The Hunter: Pri­mal



Run­ning won’t work. Oh, the func­tion­al­ity for it is fine, but The Hunter: Pri­mal dis­cour­ages mak­ing swift move­ments by spawn­ing dinosaurs be­hind you when you do. Pack hun­ters and Tyran­nosaurus rex aren’t just drawn to your tram­pling feet, they’re born of them. It’s the sort of quirk ex­pected in an Early Ac­cess ti­tle, par­tic­u­larly the spit-and-glue sur­vival and hunt­ing sims that now run ram­pant in Steam’s store­front of works-in-progress. Here, how­ever, it’s hard to tell whether a dra­co­nian penalty for jog­ging is sus­pect cod­ing or a state­ment of in­tent.

Pri­mal is a pre­his­toric stand­alone spin-off of The Hunter, a free-to-play blood­sport sim and ac­quired taste. The Hunter is be­rated and praised in equal mea­sure for its great empty wilder­ness that’s de­signed for steady track­ing in­stead of slaugh­ter. Ex­pan­sive Worlds is proud of this au­then­tic­ity and con­fi­dent that its spe­cial­ist au­di­ence wants more, only this time with Tricer­atops in­stead of turkeys. That’s based partly on the strength of staff feel­ing, and partly due to popular de­mand.

“When I took over Ex­pan­sive Worlds,” CEO Pim Holfve says, “I started go­ing through old feed­back to see what The Hunter play­ers wanted, and ev­ery so of­ten dinosaurs popped up. Our game designer, Björn [Öjlert], was say­ing that dinosaurs are go­ing to be the new zom­bies, and I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. What­ever.’ But when we re­leased The Hunter on Steam this sum­mer, [dinosaurs] be­came the third-most-asked-for fea­ture.”

Holfve ex­pects Pri­mal to leave Early Ac­cess around March, but devel­op­ment will con­tinue for as long as in­ter­est ex­ists. Al­ready Pri­mal Eden, on which you’re dumped to hunt dinosaurs, is con­vinc­ingly Cre­ta­ceous. The ex­treme de­tail of DayZ’s Ch­ernarus is lack­ing,

but plant life flour­ishes, and the is­land is vast, bol­ster­ing the sense of iso­la­tion.

Set off into the dis­tance, and there’s a good chance you will be eaten. If you sprint, you’ll be eaten. If you edge too hastily around a T rex, you’ll be eaten. If your gun sounds, flee – but not too fast, or you will be eaten. The player’s fragility sets the pace. Only the dar­ing cross Pri­mal Eden at more than a crawl, and hours are spent shuf­fling be­tween ran­dom loot crates, as marked by a PDA, in the hope of find­ing a ser­vice­able weapon.

“I know the big drive right now is shoot­ing dinosaurs,” Holfve says, “but it seems like a lot of peo­ple are en­joy­ing how hard it is to sur­vive. It’s also some­thing that’s go­ing to be up to the com­mu­nity in the end: how much they want the sur­vival part and how much they want to shoot dinosaurs.”

‘Sur­vival’ is a term used loosely. Hunger and thirst me­ters are out, the pres­ence of Utahrap­tors be­ing enough to keep life in check. A cur­sory glance at Pri­mal’s Steam fo­rum sug­gests sup­port for the de­ci­sion among a com­mu­nity of purists who brook no dis­trac­tion from the hunt, but Pri­mal Eden is a sparse place, de­void of minute-to-minute ob­jec­tives. You wan­der at ran­dom and, if you can avoid in­ges­tion, will even­tu­ally stum­ble on glow­ing foot­prints that mark the pas­sage of prey. Creep along the length of the trail and your re­ward for be­ing pa­tient is the up­per hand over the beast that left it.

What fol­lows is a mo­ment of pow­er­ful ten­sion, enough to al­le­vi­ate the men­tal fa­tigue that comes with spells of schlep­ping through ferns: your quarry stops and takes in the air, and you have sec­onds to fire. The feel­ing can be height­ened when co­or­di­nat­ing with up to 16 friends, which is all but oblig­a­tory for T rex hunt­ing, be­cause even if you fail bring it down in a vol­ley, it can’t eat ev­ery­one at once.

“I got my hunt­ing li­cence last year,” Holfve says. “It’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, be­cause it is a lot of wait­ing, and it is a lot of walk­ing, but the con­trast of noth­ing hap­pen­ing for 20 min­utes, and all of a sud­den hav­ing a few sec­onds to de­cide whether to take a shot – we see that as an ex­tremely pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.” On a Venn di­a­gram, Pri­mal ex­ists where

DayZ over­laps Train Sim­u­la­tor. It has taken point­ers from sur­vival suc­cesses, and comes at a time when in­ter­est in open-ended games is peak­ing, but it’s still an en­thu­si­ast’s pur­suit, de­signed by peo­ple with hunt­ing li­cences for fel­low hob­by­ists. It’s hard to imag­ine Pri­mal reach­ing the au­di­ences of

DayZ or Rust, but it doesn’t have to, or aspire to. Di­nosaur hunt­ing brings va­ri­ety to a small, staid niche, and in that re­gard an open line to its devo­tees through Early Ac­cess will serve

Pri­mal far bet­ter than closed doors. This is be­spoke devel­op­ment, and it’s help­ing to keep a com­mu­nity from ex­tinc­tion.

“It’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, be­cause it is a lot of wait­ing, and it is a lot of walk­ing”

Utahrap­tors are vi­cious and in­tel­li­gent pack hun­ters.

The Hunter’s orig­i­nal au­dio ca­pa­bil­i­ties had to be up­graded to sim­u­late rep­til­ian com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Pim Holfve, holder of a real-life hunt­ing li­cence, has been Ex­pan­sive Worlds’ CEO since 2012

TOP LEFT Tricer­atops are the her­biv­o­rous prey of choice for rookie hun­ters. Clean kills are dif­fi­cult, but too much noise might at­tract some­thing less for­giv­ing.

ABOVE Thun­der­ous T rex en­coun­ters are ter­ri­fy­ing and, ap­par­ently, au­then­tic. Ex­pan­sive Worlds has tuned their ag­gres­sion ac­cord­ing to avail­able sci­en­tific data

The Hunter:Pri­mal’s dis­tant de­tail is ex­cep­tional, invit­ing you to ex­plore land­marks such as as­ter­oid craters, pro­vided you can avoid be­ing de­voured en route

Ferns and fo­liage car­pet the world, but there are man­made struc­tures on Pri­mal Eden. You never know, one of them might even con­tain a gun to fight back with

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