I’ve been interested in trying a relaxed farm sim but never found a game that quite pushed me to stop browsing and play it. Paleo Pines offered something I couldn’t refuse in its recently released demo: befriending dinosaurs. Indeed, the main appeal, at least for me, was the dinosaurs. They’re delightfully adorable to look at in this game and make cute sounds to further their charm. You can pet them, tame them, ride them, and farm with them.
However, as a whole, the Paleo Pines demo left me with mixed feelings. I played for three hours and felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of what I could do. Between the trailer and the things in-game NPCs told me, it seems there’s a lot more to do than tame one dinosaur, grow a few crops, and explore a small part of the landscape. On the other hand, the game isn’t clear if everything it tells you about can be done in the demo.
A lack of clarity permeates throughout the demo, tarnishing even the best parts. You get a flute you can play to tame wild dinosaurs. However, I am unsure how I wrangled the one dinosaur I did get since I tried the same thing multiple times, and it worked once for reasons unknown. In addition, it never worked on any other dinosaurs. There was a quest that required asking an NPC about Parasaurolophuses, but she wouldn’t talk to me about them. I had a quest to investigate a blocked road, but I was never told where it was. I needed to obtain a dreamstone to help my new dinosaur trust me, but I was never told what those were or how to get them. It’s possible those were all things purposefully gated off for the demo, but since it didn’t signpost what was possible, not being able to do them felt like a severe bug.
To folks familiar with the genre, they might not need that much clarity. Perhaps dreamstones and escalating farm equipment to remove the grind from farming are as expected to them as a dodge roll and leveling up stats are to me in a Souls game. As a newcomer, I was constantly unsure if I was missing something.
What made it worse was the other bugs, such as my character sometimes failing to interact with something, forcing me to try multiple times before figuring out if it wasn’t interactable or if I was just doing it wrong.
Exploring revealed a lot of stuff that could become interesting, such as finding new dinosaurs in the wild, going to NPCs’ homes, and uncovering new paths I assume become usable after taming a certain dinosaur. However, the Paleo Pines demo had more promises of interesting things than immediately fun gameplay. The NPCs aren’t chatty and don’t display a lot of personality in their appearance or dialog, which is disappointing because the company of good neighbors is a big draw. Farming was understandably repetitive but didn’t have the rhythmic charm of repeating small, menial tasks that something like Arcade Paradise has.
While the buggy interactions made me question how much was working correctly and the farming was a bit too dull for me, there’s potential for a dino-centric farming game for me to enjoy in Paleo Pines. I’ll keep my eye on it during development, and hopefully with some refining and polish, it’ll evolve into a relaxing and adorable game I can enjoy.