Orion: Prelude is the revised version of Orion: Dino Horde, which itself, is a revised version of Orion: Dino Beatdown. Confusing, isn't it?
Orion: Dino Beatdown; the original, was a terrible game that launched as an alpha, with terrible netcode, and justly received a Metacritic rating of 36. Ironically, if you check the Metacritic rating, it'll be for Orion: Dino Horde. Apparently Metacritic hasn't received word from the developer that they've changed the name yet again.
But enough about how Spiral Game Studios keeps trying to reinvent the game by renaming it and patching problems that should have been fixed at release; what is the game like? Orion: Prelude is a team-based, cooperative, sci-fi, wave-based, FPS where your goal is to kill dinosaurs and complete objectives. The game is essentially what you'd get if you took Killing Floor and Halo and mixed them together. It's borrows Killing Floor's wave-based combat, where every kill gives you money to better arm yourself, and every wave gets progressively harder; and it borrows from Halo in the Shield mechanic, the vehicular combat, (although this could be atributable to other games as well) and the overall look of the game.
Up to five players can play together on a single server. Within the game, there are three classes which further distinguish your role from the role of the other four players. The classes are Assault, Support, and Recon. While I'd normally explain in depth the differences between these classes, I can't because there really isn't much of a reason. If you're playing this game, you're playing it in either Survival or Conquest. Sure, there are other gamemodes to choose from, but they're all variations of standard PvP gamemodes that exist in better incarnations in other games, so you'd be better served playing them there. If you bought this game, you bought it for the dinosaurs, which means it's Survival or Conquest for you. In that case, pick Assault if you want to kill things, and pick Support if you want to keep teammates alive. There's no reason to pick Rogue in these gamemodes. It seems as though the developers made it for PvP only, as in Survival and Conquest, it suffers greatly.
The differences between the classes really come down to the single class skill you get at spawn. The Assault class gets a jetpack ability which can be improved by purchasing augments. (more on this later) The Support class gets access to a medigun which can heal a player, and with the proper augment, replenish their ammo supply. The Rogue class can turn invisible which can act as an effective temporary invulnerability, as all Dinosaurs will immediately de-aggro from you and never attack you while stealthed. Those are the differences. There's also some weapon differences, but all weapons can be bought by purchasing an augment that allows you to purchase class restricted weapons.
What are these augments I keep referring to? Just like in Killing Floor, at the end of a wave which is usually around 20-30 dinosaurs, you have a minute to buy weapons or augments at their respective shops. Weapons are divided into four categories: primary weapons, secondary weapons, pistols, and Adrenaline weapons. Primary weapons are your standard rifles, LMG's, and Sniper Rifles. Secondary Weapons are SMG's and shotguns. Pistols are pistols, and Adrenaline weapons are class-specific weapons.
Augments provide boosts to your character's fighting ability; from double jumping to boost jumping, to additional armor. There's even an augment which allows you to feast upon dinosaur corpses for health which sounds neat, but is utterly worthless. While Augments are important, there's really a select few which are far and away better than the rest which you'll find yourself buying in the same order every game, irrespective of what class you are. There are a few class-specfic augments which I alluded to earlier, but most of the desired ones are shared amongst the classes.
Onto the dinosaurs. There are tiny dinosaurs like Compies, medium sized dinosaurs like Raptors and some larger spitting dinosaur, then there are large Dinosaurs like Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and of course, the T-Rex. Instead of being smart and making the large dinosaurs the primary objective of the game, the entire game focuses around killing the small dinosaurs, because the waves are determined by a specific number of dinosaurs that spawn, not the type of dinosaur. A dinosaur killed is a dinosaur killed no matter what type it is. So your best bet is to just kill all of the easy-to-kill dinosaurs, and leave the large ones alive to clean up after the wave has ended, assuming you don't have anything pressing to buy. This is the main gripe I have with the game. The main pull of the game, fighting giant dinosaurs, has been relegated to a mere distraction and nothing more. If you stop and spend time killing the large dinosaurs, you're opening yourself up to a whole lot more damage by the smaller raptors.
When I refer to the large dinosaurs as distractions, I really mean annoyances. They'll hone in on one particular player, then constantly harass that player until one of the two dies. The T-Rex is especially annoying because it has this weird snare effect when it's damaging you which prevents you from getting away from it, so you just get caught and repeatedly bitten until you go down.
When you lose all of your health, the game borrows the downed system from Left 4 Dead, where you can be helped up. I say they borrowed it because it seems to be a combination of the system from Left 4 Dead and Payday. Your character can fall three times. If it falls a fourth time, you're dead and can only respawn next wave. Killing a dinosaur while downed gives you a second wind, or you can be helped up by another player.
The graphics are shockingly mediocre. It seriously looks like Halo 2 on Xbox circa 2004. The Source Engine has never looked as dated as this in a long time. The character models are all low poly count, and the environments are all bland and uninspired. They are large, so there's plenty of blandness to go around.
Overall, Orion: Prelude is exactly what you'd expect it to be; a bland cooperative shooter which has no identity of its own. The developers apparently tried to ride off of the novelty of players fighting dinosaurs in a sci-fi setting, but the game requires more than that. On top of that, there's something rather deceptive about trying to hide your failure by re-releasing the game under a different name, as if to try and avoid that ugly metacritic rating.
The game is nothing more than Orion: Dino Beatdown, just patched to be a working copy of it, rather than a buggy, laggy mess that shouldn't have been released. All these complaints aside, the game will provide you with a few hours of entertainment before the repitition and realization that all of these gameplay choices have been pulled from more successfull games. Considering that at the time of this review, the game is being sold on Steam for $1, with a 4-pack of it costing a grand total of $3, I struggle to think of another Steam title which you can get several hours of entertainment for four people, for just $3. Perhaps in that regard, Orion: Dino Beatdown/Dino Horde/Prelude succeeds.