Exoprimal has come and gone in a seemingly quick fashion. What was once a highly anticipated title fell into obscurity relatively quickly. Its underwhelming launch numbers are estimated at less than 100k owners on both Steam and PlayStation platforms, even if the Xbox estimates seem to be generous because of the inclusion of the Game Pass, at around one million players.
The calculations for a dead game aren't exactly set in stone, but what started as a title that everyone looked forward to peaked at 4,522 players on Steam (with numbers missing from Xbox due to obvious reasons) and got a peak of 1,509 less than two weeks later. This 66% drop in peak players began pretty much immediately after the game's release, peaking on the 16th of July and seeing numbers as low as 2,472 just a day later. Now, the game is lucky to be breaching 250 players daily, and it's a far cry from its once quadruple-digit moments of glory. In this article, I'd like to explore a bit as to what went wrong with the game — was the idea just not as good, or was it more of an execution issue?
What Do Critics Think?
Sitting at a comfortable 67 Metacritic score and 67 OpenCritic Top Critic Average at the time of writing, Exoprimal's performance is less than favourable in terms of reception. After reading a couple of reviews from the sites, I found a few deductions that might help explain the issue.
In our review for Exoprimal, Jacob Sanderson speaks about the content the game has... or lack thereof. Although he heavily praises the narrative and a lot of its gameplay aspects, Exoprimal has only one mode at the time of release — Dino Survival. While the gameplay is hectic fun where you need to take up arms, spam abilities, and defeat enemies faster than others, the lack of variety means that about two hours in, you've experienced almost everything the game has to give you. Really.
This sentiment is closely shared with other critics, saying that the game is flawed at its core. Another thing that Exoprimal has been criticised for is its choice to remain multiplayer PvP and even some arguments that its PvPvE foundation is the problem of the game itself. From always-online functionality to the lack of game modes, critics found little reason to play the game past a certain point — there is less motivation to spend your time on a game than knowing you've seen it all only a fraction of the journey in. With so little content, the $60 price tag seems unreasonable at best.
What Do Players Think?
Sitting at 79% positive reviews from 1,981 total, the game's score seems more forgiving from the player's viewpoint. Although the peak player dip is less than favourable and doesn't display a hopeful future for what's to come, reviews are a bit more optimistic than the numbers show.
A Steam review by a player named Baebernator, who after spending 61 hours participating in Leviathan's wargames and reaching triple-digit level, gave it a thumbs down. Interestingly enough, Baebernator iterates a lot of the issues that critics had with the game — the game is very PvP-focused, the story felt lacklustre, and the lack of modes was a disappointment. Most notably, the reviewer speaks of the missing "Horde" mode, something that I immediately told my wife about — a survival mode that focuses on persevering against the enemies and taking more advantage of brainless shooting.
Another review by Awesomeface24 makes it to nearly 3,000 "helpful" votes with over 350 awards, which criticises Capcom's approach to a full-priced AAA title with a premium battle pass, loot boxes, and even a DLC pack that lets you unlock items at a quicker pace. Unlike Baebernator, however, Awesomeface24 only has 3.9 hours on record.
The rest of the reviews have a more positive outlook, but the consensus seems to be that the game is more "ok", with some leaning towards "great". While the battle pass and live-service style have put a sour taste to Exoprimal, there are others that have praised the game if you manage to get to the point of "enjoyable" content. The premise is simple: the more you play, the more you unlock, ensuring that you are getting more stuff to do. The execution, however, becomes a 10-hour grind fest of playing through the same things with minimal progression in terms of enemies and variety, meaning you're just playing the same game over and over until you get new quests, new dinosaurs, and finally, new motives to keep investing your time into it.
What Do I Think?
After playing several rounds and enjoying quite a few of them, I have to, unfortunately, echo what my fellow peers — both critics and gamers alike — have to say: Exoprimal feels more like a proof of concept than an actual game. If it were an Early Access release, I'd be all over it and recommending it to every Jane, John, and Person Doe. The foundations of the combat and progression are there, but it's missing pivotal pieces of content to keep it relevant.
The main issue is the lack of game modes, making it difficult to justify playing more. Whilst you are told what to do by Leviathan, the rounds predominantly feel the same, and it feels like you are just replaying the same level with few changes in the PvP section throughout the first few hours of the game.
At its core, its PvPvE foundation feels like a massive hit-or-miss. While other games use more strategic approaches to their multiplayer functions, Exoprimal heavily depends on a team of strangers to perform well in order for you to stand a competitive chance. As a woman who only plays with her wife and avoids comms like the plague, it was frustrating to see allies outright ignore objectives, making some matches completely unwinnable despite how hard we could try.
There isn't a specific competitive mode that separates you into skill levels or slots you into either Assault, Tank, or DPS to ensure every team is balanced, meaning that one or two bad apples can sour the whole bunch and waste everyone's time in a meaningless round. Aside from Leviathan's not-so-subtle roasts, you're stuck trying to catch up to an enemy team that has passed and far surpassed you while you're still trying to change exosuits to match your team's needs, only for them to change into the same role you do and invalidating any changes (this did happen to me).
It feels less strategic and more random than not whenever you can't communicate with your team. Although this is a fault of my own, I can only assume this is parroted by many a gamer like myself — it's too difficult to form a group of like-minded individuals to form a five-person team to play through. From time zones, work, games, family, and other friends, getting a group of five to agree on a time to casually fight dinosaurs isn't a viable option, and with the ever-dwindling 24-hour peaks, a competitive mode looks less and less likely, forcing the lines to blur between casual and competitive gamers.
Overall, I have truly enjoyed my time with Exoprimal, but its $60 price tag is far too steep for the small amounts of content available at this very moment. Too few exosuits, too few game modes, and too little variety make it difficult to get to the 10 hours necessary to unlock content that is more appealing and mixes up the gameplay enough to justify playing more rounds.