Big Mayor. That’s what the godlike floating figure responsible for the well being of this dusty western town is called. That’s what I am called. My view looms over the small grouping of buildings in front of me, and an adorably ferocious looking T. Rex threatens the peace. It’s my job to help this little town gather supplies, grow a hunting force, and take on the perils of a dinosaur infested Wild West inspired world.
Using the two Move controllers as hands, there’s a tactile control that I have over the environment in front of me. I can pinch to zoom, pull myself around it, and grab people and supplies using the triggers. There’s a sense of playing with a real miniature model town, especially as the edges of the environment make the whole thing feel like it’s on a huge tabletop. VR something that a real model town couldn’t as the world springs to life.
Little people run back and forth chopping down trees and gathering food. As I collect each of these resources I am able to upgrade parts of the town to have new types of villagers, including hunters — and I suspect the final game will have many more options than the ones I saw. It’s a formula that should be very familiar to players of sim building games, but there’s an added layer of depth with the VR element.
The other layer of intrigue comes riding in on the back of a raptor. This little Wild West town is smack in the middle of dinosaur country, and as Big Mayor, I needed to help my settlement overcome these ferocious threats and harness their power for the better of their own community. As with sim building games, increasing upgrades allowed me to do more and more. While I couldn’t go confront that T. Rex from the outset, a little gathering of wood and food gave me the ability to make villagers into hunters.
Villagers are assigned roles by picking them up and dropping them into the proper building. Woodsman cut the trees, farmers gathered food, and I grabbed these resources and dropped them into my town’s supply. The gentle looking pinch animation when your floating digital hands pick something up really helps to sell the idea that this tiny world in front of you is real, whether it’s a pile of wood or villager that needs a new role.
Eventually I was able to build a hunting lodge and assign townspeople to become hunters. These hunters still couldn’t battle the T. rex though. Trying just sent them to a toothy doom. Instead I was able to hunt smaller predators like raptors. Once they were defeated and hogtied, I could pick them up by their tail and drop them into an upgraded hunting lodge that had stables. Dropping hunters in now allowed them to become raptor riders — a force strong enough to challenge the mighty T. Rex. I sent them on their way, and after losing only a single raptor and rider to the beast’s gullet, I was able to hogtie the king of dinosaurs and even pick him up by the tail as the screen faded to black and the demo came to a close.
While the demo was a fairly straightforward look at how the game will play, the developers promise a lot more depth and freedom in the final release. They indicated that there will be certain levels of village management, such as townspeople becoming tired or hungry. Given that the name of the game has the word “dino” in it, I also expect to see a lot more dinosaurs, both to be used as predators and resources. This early look really only scratched the surface of the kinds of things they could do. It’s refreshing to see VR experiences come along that change the way we look at and interact with our game worlds, and Dino Frontier’s virtual reality sim builder looks to really grab hold of that to give us a unique take on a popular genre when it releases sometime in 2017.
PSX 2016 - Dino Frontier Preview Hands-On - Raptors and Outlaws (PSVR)