Paleo Pines Review – Stardew Valley Meets Jurassic Park

A game about taming dinosaurs and putting them in pens – did we learn nothing from Jurassic Park? It seems not. Paleo Pines takes tried and tested farming sim and monster tamer mechanics and blends them into a casual, colourful world where T-rexes don’t bite and will peacefully cohabit with tasty, tasty herbivores.



Inevitably, the dinosaurs are the stars of the show here. Paleo Pines is ridiculously good at making them charming, adorable creatures far removed from their usual image as dangerous killers. With their big, round eyes and willingness to do general chores, the dinos here make for compelling friends. This is a world devoid of violence – the dinos may clear away debris and smash rocks, but there’s no combat to speak of, and no health bars or weapons. This is not your father’s dino game.

RELATED: Story Of Seasons: A Wonderful Life Review – A Wonderful Remake

Instead, you have a home ranch-slash-farm, where you’ll take care of your dinosaurs and grow large fields of crops. This is standard farming-sim stuff, except with dinosaurs. At first, you’ll be doing everything yourself with tools, which feels like drudgework, but then the game hints that your dinosaurs can be put to work on the fields. Each rideable dino has some sort of ability that becomes useful, whether it’s clearing debris, tilling long swathes of earth, or watering entire fields at once. Come on, Littlefoot, it’s time to earn your keep.

Watering a farm with a dinosaur in Paleo Pines

Once you’ve taken care of your crops and made sure your dinosaurs are cared for, it’s time to venture out into the open world. Exploration makes up a big part of gameplay in Paleo Pines – there are three large areas to scour for items, forageable treats, and of course, dinosaurs.

Taming dinosaurs is an engaging, multi-step process. After partaking in a Simon Says-style minigame to let the dino know you want to be friends, you’ll need to get it in a perfectly tameable mood using treats, soothing noises, and, eventually, an expensive, special treat. There’s some minor frustration in how random finding this sweet spot can be, and working out a dinosaur’s preferred tastes is entirely a case of trial and error, which may or may not be a turn-off. There are almost 40 dinosaurs to find and tame, and they all have a ton of colour variations, with some being rarer than others – there’s a lot here for completionists and explorers.

But say you’ve got your dino tamed. You’ve petted them, named them, and brought them back to your ranch. It’s now time to build them a pen. And not just any pen – dinosaurs have specific needs. The pens need to be the right size, have the right food, be decorated with the right objects, and contain the right penmates. For prehistoric beasts that were totally happy to bound about in the wild, they sure are finicky houseguests. Planning out your ranch is one of the joys of Paleo Pines – seeing which dinosaurs will be happy to share a pen and sectioning off huge fenced areas to suit their needs is a fun little management puzzle. Thankfully, the dinos are very communicative about their needs, so solving an unhappy chappy’s problem doesn’t take much effort.

Unless, of course, you’ve accidentally tamed more dinosaurs than you have Dreamstones. While most resources in the game seem to be in limitless supply, Dreamstones are rarer, found only in the wild and often in hard-to-reach places. This is an issue because dinosaurs need Dreamstones to be happy. Placing them in a pen is how you create a sleeping area for them, and if they don’t have a Dreamstone of their own, they’ll leave your ranch unhappily. I found this mechanic to be overly limiting and totally detrimental to the fantasy of having a huge dinosaur ranch. Oh, and did I mention that there are two sizes of Dreamstone? And a small dinosaur somehow can’t use a large Dreamstone to sleep?

Watching two dinosaurs in a pen in Paleo Pines

Say you’ve built up your farm, tamed a bunch of pals, and explored what you can to the best of your ability. Let’s hope you haven’t neglected your friends! As a farming sim at heart, you have the inevitable handful of NPCs who live nearby that all want you to complete quests for them, build up relationship meters, and provide you services. They’re mostly varieties of merchants, but they’re also all crucial to progression in one way or another, thanks to the quests they provide.

To their credit, they’re interesting people with solid personalities rather than generic video game pals – the first two you meet, Mari and Owynn, are characterised by their adventurous and brash spirit and hardworking, single-mindedness, respectively. The game treats these traits realistically, and the two eventually experience realistic, protracted conflict thanks to their contrasting priorities, and this pleasantly surprised me. As far as I can tell, romance doesn’t seem to be an option, and this is another plus – not only is it impossible to make an adult-looking player character, but it’s nice to have a farming sim that doesn’t slap romance onto the laundry list of gameplay ideas.

Resting on a rowboat in Paleo Pines

That said, Paleo Pines does have one of those laundry lists. It’s stuffed with gameplay ideas almost to the point of futility. Ranch decorating, cooking, and making sugar are all things I’ve barely interacted with – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Instead, I’m hunting Dreamstones into scarcity, restocking on dinosaur-pleasing Poppin snacks, and racing back and forth between town and my ranch because I bought one-too-few feeding troughs. Everything about Paleo Pines tells me it should be played casually and without stress, but at the same time, it loads me up with quest goals and makes actually caring for dinosaurs a tricky business. Add some odd choices, such as woeful mouse and keyboard controls (splitting a stack requires the use of a mouse wheel?) and an arbitrarily small inventory with seemingly random opportunities to upgrade it, and you have a game that gets in its own way too often.

Paleo Pines is a largely successful execution of standard farming sim formulas and brings an interesting new (read: peaceful) interpretation to the monster-tamer genre. Collecting and caring for dinosaurs is the most compelling part of the game, almost to the detriment of other mechanics. As it stands, the game is a little unbalanced and could do with more effort put into the dinosaur-centric mechanics and less reverence placed on tying progression to arbitrary limits on player freedom.

Paleo Pines Key Art Logo-1

Paleo Pines

Reviewed on PC

PC, Switch, Xbox Series, PlayStation 5

September 26, 2023


  • Engaging taming system
  • Dino variety is great
  • A rich world to explore

  • Outdated and arbitrary limitations
  • Finicky controls
  • Slight feature bloat

A review code was provided by the publisher.

NEXT: Fae Farm Review: Room To Grow

Leave a Comment