This is a pretty appealing release. It builds upon the previous Jurassic Park title, InGen vs. Raptors, upping the stakes by including the first large sized Unmatched miniature. In some ways it completes the Jurassic Park setting by filling out the character options and making this property a more robust niche of Unmatched legends. Unfortunately, it’s not as strong or durable as that previous title, succumbing somewhat to its own statured gimmick.
Where this doesn’t quite measure up to the height of its centerpiece is the main thrust of what I want to discuss. Dr. Sattler makes for an interesting character option. She’s smart, strong, and at the center of the original film. But I don’t think she makes for a particularly compelling legendary fighter. For clarity, I’m totally fine with Dr. Grant not ever seeing the light of day, as I don’t think he fits within the scope of the design either.
Beyond concept, this dissonance is visible in how Sattler participates in the conflict. Her focus is on both dropping and spending insight tokens in a tightly configured game loop. Her sidekick, humorously Ian Malcom, also fuels this engine and works hand in hand with the doctor. While there is a nice flow to play and it is a unique overall tactical approach, it never quite feels comfortable within the setting.
It’s particularly incongruent when you take Dr. Sattler and start squaring off against oddballs like Robin Hood or Bruce Lee. The insight mechanism doesn’t work extraordinarily well from a narrative perspective, so it feels like shallow service to some vague idea of scientific research as applied to the Unmatched arena. You can see the creative seams of the design bleeding through the lovely artwork, and it’s off-putting. If you compare this to Muldoon’s traps, it’s stark in terms of encapsulating a reasonable sense of the fiction occurring during the fight.
I am surprised at how appropriate and tight Sattler’s abilities function when confronting the T-Rex, however. She is surprisingly adept at performing hit and run style aggression and chipping away at the oversized beast’s enormous health dial. This fuels a cat and mouse confrontation that loosely hits on some of the emotion from the original film, while making for a relatively balanced duel.
But this really highlights the limitations of this set. While the fight is entertaining, it comes across as one note. After a couple of plays, it’s hard to ignore that a pattern sets in. After a couple more, it feels like we’re trading out Sattler and Malcom for Owen and Claire. This is when I’d describe it as rehashed and unnecessary, much like the newer films.
To some extent, this is a recurring issue with nearly any set of characters. This is a straightforward and streamlined game, after all. But I’ve found the strategic curve somewhat longer and more fulfilling with other fighters.
Partially, it’s a problem of appearances. The T-Rex character dominates the stage, taking up a lot of the figurative space in any matchup. You could describe it as a faux boss battle. With such a huge health dial and the oversized miniature taking up two spaces on the board, it’s a physically impressive and dominant feature.
Because it hits so hard in tight, you really have to approach the fight from a specific tactical vector. The biggun also is guilty of creating some of the most lop-sided matchups in the game, as its implementation really hammers fighters with limited mobility and health. Similarly, it can really struggle against agile ranged warriors as they can pick away at its health and remain out of its reach. You really need to make use of boosting and the carnivore’s special cards in order to maintain pursuit.
It’s difficult to know whether it may have worked, but it would have been interesting seeing the T-Rex ship with a new one-vs-many mode. Tell me that doesn’t get your blood flowing a little faster, imagining two or three fighters teaming up to take down the dino. One-note and gimmicky aren’t quite as detrimental if the gameplay itself produces something weird and novel.
All that said, I have indeed enjoyed fielding the T-Rex, particularly when you get a clean or wild matchup. Sattler works well in this format, and I have managed several very joyful bouts of ducking and weaving and chomping and dying. The figure is impressive and I’m very pleased that they were even able to make it work. I am shocked that the design team managed to provide a combatant that feels massive and weighty in fighting style, while still maintaining a relatively middle ground in terms of balance.
I do think its main application will be in those either collecting the entirety of the Unmatched line, or a more choosey combatant who wants to fill out the Jurassic Park intellectual property. Anyone in between those two extremes would likely be better off grabbing an alternative set.
While I’m critical of this product, it’s important to realize that I don’t think this title is poor. My judgment is more properly framed around this set faring slightly worse than its peers. To say this is a low point for Unmatched would be subjectively accurate from my point of view, but it’s still a shallow divot at best.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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