Being a baby dinosaur in Early Access survival game Saurian is no picnic

Dakotaraptor means "plunderer of Dakota," owing to the fact that bones of this feathered dinosaur were first discovered in South Dakota in 2005. My time with Early Access survival game Saurian, in which I played as a baby Dakotaraptor (currently the only dino available, though there are more on the way) didn't leave me feeling much like a plunderer of anything except a few small lizards. Mostly, I wound up as lunch for other dinosaurs.

Saurian's survival simulation starts you off as a baby dino, with your parents Mr. and Mrs. Dakotaraptor and maybe a sibling or two to keep you company. You explore, hunt, eat, drink, rest, grow, and try not to die, basically, in an ecosystem known as Hell Creek, which doesn't sound overly promising for your chances of maturing, getting a well-paid dinosaur job, and raising a family in the suburbs.

Well, I've played plenty of survival games before, so I know how to begin: by cutting down some trees.

Oh, wait. I'm not a stinky caveman, stranded bush pilot, or astronaut trying to establish a colony on a hostile alien planet. I'm a baby dinosaur! I don't need to chop down trees (thank god), all I need to do is stick close to my parents (they're dinosaurs!) and let them kill things for me until I'm big enough to do it myself.

One wrinkle in my plan to mooch off the folks until I'm a brooding, ungrateful teenager: a tutorial tip informs me that Dakotaraptors are terrible parents, and may decide to kill and eat me as soon as I begin to grow up. As if that weren't worrisome enough, it's not so easy keeping up with them while they run around hunting non-family members. My dino-stamina quickly depletes, and when I sit down for a break I accidentally hold the rest key instead of tapping it. This signals to the game that I want to sleep, and eight hours later when I awaken it's dark and my family is gone.

I hustle around in the near-pitch blackness in a mild panic, trying to locate my careless cannibal parents. I eventually spot a bit of movement in the gloom and waddle hopefully over. It's not my mom, it's some other species of dinosaur. Don't worry, it's a herbivore! It doesn't eat me. It does, however, fucking step on me, killing me instantly. Who has two feathered forelimbs and doesn't need to wait around for an asteroid to make him extinct? This guy!

My second life doesn't go so well, either. I get separated from my parents again after trying to chase down my own meal, a little lizard, that is just as fast as I am and runs in an annoyingly effective zigzag. The gif above is the end of about four embarrassing minutes of trying to chase this little bastard down before he finally disappears somewhere in the grass. Exhausted and hungry, I look up to see my shitty parents have just run off somewhere and left me behind.

I try to track them by scent—holding down a key will bring up little clouds of pheromones that helps me locate predators and prey. Spotting a poof of yellow stank on the far side of a river, I take a little swim. Turns out that's not such a great idea either as what I think is a harmless log turns out to have a lot of teeth and a me-eating agenda.

I respawn again with my family. Having been stepped on by one dino and eaten in a single gulp by a Notalogosaur, I'm thinking it might be about time to practice my fighting skills, provided I have any. I immediately attack my brother Dakota and kill him easily, though it's a hollow victory since he doesn't fight back, he just tries to flee. I eat him—I dunno, why not—and then leave the semi-protective radius of my elders and head out to find something roughly my size to fight with.

Eventually, I spot another Dakota. It spots me too, and we circle warily. It's my size and species though it looks way cooler, all dark and sleek like a Lockheed Blackbird on legs, while I'm speckled and cute like baby deer you'd find at a petting zoo. Well, looks can be deceiving, though certainly not in this case. The cool Dakota kills me instantly.

DAMMIT. Being a baby dinosaur is hard. I start again, ditching my parents immediately in hopes of obtaining one small victory over something before I resort to building a time machine, traveling back to the Late Cretaceous period, deliberately stepping on a butterfly, and hoping it brings about an alternate future in which I don't suck so much at playing Saurian.

After a bit of running, resting, and giving a wide berth to anything even close to my size, I finally spot another little lizard. I run after it for a while, resulting in another fruitless, Benny Hill-esque chase, but eventually my persistence pays off. I nab the little bastard and enjoy my first self-killed meal. A banner reading 'WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH' doesn't drift down in front of me, but I still feel pretty good.

I manage to stay alive quite a while, in fact. I drink safely from a river, explore some deep woods, and don't get eaten by anything. I last so long that I actually grow into a young adult. In addition to being a little bigger, the game informs me I now have a new attack besides simply biting: I can take on dinos larger than myself by leaping into the air, landing on top of them, sinking the claws on my feet into them, and flapping my wings to keep them pinned under me while I tear them apart. Some real dinosaur shit.

This sounds like just the payback I need against this dinosaur society that has treated me so cruelly, so when I spot a slightly larger Dakota a few minutes later, I put my new skills into action.

Of course, I miss my first leap, and then miss my second leap. My claws don't sink into anything, and if I flap my wings it's simply an involuntary reflex upon being killed immediately by the other Dakota's beak. 

The other dino, which might be one of my parents as far as I know, then proceeds to swallow me in a single gulp. Looks like it's back to the egg for me.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.