GAME REVIEW: Raiders of the Broken Planet Beta (PS4)

I don’t know, dude. I just don’t know. I jumped on Raiders of the Broken Planet early, because its look, attitude, and 4-vs-1 gimmick seemed worth a look. Now, with a few weekends of actually experiencing it, I wonder about the future of Raiders on consoles, and the future of its playerbase. I don’t know how much buzz there is for Raiders of the Broken Planet. It is the baby of developers MercurySteam, who have also developed the promising Metroid: Samus Returns for Nintendo 3DS (2017).

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Raiders of the Broken Planet is beautiful, but it’s also very ugly. The aesthetic of the raider characters is “crag punk”, everyone looks like they hang out in alleys. Characters are either cybernetically enhanced, damaged, or just look like they continually get up on the wrong side of the bed. I dig that. Even though they all look like they should be robbing banks, most of them are our protagonists, our Raiders. Four of the Raiders come together in either solo or multiplayer missions. Unlike DoTA, Overwatch, Call of Duty, or whatever have you, Raiders of the Broken Planet provides context to your matches with cutscenes. One of the earliest matches I played involved the raiders trying to save one of their own from a twisted doctor. We learn who the villain is, who you’re rescuing and why she’s important, and what your objective is. You can choose to skip these narrative cutscenes, which is a given for a multiplayer game. You have to be quick, or the opportunity to skip will pass. I’d rather press one button to skip these scenes, instead of holding down a button. If I continue playing Raiders, seeing the same scenes all the time will become tiresome.

You can either choose to be a raider, or become the Antagonist. The Antagonist has no choice in what mission they do. Their overall objective is to call trouble for the raiders. The Raiders choose a mission, and the antagonist player has to wait for four people to group up. Once you’re in the game, you get a simple objective. In one mission, Raiders have to attack a ship’s tentacle arms before they can take out the ship itself. The Antagonist’s objective is to thwart the raiders enough times for them to be unable to respawn. Aleph is the magical sci-fi material that the Raiders are out to get. It’s so incredible that it brings people back from the dead. The craft that brings you in can only carry so much Aleph, so after a few deaths, you will have to wait for your ship to bring back that respawn juice. 

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It’s a nice conceit to build the win/loss conditions right into the story. The Antagonist concept has been built into the story as well. In the fourth mission, recently added to the beta, the protagonists directly discuss the Antagonist being a person who looks like them but has been created by the bad guys. I don’t know how I feel about the Antagonist concept. It works because players will become familiar with the Raiders when they play on a team, so when they decide to play as Antagonist, they don’t have to learn the weapons and abilities of an entirely foreign character. On the opposite end, I don’t feel all that special playing as a clone with green, glowy bits of skin. I’d like to be a proper baddie, not someone who happens to look just like that other person I’m shooting at.

Speaking of shooting, it took me a little while to get used to the shooting. Raiders does not have some awkward or foreign control scheme: you aim with one control and fire with the other. I had a little bit of difficulty when I actually had to face off against the Wardogs (the enemy AI) in combat. Each Raider has his or her own special ability, and signature weapons. Some use long range while others prefer close up action. Being a sniper is not a role I play well, and using close ranged weapons are a gamble, so I went with Konstantin, a European cyborg who packs a Gatling gun. When you use Konstantin’s gun, it takes a little warm-up time before it starts firing. So the difficulty is that you may find yourself getting hit by Wardogs while you wait for your gun to fire. I also used Harec, and his gun allows you to fire a more harmful round if it’s aimed for a few seconds. These small touches to gameplay add a risk/reward to combat, and I get why MercurySteam would design the weapons this way. I also like the special abilities- or some of them. I don’t really understand Konstantin’s special ability, and I don’t feel like it’s been too effective.

At the end of a round, you are scored on your effectiveness in battle, and are rewarded accordingly. As a Raider, you’ll get words of encouragement, whether you’ve won or lost. As the Antagonist, you get chastised by your disembodied creator if you lose; I have yet to win as an Antagonist, so I don’t know what the boss says when you’re successful. As a winner, you get currency that you can use to buy custom gear for your characters, or to unlock some characters. I haven’t been able to unlock any characters yet, so I have an excuse to come back to the game for their next beta weekend.

If I have anything against this particular version of Radiers of the Broken Planet, it is the poor playerbase. I fear that Raiders may be in danger on consoles, if my inability to find people to play with is any indication. You can play Raiders solo, but that is more difficult and less fun. Raiders of the Broken Planet is ultimately a multiplayer game, so MercurySteam needs to find some way to attract players by the time they launch. The game is also set to launch on the new Xbox One X, in addition to the regular Xbox One and the PC. The game plays well on a console, but will there be enough people to play it? I can say that on PS4, there may not be enough interest to keep it going. Raiders of the Broken Planet is scheduled to launch in 2017.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Vichus Smith

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