Dinosaurs are rad. Sadly, they rarely appear in video games. So I was excited to play Second Extinction, a new shooter featuring dinosaurs, both big and small. What I wasn’t expecting was how much this early access game would remind me of Destiny, or how much fun I would have playing it.
Second Extinction is a first-person shooter with some light RPG elements, which can be played solo or in teams of three. It’s set in the future after mutated dinosaurs have taken over the Earth. How did this happen? Why are they mutated? I don’t know. The intro is short and doesn’t explain much beyond telling me it’s up to my team of mercenaries to kill all the dinos and reclaim the planet. Lot of pressure to put on my shoulders, but I’m down to give it a shot.
Players pick a character, each with their own abilities and perks. One character can carry two primary weapons; another can become nearly invisible if they stop moving for a bit. Then, you head down to Earth to complete a mission set in an open world map filled with smaller side activities and lots of dinosaurs. Like Destiny, you can also visit this large open-world without taking a mission, just to explore and complete side quests like collecting dino eggs or activating radio towers. Regardless if you are on a mission or just exploring as you kill dinos, you earn XP and collect resources, all of which can be used to upgrade guns and unlock new abilities. You then use those new abilities and better weapons to, you probably guessed, kill even more dinosaurs on more missions. Repeat as much as you desire.
It’s a simple but effective loop, and it mostly works as a solo game, even if I found myself getting more overwhelmed when playing alone. Second Extinction loves to throw huge crowds of dinosaurs at you, but luckily it’s fun to mow them down or blow them up with grenades or exploding barrels. Things become less fun when you start to run low on ammo or health. Then, the game becomes more of a horror shooter, as you creep around the planet trying to avoid dinos while looking for a campsite or supplies so you can stock up.
Another thing this game shares with Destiny is that there’s no way to pause the action, as the game is always online. At one point I had to step away to go to the bathroom, and I had to hide my injured character in some trees far away from any dinos. It was scary and memorable, but I’d still like a pause button.
As players clear out different areas of the open world and complete missions, they collectively affect the number of dinos that spawn in different areas. This is represented in-game via a threat level that can go up or down. Picking missions and side quests in areas that are easier or harder is a part of the pre-mission setup: Do you want more XP and resources? Well, you could try doing a mission in the hardest zones that week. Or load into an easier, less infested area to get fewer rewards, but come back alive. Twice a week the map is updated to show how players are changing it. It’s a cool idea that hopefully gets tied into future updates and features.
Second Extinction is part of Xbox’s Preview early access program, so the game is still in development, with new content and features coming in future updates. On the game’s official site, the devs are promising new characters and weapons and even a horde mode. Xbox and PC crossplay is also coming later this year.
With plans to add more to the game moving forward, I’d love to see more dino variety. In its current state, you mostly fight raptors and a handful of raptor variants. There are few bigger dinos to encounter, but I’d love to see flying dinosaurs or some even bigger creatures. Then again, the raptors in this game are already scary enough. Perhaps I’ll regret asking.