If you had told six-year-old me that SuperCrit’s The Stomping Land would one day exist, it would have fulfilled at least three quarters of my young life’s desires (the other quarter probably involved unlimited Lego sets and pizza). I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of kids grow up fascinated by dinosaurs, dreaming of a world that never existed—one where both humans and giant lizards hung out in the same prehistoric jungles. The Stomping Land is based on this common childhood fantasy. It’s a game that allows players to inhabit an island filled not just with tribes of imagined Stone Age hunters, but also a variety of dinosaurs.
The Stomping Land follows in the footsteps of multiplayer survival experiences like Bohemia Interactive’s DayZ and, more closely, Facepunch Studios’ Rust. The player assumes the role of a heavily tattooed man armed only with a handaxe and loincloth, and sets out to make her/his way across a thickly forested island. The primary goal is simply to survive: The Stomping Land’s online servers are loaded with other people—some helpful, some hostile—and dinosaurs, many of which will attack on sight. While dodging tail swipes and enemy arrows, players must get themselves set up with a tepee and bonfire (makeshift respawn sites) and construct the weapons—from bolas and spears to bows and shields—that allow them to both hunt and defend against danger.
As with other multiplayer survival games, The Stomping Land is engaging largely due to the unpredictable nature of the other people populating its servers. Coming across another player unexpectedly can be a tense experience that is only slightly alleviated by the ability to communicate through an in-game text chat. Another person may wander into your camp and stand a few metres away, both parties trying to figure out whether or not they’re about to fight for their lives, be captured and held captive (hunters equipped with bolas and wooden cages can imprison other players), or gain a new friend. While the multiplayer dynamic is a lot of fun, it’s also something that has been done before.
What sets The Stomping Land apart, at least in its early stage, is how quickly the player is able to establish her/himself in the world. It takes only a handful of minutes to find the lumber and stone required to craft a full arsenal of weaponry. Running into an angry Triceratops or unexpectedly deadly hunter while exploring the woods may lead to a quick death, but getting up and running again is far faster in The Stomping Land than in other games within its genre. This helps a great deal in differentiating the title. Because the player isn’t likely to be extremely concerned with coming across danger, they’re also likely to be a bit more cavalier in checking out potentially deadly situations. Sure, the giant Carnotaurus prowling a riverbank will probably be able to immediately bite you in half, but the penalty for dying is minor enough that it’s worth seeing what the dinosaur looks like up close anyway.
Aside from this design decision, though, there aren’t a tremendous amount of unique elements within the game. Despite making good on its promise to allow players a chance to interact with a faux-prehistoric setting filled with dinosaurs, The Stomping Land’s gameplay remains extremely similar to other survival titles. As fantastic as it is to live out the childhood dream of hunting and gathering alongside armoured Ankylosaurs and boney-headed Stygimolochs, the novelty of these creatures is quickly overtaken by the familiar mechanics that most heavily define the experience.
Of course, The Stomping Land is currently in its alpha stage and SuperCrit promises to add new features that will help it to find an identity independent of similar multiplayer survival games. If the developer does continues to flesh out and refine the foundation established by the game’s early release, it is likely to offer a more colourful alternative to the more realistic aesthetic of DayZ and Rust. There are a number of interesting concepts within The Stomping Land that simply haven’t yet been developed fully enough yet. A “tribe” system that allows players to team up in order to cooperatively hunt dinosaurs, share food, or war with opposing teams already provides a good glimpse of the promise to come.
In its current state, though, it is simply another entry to a genre dominated by other, further developed games. I’ve very much enjoyed my time with The Stomping Land so far, but the potential it holds is still a ways off from becoming a reality. Anyone enticed by fulfilling their younger selves’ fantasy of hanging out with dinosaurs will be able to see why this game is worth checking out. Those who are unenthused by this prospect will likely want to wait until this particular dream moves a bit closer to reality.