Skip to main content

Dinolords is a retro medieval RTS in which the Vikings ride T-Rexes

That's one way to "modernise" a genre

A Dane on a T-rex charging a castle gate in strategy RPG hybrid Dinolords
Image credit: Ghost Ship Publishing

"But what if there were dinosaurs???" is a setup that goes a long way with me, as a Jurassic World Evolution player and defiant fan of Capcom's Exoprimal, and in this case, that setup rests atop a tasty-looking fruitcake of references to Warcraft and Stronghold. Woah there, Dr Grant - what the hell are you talking about? Why, the just-announced Dinolords, of course - a blend of strategy and action-RPG from Northplay and Ghost Ship Publishing, in which you raise troops and build castles to fend off armies of T-Rex-riding Danes. Here's a trailer.

Watch on YouTube

Why are this game's Vikings equipped with the full firepower of the late Cretaceous period? The answer isn't that the Northmen have invented DNA-cloning technology a thousand years early. No, it's all thanks to real-life pioneer Eric the Red, who in this retelling, stumbled on some ancient eggs encased in the Sermitsiaq Glacier during his famous voyage to Greenland. Eric hatched the eggs and domesticated their occupants, turning Greenland into a formidable economic power. Now, the king of the Danes, Sweyn Forkbeard, is using the Danish dinosaur (Danisaur?) army to mount a bloody invasion of England.

You play Edmund Ironside, son of the English King Æthelred the Unready (who I feel deserves a kinder epithet in this, B-movie alternate history - I'm not sure it's possible to be "ready" for a dinosaur invasion, even when you know what a dinosaur is). The RTS side of the game sees you gathering and producing stuff, constructing modular fortifications, safeguarding your villagers and workers, and ordering your troops around. The action-RPG side of it mixes sword and bow combat, to begin with. From the looks of things, you'll eventually be able to tame and mount terrible lizards of your own.

There's also the question of morale - keep your subjects in high spirits and you can issue commands that give you boosts of various kinds. The castle-building stuff involves radial menus and rotatable buildings that seem to glue together intuitively, going by the footage above. The spectacle of a T-Rex busting through a wall notwithstanding, I feel like there's bound to be demand for a no-dino (di-no?) mode where you can tinker with the above fixtures uninterrupted.

Northplay and Ghost Ship plan to release Dinolords in early access in Q1 2025. The early access period should last a year or more, and “will be focused on the core game mechanics, the combat, strategy and city building," according to the game's Steam page. "The first versions will be bare-bones," it continues. "And during the Early Access period, we'll build up the campaign and progression mechanics, so that the final release will have fully designed content to play, that can keep players entertained for many hours."

Some questions I am left with: where are the velociraptors? What kind of medieval shield formation is best when you're looking down the nose of a charging triceratops? Can I fertilise my grain fields with stegosaurus dung? And what's the Old Norse for "clever girl"?

I get a Cowboys & Aliens vibe from this. Did you ever see that? It's nothing special, but enjoyable for the sight of some heavyweight Hollywood actors making the most of an absolutely daft premise. Go on, have a look.

Watch on YouTube

Read this next