join the Allies and fight against Nazi Super-Dino-Soldiers! Or, you can side with the Nazis and BE one of the Super-Dino-Soldiers!
...Maybe after a long weekend of playing Dino D-Day you'll be able to pay attention when they try to teach you about Auschwitz. (Depressing read, you have been warned.)

The premise of Dino D-Day is pretty simple:
Jurassic Park, only with Nazis instead of a crazy old scientist, and taking over the world instead of an amusement park.
Though there's a nod to JP in one of the bits of 'flavor text' from the games website:
I am astonished that the promised recreational park featuring these noble beasts did not materialize, even though Mister Goebbels sent us convincing tickets of admission and discount coupons to the park gift shoppe. However, it appears now that this was a well planned deception. I now believe that Hitler has planned all along to use these dinosaurs for evil, and that there shall be no park in our time.

Let's be honest though.. Nazis+Dinosaurs.. who needs anything more?

As of writing the review there are 7 playable characters for each side.

For the Axis we have:
  • Streicher, an assault trooper equipped with a Mauser K98 (bolt-action infantry rifle), an MP-40 (machine gun), grenades, and a knife. He's a grunt, an elite grunt mind you, but still a grunt.
  • Hissman, a sniper equipped with a scoped Mauser K98, a Luger (semi-auto pistol), grenades, and a knife. He can also call down a kamikaze pterodactyl rigged with explosives.
  • Von Graff, a .. veterinarian!? Armed with an MP-44 (Assault Rifle), a Luger, a med-kit, and a knife. He can heal his wounded allies, warm or cold-blooded, or toss them med-kits to use when they need them.
  • Velociraptor, if you don't know what a Velociraptor is, go watch Jurassic Park. Now. I'll wait. … .. .. OK, anyways where was I? In combat, you have 2 options, claw your opponents, or pounce them. Clawing does good damage, pouncing is an auto kill. You main weakness? No armor.
  • Desmatosuchus, “Tankasaurus”. Seriously, heavily armored and armed with a cannon that fires explosive projectiles. This dino is basically the 'easy button'. Though it IS slow as all hell and can't jump.
  • Dilophosaurus, unfortunately this dino doesn't take a cue from JP, it doesn't have a frilled neck and spit poison. It claws it's foes, charges them, and it can pick enemies or goats up and throw them as a weapon. When in doubt, throw a goat.
  • Stygimoloch, a fairly well rounded dino, average speed and durability and equipped with a machine gun.

On certain maps, the Axis also obtains a T-Rex, which is big, slow, hard to kill and equipped with dual machine guns that mow down everything in it's path.

Then for the Allies we have:
  • Hardgrave, a grunt equipped with an M1 Garand (Semi-automatic infantry rifle), a Colt .45 (I don't even need to explain), Frag grenades, and his fists. If Hardgrave scores enough kills he can 'rage': Unarmed combat, increased damage, increased damage resist.
  • Spencer, a grunt equipped with a Tommy Gun (Do you need to ask?), a Colt .45, Sticky bombs (self explanatory, I hope), and his fists. Spencer can also call in an artillery strike.
  • Crossley, heavy weapons. Carries a shotgun, a PIAT (anti-tank weapon), smoke grenades, and his fists.
  • Vike, sniper. Equipped with a Scoped Mosin-Nagant (Infantry and Sniper rifle), Nagant Revolver, a dead rabbit!?, and her fists. Vike can lob the dead rabbit on to the battle field in order to distract a velociraptor to be so she can kill it safely.
  • Brun, medic. Equipped with a STEN (machine gun), P38 (pistol), medkit and, you guessed it, her fists. Brun is pretty good as a 'run and gun' character due to having a decent full auto main weapon, and the ability to heal her allies is a nice touch.. if her player uses it.
  • Frank, something of a tank, equipped with a BAR (automatic rifle), a Flechette gun (a gun that fires a scatter shot of blades), frag genades, and his fists.
  • Trigger, Allies only dino. A Protoceratops equipped with a machine gun. Basically a re-skin of Stygimoloch.

Now, the first problem we see is: Axis has 4 dinos, Allies have 1, and honestly, who wants to play a silly human? On servers that don't autobalance, this leads to Axis outnumbering Allies frequently.

As well, the balance between Axis and Allies is slightly skewed. The Axis generally feels a tiny bit more powerful, but what shows even more is that the Axis characters all work fairly well solo while for the Allies to really shine they need good solid teamwork.
Problem is? Axis also shine with teamwork.

Balance aside, another major problem with Dino D-Day is it's learning curve. I thought that I was just having problems because I haven't played a FPS in ages.. nope, the controls are not entirely intuitive, and and most of the classes (including most of the dinosaurs) have quirky issues for trying to learn how to play them.
Paired with the lack of any form of single-player/training/practice options and you will find that you spend a LOT of time dead at first.

I will also address a complaint that I have read many times on the game's forum:
They're selling an unfinished MOD as a full-fledged retail release game!

First, it's not a mod, it just uses the Source Engine, though it's original release was as a mod to 'test the waters' so to speak, to see if there was interest in the idea.

As for it being 'unfinished' and 'marketed as a full game', both of those are completely, 100% true. The developers have said, many times, that the game isn't finished. They're constantly working on new updates and content for it, and so far there has been no mention of DLCs for it. So yes, they're selling an 'unfinished game', but the developers need to get income so that they can fund working on their game.

I blame Steam for the marketing, personally.

At present, the game offers 3 gameplay modes, determined by what map you're on:
  • Death Match: If I have to explain this to you, please do not ever buy a FPS. There are 3 maps for this option, one includes the T-Rex. (Imagine that, on the map that gets the T-Rex, Axis wins about 9 of 10 times, as opposed to about 3 out of 4 on other Deathmatch maps.)
  • King of the Hill: Simply put claim a location and kill your enemies who try to take it. Presently only 2 maps for KotH.
  • Objective: Instead of “Rawr, kill everyone!” these 3 maps require you to do specific things, 2 of the 3 are very simple straightforward objectives.. Allies: deliver 5 bombs to an Axis target. Axis: Stop the Allies! The third I've yet to play, but it involves taking machine gun bunkers, and safely escorting a giant dino-tank across the map, while the Allies try to kill it.

Right here, I see a way that the game could be improved: KotH and Objective maps available for Death Match. They have released the DevKit for Dino D-Day so that mapmakers can create their own maps though.

Unfortunately right now most of the dedicated servers are running the T-Rex map 24/7, which .. well.. the map is skewed towards the Axis in the first place, it has the T-Rex which is horribly balanced, and Axis are slightly stronger.. so it gets kinda boring.

They are talking about adding a couple more gameplay modes, including a single player campaign (WOO!) and Survival Mode. Very little details have been given as to what these modes will be like, I would personally like to see Survival Mode have 2 options, 1 a straight up 'survive a horde of enemies' mode, the other more like L4D.

I would also like to see Bots, I know bots suck, people hate bots.. but honestly, especially with the learning curve, a way for someone to play solo would be really useful.

Now, the player base.. right now, due to the rather new nature of the game, and the fact that it's rather poorly balanced, the player base is actually not too bad. I've yet to see excessive taunting and asshattery on wins, nor have I seen mocking and berating of n00bz for not knowing how to play.

So, I gave it a below average score, what would bump it's score up to over five?
  • Balance. Balance balance balance balance.
  • Single player options, even if it were just the ability to have bots.
  • Making certain specials easier to use (I'm looking at you, Raptor Pounce and Dilophasaur Throw).
  • More maps, especially balanced maps, and more non-DM maps.
  • Death Match mode on all maps.
  • More gameplay modes.
  • Did I mention balance?

All of them would be nice, but even just a couple would greatly improve my opinion.. especially the balance.

And, a word on achievements: Many of the achievements should be my pet peeve of “you're playing the game how it's supposed to be played!” achievements, but due to how awkward some of the controls are, they're really not. I'm sorry, a standard mechanic being a pain in the ass to pull off doesn't make it a 'real achievement'.

Oh, and a word to my German readers, all.. uh.. one of you:
The game is available in Germany too, as they edited the images and have removed the Swastika, the SS logo, etc. These have all been replaced by actual WWII era German insignia, but ones less known or less associated with Nazis.

For those who are rather opposed to this, I'm just going to leave this here.

“Nazi dinosaurs. That is all.”

Availability and price:
Steam: $9.99

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