The Isle is a Sandbox Dinosaur Game
How I found The Isle is completely strange. CryEngine’s announcement that version V (That’s 5) would be free got me interested in making a game. I started poking around Cryengine on Steam, eventually finding a video demo called Back to Dinosaur Island made with Cryengine. At the bottom of that page in the recommended section was The Isle. Of course the logo image you see above is really awesome looking, so I fell for the click bait. Boy am I glad I did. Think ARK, except YOU are the dinosaur! I have over 57 hours in The Isle as of now. It’s gotten the biggest audience for my stream since Total War Arena. I bought this game with my own personal funds, and am not being paid or compensated to write this in any form.
A Game About Dinosaur Survival
The Isle is a persistent dinosaur world. Appropriate descriptions would also be a Dinosaur Simulator or a Dinosaur MMO. You can pick herbivores or Carnivores, each with its own ‘starter’ dinosaur. Velociraptor for Carnivores and Dryosaurus for the Herbivores. You accrue points from staying alive, and can eventually spend those points to rank up into other dinosaurs. These include the more common Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, to the more obscure Shantungosaurus and Baryonx. Each server can choose to run one of several different maps right now. Each one is a whole new world to explore. As of now there are over 25 servers available, with 6 of them in the double digits of population as I write this (12:36 AM EST). Servers scale up to 100 players! You can even host your own server! In my experience, The Isle is 70% exploration, 15% socialization, and 15% dinosaur PvP carnage. I love to PvP, and am mildly distrustful of some players sometimes, for reasons you’ll read below. I just want to explain your exploration, socialization, and PvP mileage may vary. Also worth mentioning, this game is in Early Access. Expect bugs. To that end, I have experienced next to no bugs whatsoever. It appears to be very stable. You can get The Isle for $19.99 on Steam.
Dinosaur PvP Carnage
I want to bring up this section first because it has implications for the other two. There are no NPCs on most servers in The Isle, however the option is being developed now. Otherwise, on most servers, every dinosaur you see is another player. The food source for Herbivores are the pine looking trees, but the food source for carnivores is other dinosaurs. To be clear, the only way carnivores eat is by killing other players. The PvP system in The Isle is unforgiving, and I absolutely adore it. If you like to PvP, and you’re good at it, you’re going to attract a lot of attention. Combat is fast and furious, but always ends in either injury or death. Death sends you back to the dinosaur select screen, and injury requires lots of downtime for healing. Often your injuries can be bad enough to make your dinosaur limp, making you SUPER vulnerable to others. The golden rule of PvP in The Isle is to avoid injury at all costs. You’re going to have to PvP at least a little bit in The Isle. It’s impossible to avoid completely.
All the ‘action’ in The Isle takes place at watering holes, which is pretty awesome considering that’s how it happened 65 million years ago too. All dinosaurs are forced to find food and water as soon as you load into the game. Food is most abundant near watering holes, so that’s the first thing you do when you enter the game. There are no maps, only an unfriendly X-Y-Z coordinate system. This is most of what leads to the 70% exploration. In my experience, it takes about 15 minutes to find water if you don’t know what you’re doing. While there are 2-3 watering holes per map, generally only one of them has enough players around to keep things interesting. So just because you find a watering hole, doesn’t mean you’re done traveling. Bottom line, you’ll need to like exploring at least a little bit to enjoy The Isle. There are rumors of a scent system, as well as other means to navigate in the works. Remember, it’s in early access.
Quite often you can find another player before you get to the watering hole. Generally speaking, herbivores stay together and herd up. Carnivores may herd up with their own species, but this is really hit or miss. Once you’re at the watering hole, it looks like a snapshot of life 65 million years ago. Herbivores flock together with Carnivores watching on. Usually there are corpses too, so carnivores aren’t always aggressive. It’s hanging out the old-old-fashioned way, like when there weren’t even telephones. The people you see talking in chat are your own species. You don’t see names unless you’re grouped, and have no way of communicating with other dinosaur species in game. This is a really, really nice touch that I like enormously.
The Bad News
I do want to bring up some things that have had a big impact on me. I have had two bad experiences with the developer run Twitch streams. It’s obviously not a deal breaker, I just avoid the developer Twitch streams. Additionally, the developer does not appear receptive to feedback. This creates periods of unplayablity, and by periods I mean months. I stopped playing for almost 6 months because of newly implemented systems and balance. I just want to bring these things up for full disclosure because I know some people, like me, enjoy actively engaging developers of games. The developers seem to have their plan, and are sticking to it until they absolutely can’t anymore. This makes it hard to recommend the game because while things may be going good right now, I’ve experienced first-hand the lack of attention to punishing mechanics.
There’s Nothing Like It, and Still More To Come
Updates have been happening multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day, since I have started playing. We’re talking serious updates. From a new system where you break your leg when falling too far, to releasing whole new dinosaurs. From the snapshot I have of this game, it looks to have active, ongoing development. Also, the devs place a priority on the science in this game. The recently famous psittacosaurus has been added, in all its scientifically accurate glory. I feel like I have certainly gotten my $20 worth. I have streamed the Isle quite a bit in the past. The chat gets pretty active, and like to talk about all things dinosaur and The Isle. The player community on Twitch seems to be very, very friendly. How much I stream it depends on the current state of the game, which right now is headed in the right direction, after a LONG detour. So if you see me streaming the Isle, come watch, talk dinosaur shop, and catch a glimpse at prehistoric life, like you have never seen! You can also visit my YouTube channel to check out gameplay. I’ve been posting a lot of game highlights there from my stream. The Isle currently seems to be headed in the right direction, and definitely has potential. It’s worth keeping an eye on, and maybe pick it up if heavily discounted.