Exoprimal: The Best Hero Shooter Since Overwatch 2

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| August 30, 2023

In the halcyon days of Overwatch, for the briefest moment in time, gamers could not escape the pull of Blizzard’s newest behemoth IP. Tracer really was everywhere; the hero shooter was “in.” It was a 10/10 IGN, baby. 

Of course, Overwatch wasn’t the first hero shooter ever made – it was drawing comparisons to Valve’s Team Fortress 2 before it was even released, though the games were fairly dissimilar in the end. It certainly wasn’t the last hero shooter either, as many large titles tried to take a piece of the pie from Overwatch over the next seven years.

Think about all the massive hits (and failures) that have obvious Overwatch inspiration baked into their DNA: Battleborn released in Overwatch’s shadow, and Paladins, LawBreakers, and Gigantic came out shortly after. 

The game for people who wanted to play Overwatch for free, before Overwatch was free.

Some of the biggest esports titles in the world right now are imbued with that hero shooter magic. Apex Legends, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Valorant are juggernauts within the competitive FPS space, in large part because of the unique abilities and personalities of their characters. Hell, even Call of Duty and Battlefield followed suit by adding “operator” systems into their newer titles!

I’m sad to say, however, that it feels as though the glory days of Overwatch have largely come to an end. There’s no doubt that it still has a strong player base – I myself still play Overwatch 2 a decent bit! The latest season brought the first round of PvE missions and player progression systems, too. But the magic of Overwatch has faded for me. 

I don’t know if it’s the 5v5 format or the lost promise of a more robust PvE mode with hero talent trees, but Overwatch 2 is just missing a certain je ne sais quoi that makes a game my go-to nowadays.

But let me tell you about the game I’ve spent 50+ hours in over the last month or so.

Welcome to Bikitoa Island – shit’s about to get real.

Exoprimal didn’t have any “halcyon days.” It launched to little fanfare… I’m fairly certain there were more people upset that Capcom hasn’t said a peep about Dino Crisis than there were people excited for the launch of Exoprimal. As a live service game, Exoprimal will be fighting an uphill battle to try to keep players interested now… which is, y’know, kind of an “Overwatch problem” at the moment.

I find this to be a complete shame because, in its current state, Exoprimal is one of the best role-based hero shooters on the market. It’s certainly not a competitive game, such as your Apex or your Valorant, but it’s not really aiming to fill that niche, either. It’s doing its own thing, and with the absolute state of multiplayer gaming in 2023, that’s respectable to me.

This game has heart, and it understands the fundamental building blocks of the “hero shooter” far better than most other games in the genre do – from the ground up, Exoprimal’s philosophy is all about teamwork.

The first dino swarms players see are absolutely surreal, and the game only gets weirder from here.

You’ll be getting nowhere in this game if you aren’t moving with your squad of teammates, and you’ll certainly be lagging behind the enemies if you don’t have a team with varied exosuits. Yeah, it’s a casual game… but trying to run three tanks and two damage suits is a surefire way to get ripped to shreds.

Luckily, every exosuit feels surprisingly good to play. Some players hate being relegated to the support role, and while I personally love playing support characters, I’m well aware that it isn’t for everyone. Support exosuits in Exoprimal aren’t stuck healing their team the entire game, though. They have great utility and solid damage! 

The Witchdoctor suit immobilizes enemies basically indefinitely. Skywave has some of the only vertical mobility and crowd control abilities in the game, and Nimbus can swap between massive damage and healing through her two weapon modes.

Damage exosuits are an easy way to get acclimated to the game. Deadeye is particularly easy to get a handle on!

The damage suits might be the best example of the fantastic game design at work behind the scenes, though. Suits like Deadeye and Vigilant –  hitscan characters with rifles – might initially seem useless in the face of the raw power of Zephyr and Barrage. Sure, Zephyr has a high-skill floor, and a new Barrage player might not land all of their explosives on target, but the damage output of these characters is unmatched.

Zephyr and Barrage can’t handle pteranodons, though, unless the player using them is very good. Any flying dinosaurs will harass and kill them, whittling down their health bars. And in the PvP section of the game? Deadeye and Vigilant can fire down wide lanes, wiping out enemy players from afar. 

A team composed of a tank, a support, and three Barrages is strong, but a team composed of a tank, a support, two Barrages, and a Deadeye will always be stronger. No suit is useless – in this hero shooter, the interplay between the different suits in the roster really does feel important.

Is Exoprimal a perfect game? Hell no, far from it. There are many things that I think need to happen for this game to succeed in the long term. The biggest issue right now is the lack of maps and game modes. I can only cull dinosaurs in city streets and bust up vortexers in the ruins of Bikitoa Island so many times before I want a change of pace, y’know?

The new alpha exosuit variants are a breath of fresh air, and an assurance that the devs plan to continue supporting this game.

The developers are doing a wonderful job supporting the game so far, though, and I want to give props where they are due. The recently released “alpha variant” suits are a blast, and add a ton of replayability to the game. Keeping most of a suit’s kit of abilities intact but altering it in one or two major ways to create a new experience is a fantastic and sustainable way to keep bringing new exosuits to Exoprimal without burning out on ideas.

In addition, the Savage Gauntlet is a very strong first step into building out endgame content. It leans into the best traits of Exoprimal, mandating strong exosuit interplay and teamwork if players want even a chance of succeeding. The rewards are somewhat lacking, which is unfortunate, but this mode definitely inspires competition as a hardcore “time attack.”

I hope the future is bright for this game. It feels like all the pieces are there for this to be a game people play for a long time. They just haven’t all fully clicked together yet for many people. As the endgame builds out and more content is added, I’m hoping that more people give it a chance because I haven’t had this much fun with a hero shooter since the original Overwatch.

Have you been playing Exoprimal? What do you think of the game in the wake of the “alpha variant” update? Let us know in the comments down below!

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