First Impression:  

Dino Mercs

DeveloperUnusual Undertaking

Release Date20 April, 2023 (EA)

Platform: Windows, Linux, MacOS

Genre: Deckbuilder

By Chris Picone, 17 April 2023


Who doesn't love the idea of a game built on the idea of a tactical squad of elite dinosaur mercenaries? It's so 80s, I'm immediately love the concept.  And I love deckbuilder card games, so here we go.

Unusual Undertaking have passed beyond simple innovation and really gone out of their way to create a strategic card game that wildly differs from everything else on the market.  To start, there are two distinct battle types as you move across the map, and each has its own deck.  The first is as expected; you patrol, and battle some sort of enemy, taking turns playing your cards against his.  However, you're periodically required to engage in defensive battles as the enemy attacks your base.  The former plays out like most strategic card battles but in the latter, you can't beat the enemy, you just have to try to stay alive by trying to reinforce your defences, which are divided into air defence, ground defence, and fortifications.  After each battle you earn money which you can use to buy more cards for your deck.  Unusually, in both cases, instead of trying to draw the best cards out of your deck or spending action points each turn, you are dealt a hand of five cards and you need to place them in the best sequence to get the most bang for your buck (for example, placing cards that remove cover before your attack cards to maximise your damage output).  To make things more interesting, each slot has a + or -, which means that in addition to determining the most efficient sequence, you also have to determine which of your cards will receive a bonus or penalty - and they're substantial.  Finally, not only do you play your own cards, but you also control the enemy's cards, battling against yourself.  The question is:  Does it work? Yes, and no.  Battling against yourself takes some getting used to but it does work, but in its current state (fresh release in Early Access), there are still quite a few balance issues, the game feels quite slow and grindy, and unlocks are fairly slow so the deckbuilding aspect doesn't play a huge part and it can feel repetitious. 

The verdict? The ideas are definitely all there, and the artwork looks great.  In its current state - freshly released in Early Access - I feel it still needs a bit more work before it's ready for the public.  But that's the whole point of Early Access, and the team plans to remain in that state for around six months, so I remain hopeful.  Keep an eye on this one.