Dinosaur Fossil Hunter is an in-development simulation game by Pyramid Games based out of Poland, and is set for release later this year on Steam. You get to live out your dreams of being a paleontologist, searching for dinosaur fossils, excavating them, sorting and cleaning the bones and rearranging them for display in a museum. Pyramid Games recently ran a kickstarter campaign which was successful, unlocking multiple stretch goals and so development is well under way. I was afforded the opportunity to play an alpha build demo last month and it was a lot of fun despite the clunkiness of such an early build.
During a short introductory sequence of a connect-the-dots drawing, walking and finding your first fossil and piecing together some model dinosaurs, the excitement inside you builds with childhood memories of learning about dinosaurs. The mechanics of these simple sequences gives you the fundamentals for the main segment of the demo. It’s then explained that when you were 20 years of age, you found an article about a paleontological group in a newspaper who were advertising some work in the north of the country. You took a risk and signed up for the job and were accepted.
The main part of the game has you start by driving a 4WD vehicle in third-person view, navigating your way from a warehouse to a nearby dig site (hint: pay attention to the road signs!). This felt a little but like Mud Runner as you negotiated terrain, having to hop out to chop a fallen log and remove large boulders to clear the road. Once at the dig site, it switches to first-person view and you search on foot using a scanning device, looking for any blips below the surface. Once you find something worth searching, you peg out the excavation area and use a shovel to carefully dig and expose rocks. Holding the rocks up for inspection, you find some that contain fossils.
After spraying the fossil rocks in foam and loading them into your car and driving back to the warehouse, the game switches to production mode. Here you need to chip the rock away from the bones. Once all bone fragments have been uncovered, they are moved to a table where they need to be meticulously and laboriously cleaned before being organised into the stencil of the relevant dinosaur. Finally, you then switch to museum layout mode where you get to arrange and decorate the display for this dinosaur.
All aspects of exploring, searching and discovery of the fossils was fun to play out, however the cleaning of the bones was frustratingly slow with five separate processes that need to be done to each piece of bone to prepare it for the museum presentation which took me 30 minutes of precision cleaning to complete. The final step in the demo was to arrange the completed skeleton in a display in a museum, allowing you to play with positioning and also decoration for the display.
I understand that in real life, the cleaning and preparation of the fossils/bones would be an extremely delicate operation and I can see what they were going for with this gameplay element. However, I found it a bit too labour intensive for a game, and given this is a demo with only a small dinosaur to work on, I can imagine this process would take much longer for larger dinosaur skeletons and predict this may turn off some gamers from progressing or even giving it a try.
This was a very early alpha demo for the game, and given the kickstarter campaign has concluded successfully recently, I’m sure the developers will take feedback on board as they charge forward with developing Dinosaur Fossil Hunter. Features that have been unlocked through the kickstarter campaign are dynamic weather, more exploration mechanics and searching in wetland areas, as well as underwater fossil searches, photo mode and new museum decorations. It definitely sounds like it’s going to be a great game for anyone interested in dinosaurs and especially gamers keen on searching for and processing dinosaur fossils.
This preview utilised a Steam key provided by the publisher for review purposes. Dinosaur Fossil Hunter can be wishlisted on Steam but there is no selling price yet. A free prologue is coming soon so it will be interesting to see what will have changed between the prologue and the demo build I got to play. I’ve added this game to my wishlist and am looking forward to watching the game progress.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis