Raiders of the Broken Planet Review
Raiders of the Broken Planet is the latest game from Spanish development studio Mercury Steam – best known for their work on the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow titles back on the Xbox 360. Raiders apparently went into development before the second Castlevania game, and is the company’s biggest project to date.
Raiders of the Broken Planet is ambitious, and quite hard to pin down as a result of it. It’s a game that wears its influences on its sleeve – and as you can see, there’s a lot of them. It features cover-shooting third person action that’s reminiscent of Gears of War, while the selection of one from a roster of larger-than-life characters at the start of each mission brings Overwatch or Battleborn to mind. The art style (which is stunning) reminded us a lot of Rage, while the attitude and trash-talking humour has a lot in common with Borderlands.
Given the sheer number of games that RotBP throws into its mix, you could be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that it’s a big, broken mess of a game – and it’s nice to be able to report that while it isn’t perfect, or necessarily greater than the sum of its parts, it’s far from broken.
The setup for the story revolves around a substance called Aleph – the Broken Planet is full of it, and everyone wants it for various reasons. Some of those reasons are nefarious, some of them are of the ‘greater good’ variety, but it’s basically your standard video game macguffin, the thing you’re after and the excuse for all the digital violence that follows. It’s also the substance that gives your character their power and energy. Each mission will see you pick a character and head off into battle against the various different enemy types – the game will tell you which character the level is intended for as you make the selection, as some levels are naturally more difficult for characters with certain skillsets. The missions generally start with a gunfight, continue with another gunfight, and end with another, bigger gunfight. Along the way, you’ll need to fulfil objectives that are as varied as ‘go here and get that’ and ‘go there and defend that’, right the way up to the ‘go there, get that, take it there, repeat it 3 times, then stay alive against several waves of increasingly tough enemies’. It’s not that the mission structure is bad, exactly – it’s just that it doesn’t do anything that we haven’t done hundreds of times before in other games.
Enemy types are diverse, with everything from snipers to ground troops, turrets and charging tank-types that are best taken down by a well-timed melee attack (preferably before they so the same to you, which will result in your instant death). They’re thrown at you in challenging combinations and are extremely mobile – meaning that you’ll constantly be changing tactics in order to survive.
Surviving is difficult in RotBP – right from the very beginning the game doesn’t pull any punches. Just as you become accustomed to dealing with one enemy type, another one will be introduced to mix things up. Fortunately, each hero you can choose from has a special attack. Some characters can throw up a shield, others will teleport a short distance, some of them back flip to evade danger. You need to learn to use those abilities very quickly, as they’ll often be the difference between life and death for you. Take enough damage and you’ll die – and if you die three times you’ll end up in a situation where you need to survive for a certain amount of time while the pilot who delivers you into each mission fixes his ability to revive you. This adds an interesting dimension to the gameplay – as when this mechanic combines with a timer counting down the end of a mission, you’re left in a seriously precarious situation which is a lot of (extremely tense) fun. Ammo is scarce, and if you want more you’ll need to take down an enemy with a melee attack – it’s a clever risk/reward mechanic that forces you out of cover but rewards you with the ability to kill far more effectively. Add to that the fact that each character carries a significantly different weapon, and you have a game that encourages matching character to play style and mission situation.
Characters are unlocked during missions, in which you also earn currency to buy and upgrade weapons and abilities. If you don’t want to grind these out, then microtransactions are offered as a way to bypass the effort in exchange for real world cash. As controversial as the inclusion of microtransactions generally are, we’ll leave you to make your own mind up as to whether or not this bothers you. They do appear to be optional at the moment – no doubt as time goes by it will become clear as to whether or not this is genuinely the case.
The game includes a multiplayer component – allowing you to play as either one of a team of raiders or as a solo antagonist. This asymmetric set up sounds interesting, but rapidly becomes frustrating if you’re the one chosen as the antagonist as you’re outnumbered but don’t seem to gain any additional abilities or power to make you more capable of standing up for yourself. The other matchmaking option allows you to pick several campaign missions that you’d like to run and will team you up with a group of other people looking to play overlapping selections. Matches took a little while to be found, but once you are in one the advantages of playing in a group immediately become obvious as you can share objectives and cover one another. Playing with friends is best, but playing with randoms seemed OK as well – the missions we attempted were all finished successfully. At the end of the mission you share rewards and get a chance to win a weapon blueprint.
The last point that needs to be talked about is the way in which the game is being delivered. The Prologue to the game is currently free – each subsequent episode is available for £9.99. Alternatively, you can just buy the Founders Edition which includes the Prologue and everything else that is to come. It seems as though some people are finding the pricing concept confusing – hence us bringing it up here.
For our review, we’ve played all of the content that is currently available – the Prologue, and the Alien Myths campaign. Three other campaigns are due to ship: Wardog Fury, Hades Betrayal and Council Apocalypse – and the content of these campaigns are not considered here. Hopefully, we’ll get to review these as they come out – but for the moment their content is unknown. If they end up being as much fun as the parts we have played are though, we’re hopeful that RotBP will grow into what it deserves to be.
Raiders of the Broken Planet is a game that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of any of the games we mentioned at the beginning of the review. The game is loud and brash, and it’s varied enough to keep us interested and wonder where it’s going next – and it’s especially good fun if you can find a group of friends to play it with. We’re hopeful that Mercury Steam will continue to deliver – now they’ve set our expectations, they need to keep a consistently high level of quality through the remaining campaigns.
Raiders of the Broken Planet – the Prologue and the Alien Myths campaign are both available now from the Xbox Store, priced at £9.99.