Trying something new is always a risk. There is potential for things to go in so many different directions. When I sat down with MercurySteam back in September one message they communicated over and over again; Raiders is offering a new experience and as such they wanted to treat the future development of the title as a dialog between fans and themselves in the hopes of refining the game to maximize the fun for everyone. After spending the last week with the first Campaign, Alien Myths, I have to say that Raiders is definitely a unique experience offering some interesting and in some cases exciting takes on familiar mechanics. But does it offer a truly fun experience for a gamer? Grab that coffee and check out our review of MercurySteam’s 4v1 Story driven, shooter/brawler hybrid, Raiders of the Broken Planet.
Raiders offers an interesting story that is in fact broken into four separate campaigns with the first, Alien Myths, available now and the others to be released at a later date. It tells the story of a planet being stripped mined by enemy forces and a small rag tag team of miscreants set on stopping them by saving some ancient protectors who in turn can expel the intruders from the planet.
The first campaign focuses in on the recruitment of the raiders and the collection of the protectors with each of the four levels focusing on specific goals. The story is told through a series of in game audio and cutscenes and the delivery is solid. The game does struggle with giving weight to the characters however leaving me with little real investment on what happens to any one character. This is something I hope we see developed in future campaigns as the dialog and cutscenes hint that there is much more to each of the players on the board but we aren’t really given any time to get to understand their motivations outside of save the world. With such unique characters in play I hope to gain further info about each as the story progresses.
Combat is a mammoth of a beast to try and describe and cover in the review. As a hybrid shooter/brawler with each character also possessing vastly different types of weapons and specials it is essential that each get some time. All three play a crucial role in the success as a player and as such combat will be broken down into three essential categories; gunplay, brawler, specials.
Gunplay is interesting in Raiders as the character you choose dramatically impacts the effectiveness as a shooter style game. In fact even characters of similar gun style, short, mid and long range, all play dramatically different. This adds some great variety to gunplay giving players the freedom to really play the way they want to. You will quickly find that you gravitate to certain styles of gunplay and interestingly, at least for this gamer, I didn’t find myself gravitating to my usual style of mid range combat. MercurySteam is really trying hard to create something unique with Raiders and it shows in the care they give to their characters.
This being said gunplay isn’t perfect. Some characters feel quite weak when using guns and more times than not end up simply using them as a gap closer forcing others to cover while they themselves move in close for a fight. At first this seemed to be a flaw in the game design yet as I spent more time with Broken Planet I soon realized that I was approaching the title all wrong. I was treating it as a straight shooter trying to keep as much distance between myself and the enemy and myself as possible. This is a Hybrid combat system and understanding that in many cases gun play is simply one part of the equation to success is crucial for players. It really is a bit of a learning curve and my concern is that casual gamers might get frustrated before fully understanding how the system works.
This brings us to the second element of combat; namely brawling. Raiders uses a rock, paper scissors approach to brawling in that the three available moves, grapple, strike and dodge can be countered but each other. This requires that you engage combat in a similar rhythmic approach akin to the Batman Arkham series paying close attention to the visual cues of enemies to know how best to counter their attack. On paper the system is great, it offers some pretty clutch moments of hitting the right button at just the right time finishing off an enemy. In practice it's a hit and miss situation (see what I did there). When you get used to the system brawling becomes a lot of fun, a dance of looking for opportunity while countering enemy attacks.
However the system sometimes doesn’t feel responsive enough and more than once I found myself mashing the correct button only to have it not work quickly enough. You can blame it on old age if you want but it was a consistent issue that I ran into while playing. The other issue with the system is that when you get attacked from behind by someone outside of your field of view there is really no way to counter the attack. This becomes especially frustrating when you play with an antagonist in the match (more on this in a moment).
Specials are the final part of the combat equation and further helps develop each character as unique players in the match. As mentioned every raider has his or her own special ability that plays to the characters play style. It’s a great system that adds a lot to the play experience allowing for some great combo plays between characters. It also helps keep things interesting by giving players multiple options for completing objectives.
Overall combat is at its best engaging, fun and satisfying. However in its current state it can feel sluggish in the area of brawling and ineffective in the area of gunplay. Considering that even on the single player easy mode this game is still a challenge, it would be good to see combat shored up a bit moving forward.
The game offers a card based progression and customization system which allows you to unlock different cards into loadouts that offer unique buffs to characters. These are gained through both the multiplayer co-op and Antagonist mode(essentially a counter operative mode that sees you trying to stop the raiders from achieving their goals). An interesting thing to note upon completion of missions that net you the XP needed for the cards is that the group of four will need to choose a reward and if multiple players choose the same reward it is actually split between them. I imagine that this could be a bit frustrating for players working towards specific cards or even blueprints for weapons.
Raiders of the Broken Planet’s major selling feature is it’s 4vs1 story driven system. Essentially four people brought together (either through friend invites or match-making) go through the story missions while an antagonist, also a human player, works with the AI to stop the Raiders from completing their mission. Again on paper it sounds like a fun PVP experience, offering a new challenging way to play through a co-op story. Practically it feels like it needs some more time.
I spent some time playing both sides of this mode and found that playing as an antagonist came down to me simply stealthing my way around the room picking each raider off with a grapple attack from behind an obstacle. Ninety-nine percent of the time they never saw it coming and I could usually hold them at the first objective point. Playing as a Raider with limited to no real way to communicate, the antagonist essentially used the same tactics, picking us off. With no real way to coordinate it became extremely frustrating.
At it’s core the 4vs1 system has the potential to be a great addition to the game, yet with the current state of brawler combat it just simply feels broken. This coupled with no option to simply play a 4 player co op match with no antagonist may be a turn offer for a lot of gamers that are more interested in the PVE side of Raiders which, as mentioned, is something that is developing well. Hopefully after player feedback we will see some improvements to these systems.
At present Raiders of the Broken Planet can be a fun experience. When playing in a four player co-op experience, I found the game to be extremely enjoyable, with each player bringing something unique to the table. However with some rough parts to the combat system and an antagonist system that feels broken at present, Raiders can also be a frustrating experience. MercurySteam has communicated that they are hard at work collecting feedback from fans so as to implement changes as the game progresses. So hopefully with some time and rough sanding Raiders will truly reach it’s potential as a 4vs1, story driven, hybrid shooter/brawler.
Final Score: 7.3
- Some great game mechanic concepts
- Unique story that pulls from some great Sci Fi inspiration
- A unique business model that really allows players to contribute to the further development of the title.
- A combat system that needs a lot of work to reach its full potential
- A rework of the Antagonist system to bring better balance to gameplay
- An option for straight 4 player co-op