Today I've finally had a chance to play a game I've wanted to play for years. I think I recall wanting to play it at least when I was in middle school.
I remember getting my hands on this game a year or two ago, thinking I could get it to work with wine(-staging), which made sense considering game was listed with platinum and silver statuses, depending on the version. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work, and there could've been a regression which broke compatibility with this game.
The other way to play this game is to just run it in a virtual machine. Considering how ahead of it's time it was, accelerated graphics were considerably worse compared to what could be done in software (accelerators from these days couldn't handle textures this large, and they couldn't handle things such as bump mapping.) This means running this game in software mode isn't such a bad idea. Unfortunately, my hardware wasn't really capable of doing that, because I didn't have a processor with support for hardware virtualization.
All of that meant I had to set this game aside and wait for another chance to play it. When I got a new(er) laptop, which had a CPU with vt-x, I decided to have another go with that game. It took me relatively little effort to get it running. Even something as basic as VirtualBox is good enough to play this game.
Because of how old Trespasser is, (it requires at least Windows 95) I had to pick the right operating system to run it on, which requires striking a balance. Non-NT versions of windows work really bad on VirtualBox, needing third-party drivers to get a video mode that isn't 4 bit, a parking utility to not hog down the CPU even when idle (which is related to an intentional design choice to make the system more stable on cheap hardware from old days.) Even with all of that effort, performance is bad, and hardware virtualization is out of the question.
Windows NT can work quite well, even without hardware virtualization. It's a night and day difference. I've played with an old release of NT 4, but it was a little bit too old, and I couldn't get sound to work, and it seemed to have the same issue with CPU parking. I could've tried an updated version, but I decided to go with 2000 (NT 5) instead. It worked quite well out of the box, and I only needed to install guest extensions, which is a standard procedure for these virtual machines.
I made a really beefy VM to play this game, 2 processors (with execution cap at 100%) and 4 GiBs of RAM, which is a lot for this game, even if the operating system is way newer and bloated than what it was designed for. It's enough to run the game smoothly at highest quality settings and resolution (which is capped at 800x600 if the game isn't patched.)
Installing the game itself was a smooth ride, I experienced no problems whatsoever.
At first I tried with a demo, which ran just fine. It was enough to blow me away, but it was pretty short.
A couple of weeks later, I got my hands on a full version of the game, and I started playing through it as well. I've decided to just install the official 1.1 patch, and consider trying out community improvements later, after I get a feel for what the game actually was.
Playing through the full game is even better than the demo, which is relatively tame. Even though the area in the demo is somewhat large and open, it's nowhere close to what's visible at the beginning of the game. There's this area in the first (I think) level, with a valley, where two (or maybe more) brachiosauri are walking around. They're so heavy, their walking causes everything to vibrate, and they cast massive shadows on the ground. It looks amazing, especially when you're actually playing the game, and not just watching footage of it.
Maps in the full game are more massive than in demo, and seem to be littered with more objects. The scale of them is impressive.
Graphics blow me away even today, but that's possibly just me being weird. Things look amazing, especially in motion, when dinosaurs react to their environments, trip over things, limp when injured. This game had reverse kinematics, which started becoming viable in other games around the PlayStation 3 era. physics just add to it, and they're more profound than in other games, because they affect how you interact with objects. A gun has weight to it, and Anne's arm moves accordingly when she jumps. Things can fall out of her hand.
In order to run at acceptable framerates on hardware from 90s, the game uses a lot of tricks. It replaces objects in the distance with textures, which have these objects rendered onto them. This is a visible thing, and it can cause some artifacts, but seeing how clever game can get with this trick is amazing, for instance when a building is split into multiple objects of this kind and things manage to look coherent even when looking at a mix of flat textures and properly rendered 3D models. In fact, game is clever enough to handle objects which are moved in the distance, for instance when they're shot. One crate can bump another one, which gets replaced with a 3D model as well.
In general, playing this game makes me feel like a child who has incredible dreams, which weren't checked by reality yet. Even though this game is flawed, playing it is fun. I assume this reflects how this game was developed, because it had to be delayed (and even then it ended up being rushed, with cut features, such as emotions in dinosaurs' AI.)
Even though this game can get frustrating in multiple ways, it's enjoyable to play. Having to walk back and try jumping across a gap multiple times, just to get stuck inside a monorail track (and having to fiddle around to get out of it) is tedious, but having an encounter with another dinosaur balances it out. The pace at which Anne moves around can make exploration boring, and it gets even worse when you bump into an invisible wall in a spot that seemed like a nice way to bypass something can be annoying as well (especially when your gun bumps against that wall and falls out of your hand, forcing you to pick it up again.)
Even when patched, the game can be unstable. Sometimes reloading a level (be it due to death or just reloading for whatever other reason) can cause textures to get scaled down to a much worse quality, where another reload has a chance of fixing the problem. The game can crash as well, so saving often is a good idea. Too bad saving is a chore, because opening the pause menu is finicky.