“Welcome To Raptor Valley. Pull the trigger to arm your weapon.” There you go; you’ve equipped your flashlight. Did you think we’d give you a gun? HAH! That would be too easy! Raptor Valley is about survival, not slaughter. Good luck! You’re going to need it.
Raptor Valley is a simple, yet terrifying game. You’ll find yourself in a field of 6-foot tall blades of grass and shrubs, hundreds of miles away from civilization. Your task is simple on the surface. You don’t have to hunt, you don’t have to explore, and you don’t even have to uncover some object of great value. All you have to do is stay alive.
In actuality, that is a much harder goal than you might imagine. You see, you’re not just trying to survive a night alone in a field. You’re in Raptor Valley, where the predators are hungry, and you are the defenseless prey. The developer’s description sets the tone well:
“You open your eyes to find yourself alone beneath an unfamiliar night sky. The wind howls around you, carrying the sound of insects chirping, rustling grass, and . . .something breathing. Looking around for weapons, you find only a flashlight. Nearby, a radio crackles to life and a voice greets you, "Welcome to Raptor Valley! Survive the night.”
Armed with nary but a flashlight, you must keep the hungry raptors at bay. Fortunately, they are scared of light, so you have a chance. Just don’t expect any firearms anytime soon. You won’t be killing any dino's (for now, at least). When you shine your light on a raptor, it will turn around and run away “almost every time.” You have to be quick, though. If you don’t spot them before they emerge from the shrubbery, you’ll end up as their dinner.
Alone In The Dark
Raptor Valley is a dark, lonely place. The only visible lights hail from the flashlight in your hand and the starry sky above you. Your most valuable tool for survival is unquestionably your ears (and headphones). Positional audio cues will alert you of a raptor’s general vicinity. Jostled shrubs and leaves will help you pinpoint the beasts, but it’s not easy to spot them. The raptors blend in with the dark environment.
Your goal is the stay alive for the entire night all by yourself. You will get an update every 15 minutes to let you know what “time” it is. You won’t have to play for 12 real hours to survive. 15 minutes in the game is mere moments in real world time. At every hour mark, the game will save your progress, so if you do happen to get yourself swallowed by a giant reptile, you can restart at the previous marker.
After the first couple of (in-game) hours, you’ll unlock a flare gun to help you fend off the hungry dinosaurs. The signal flash won’t hurt the predators, but it will startle them. The raptors are far more frightened of flares than they are of the flashlight. Even if a raptor is already visible and charging at you, it will often turn around and run if you shoot a flare its way. It takes a few seconds to reload the flare gun, though, so you’ll want to use it sparingly. I recommend using it only as a last resort.
Not For The Faint Of Heart
Raptor Valley is designed to put you on edge and hold you there. The developer categorizes the game as a VR survival horror, and we’d be inclined to agree. The rustling in the bushes around you never stops. You’ll find yourself surrounded by tall grass in all directions and the raptors take advantage of that fact. They often hunt in packs, so if you happen to catch a fleeting glimpse of one, be on the lookout for another one coming from a different direction.
As you progress through the night, the raptors get more aggressive. After 1 AM, you’ll rarely see a raptor charge in your direction. Instead, they will jump towards you from behind the grass. Once this happens, the jig is up; there’s no scaring away an aerial dino.
At this stage of the game, the experience becomes far more unnerving. The difficulty increases significantly, and a T-Rex makes its presence known. I found myself frantically spinning around trying to keep my eyes on the incoming predators. Unfortunately, this is where my last stand came to a gruesome end. As I mentioned earlier, the game saves your progress at each hour marker so that you don’t have to restart from the beginning when you die. I tried over a dozen times, but I was not able to progress beyond the 1 AM marker. In almost all of my attempts, I was dead before 1:30 am. It’s incredibly hard to keep track of multiple hungry raptors that can lunge at you from 20 feet away--especially when your heart is pounding through your chest.
We spoke with Andrew Stout, the developer of Raptor Valley, and he informed us that beyond the 3 AM marker, you would have a double barrel shotgun at your disposal, which should increase your chances of survival for the rest of the night.
Being the victim of a flying raptor attack is an alarming experience. Oculus cautions developers against using jump scares in VR (Valve hasn't made its stance on the subject widely known), but Raptor Valley relies on jump scares to keep you on edge. It’s probably not a good idea for someone with heart problems or suffers from anxiety to be spending time in Raptor Valley, but thrill seekers will get a kick out of this game. You never really know when a raptor is going to come hurtling at you. They move so quickly through the grass that you’ll rarely know where it’s coming from when you’re about to be mauled.
Unlike most indie developers, Stout is not relying on Steam’s Early Access program to release the game. Raptor Valley is launching as a feature complete game, but the story doesn’t end there. Stout explained that Raptor Valley is the first in a series of three to four episodic games, “each one with drastically different gameplay,” said Stout. “This will be the only one where you are stuck outside unable to run or hide.”
Raptor Valley will be available for the HTC Vive on Friday, September 9 on Steam. The developer is asking $8.99 for the game and is offering 15 percent off for the first week. You can put the savings towards a new pair of shorts. You’re probably going to need some.