Soldiers and dinosaurs are an excellent match. Any kid with a bucket of plastic army figures, a horde of dinosaur toys and a sandbox knows this well, as do many grown-up dinosaur fans. In addition to the many, many comics that have pitted packs of dinosaurs against platoons of soldiers, a strange Virginia theme park features Civil War-era theropods and this summer saw the release of the online, multi-player WWII shooter Dino D-Day. It’s only a matter of time before someone creates an alternate history in which George Washington rode a Torosaurus into battle. And the latest addition to the growing list of historical dinosaur fiction? A new survival horror game called “1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg (The War You Never Knew).”
Set behind German lines during WWI, the new dinosaur-haunted game is a claustrophobic experience. The player must navigate through the dark, damp trenches in search of a way out, because it is better to face the horrors of the battlefield than be torn apart by the sickle-clawed dinosaurs that might be hiding right around the next corner. There are no machine guns, rocket launchers, or other heavy firepower here. Your only chance is to distract the dinosaurs with flares and, in a macabre game element, the body parts of your fallen companions long enough to escape. If you would rather gun down scores of raptors and have a shot at blowing up a Tyrannosaurus, you’ll just have to wait for Primal Carnage to come out.
“The War You Never Knew” is a tough game. I quickly got lost in the trenches and more than once found myself hopelessly stuck in a narrow corridor between two approaching dromaeosaurids. I managed to get a little further with each run-through, but the game is one of strategy and memory. You don’t want to try to escape a dinosaur by running down a pathway that leads directly into that pocket of mustard gas you passed by. Which brings up one of my complaints about the game—the predatory dinosaurs seem to be exceptionally resistant to the poison gas in the air. I understand that the point of the game is to avoid the dinosaurs rather than gun them down, but I don’t think the raptors should be nearly invincible, either!
Another small problem for English-speaking users: As you sneak through the trenches, you will stumble across letters which contain background information and clues. These letters are in German. You can still play the game without the information, and the first letter has a handy illustration of a solider distracting a raptor with another man’s hand tossed into the air (a clue as to what you will soon have to do yourself), but I imagine that the other letters probably contain some useful information.
Nevertheless, I quite like the idea of a second, unknown conflict taking place during the chaos of WWI, and the dark, shadowy design of the game sets the perfect mood. I have yet to find the ladder and climb out of the dinosaur-infested trenches, but with some more practice, I just might make it.