Did you know that Mercury Steam, the Spanish developer behind the recently released and critically acclaimed Metroid Samus Returns, also released a free-to-start third-person shooter last year? Apparently, neither did a lot of people, because the servers are practically dead, which is honestly a shame, because I think Mercury Steam made a dang fine game. Dang fine game indeed.
Raiders of the Broken Planet is free-to-start, which in this case translates as your being able to play through the tutorial and a short introductory campaign called Eternal Soldier to get a feel for the game. Eternal Soldier serves its job okay at best, failing to clearly explain the Rock, Paper, Scissors style of melee combat found in the game. The clunky melee combat feels more random than choreographed, as it doesn’t provide you with enough time to react to and counter the enemies. This leads to you just mashing buttons. Thankfully, for the most part, melee combat is optional, aside from a few objectives that require you to grapple with stronger characters to obtain the power necessary to activate objectives.
Aside from that, Eternal Soldier does do a good job of letting you get a feel for the style of the game, which as far as I’m aware is unlike pretty much anything else on the market. This is a third-person-shooter 4 versus 1 asymmetrical multiplayer game with a story, cutscenes, and a ton of hip characters to unlock and play as; all fully voice acted to boot. Instead of just being there for you to barge through while shooting some baddies, each area has specific objectives to complete. Objectives include such things as capturing and defending key points, activating machinery with power gained from grappling with stronger enemies, and taking down bosses both massive and small.
While Raiders of the Broken Planet can be tackled solo, one of the main draws here is the asymmetrical multiplayer on offer where 4 of you work together as the good guys to take down the player-controlled bad guy. Unfortunately, in my time with the game, I was only able to find other people in the first free campaign. There, the enemy player would spawn as a character of their choice and run in and attack the team trying to prevent them from completing each objective. The good guys only have four lives before they go into survival mode, in which they must not die for a certain length of time or else it’s game over. Should they survive, they get a fresh set of lives.
This structure works out pretty well and makes for some heart-pounding, teeth gnashing moments even when playing solo. I do see the potential for balancing issues, however, but can’t put my theory to the test due to the servers being essentially dead on Xbox One unless you schedule a time to play with other people via Xbox Clubs or the Looking for Games feature.
As far as the two DLC campaigns go, one is great and the other not so much. Alien Myths constantly changes the scenery and offers new fresh-feeling objectives to complete,an engaging storyline involving rescuing enslaved protectors, and a battle against a massive grotesque alien that may have been my favorite boss fight of 2017. Meanwhile, the Wardog Fury campaign is repetitive, with levels forcing multiple completions of essentially the exact same objective a few times over: though it ain’t all bad, it certainly doesn’t feel as thought out as Alien Myths.
Aside from its varied gameplay, Raiders of the Broken Planet really stands out for the characters on offer. The cast is reminiscent of something like Mad Max meets the future in space, in that they are hip, aliens, and even a little Australian depending on the character you pick. There are bold well-spoken leaders, reformed outlaws, playboys, an evil doctor whose head floats in a jar, a woman whoturns into a dog, and another who can warp between a clone of herself. The voice acting for each character lets their personalities shine through in cutscenes and during missions, with many spouting obscenities which never feel out of place and are often times hilarious; I certainly found myself laughing out loud multiple times in my playthrough.
Aside from basically dead servers, the worst part about Raiders of the Broken Planet is how characters are unlocked. While a few are provided out of the game, with a couple more unlocking as levels are completed, the remaining few must be unlocked either with earnable in-game currency or bought via microtransactions. Let’s face it, microtransactions suck, and for the most part are just in games to make players decide what’s more valuable: their time or their money. If you want to unlock everyone, Raiders essentially forces you to either complete every mission on the hardest difficulty or play online a bunch to earn in-game currency, or else buy the extra characters via microtransactions. As there is a finite amount of in-game currency to earn while playing solo, and the game is rather difficult on medium, let alone very hard, I wasn’t able to unlock any of the extra characters even after completing both DLC campaigns thanks to the servers being empty. A real shame considering that the characters look so cool from the cutscenes they are in and that each has a unique ability.
I know the developers have been looking at ways to change the character unlock and progression system to make it a bit more fair, fun, and less grindy, but in its current state it feels tailor-made to be a free-to-play game when obviously it isn’t one.
Graphically Raiders of the Broken Planet is stunning, running smoothly at 60fps at 1440p on the Xbox One X. The characters and levels are bright, colourful, and altogether easy on the eyes. Most importantly, this game does not shy away from showing off not only the female characters’ bodies, but also the males’. If you wanted a game that sexualizes characters equally, this is the closest I’ve ever seen a game come. Both male and female characters have skin tight pants on that leave little to the imagination, and you’ll find no loincloth or kilt here covering up these guy’s buns and it is glorious! Plus, ya know, you get to see one of the dude’s butts totally naked, in ultra HD. What could be better than that?
I honestly loved my time with Raiders of the Broken Planet, even if it has clunky melee combat with okay shooting and dead servers. The characters are full of life, funny, and range from sexy to grotesque. I just wish it didn’t have what feels like a free-to-play grind. Also, the game would have benefited from releasing once all the campaigns were done instead of having them trickling out over months, as currently, it feels like you’re only getting around half a game’s worth of content. Though to be fair, it is also only $20 for all of the content aside from microtransactions and skins at this point, so that isn’t that bad –it’s mostly the forced grind that makes the amount of content stand out in a negative way.
I’m looking forward to the next 2 campaigns planned for the game, and I encourage everyone to at least try the free introduction, especially if you’re sick of the same old stuff being recycled. Raiders of the Broken Planet feels truly fresh and original, just not fully baked to completion. Certainly could use some more time in the oven.