The concept for Raiders of the Broken Planet is an interesting one. A game that allows you to play as one of up to four Raiders, attempting to complete objectives in a somewhat story-based mission while another player can take the reigns as the Antagonist, which allows them to fight alongside the AI NPC’s and try to stop the players from succeeding in their mission. You play as any of the half-dozen or so playable characters that are currently available in the game (with more slated to be added as the additional episodes for the game release).
As I said, conceptually, this sounds like fun. But in practice? I really can’t say. I don’t know if I was just trying to play on off hours, or if the game is just that unknown, but I was never able to get placed in a group through the auto-matchmaking system, and so was forced to play the game in the optional offline solo mode every time.
I think the levels and their missions were pretty much solely designed with multiplayer in mind and were not really scaled to be played in solo mode at all. I tried the first level on Medium difficulty several times, coming close to what I thought was the end of the level many times, but never being able to complete the mission before getting destroyed by the enemy.
I then swallowed my pride and backed the difficulty off to Easy and still got defeated in the same place on the last part of the first mission. Either I am very bad at this game, or it is just not designed to be played in solo mode, even though they give you the option of playing it that way.
The way the game works is that your heroes are imbued with this stuff called Aleph, which gives you special powers and the ability to revive after death, but also makes you visible through walls when you’re stressed, which translates into moving around and doing stuff. There is a distinct incentive to playing it slow and using the game’s “intuitive cover system” which is basically a cover system like any other, except that you don’t have to push any buttons to make your character press up against objects, which is fairly nice and fluid. This is probably the only mechanic in the game that truly made sense to me and felt good. After this, it just went downhill.
Each character has a unique ability that the Aleph gives them. The sniper can hang from ceilings and kind of teleport. One guy has a rocket pack that allows him to move around faster, one guy has a push power that lifts everyone around him up and shoves them back. But these various powers didn’t feel all that satisfying to me, either. The rocket pack, for example, didn’t really make me feel like I was flying, just floating above the ground with the bonus of increasing my move speed.
The gunplay is arcadey and unsatisfying, with the enemies that you face being fairly bullet-spongey. It’s almost as if the designers didn’t want you to enjoy using guns at all. There’s a character that has a nice sniper rifle, another that has a portable rotating mini-gun, one with a heavy machine gun, another with a shotgun, etc. But shooting them doesn’t seem to have any weight or power behind them. And the only way that you can regain ammunition is by using the game’s proprietary melee combat system and taking them down without shooting them to death. It really feels like the game is doing everything it can to encourage you not to use your guns. There are even certain objectives that can only be completed by using the melee system in order to power your character up so that they can interact with certain objective items.
The melee system is supposed to work on a rock-paper-scissors style format with options for Attack, Grapple, and Dodge. But, for me, the system didn’t make any sense at all. I just ended up trying to mash the buttons for attack and grapple. And the enemy can do the same attacks to you. One successful grapple from the enemy you’re fighting and he beats you to a pulp, seemingly without any possible recourse from you, which means you die. I was unable to notice any kind of indicator that would allow me to knowingly defend from these attacks or break free from them before being completely destroyed, even if I went into the fight with 100% health.
You get 3 lives at a time, using the Aleph as a kind of in-fiction respawn system. But when you lose your 3 lives, you then have to stay alive long enough for your respawn ship to go and get more Aleph. If you die within that countdown timer, the game is over at that point and you fail the mission.
So, for me, I was playing a game that didn’t reward me for using the cool guns that were given to me, and didn’t reward me for using the melee system that it so desperately wanted me to use, because it was so unintuitive and frustrating getting one-shot killed by putzy AI.
On the plus side, the game looks really nice. The visuals are very well done and the character art and animations are really cool. The world of the Broken Planet itself, is very interesting as well, with cool ship designs, too. The game ran very smoothly on my PC.
The prologue of the game is free to play, which is the only way that I would suggest anyone play the game to see if, for some reason, I just didn’t understand some fundamental aspect of the game. I have to think that it would be more enjoyable in a group, playing against the Antagonist player, but as I said, I never got the chance to test that aspect out.
There are plans for an episodic style release of the story missions of the game, each episode selling for $10, with the option of buying the complete pack for $40. But, after the experience I had with the game, I would highly recommend not paying for any of it until after you play the free prologue and see if it is something that you think you’d enjoy playing more.