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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Parkasuarus (Now In Early Access)


A few weeks ago we had a quick preview look at cute dino park builder Parkasaurus from Canadian 2-man team Washbear Studios.  I've been waiting, impatiently, for this since I first saw the announcement trailer back in November and can say the wait has definitely been worth it.  The game had originally been slated to hit Early Access back in Spring but the team took the hard decision to push the release back until they felt it was in a better state.  This has given them time to add some new dinos, new guests following feedback from the announcement trailer and fix some of their bigger bugs (they had one where any water would cause your park to flood).

I'm going to try not to repeat too much from the other article and look a bit more at how the game actually plays out.  Being Early Access though, some of this will be subject to change depending on feedback from players, and more features still need to be added as development progresses.  In the final game there will be 3 game modes (normal, custom and scenarios) with the first two already implemented.  In the normal mode you start with a flat, empty lot, some cash and a small selection of buildings, scenery and dinosaurs available (this mode will be the focus of this article).  The custom game let's you set various parameters for your game such as unlimited money, all research unlocked and all dino species available.  There is also an alpha random terrain generation (bumpy terrain) option.

 A small spot of tranquillity in the park

When you start a normal game you are given the option, by way of a check box, to skip the tutorial.  The tutorial still needs some work but does introduce most of the game mechanics and, through exploring the game, those which aren't yet in the tutorial can be figured out.  There are a few things which make this stand out in the management sim genre for me, and they make the experience quite unique.  Probably the biggest difference to most games like this is the day cycle and how this affects your finances.  Rather than running constantly your park closes each night with all guests leaving your park.  The end of day is also when your income is calculated.  This means that rather than your available cash increasing every time your guest make a purchase you 'cash up' at the end of the day with income from admission, shops and donation boxes calculated against your expenses on food and staffing, although you can see how much is being made during the day as this is displayed in a piggy bank below your available cash.  This makes developing your park a bit more strategical as you can't rely on the money constantly increasing. 

Obviously, creating your enclosures and looking after your dinos is a massive part of the game, and is much more involved than simply drawing a fence.  After you have chosen which fence you want, these all have different attributes such as how strong they are or how easy the guests can view the dinos through them, you draw out your enclosure.  This is done with a simple click and drag system and if you are near the park boundary you can even use the boundary wall as part of your enclosure to save some cash.  But you are not finished there!  Each dinosaur species has a specific biome requirement ranging from desert to swamp.  To create the perfect biome you need to select the base tile (grass, sand or swamp) and lay this within the enclosure.  Now you can morph the biome by editing the terrain to make it more rugged and add water.  To help you get it right there is a useful graphic in the exhibit pane to show you the current biome and how ruggedness and wetness will affect it.  There are also 'privacy tiles' for each of the base tiles which are essentially long grass which give some shelter when your dinos are overwhelmed.  Finally, you need to balance the biodiversity of the exhibit with a mix of trees, bushes and rocks suitable for the chosen biome (again a handy graphic helps you to get it right).

The park by night with the awesome chain lights (maybe my favourite item in the game)

Now you're ready to add your dinos.  This involves crafting eggs.  To do this you need to use the portal room to send scientists back in time to hunt for footprints and skulls.  Each species requires a different number of these from their dinosaur family, for example sauropod or theropod, and a gem.  These gems can be purchased in town and the items can be combined in the Egg Store.  When you return to your park you simply drop the egg into your exhibit and leave it to incubate.  Once it is ready a finger icon appears and clicking that will cause it to hatch.  During this incubation you can also influence the colour of the dino by slotting different items into the egg.  There are currently ove r 20 dinosaur species to place in your park and one of the community members has kindly put together this guide of the dinos in the game.

Of course, you have no park without guests and you need to make these happy too.  Happy guests will spend longer in the park, spend more at your shops and, crucially, make more donations which is the core income source.  You can get an idea of how they are by reading their reviews at the end of the day, or clicking on a guest will bring up the info pane.  The thing I found most difficult to get my head round initially was guests saying that the park was boring.  This is because the decoration within an enclosure doesn't influence their overall impressions of the park.  This means that you need to make sure you don't pack your facilities too close together so that there is enough space for you to place some of the many decor items, many of which require to be unlocked via a research/tech tree.  There are two of these in the game, one for park items and one for dino items.  The park items are unlocked using research points which are generated by scientists assigned to a research station or a learning point.  Dino items are unlocked using hearts which are awarded at the end of each day based on the number and happiness of dinos in your park.  As you progress this allows you to unlock the different families of dinosaurs.

Baby stegosaurus co-habiting with some triceratops

As you can probably tell the game is a lot deeper than the low poly art style and cute dino accessories (cone of shame for your dinos anyone?) and for being at the very start of the early access cycle the game has a surprising amount of content and polish.    I've barely scratched the surface with this post and we will definitely be keeping an eye on this throughout the development.  I have no hesitation in recommending the game for purchase, even on day 2 of release.  The devs have shown their commitment to the process by already pushing out hot fixes and engaging with the community for feedback.  They are in the Discord server daily, have a Trello board and are very open to feedback and suggestions.  At the time of writing the game has a 100% positive rating on Steam and as within the top 10 sellers list on Steam for the UK.

I have also done something new and have a YouTube video play through of the tutorial and will hopefully find the time to flesh this out into an ongoing let's play series.  As always, comments and likes are appreciated and please follow me on Twitter/subscribe on YouTube.  If you ever have any games you want to see featured feel free to email me using the button to the right.

Parkasaurus is now available in Steam Early Access priced at $19.99, €19.99 and £15.49.

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