Primal Survivors – PS5 Review

Twin-stick shooters with a bit of a Vampire Survivors theme has become a bit of a niche genre for Brazilian-based studio Afil Games.  Unfortunately, the two efforts we’ve reviewed so far – Stickman’s Arena and Mighty Mage – were both absolutely terrible.  But here is Afil Games, specifically Antonio Filipe, with another crack at the genre.  So, let’s see how he fares this time.

Again, this is a horde-shooter where you level up, choose perks and try to survive a 15 minute time limit (or beat all the bosses in that time).  So far, the same as before.  This time you play as a caveman of sorts.  You get to pick your level (essentially all the same but with the stats changed in regards to difficulty and rewards), your class and your weapon type.  Initially, there aren’t many choices.  Especially in the weapons where you either get a ranged weapon or a melee one.

Once the game starts, you’ll feel immediately familiar with the basic concept.  Enemies turn up on the screen and head straight for you.  All you have to do is shoot enough of them and don’t get overwhelmed.  This is made a little bit trickier because Afil still don’t know how to do the controls on these games.  As with Mighty Mage, you’ll aim with the right stick and fire with R2 but can select an auto-fire option as well.  However, the auto-fire constantly fires, not just when you aim.  And if you don’t aim, it defaults to firing right (at 90 degrees) rather than where you were last aiming.  Honestly, just have it as ‘aim to shoot’ and stop doing this so badly!

Enemies drop hearts and you’ll need to grab these in order to gain experience.  Do that enough to level up and you’ll be given a choice of three perks – the usual mix of damage, attack speed, movement speed, defensive upgrades and elemental damage effects – before continuing with the battle.  After every couple of minutes, a new enemy type will be introduced, but as these all have the same AI (head directly to the player), they don’t make much of a difference.

After five minutes you’ll get a boss show up.   There are three in total – a wasp, a mammoth and a monkey – and pretty much these are your main threat because the main enemies are generally too slow to really bother you.  That said, the first time we faced the mammoth, it just got stuck in the middle of the screen and gave us an easy victory.

After 15 minutes, you’ll have most likely survived (unless you’re really bad at this sort of thing) and will have unlocked pretty much every trophy (apart from one for dying ten times which you’ll need to quickly grind because the game doesn’t make a great effort when it comes to shuffling your caveman to his demise).  And if we stopped there, the game wouldn’t fare a whole lot better in terms of a review score than Afil’s other efforts.

But, it’s the meta-game that provides a bit more interest.  When you play, you’ll earn bones (which are basically the currency of the game) and these can be used to select permanent upgrades (not very exciting ones but upgrades nonetheless) as well as new classes, weapons and levels.  Playing the harder difficulties is definitely a bit more fun as there’s an actual challenge.  Not a huge one but more than you’ll first experience.  That said, the penultimate weapon that you unlock does make things very easy as it auto-aims at the nearest enemy, Vampire Survivors-style, which is a lot more fun but definitely takes the sting out of the difficulty.

So while we could have stopped after the easy Platinum, we’re glad that we gave Primal Survivors a bit more time as this game is definitely better than we first thought.  It’s not great, and it clearly has some issues both with its own design and the porting process, but we did get some enjoyment out of it.  It’s a shame really as there’s actually some promise to this one.

In terms of the presentation, things aren’t great.  The visuals are pretty low quality in terms of enemy design and there’s really only one actual level design too.  The sound isn’t much better either.  The main in-game music offers up an inoffensive dark, primal soundtrack but the in-game sound effects are weak and don’t help engage you.  Certainly the game doesn’t ever try to impress which is made evident by the fact that the PS4 version (which is bundled in) looks and performs identically to the PS5 version.

It’s probably time for Afil to stop shovelling out these games so quickly and instead spend a bit more time developing their ideas as this game is pretty close to being good.  However, it’s not terrible and that makes it a step up for them and gives us hope for whatever they do next.

Primal Survivors
5 Overall
+ Can be enjoyable on harder difficulties
+ Some interesting ideas around upgrades and classes
- Still too easy
- Weak presentation
- Poor controls
- Some technical issues
Primal Survivors is (at least) the third attempt for this developer to get in on the survivors-like genre and it's definitely a step in terms of gameplay and ideas for them. The execution lets it down a bit but we actually had a little bit of fun with this one, so they're heading in the right direction.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *