The trend of Early Access games on Steam has exploded in the last year or so. By allowing customers to purchase a game well before it is finished, developers and publishers get to line their coffers to fund the development process, test ideas, and receive immediate feedback from their prospective user base. The customers then get to see the game evolve as features are added, textures updated, and bugs squashed. While gamers may be split on whether this is beneficial for all parties, or can lead to dead-in-the-water games that leave a sour taste in your mouth, it shows no signs of slowing down. Tapping into the trend, newly created development studio Octagon Interactive has put their game Beasts of Prey into Early Access.
Beasts of Prey is an open world survival multiplayer game, set in a procedurally generated world inhabited by dinosaurs. Similar in vein to games like DayZ, Rust, The Forest, or 7 Days to Die, Beasts of Prey falls neatly into this emerging genre of games that doesn’t quite have an established name yet. The general premise is that you are controlling a character in first person, exploring a large world with other players, scouring for weapons, technology, and raw resources in an effort to fend for yourself in a hostile setting. The openness of the world, and simplicity of the rule set, also encourage a layer of human interaction and psychology. Do I trust this unfamiliar stranger I know nothing about, or cut them down before they can ever pose a threat? Should I band together with fellow players in a tenuous fellowship, or strike it out on my own in a constant state of paranoia?
Dropping you into the world with nothing but a knife, you are ill equipped to handle the hostile environment around you. Cutting some logs from nearby trees, and searching out the sparse above ground ore deposits is the first task at hand. With enough raw materials acquired, you then craft a flag to claim territory, upon which you can begin building your base. Whether that be a simple house with a crafting table to make new weapons, furnace to smelt raw ore into metals, and a bed to act as a spawn. Or a sprawling modern-day military base, replete with concrete slabs, radar dish, and watch towers. Given the vicious prehistoric fauna roaming the world, and perhaps more ruthless players, these more robust defenses can be necessary. All the while, you are arming yourself to the teeth with modern day firearms and explosives. The clash of modern infrastructure and dinosaurs provides for a Jurassic Park-like setting, which is a rather neat twist on the new genre, putting it apart from the competition.
It is absolutely worth noting that this game is still early on in development - but the small development team has been quite forthcoming. Some mechanics and equipment is present in the game, but non functional (or becomes inadvertently broken in patches). Textures and performance are still rough around the edges, bringing my otherwise capable system to a its knees. Game balance is also a bit rough, as resources can be extremely rare, or trees will only provide a certain amount of logs before being “empty” but with no way to determine that before hitting the tree. All that said, this game should be viewed as being in an Alpha, or eve Pre-Alpha state. Rumored to be a team around 8 people, they have been patching the game at a pretty consistent pace with a couple releases every month, and answering questions in the Steam group.
With an interesting twist on a new genre, and riding high on the wave of active developer involvement, Beasts of Prey could be one to watch. The duality of technology and dinosaurs could lead to some fascinating dynamics, so long as the AI routines and interactivity is there. I can envision rival tribes waging war on one another, one harnessing these massive beasts to their advantage, while the other relies on technology and weapons to bring them down. A triceratops smashing through a gate, while auto turrets hopeless plink bullets of the armored head. Pterodactyls dropping off players into the heart of the base, armed with nothing but an ax and leather armor. Jeeps bounding through forests and around mountains, as velociraptors scamper close behind. Mind you, this is all fantastical speculation, but this game has the potential to scratch an itch that no other game does right now.
Preview by Parker