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Paleo Pines Review (PS4) – Thoughtful Prehistoric Twist To Ranching That Lacks Consistency

Paleo Pines PS4 Review – With the popularity resurgence of ranching sims, more and more titles take a shot at the genre in hopes of channeling the success of the likes of Rune Factory and Stardew Valley. Paleo Pines takes an attempt at that success, bringing in dinosaurs to the mix. Is that enough to make it stand out from the pack?

Paleo Pines PS4 Review – Thoughtful Prehistoric Twist to Ranching That Lacks Consistency

Much like other ranching games on the market, Paleo Pines gives you a rundown place to live and lets you learn how to grow and develop your locale at your own pace. These games also provide you with tools to help you develop.

The inclusion of dinosaurs can be seen as a gimmick to try and separate this game from the sea of others in the genre. However, these dinosaurs serve fundamental functions in your daily routine, acting as much more flexible tools.

Some dinosaurs break up rocks and till land while others clear debris, run fast, or water lots of crops at the same time. Each dinosaur provides its own function, with many of them rideable. Even the small dinosaurs tend to your crops so you don’t need to.

A Development Herd

By design, getting to the point of a self-sustaining farm takes a long time. The biggest hangup to overall progression is befriending dinosaurs and earning their trust. While you can befriend many dinosaurs immediately after you find them, they won’t become Helpers until they trust you.

Trust comes from providing the dinosaurs with a clean, welcoming place to eat and sleep as well as learning what foods each dinosaur prefers. Earning their trust not only gives you benefits at home but also allows you to explore more of the map. Many paths are blocked by logs or rocks, and you need the correct dinosaur to get through those obstacles.

To do so, you use the flute you receive early on to mimic the calls that dinosaurs make. In simple words, you press or hold the buttons in the same order as the dinosaur to get close enough to offer them food and befriend them.

Big Dinos, Bigger Efforts

With that in mind, dinosaurs with more useful skills require you to copy more complicated sound patterns just to get close to them. While you have day cycles to juggle, you can still progress the game at your own pace. This allots you time enough to learn what the dinosaurs like to eat and where to get those foods without any pressures from looming deadlines.

Putting all of this together almost contradicts the overall presentation. With such a youthful and simplistic visual style, the growing complexity of it all sneaks up on you. With other ranching games, you know what specific tools do without explanation. With dinosaurs, their functions aren’t always clear. A styracosaurus looks like a creature that could ram hard objects, so it’s easy to assume that’s what it can do for you.

Conversely, how could you guess that a Gallimimus can hold a bunch of water in its throat in order to water a bunch of crops all at once? Some are blatantly obvious while the others are more trial and error.

The Pace of Trial and Error

Unfortunately, that trial and error takes a ton of time to learn. Thankfully, the more important functions coincide with the dinosaurs that clearly indicate their abilities. This helps to point you in the right direction, but it’s still up to you to make the right choices.

The people around you haven’t been able to do the things you can do, so they learn from your skills. There’s very little prior knowledge for you to benefit from. On a personal note, this made every discovery and step forward feel wonderful. Putting in the work and learning on your own creates its own sense of reward.

Still, this game lacks one thing that the best ranching games have: consistent development. At the beginning, you jump through tons of content and map, learning simple things very quickly. Then, you catch yourself in a small bottleneck that keeps slowing things down. That’s when you realize you’re missing something.

Once you figure out that thing, then there’s another surge of progress and exploration that’s soon followed by a lot of time and effort to get past the next bottleneck. This might sound bad, but it’s not. Breaking through every hindrance makes the game feel compelling and fulfilling.

Potential Fun In Routine

However, the ebb and flow of progress brings in lengthy stints of tedium in between bouts of progression, the kind of tedium that feels more busy than developmental. This gameplay loop makes for some fulfilling points, but the effort to get there doesn’t always feel worth it. The game offers you a quest board. This offers you random fetch quests for the townspeople to gain their friendship. These do lead to discounts at certain vendors or being able to stay overnight at someone’s house. Apart from that, though, it stands in more as filler than fulfilling.

The one other hard knock I have against Paleo Pines is how you manage your dinosaurs every day. If you want one of your dinosaurs to come with you, you need to play two jingles that tell them to follow you. This needs to be done for each dinosaur, and it has to be done each and every day.

Practically all of the gripes I have with Paleo Pines are things that contributed to my drive to keep playing. The further I get, the easier it is to forget the early frustrations, thanks to the conveniences you gain along the way. Having to put in extra effort to get what you want contributes to an overall growth as well.

Still, a consistent pace in that growth and a more regular work to progress ratio would benefit the entire experience. If that were the case, I wouldn’t look back at several lengths of game time like I look at leaving work every day. There’s a good game here, especially for people like me who want to experience more from the ranching sim genre. While it doesn’t revolutionize the formula, Paleo Pines offers a new way of approaching things.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.

Paleo Pines is available now on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox.



The Final Word

Paleo Pines takes a unique approach to the ranching genre, asking you to learn a new way of developing your home. Pacing suffers along the way, and much of the side content feels more like filler. It may not have revolutionized the genre and may not be for everyone, but fans of the genre will find something surprisingly engaging, even with its flaws.