Preview: Beasts of Prey

Beasts of Prey is suffering from The War Z syndrome at present. It’s a videogame that promises an awful lot: a sandbox in which players can live however they wish. Hunt dinosaurs, craft items, build structures and create your own empire in a procedurally generated world that grows with server population. However, at present, it’s little more than a vast land of emptiness.

Available to play as a virtual reality (VR) experience now despite still only being offered as an alpha build, Beasts of Prey launches the player into a world where loneliness is your only accomplice at first. Flora and fauna, mud banks, rivers, high rising hills, wooden shacks, outposts and intimidating concrete structures are your only company. It’s an enjoyable world to roam, sure, but for your first hour in Beasts of Prey roaming is likely all you’ll be doing.

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Despite being offered as compatible with the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) this early, Beasts of Prey has been tailored for it. The menu system and on-screen information is impossible to read accurately. The videogame offers no clues as to your objective – both a blessing and a curse – but the vast emptiness is only accentuated by a lack of accessible information as to how you progress past this point. Hoping to stumble upon some genuine interaction is not the best way to communicate the strengths of your experience.

Once you eventually stumble upon some action – or repeatedly switch servers until you find one with active participants – it will invariably result in one of two conclusions: death at the hands of a beast you are woefully unprepared to face or expenditure of all of the weaponry you have collected thus far. Beasts of Prey is essentially an elaborate game of kiss-chase at this point. Whoever has the biggest guns is pursuing the weaker party. Kiss-chase with dinosaurs.

Thankfully Beasts of Prey doesn’t suffer the same kill-everybody mentality that characterised The War Z during it’s beta testing phase. In fact, most of the players VRFocus met were rather welcoming to newcomers. It would seem that, at this point, the community is as eager to turn Beasts of Prey into the experience that has been promised as the developers are.

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Beyond idle roaming, combat and community however, Beasts of Prey‘s other features remain elusive. After hours invested there was still no hint at the ability to construct items or build structures. It’s entirely possible that these elements simply passed VRFocus by, but in the same regard they also eluded every other player sharing the servers visited during our preview of the videogame. Again, selling your project on the hope that players will eventually stumble upon key features is perhaps not the best strategy.

Much of Beasts of Prey‘s design feels too loose to be considered ready for public play, no matter how early in production the warnings state the videogame is. Along with the illegible text the control system needs a lot or work – climbing ladders is an unnecessarily frustrating procedure and control pad support is woeful – however, the basic world structure does provide enough interest to compel many players to struggle on. The idea is sound and the groundwork has been laid, but there’s a whole lot of work to do until Beasts of Prey becomes anything more than a would be contender.

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