Second Extinction has untapped potential, but is it running out of time?

Second Extinction is a game that sounds great on paper. Developed by a small studio of veterans from within Just Cause creator Avalanche Studios, it’s a Left 4 Dead style co-op shooter that pits players against an army of vicious dinosaurs.

There’s a lot to get excited about, but unfortunately, Second Extinction has yet to live up to what it could be. Fortunately, it’s still an early access title, so there’s still plenty of time for Systemic Reaction to unlock its full potential.

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Let’s dive into what’s available so far. The base game comes with six missions at the moment and four operators. Each operator has a unique set of weapons and abilities, ranging between a heavy character which carries a machine gun to a nimble sniper geared towards stealth. These distinct characters are well balanced and provide an indication of how Second Extinction is geared toward team play.

The game’s six missions are all set across one large map, which features areas with varying difficulty. Each mission plays similarly to a Left 4 Dead mission, with an evolving number of objectives that take players across a large area. However, while Left 4 Dead creates suspense through the AI Director massaging the pacing of its campaigns, Second Extinction falls flat and relies too heavily on hordes of dinosaurs to challenge the player while having them run between a number of objectives.

My first big issue with Second Extinction came from its balancing. While clearly a co-op game, there is the option to play alone instead of partying up with other players. That’s what I tried first, to play with the game’s mechanics and get an understanding of the basic gameplay systems before jumping into multiplayer. This was a big mistake. Second Extinction is entirely designed with cooperative play in mind, and playing on your own is near impossible as the dinosaur hordes massively outnumber you. It’s something that could easily be remedied by balancing the dinosaur numbers, but right now the option is effectively redundant.

That leads to my second issue, which is that the player counts are already dwindling. Through November, Second Extinction’s have dropped; the peak of concurrent players in November was 404, down from the peak of 2,000 in October. At the rate Second Extinction is losing its player base, it will soon become virtually unplayable – extinct, if you will. While Early Access games go through peaks and troughs with the number of active players, this is a genuine issue that could well be difficult to remedy with the co-op multiplayer focus.

Weapon upgrades and a contract system add some depth to the game, providing players with additional goals and motivation to repeat missions. Unfortunately, I don’t think these systems do enough to make the game itself interesting. The missions themselves feel like uninspired busy work against a mostly unremarkable environment that does little with an excellent premise. This isn’t to say Second Extinction doesn’t have potential though.

The dinosaur designs are excellent. There are some genuinely intriguing enemies that present varying challenges to the player, while also looking pretty great. With balancing, I think the dinosaur engagements could be a lot more fun and much less frustrating. The character designs are also noteworthy, bringing four distinct characters and builds to the mix with a great amount of diversity as well. Each character has their own passive, tactical and special ability which help even the odds in battle.

As it stands, Second Extinction is an interesting concept that falls short of what it could be. Fortunately, Avalanche Studios past experience with the Just Cause series could be just what the game needs to bring it inline with player expectations, but only time will tell.

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