Although it only got on my radar a few months ago, I was excited about Paleo Pines from the moment I first laid eyes on it. I’m a sucker for a cozy game, and even though I think there’s an overabundance of farming games on the market, I still dutifully give them a go to see if any of them are worth my time.
The key thing that stood out to me about Paleo Pines was the inclusion of dinosaurs. When I was a kid, I used to love dinosaurs, and I expect that’s true for many of you, too.
It’s a pretty universal experience; nearly every kid will go through a dinosaur phase. Although I technically got over that phase, I couldn’t wait to jump back into it with this game.
Prior to the release, I got to conduct an interview with one of the developers, which made me even more hyped for the launch. It was clear how much passion had gone into the game, which is one of the reasons why I love indies so much. I’d also played the demo at Gamescom 2023, and it had been a lot of fun.
So, the question remains… Is Paleo Pines worth it? Is this a unique cozy game that you can pour hours into, or is it just another farming sim with a dinosaur gimmick? Let’s find out together!
Off to a Slow Start
It’s not uncommon for farming sims to take a while to get into the action, but there’s usually a bit more to do. Take Stardew Valley as an example, since it’s the gold standard for the genre.
When you first arrive, you can’t jump straight into everything, but you still have options. This isn’t really the case for Paleo Pines.
The initial cutscene is wonderful and shows your pet Parasaurolophus Lucky growing progressively bigger until he no longer fits in your apartment.
You make a decision to jet off to Paleo Pines, a vibrant area that’s supposedly full of dinosaurs, where Lucky will have plenty of space to grow and friends to play with.
Unfortunately, when you get there, you find that the ranch you’ll be living in is more than a little rundown. As well as that, there hasn’t been a single Parasaurolophus sighting in forever.
The game doesn’t have a tutorial, but the first few basic procedures are explained, which was helpful. However, after that, you’re on your own. The problem from there is that it can be pretty grindy. You wake up, tend to crops, go to town to see if there are new quests, and then that’s it. Go to bed, same again the next day.
You can’t really spend very long per day because you run out of energy too quickly. Each dinosaur (as well as yourself) has a stamina bar that determines how much they can do that day.
It’s not too bad later in the game since they get more stamina as they level up, but at the start, it’s a nightmare. You can clear only about 3 or 4 pieces of debris before you’re too tired to do anything else.
And the worst part is that stamina doesn’t only cover your actions, but your movements too. If you want to run, it’ll cost precious stamina, meaning you won’t be able to make progress in the game.
So, to conserve energy, you end up walking everywhere, which is painfully slow. They should have made stamina a recoverable secondary bar, and then had a main energy bar for your actual activities.
A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action, Please
When I did the interview with Yazz, she mentioned how much she loved all the NPCs, so I was looking forward to meeting them. I just wish there were more available to interact with.
A lot of the people you see milling about are completely random NPCs who just say a single line to you and keep on walking. Based on the journal, there are only 9 NPCs whom you interact with. And even though I’m 8 hours into the game, I’ve still only met 6 of them.
I do like their personalities, particularly Owynn. He’s a massive nerd and spends his time meticulously documenting his observations about the dinosaurs. I love his scientific approach, and he kind of reminds me of my husband in a way. I think he’s definitely relatable for anyone who knows somebody who’s very academic.
He conducts his research with Mari, who’s the complete opposite of him. She’s very much a doer and wants to be getting stuck in with the dinosaurs, neglecting to take notes in the process.
It’s fun observing their interactions with each other, and I really love their main story quests. The other NPCs are okay, but I didn’t connect to them in the same way that I did with Owynn and Mari.
The dialogue is almost exclusively earned through doing quests. In terms of day-to-day interactions, you can expect the same few lines over and over again. At first, it’s okay since it usually reflects the personalities, but after a while, it’s tiresome.
My main concern is the lack of development. Unlike most cozy games, you can’t increase your friendship with the NPCs through conversations or gift-giving.
I understand that this was a deliberate choice by Italic Pig (the developer), but I think it was a poor one. For me, it affects the immersion of the game as it makes me feel like I can’t build genuine connections with them.
There’s also a pin board in town where you can find miscellaneous quests from the townsfolk. Now, if these quests improved my friendship levels, I’d be all over them, but they don’t. Worse still, a lot of the time, you’re not even turning a profit, as the reward is worth less than the items I’d be giving them.
Speaking of side quests, they’re not even fun. They’re usually something along the lines of “Bring me X” or “Come to me, deliver X to Y, then come back to me.” It’s repetitive, boring, and doesn’t enhance gameplay.
Thankfully, the main story quests are much better and tend to involve you going out and exploring your surroundings.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Even before playing, I knew for a fact that the dinosaurs would be the make or break for this game. If they were bad, it would be an instant quit, and if they were good, I’d be able to overlook most other flaws. Thankfully for Paleo Pines, the dinosaurs were a definite success.
Firstly, they’re just an absolute joy to behold. The designs are totally adorable, and I wanted to reach through the screen and give them all a cuddle, even the larger ones. I was seriously impressed with how cute they’d manage to make them. The best part, though, is all the different designs.
There are 30 species of dinosaur, and although you only have access to a few of them for the first few hours of the game, you really don’t feel limited. That’s because each dinosaur can display different patterns and colors, so you’re always on the lookout for unique varieties.
You get used to the common colors and designs pretty quickly, but one day you might step outside your ranch and see a dinosaur design that you’ve never spotted before.
The different rarity levels are awesome, especially because it makes you feel really lucky if you catch an Ultra Rare dinosaur. I also enjoy the minigame to catch them.
Each dinosaur will have a preference for certain kinds of food or Poppins. It’s fun trying to figure out what to feed them but gets frustrating if you waste a bunch of food on a specific dinosaur only to realize they don’t like any of the Poppin flavors that you’ve unlocked at that point.
Honestly, my only real complaint with the dinosaurs is that catching them isn’t introduced early enough and they take too long to tame.
It’s not easy to fully tame them since all the dinosaur-care items are so expensive, and it’s so hard to earn money in the game. But once you do tame them, you can ride them out in the open, or set them to doing tasks on your ranch.
Is It Just Another Farming Sim?
The short answer is no, but not in a good way. The main reason it’s not just another farming sim is because the farming is done so badly. It forces you to conserve stamina, meaning you have to walk everywhere rather than run.
It’s such a long, grindy process, and nothing about it feels fun (except maybe when you water all the crops by spraying water from a dinosaur’s mouth).
I heard that it was initially conceived as a mobile game, which could explain why this was such a lengthy process. Honestly, every action you take in Paleo Pines is unnecessarily long; the animations tend to drag on for a fair few seconds.
The scaling is pretty bad, as it’s so hard to earn money in the early stages of the game. It makes progress artificially slow, I don’t see why they couldn’t have found some means of making new items more accessible.
I wanted to be able to focus on dinosaur care by buying fences and gates to construct pens, but I had to waste time farming for several in-game weeks just to earn enough money. It’s exhausting.
A lot of the time, you’re just left to your own devices, and it’s unclear what to do next. This doesn’t feel like freedom; it feels like being stuck. You have a few main story quests, but they’re either frustratingly vague or rely on accessing areas you can’t get to yet.
I wish the game gave you clearer directions for you to follow if you wanted some more guidance. Sometimes it’s not even clear how to do a particular activity, such as the convoluted process of harvesting your first crop.
It takes way too long to access new areas. The routes are blocked with boulders, so you need to tame a large dinosaur so that you can break down the barrier.
Unfortunately, thanks to the lack of money, it’s hard to make a pen that’s decent enough to raise the large dinosaur’s satisfaction enough that you can ride them.
It’s So Fluffy I’m Gonna Die!
One thing I can’t fault is the graphics. I really do love the art style that they choose; it’s so wholesome and cute. The NPCs have sweet designs which make you feel instantly attached to their faces. The general setting assets are in keeping with the vibe, and overall, they work well together.
I utterly adore the dinosaur animations. The designs themselves are already delightful, but the animations take it to the next level. I have a Gallimimus on my ranch, and whenever I pet its nose, it raises up on its hind legs and flaps its arms in the air.
It’s the absolute cutest thing, and I can’t help but smile every time I see it. Kudos to the animation team for making the dinosaurs so lovable.
The music is upbeat and whimsical; it makes me excited to go on an adventure. However, after a while, it does start to feel a bit repetitive, even though I do like it. Still, it’s a petty gripe, and the music is certainly not an issue for me. The sound effects are decent, too, although nothing special.
Sadly, one thing I do take issue with is the inexcusable lack of customization. In a game like this, where cuteness is one of the main draws, character customization should’ve been a priority.
There’s only one character model, although you can at least change the skin color if nothing else. There are also only 4 hairstyles, and none of which are typically male haircuts.
Also, although the initial clothing selection is decent, you’re stuck with whatever you pick on the start screen. You can buy the other items back from the market, but you can’t access anything that wasn’t already present at the start. If I wanted to wear those clothes, I’d have chosen them to begin with!
If you enjoy aspects of Paleo Pines, then you might want to check out the following titles.
The undefeated GOAT of the farming sim world, I would be remiss in my duties if I neglected to include it as an alternative. The depth of the story is incredible, especially since it was created solely by Eric Barone (ConcernedApe).
There’s so much lore to unravel, and the gameplay is exciting. The world is populated by delightfully complex NPCs, and it’s a game that everyone should at least try.
Monster Hunter Rise
This might be a bit of a stretch since it’s not a cozy game, but it depends on what you’re after.
If you want to be able to ride large beasts, harvest resources, and interact with a wide range of NPCs whilst exploring an interesting setting then this is definitely worth checking out. Just be prepared for combat, not just cute interactions.
Also released in September 2023, Fae Farm was generally well-received and supposedly runs a lot smoother than Paleo Pines does. This farming sim sticks to roughly the same generic formula as all the others in the genre, but with a magical twist. It definitely delivers on the cuteness factor and is great if you prefer fairies to dinosaurs.
I wanted to love this game, I really did. I had so much fun playing the demo, and Yazz was so wonderful to interview, so I had a vested interest in wanting to give it a high score.
Unfortunately, journalistic integrity has to come first, and the reality is that Paleo Pines simply wasn’t the hit that I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t a total flop, but it certainly didn’t live up to the hype I’d created in my head.
Personally, I think it would’ve fared a lot better by being solely a dinosaur ranching sim and cutting out the farming entirely.
Farming was probably the weakest aspect of the game, but it was also necessary since you needed crops to feed dinosaurs or to sell for money. I wish that instead, they’d have made it easier to earn money through other means, so you could focus on the dinosaurs.
Overall, I’d say Paleo Pines is worth playing if you’re the kind of person who enjoys pretty much every cozy game out there.
However, if you’re more selective about what you spend your time on, it might be worth choosing something more consistently high-quality instead. If you’re wondering about games that would fit that description, check out our huge number of game reviews!
Pros and Cons
- Cute and unique art style – You don’t often see this 3D cartoon style in many games, and it works very well. In a lot of games, it may look childish, but Paleo Pines manages to do it in a way that looks fun whilst also appealing to adults.
- Plenty of items to collect – If you’re like me then you love a good collectible. Paleo Pines has got you covered, and you can find loads of items whilst out exploring. Some of the time it’s resources, but other times you discover unique artifacts.
- Fantastic range of dinosaur designs – Easily my favorite part of the game was catching all the different dinosaurs. There’s a brilliant variety of colors and designs as well as species, meaning each time you see a dinosaur, it could look completely different. They also have different rarities, which is exciting.
- Inventory space is way too restricted – You have hardly any room in your inventory, which sucks as about half of it is taken up by essentials (your tools, your journal, and your flute). I think there should be a separate inventory section for key items.
- Side quests are boring and unhelpful – It’s already hard enough to earn money in the game without the side quests also failing to come through to you. They should be adjusted so that you’d always make a profit by delivering the requested items. I’d also like to see more variety.
- Not enough customization – There should’ve been more options for changing your character’s appearance, and access to more varied clothing.
- Movement is often inaccurate – I’m very picky about movement at the best of times, but especially in a game like this. You need to be precise when doing activities such as digging holes or watering your plants, and your character just doesn’t go where you put them. You’re also very slow unless you’re running, which is frustrating due to the limited stamina.
Question: How Many Dinosaur Species are in Paleo Pines?
Answer: As of launch (September 2023), there are 30 different species of dinosaurs available in Paleo Pines.
Question: Which Platforms is Paleo Pines Available on?
Answer: Paleo Pines is available to play on PC (Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4/5, and Nintendo Switch
Question: Is Paleo Pines Multiplayer?
Answer: Paleo Pines is a single-player game with neither couch co-op nor online co-op (as of October 2023).
Melika played this game for around 8 hours, progressing through the quest lines as they presented themselves. She’ll probably play more at some point, but she has no intention of completing all the achievements.
It also won’t replace Stardew Valley as her go-to farming sim game.
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