Warning: This review contains strong language. Although, the game the review is covering has this in droves, so be warned… I guess.
I would like to preface my review of Raiders of the Broken Planet (free prologue + Alien Myths campaign DLC) by saying that I plan on judging this game based on everything it has to offer and what it asks of its players in return. This is important to keep in mind because my feelings about this title range from overly exuberant to absolutely furious. First, we’ll talk about all the little things, as we get on to bigger and arguably more important topics.
One of the first observations I, like most people I assume, made about Raiders was how absolutely over-the-top and crazy the game would be. This was made fairly clear by the trailer and was only compounded upon once I actually played the game. Whether it be how the characters are designed, the weapons they use, the explosions caused by those weapons, or just the fact that the dialogue has a higher-than-usual stream of ‘dude’s, ‘fuck’s, and ‘cunt’s. Personally, I enjoyed the more ridiculous nature of the game and welcomed the more bizarre way characters behave and interact with each other.
Each character has at least one other character they don’t really get along with and it makes the game’s Antagonist mode work that much more (back to this later). It is actually impressive how well this mode fits into the game in regards to gameplay and story. We’ve seen quite a few 4v1 games (or game modes) lately and I feel some have worked better than others, but Raiders manages to integrate this mode into the rest of the game without gobbing up the story or making too many changes to gameplay. This success is probably one of my favorite things about the game and shows why it sucks that the rest of the game is so ass-backwards that the ingame Quick Guide is required reading if you hope to understand it all.
The biggest reason it’s difficult to tell what’s going on has to be just how many different currencies there are and how you can and can’t earn them. By my count, if you consider certain point types as separate things, you could argue that there are over a dozen different currencies. If not, there’s still six with what looks like a seventh “Coming Soon!” One of these can only be earned in the Antagonist mode, another is available (in a limited quantity) in Solo mode and is given out in Matchmaking, like two others.
Then there’s one which can’t even be earned through any of those modes, but you can read all about that and all the economics of Raiders in my article about just that. I chose to write a separate piece so this review didn’t carry on for too long, but know that the feelings I express in that article fully apply to my final score of this title. Something I reference a lot in that other piece is that matchmaking is directly responsible for my problems with how you acquire the various currencies.
All of my issues stem from the game’s reward system. If you’re playing as a Raider in Matchmaking and you all finish the mission, a screen comes up with three or four nodes. The small nodes represent different currencies while the final big node is always a Weapon Blueprint if it shows up at all. Any players still in the match choose a node and wait for everyone to be done. If each person picked a different reward, they get the full amount shown or simply get the Weapon Blueprint. Although, if two or more players pick the same node, they will split the profits 50/50. This is even worse with Blueprints as it seems to be given out randomly, leaving the player that didn’t get the Blueprint with nothing for completing the mission despite there being an unchosen reward they could have as a replacement.
This sort of system breeds a toxic behaviour that sees players mad at each other because they can’t see that obviously they need it more. I got a couple messages from other players because I split their rewards with me or because I managed to get the Blueprint despite it only being the first I had ever gotten. Now sure, you may be thinking “well don’t play with randoms”, but therein lies my next biggest issue: you cannot play Matchmaking without a full group of four players. Unless you’ve got three friends to play with each time you boot the game up, you’re going to play with a few Rando’s.
I won’t lie and say that all gamers you don’t know are awful, but when that Blueprint you really want or just enough points to buy that thing you want is on the line and someone you don’t know takes that away from you, it’s not surprising that you blame them first. Another terrible part about being forced to play with four players is mission availability. If there aren’t enough people searching for the mission that has the Blueprint you want to try for, then you simply can’t play it and will not get it. Once you add in Antagonists and the fact that the match ends if they leave, you’re left with a system that seems to be against the player in every way.
Hell, I almost didn’t even review this game because of how pathetic my first match went. The host must have been someone living underground in the desert or something because it was impossible to do anything as characters were shooting across the screen every which way and being reset after three steps. Playing Solo isn’t really an option if you’d like to earn anything of value and there’s always the chance that the character you want to play as is chosen first in Matchmaking.
To recap, there are currently five missions available and you can’t farm them even if you play on the stupidly difficult “Very Hard” mode. I guess it’s a ‘good’ thing that there are three more campaigns planned, but if they have this system, it may not matter since the less popular missions simply won’t get played enough. Honestly, the most impressive thing about the matchmaking is the fact that you can choose multiple missions and even have Antagonist mode selected to get thrown into the first mission you connect to. The mission select has a better feature than the entirety of the system it is assisting. Let that sink in.
Once that’s set in, let’s talk about how each mode handles players’ lives. Solo gives the player three lives to use before the “survive for x amount of time” feature shows up. This is bumped up to eight in Matchmaking without an Antagonist and goes all the way up to 16 when one is present. This may sound like a lot, but with the game’s endless enemies, tight areas, and the fact that a bunch of baddies can one-shot you, I think you’ll see how far those 16 lives really go. I should explain that your stock of respawns comes from your ship’s Aleph supply. This is a magical science substance that does basically everything, don’t bother questioning it. Once your (or your team’s) respawns are depleted, you must survive until your ship can go get more Aleph to provide you more lives.
As a Raider, this means you can essentially live forever if your can stay alive long enough. As an Antagonist, you’ll begin losing patience about the first time the Raiders you’re after fully restock their respawns and you must kill them all over again. Aleph is what gives all our characters their insane melee skills and advanced gunplay skills. From a gameplay standpoint, this translates to melee that can one-shot and abilities that get insanely boosted effects when the player is holding enough Aleph. You mostly gain Aleph by killing certain enemies (player or special AI) with melee or a grapple.
In fact, the melee has a sort of rock, papers, scissors idea to it as strikes beat grapple, grapple beats dodge, and dodge beats strikes. This would be fine if dodging wasn’t so hit-or-miss and tracking on strikes/grapples was consistent. Since ammo for your guns is only replenished from melee kills, it should be clear why this needs to work well. In a somewhat surprising twist, the gunplay of this game is rather satisfying and varied across the currently available six characters. My next point is what disappoints me the most about this title: each character feels wholly unique and I actually want to play as more than one of them.
There are many games out there that I’ve played in which I only really enjoyed one or two characters. Roster size doesn’t make a difference, it’s all about how different everyone is and whether what they bring to the table is worth considering over someone else. In Raiders, you could play as Harec, a man that uses a sniper with a 3x or 9x zoom that must charge to full power before each shot or Lycus Dion, a man that uses a triple-barreled shotgun that can one-shot many smaller enemies. These are only two of the six characters, and yet those are the only weapons they use. Harec and Lycus also have different health values, different abilities (ghostly warp vs. personal shield), different bonus types, and they even take combat stress differently.
Oh yes, combat stress is a feature I am completely unsure of in Raiders. To explain it in the most basic of terms, everything that happens in combat affects your stress level. Running, firing your gun, being spotted by enemies, getting shot at, and taking damage all raise your stress and make you more visible to your enemies. On the flip side, staying out of sight, avoiding combat, and ducking behind cover all reduce your stress, making you more difficult to locate. Using cover is by far the fastest way to lower stress while also being the easiest way to get extremely frustrated. I say this because all the cover in the game feels like it’s covered in butter as your character slips off of it so easily, that you’ll stop relying on it nearly instantly.
Despite supposedly being a third-person cover shooter (only going first-person on snipers), the only real use for cover is to hide behind it when your health is low and you need to lower your combat stress to trigger your health regen. This wouldn’t be so bad, but for whatever reason, when a character is in critical condition and limping around, they don’t stick to cover. Meaning every time you move behind cover, you poke your head up, perfect for being shot. Either way, I stopped using cover and began trying to get through mission by performing the current goal as fast as possible. Once I started playing this way, I noticed that every mission that’s currently available is actually fairly varied. Some missions ask you to survive at times, some force you to take the initiative, others require you to collect Aleph from enemies, and there’s even a boss fight at the end of the campaign that is pretty neat.
Since I don’t want to ruin the bit of story that there is within the Alien Myths campaign, I’ll just say I enjoyed the boss fight, but it would have been far better if I could have found a match with other players. Honestly though, this is exactly what I expected by the time I got this far with the game. The best way to explain my feelings with Raiders is that of a parent; I’m not angry, I’m just very disappointed. My score for this game will probably be lower than most, but the bits of potential I found and the aspects I did enjoy are so incredibly small compared to the massive issues that the economics alone provide. I could probably go on and on about all the little things this title does wrong, but honestly, I’d really rather never talk about this game again.
Raiders of the Broken Planet (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
Don’t bother unless you enjoy playing the same mission over and over again with no guarantee of any sort of pay off. The (very) few good things this game has going for it are completely dwarfed by the poorly implemented or flat out reprehensible systems that the entire experience hinges on.