Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dinoville Calling : Dino Storm

Hands up everyone who's heard of Dino Storm. Now put your hand down if the first you heard of it was Beau's review at Massively. Yeah, me too.

Smile when you look at me, punk.
I'm always ready to try a new MMO, particularly if it doesn't need a download and registration doesn't ask for anything more than username, email and password. Dino Storm runs in a browser but there's a standalone client if you prefer. Either way, if you decide to give it a try you'll be riding your Dino and yelling yippee-ki-ay in a matter of minutes.

Doing what? Well, after a very brief and to the point session in Character Creation you'll find yourself dressed as a cowboy or cowgirl loping into the sprawling gold-rush town of Dinoville astride a lean, sharp-faced dinosaur. Doesn't look like the most comfortable of mounts but don't worry, bigger and better Dinos are coming your way. If you don't mind a little honest hard labor, that is.

Almost since I started playing MMOs I've had a habit of winding down the evening either with a potter around the low levels in an old favorite like Everquest or Vanguard or a quick run through something lighthearted or whimsical. The habit started with The Realm over a dozen years ago and since then many games have filled the role: NeoSteam, Rubies of Eventide, Ferentus, Eden Eternal, Dragon Nest, Argo...more than I can remember.

Recently when I'm done with GW2 for the night and my mouse pointer is hovering over the Neverwinter icon I've found it suddenly veering away to click instead on the Sheriff's badge with the reptilian eye set dead center. Neverwinter is fun but Dino Storm is funner.

Planning regulations? What planning regulations?
For a start it looks great. The colors are bright and cheerful without being brash or garish. The environments are simple but feel solid. The animations are smooth and fluid and the UI is intuitive and a pleasure to use.

Dinoville itself is a strange place. The dusty Old West buildings bristle with vidscreens  and where you'd expect to see hitching posts there are computer terminals. The Splitscreen Games website doesn't shed much light. Here's the FAQ entry on Dinoville in its entirety:

Dinoville may look weird but the tasks on offer there are very familiar. Kill those Smilodons, water these plants, deliver these letters. All the old favorites. The quest mechanics are excellent; slick, efficient, organized. On the left of the screen is your Game Guide which gives a very clear idea of what's on offer, who to speak to and where they are. Dailies and quest rewards appear there too. The quest dialog is short and pithy. It would probably seem bland if it wasn't for all the official dinosaur names; somehow being told to go kill ten Entelodons offers an off-kilter frisson you'd never get from plain old boars.

Morals are as lax as you might expect in a Wild West Gold Rush boom town. Okay, maybe not that lax - there's a conspicuous absence of Saloons and Dancing Girls - but in a game that's supposedly aimed at a young audience it's somewhat surprising to be asked to Roll the Bones and play the slots. Gambling's quite the thing in Dinoville. Best part is, it seems you always win.

Combat is very straightforward. Point your Laser Gun and get your Dino biting and down
You should the one that got away
things fall. Leveling is surprisingly slow. I've put in several hours and I'm only level four. Lots of goodies come your way when you level so there's plenty of incentive to crack on, not least the chance to upgrade to a bigger, better dino mount. Further in the distance lie all kinds of shenanigans. If I read the Game Guide correctly there's not only the prospect of controlling buildings and camps that can make you a fortune but there's open PvP over the ownership of said assets. Not to mention you can run for Sheriff. How that works I have not the slightest idea.

Will I ever find out? Will this be one of those MMOs I come back to in short bursts year in, year out or will I have forgotten it in a month or two? What about Splitscreen's other two MMOs, Pirate Galaxy and Steel Legions? Are they worth a look too? And more to the point, how come I never heard of them 'til now?

What else have I missed?

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