Exoprimal is a clash between the past and future, say devs

Exoprimal is one of the most ridiculous games of the year, but it’s also one of the most fun. It’s unabashedly charming as it builds a compelling, campy narrative across matches, in which giant Exosuits face off against AI-summoned dinosaurs. It intertwines its gameplay and narrative in ways few multiplayer games do, in a way that left me curious about its creation.

Just days after the game’s launch, I spoke to Exoprimal’s development team to learn more about Capcom’s unique approach to creating a world for this distinct multiplayer shooter. The team members I spoke to revealed that the world and narrative of Exoprimal are centered around one main idea that’s obvious in hindsight: past and future colliding.

Past, meet future

While Exoprimal initially elicited many comparisons to Capcom’s previous dinosaur-related IP, Dino Crisis, the development team made it clear that the goal from the start was always to create an entirely fresh IP. From a gameplay perspective, game director Takuro Hiraoka and art director Takuro Fuse tell Digital Trends that Capcom wanted to find an exciting way to pair PvE and PvP components into one experience and experiment with showing a massive amount of enemies on the screen at once. Having a compelling world for it to take place in was also a vital goal.

Deadeye fights dinosaurs in Exoprimal

Exoprimal is a new IP, so it was very important for us to build a world that feels real and has a richness to it but also can tell a story that isn’t too slow, isn’t too fast, and is compelling and believable,” Hiraoka tells Digital Trends. “Finding a way to marry the worldbuilding and storytelling was a big challenge for us, but we feel we found a good balance.”

In Exoprimal, a rogue AI traps the player and their crew on the deserted Bikitoa Island. It turns out that this rogue AI, Leviathan, wants to collect data from an eternal “Wargame,” which essentially means teleporting soldiers with Exosuits from parallel realities three years into the past to fight hordes of dinosaurs. It’s pretty ridiculous, and Exoprimal’s narrative gives off the vibe of a B-movie. Still, Takuro Fuse made it clear that the development team always had this rather distinct narrative vision for the title.

“The idea of past and future meet in the present world was something that was decided from a very early stage of development,” Fuse tells Digital Trends. “One of the first things discussed was what sort of enemy creatures we should incorporate into the game, and the team landed very quickly upon dinosaurs. Then, expanding on the science fiction elements, things like time travel, parallel worlds, and an AI running the Wargames combine the past and the future in the present.”

A group of players fights a T-Rex in Exoprimal.

The team referenced the running idea of past and future colliding when creating Exoprimal’s cast of characters. Fuse tells Digital Trends that Capcom not only wanted to make a diverse cast that feels at home in this future setting but also wanted all of them to have some recognizable elements or sense of “nostalgia” to them so that players can see how these character archetypes from the past deal with such an alien, futuristic situation. Fuse specifically referenced Majesty, a red-headed NPC that players learn lore from, when explaining this, which makes sense as she’s reminiscent of characters like Alien’s Ellen Ripley or Dino Crisis’ Regina. Having elements that players recognize was meant to make that clash with futuristic AI all the more impact.

Delivering a timely story

The AI thread present in Exoprimal is particularly timely. Over the past year, discussions about AI and its ability to create content or independently think have become more commonplace, with tech companies and futurists promoting technology that has always seemed futuristic. Director Takura Hiraoka explained that AI’s presence in Exoprimal was significant before the topic became a water cooler issue and that Capcom chose to focus on it because AI is such a futuristic idea.

“A lot of thought went into what sort of components would be important for being able to tell that narrative that combines past and future in a compelling and exciting way,” Hiraoka tells Digital Trends. “As the team put more thought into it, they landed on the idea of AI. It’s very sci-fi focused, and it would also be very useful as a way to help the story unfold in a really exciting way for players.”

Leviathan opens a bunch of portals in Exoprimal.

Still, as it stands, Exoprimal’s narrative currently serves as a cautionary tale about an AI that gains too much self-control and can’t stop its pursuit of perfection. By contrasting that with dinosaurs drawn from the past, the ridiculousness of a technology-driven future becomes all the more apparent. For the B-movie vibes the plot gives, Exoprimal’s story is shockingly thoughtful and much more robust than your standard multiplayer game.

The shooter’s premise conveniently gives players a reason to play the same kind of multiplayer match repeatedly. However, Exoprimal still features more of a linear narrative than most of its genre peers. Occasionally, full cutscenes will play before and after a round. Between matches, players unlock conversations through an “Analysis Map” that features a variety of scenes that add depth to the characters and world and allow players to experience Exoprimal’s narrative at their own pace.

Hiraoka tells Digital Trends that the team invented the Analysis Map system because it provides “an additional component of storytelling that isn’t necessarily possible to capture in a multiplayer match where you want to keep the pace ongoing and have people come back and play more.” Sadly, he also stated that there currently aren’t any plans to continue the plot of Exoprimal throughout its announced post-launch road map, although a new final mission is coming to the game next month.

Murasame slashes at enemies in Exoprimal

Even if Exoprimal doesn’t get additional story content in its lifetime, Fuse and Hiraoka’s insights have deepened my understanding of what the dinosaur shooter sets out to accomplish. Fuse tells Digital Trends that this project helped the team learn how to design “in such a way that players are able to notice the amount of detail and work that went into their creation and aesthetic,” and I think that shines through in the final game.

Exoprimal is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. You can also play it with Xbox Game Pass.

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