Orion: Dino Beatdown (PC)

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Some games sell well because of reviews, some sell through word of mouth, some through the power of advertising. Every now and then, a game sells simply because it includes dinosaurs. The confusingly titled ‘Orion: Dino Beatdown’ is on sale on Steam right now for £6.29 (usual price £6.99) and we’ve taken a look.

Orion is ostensibly a first person horde-mode style shooter. Utilising the UE3 engine, the game pits you against waves of dinosaurs all hell-bent on your destruction. You’re tasked with defending a sprawling base amongst four friends as various beasties lay siege to your power generators and vehicles. When you spawn you are given a choice from three classes, each of whom have a special ability. One scoots around on a jetpack, one can go invisible, and the other is left with a Team Fortress-esque healing beam to keep his teammates alive. During each wave you gain money for kills which can be spent on weapons and vehicles, and if you die you have to wait till the end of the round to respawn. So far, so nazi zombies. There is an overall objective beyond surviving, you are supposed to be protecting four bases on the map for five waves each.

Whilst a match up between high-tech supersoldiers and prehistoric mass-murderers might seem like every little boy’s dreams comes true, the reality is a broken, buggy mess. As it stands Orion is only barely playable. Users have reported numerous crashes, we couldn’t get sound to work for half an hour or so, and the game is so glitchy it defies belief. This is not a beta test, it is a game you need to pay six pounds for, and yet bits of developer code are still present in the UI, animations are missing, the console is required to change some basic settings, and balancing is almost non-existent.

To demonstrate my point, let me share with you the experience of an average gaming session. You’ll load Orion up and click ‘find game’ from here you’ll be taken to a server list that will be empty. After clicking refresh (and noting the text that says ‘refresh status goes here!’) you’ll wait for a minute or two to see the list populated with a range of servers. Many of these will be full, with no way to filter them out; much worse than this, there is no way to sort by ping or map, so you’ll need to scroll down the list to find a server with spaces and reasonably low ping (we never managed to secure one lower than 100ms).

Assuming the server lets you join rather than remaining unresponsive or crashing the game, you’re taken to a screen that asks you to choose your class. If you click on any of the options, nothing happens. After a while you’ll discover that a speedy double click is required o move on, then you’ll spawn in the game world.

To be fair to the developers, the game world does look impressive for an indie game. There is an excellent use of lighting and the art direction is refreshingly different. Dinosaurs look realistic, but player models have a ‘Tron’ vibe to them, with neon lights and visors. The draw distance is also excellent, allowing you to spy on battles taking place a good few hundred metres away. Irritatingly the terrible clipping and animation really ruins the overall look and feel of the game, no matter how good your models and lighting are, if it looks terrible in motion, it’s all in vain.

You’ll run out of the main base (surprisingly difficult with an abundance of narrow walkways and high guardrails) and into the great outdoors, unfortunately you’ll have no idea what to do now. Dinosaurs will usually be attacking and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what to do about that, but you come equipped with only a puny pistol. To buy more weapons you need to find an armoury console (that looks exactly like the healing stations and vehicle spawns, just with different lighting) and hope it’s still powered up. If it is you can purchase any number of weapons assuming you’ve killed enough dinos on your way there.

After you’re all set up it’s time to take this dinosaur hunting a little more seriously. Sadly this isn’t anywhere near as much fun as it could be. First of all, every enemy is marked with a non-scaling red triangle. At the end of the round this could be immensely useful to help you pick off the last pesky lizard, but at the beginning of each round it present an eyesore as your screen is awash with swimming red symbols. Even with the amount of firepower as you can throw at them, dinosaurs do not react to bullets at all, they will soak them up until eventually they die. Velociraptors generally run at you, occasionally dodging sideways, until they are ready to pounce, at which point they’ll inevitably miss. As long as you don’t stay still they seem completely incapable of harming you, a fact sadly lost on Samuel L Jackson.

Much more dangerous is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, or rather the group of them that will be bearing down on you after the first round or so. Rather than being used as a boss enemy, they come in packs, and they can often one-shot you (all too often from behind). The only way to deal with them is to run like hell, shooting as you go, or you could stand in a building or use your jetpack to get out of their reach. Sadly, this game is unbelievably easy to exploit. The developers have attempted to combat this by tasking you with defending generators, but these generally get vaporised by a swarm of raptors early on, so you are left hovering around out of the reach of the other terrible lizards calmly picking them off as they pace around ineffectually. The generators can then be switched backed on by press ‘E’ on them for ten seconds, or weirdly they can be switched on with an EMP grenade. I’m not sure they’ve understood what EMP is.

Sadly hiding on rooftops will not safeguard you from the pterodactyls, which swoop down to grab unsuspecting players, but these do next to no damage as long as you look up and tap ‘V’ to melee them, forcing their jaws open so you can fall gently to the earth (if you have a jetpack).

When all of the game’s enemies can be countered so easily, and the objectives seem completely futile, the only thing left to provide entertainment value is playing with friends, and this is where the game could begin to shine. Assuming you’re not faced with too many crashes and glitches, getting a game going with people you know can be a blast. The vehicles are fun to drive and daring each other to race the tyrannosaurs can provide some much-needed challenge. If you really take it upon yourself to try and protect the generators the game could get quite difficult, and co-ordination will really pay off.

Unfortunately most people will never see this side of the game. Riddled with bugs and clearly unfinished, it’s impossible to recommend the game to anyone thinking of picking it up. The developers have promised a patch but it’s hard to see how one patch could fix the gameplay, graphical, audio, and balance issues enough to turn this game around. If they do of course we’ll be back to give it another look.

Verdict: 2/10

+ There are indeed dinosaurs
+Fun to be had with friends and organisation
+Some good use of lighting and decent character models
-Terribly unbalanced
-Awful animation
-Numerous bugs, glitches, and unfinished interface elements
-Objectives and functions are not at all clear
-Only three enemy types

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