Mechs, tanks, jetpacks, and dinos in the $1 Orion: Prelude

Orion Prelude

I've seen a lot of things in my many years of gaming, but I've never seen a charging Tyrannosaurus Rex pick up a boulder with its mouth and fling it at an armored soldier hovering in the sky wearing a jetpack while firing a bow and arrow.

This noteworthy moment arrived about ten minutes into the round I played of Orion: Prelude, a co-op multiplayer shooter that includes mech suits, tanks, numerous weapons, and tons of rampaging dinosaurs. The dinos include raptors, pterodactyls, the T-rex, triceratops, and the fearsome stegosaurus, known by paleontologists everywhere for its ruthless massacring of low-lying bushes and vegetation. Whatever their original diets, these dinos are out for blood and attack your base in waves. As Dr. Grant from Jurassic Park might have said in awed, hushed tones: "They're attacking in waves. They do attack in waves."

After each wave players can spend points on better weapons and perks, and vehicles begin to appear outside their bases, like tanks, rocket speeders, mech suits, and even hovercraft. It's Techs vs. Rex, in other words.

Orion Prelude

Orion: Prelude, formerly known as Orion: Dino Beatdown, formerly known as Orion: Dino Horde has a troubled past, and if the string of name changes doesn't clearly signify the game's original suckiness, the developer's own words sure do: "In 2012 we released one of the worst games of all time and almost everyone hated it." (For the record, we at PC Gamer agreed, awarding it a score of 10% in the September 2012 issue of our magazine.)

Unlike the makers of most of the worst games of all time (there are many worst games of all time, of course), they didn't abandon it—they just kept on working on it. I never played Dino Horde or Dino Beatdown, but during my time with Prelude I had fun shooting dinos with miniguns, ramming raptors with rocket sleds, and fighting alongside random teammates with names like 'Unknown Player' and 'xXTiTyMcSwAgXx'. It's a noisy, silly, fairly obnoxious experience, but definitely an enjoyable one in small doses.

Orion Prelude

Having only played the one session, I'm not entirely clear on goals beyond blasting dinosaurs in the face and trying to jump in a vehicle before a teammate absconds with it. I know we had a power generator that was under attack, and a series of buildings that required defending. At one point I found myself crackling with electricity, which I assume was some sort of teammate-provided buff. I purchased the ability to eat dead dinosaurs at one point, but I forgot to actually try it because I was constantly surrounded by living dinosaurs who were attempting to eat me. I punched a bunch of small dinos into paste while piloting a mech, only to have a Triceratops headbutt me out of it and into the grass where I quickly died.

Something else to consider: the price, which is one dollar. I'd say it's worth it, but in the interest of full disclosure I admit I didn't actually buy Orion: Prelude. Tyler bought it for me, and even he bought it when it was on sale for 75 cents. Is this dino-shooting game worth 75 cents of Tyler's money? I'd say so.

Orion Prelude

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.