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Impressions of Orion: Dino Horde (Updated)

Orion: Dino Horde is an interesting beast. Built on the Unreal Engine, it evokes memories of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Tribes, and the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Throw in a dash of Left 4 Dead and you’ve got this game in a nutshell. You and a group of friends play a multi-racial, multi-gender group of generic space marines. For the most part, the voice acting, along with the characters appear dull and uninspired. But as you blow off the head of the hundredth Velociraptor that’s made a straight bee-line towards your digital avatar, you come to realize something – this game is fun. 

Orion: Dino Horde certainly has its flaws. The guns feel like you’re shooting popcorn, some of the animations are terribleand the AI is atrocious.  But this is a horde-type game, so the AI doesn’t need to be that great. And most dinosaurs had tiny brains anyway, right? Your foes range from Pterodactyls to Velociraptors to hulking Stegosaurs and quite a few fearsome giant carnosaurs, including the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And they all want to kill you. But more on that in a minute.

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Visually, the game is quite pretty, despite some clunky menus and interfaces. Players are treated to rolling vistas peppered with palm trees, jungle, desert or snow. As I mentioned above, it evokes memories of Halo and Tribes and to be quite honest, that’s a good thing. The maps are absolutely huge and don’t offer much in terms of restriction. Players can fly up cliff faces with a jetpack or ship and set up a comfy sniper perch in relative safety.

There’s a bevy of co-op and death-match modes. While I haven’t played much of the latter, the co-op modes are a treat, pitting you and your team in a struggle for survival as you utilize mechs, tanks, jeeps, jetbikes and other crazy contraptions to fight the prehistoric threat at your doorstep. Your team will be tasked with a few goals, from activating and defending power generators to claiming outposts in the unforgiving wilds.  Between rounds, each player is alloted credits on kills. From there, they can purchase weapon upgrades or perks that are specific to their class (Assault, Support, and Recon). Time is limited though, so if you’re on the other side of the map, you better whip out your teleporter so you can zap back to home-base and buy some upgrades.

You don’t carry your nifty toys between lives, unfortunately. Die once, and you lose all your goodies. I simultaneously love and hate that feature, as it forces you to play smart. Each class offers their own special abilities. Assault has a jetpack, Support can heal team-mates, and Recon can cloak. Each soldier has a shield that recharges. Until it’s busted, that is. Once broken, your shield is gone and your soft supple flesh is vulnerable to the fangs and claws of your foes.

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In the end, this game is a blast to play. You’ll soon find yourself overlooking its flaws entirely, or even coming to appreciate the terrible voice acting because it provides moments of levity amidst the carnage.

One of the most hilarious things about this game is the announcer. Possibly related to Rip Torn or the disembodied voice in Halo, our unseen companion spouts of familiar phrases like “Double Kill!” and “Triple Kill!” and eventually moves on to ridiculous statements like “Bring me a pizza!” when he gets tired of proclaiming your accomplishments. It’s so fucking stupid. And it’s a hundred percent comedy gold.

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It’s quirks like this that really add to Orion: Dino Horde’s charm. You and your friends will be blasting away at dinos and laughing as you make fun of the announcer or voices of the characters. And as you load up a new map, there’s a tinge of excitement because you know you’re about to have a good time. This game is so stupid. But it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. And in the end, isn’t that what games are about?

Orion: Dino Horde is clearly loved by the people who made it. If you read about it on the Steam forums, it has a rabid fan base. That may be a bit confusing, as the game scored 36 on Metacritic. But that’s because this title was a complete disaster at launch. Despite that, the devs have slowly been working away behind the scenes, smoothing out the rough spots.

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What’s resulted is a game that doesn’t have the polish of the other titles I mentioned above. But it pulls some of the best elements from them and makes it work. 

This game is a different beast all on its own. And the developers want to take things a step further, making it open world. They’re planning on taking it to Kickstarter. And I might be fucking crazy saying this, but I think I might actually throw some cash their way. 

The people at Spiral Game Studios are aware that their baby is an ugly beast. But they love it just the same. They haven’t let their product fall by the wayside, and that in my opinion says something. Check it out while you can, as the game is a dollar on Steam at the time of this writing (and the sale lasts until February 27th). Go on and buy it. I guarantee it’ll be the best dollar you ever spent. :)

Update (3/24/14)

So Orion: Dino Horde is still stupid fun. But after playing the game a bit more, I can tell you that it has absolutely no balance. Especially in the survival modes. It’s like the team decided to make it hard, they had to make it impossible. What results from such a poor design decision is a desire to play other games. In their defense, the team at Spiral Studios has been working on this game quite a bit. But they need to keep at it. Sadly, it also seems they failed their kick-starter in an attempt to make the game open-world. I like the mess that is Orion: Dino Horde but let’s be honest here, the team really needs to improve this title to keep my attention and subsequently, players. We have so much good entertainment at our fingertips for little cost, that if a show, game, book, whatever, doesn’t bring it, we’ll move on. And that’s exactly what’s happened with me in regards to this title. I wish Spiral nothing but the best of luck. I really sympathize with them. Deep down in this turd of a game is some semblance of a great game. The fun comes out from time to time and it’s fantastic. But the balance, or lack thereof, is what kills it for me.

About tyrus

Rodger "tyrus" Oren, also known as "sai tyrus" in some circles, is the owner of this fine establishment. While not busy daydreaming about games, movies, and comics, he's doing his darnedest to be a loving husband and father. Follow his other musings on Twitter, Google plus, or Facebook!

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