Raiders of the Broken Planet is an interesting proposition. Self-funded by Spanish Developers MercurySteam (a team not known for their online skills) the game is an asymmetrical multiplayer third-person shooter that tries to set a balance between guns and melee. The beta itself does a lot to give me hope for the full game, but that hope comes with caveats.

After the clumsy tutorial that does little to explain the finer points of combat and does nothing to explain what the plot is or who the characters are, the game dropped me into the multiplayer with the choice of being a raider or an antagonist.

(By the way, I know it’s early days but the available characters were poorly voiced and embarrassingly designed – nice bikini there, mohawk lady.)

The raiders team up as a group of three or four and pick from snipers, shotgun wielders, or close-quarter-combat experts. They’re tasked with completing a range of challenges with the number of respawns split among the team. Beat the challenges and the raiders win, but if the respawns run out too soon, it’s game over.

In contrast, the antagonist gets to pick one character (from the same roster) and must try to cause as much grief as possible with an infinite number of respawns. The downside? There’s a huge amount of downtime between them. The antagonist wins if they manage to deplete the raiders’ pool of lives and kill them all before their dropship can return with more respawns.

The learning curve in the beta is steep for both sides. Raiders seems to be about returning to levels and improving on subsequent runs, so after I understood that, some of the frustration of getting knocked down early on was alleviated. For example, the objectives for the raiders aren’t abundantly clear, and until I figured out the flow and stealth of play, the antagonist was easily overpowered. Replays and more experience would help solve both of those issues, I’d expect.

When a squad of raiders clicks, It’s awesome. I loved seeing a player pop a shield and pull aggro by dashing to administer a crushing grapple while being covered by a sniper and backed by pelting minigun fire from another teammate. Too often though, the enemy spawns can feel unfair, and through no fault of my own I found myself being wiped out with little recourse by a group of enemies dropped on my head.

The antagonist’s role is about learning when to stay put and when to capitalize on a surge of grunt AI attackers to pick off raiders, which can lead to a different flavor of exhilarating moments. Running and shooting causes a player to light up and makes them obvious to all opposition, so staying still or walking keeps an antagonist invisible. Using this knowledge, I could pick a moment to catch players out and then sneak away in the ensuing carnage. Unfortunately, smart raiders knew where the antagonist spawn points were – they’re fixed – and used exploitable melee moves to take me out swiftly. Once down, I’d be sitting idle for up to 15 seconds waiting to get back in the game.

A lot of these issues are fixable, and the game is still in beta, of course. I’m sure that it’s far from being optimized and balanced. However, what’s more worrying are hints of microtransactions in the current implementation and the amount of content suggested in the UI doesn’t suggest longevity.

It seems possible to avoid spending money by playing through the game and gaining currency that way, but the jury’s out on how this model will affect the final product at launch. The version I saw seemed set to offer five chapters, and two were already available. There’s a fantastic, multi-layered boss battle in one of them, but I was still done with both sections in about an hour. If the launch content is on par, that seems like two and half hours of fresh experiences followed by replaying areas many times over for unlocks.

Raiders of the Broken Planet is promising, and the design seems to take influences from Lost Planet 2 and Evolve, both aesthetically and mechanically. The combat has nice touches when it comes together and the to and fro between the opposing sides can be riveting — I’m curious to see how Mercury Steam addresses the current issues.

The servers are currently down but there is a second Beta weekend coming up — those interested can sign up for it here

— AJ Small

 

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