Exoprimal Preview – Long-term storytelling
Exoprimal’s time-traveling, dinosaur-blasting premise firmly positions it as one of the strangest multiplayer shooters on the horizon. Players have gotten to sample its insanity in a previous open beta, but a recent hands-on preview gave me a chance to peek into the game’s storytelling structure and customization.
As a quick primer, Exoprimal tasks you and four other friends to team up to battle waves of invading dinosaurs. Outfitted in specialized exosuits, you’ll blast apart velociraptors, triceratops, and mighty T-Rexes in a race to finish missions before a rival squad of players completes the same tasks. Similar to Overwatch, exosuits promote specific roles and playstyles, such as various attackers, tanks, and healers. My favorite became the Zepher, a swift, melee-focused suit wielding a sword. Players can swap suits anytime, allowing teams to shift strategies to adapt to changing objectives. In addition to facing the extinct predators, missions also put you in direct conflict with the other team, leading to firefights aimed at sabotaging each others’ progress.
The action is wild, and the plot isn’t too far behind. The story follows a small band of soldiers from the year 2040. You control a custom-made avatar helping your squad leader, the tough yet jovial Lorenzo, and your teammates: Alders, the sassy brains of the operation, Majesty, a no-nonsense fighter, and Sandy, the crew’s robotic helper. The cheesy banter, humor, and overall B-movie vibe give me strong Binary Domain vibes; Exoprimal knows it’s silly and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
Cutscenes occur between multiplayer matches (there’s no traditional single-player campaign) and gradually tell a time-traveling plot in which our team finds themselves transported a few years into a future parallel reality where they encounter alternate versions of themselves. The only way to see how they stop the dinos and save Earth is by completing matches, which unlock new scenes in a web called the Analysis Map. This large flow chart contains individual story cinematics beginning in a circular outer rim that, when unlocked, opens connected scenes that weave towards what appears to be a finale at the center. Although I managed to unlock several scenes in a row after just a few rounds, the nodes are numerous enough to suggest you’ll need to spend hours playing matches to see how this wacky adventure concludes.
I also explored the Hangar, where you can customize exosuits with new Modules and cosmetic skins. Modules are purchased with in-game currency upon meeting level requirements and can increase health, augment abilities and alter their performance. You can equip up to three, with each slot holding a specific type. Slot 1 holds Suit Modules, and Slots 2 and 3 hold combat-focused Action Modules. More generalized Base Modules fit into any slot, such as one that raises moments speed at critically low health. These effects are upgraded by spending more currency, and you can equip the same Module across multiple exosuits. You can further customize a suit by equipping a Rig, a piece of equipment that adds a singular ability, such as a special attack or a repair function. Conveniently, a suit can be set as a favorite, so you’ll automatically start matches wearing it.
I’ve played well over a dozen matches of Exoprimal at this point, and it continues to be a fun and often-chaotic good time, especially alongside some good buddies over chat. Though it plays exceptionally, I’m still unsure if the game can sustain interest in the months after release. The story will only hook players for so long (if at all), so we’ll see if there’s enough meat on these fossilized bones to keep players returning for more.
Exoprimal arrives on July 14 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game will also be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch.