I’ve played a lot of shooters in my day. Going all they way back to Wolfenstein 3D, I’ve watch the genre explode to the main stream, seen countless innovations that have pushed the genre forward, watched as eSports made its mark on culture and still play the genre with its many subgenres whenever time and commitments allow. So it is always interesting to me when I hear about the next shooter coming out with its promises of innovations or at the very least some new mechanics to help move the genre forward.
Releasing Friday, September 22, Raiders of the Broken Planet promises a unique 4v1 story driven shooter experience unlike anything we have played. I have had the privilege of spending a few hours playing the game with the developers and have to confess that this game feels like a step in in the right direction. As the game doesn’t release until Friday I wanted to at the very least give you my first impressions of MercurySteam’s ( the developer behind the new Metroid: Samus Returns) latest entry. So grab that coffee, sit back and check out this first impressions article for Raiders of the Broken Planet.
Set in an original game universe, Raiders draws a lot of its inspiration from shows and movies like Dune, Firefly and the Magnificent Seven. Set with the task of gathering Heroes to save your planet from invading forces bent on strip mining your world, you play through four separate campaigns (check out our “What is Raiders of the Broken Planet” article) which tells this story. What is unique about this game is it’s 4 vs1 mechanics. Before you start thinking of games like Evolve understand that this game has no real similarities outside of the 4 vs 1 mechanic.
As a group of four raiders your team follows a series of missions in each campaign which all unfold to an over arching story. Each mission and campaign tell a unique and complete story within themselves and really can be played in any order. As discussed in the above mentioned article these campaigns will have a staggered release with each being individually purchasable or if you prefer you take buy a season pass that will net you all four. Before you panic understand that the price point on a single campaign is extremely reasonable in regards to bang for buck and I say this as someone who has played through almost all of the first campaign.
The fifth player enters the game as a antagonist tasked with disrupting the Raiders goals any way he or she sees fit. The interesting thing is that you play as essentially a evil version of a raider created by an old god whose motives were unknown at the time of playthrough. However I have been told and have seen at least some of the lore that helps explain all of this back story. As the antagonist you can go about simply killing raiders in the hopes of using up their limited lives or disrupt mission objectives by guarding a point or destroying items that the raiders need. If you can successfully disrupt the mission goals or burn through all of the raiders lives you win.
I have had time to play both sides of the mission and have to say that it really is a unique experience. Playing the protagonist really means working as a team, calling out objectives, helping to identify if and where the antagonist is, etc. In fact I would go so far to say that this game relies heavily on those co-op mechanics for victory to take place. Personally I love it as it forces you to work together, to communicate to, you know actually play co-operatively. The lone wolves really won’t be rewarded in this type of game and I am okay with that.
An interesting thing to note is that as Raiders you aren't always guaranteed to have an antagonist join your map and won’t know until right before it launches. This adds a nice element of the unknown and really creates a unique experience even on the same levels.
My one concern that was hard to gauge in a demo setting is whether it is a balanced system. In our case we found that each time we had an antagonist in the match we lost. Granted this could be due more to our newness to the game and mechanics. I am interested to see how this plays out after launch.
Speaking of game mechanics, Raiders has a lot of them in play. The combat is a mix of third person shooting, brawling and cover with each character having a unique ability that fits with their play style and lore. The brawler mechanic is specifically interesting and works on a rock, paper, scissors system with each of the three abilities, strike, grapple and dodge all having a respective counter. This created some pretty intense close corridor moments with some serious button mashing. It reminded me a lot of the chainsaw duels from Gears of War and has those same feelings of intensity and satisfaction/frustration depending on the outcome of the encounter. Below is a quick video showing some of the mechanics in action.
There is also a stress meter mechanic in play which I especially enjoyed in my play through. Almost every action in the game causes your character to accumulate stress. Once you reach your stress threshold you become visible to other players even when behind cover. The only way to reduce the stress is to take cover and avoid damage for a few seconds (as opposed to a hot bath and whiskey which is what I typically prefer). I found this to be an incredibly useful mechanic as the antagonist as it allowed me to both identify the raiders as well as sneak up on them for some sweet insta-kill action. Balancing all of these things may seem a bit overwhelming but after only playing a couple of hours I found that all of these systems work really well together to the point that I didn’t even notice them in play. The game simply did things that made sense as I was engaging in combat.
It’s hard to really capture or explain how this all works together but understand that it feels very organic and really cranks up the challenge and gameplay. Even when engaging with an antagonist whose base abilities I understood I was challenged because they had so many options for how to engage in combat. You will find some of the typical character archetypes in play in Raiders but with the above mentioned mechanics in play there really is a lot of options for how you play the character. There is also a progression system by way of card load outs which can be unlocked through experience gained both with factions and as the character. This again offers another level of catering to your playstyle. Weapon blueprints can also be unlocked by completing missions both as the Protagonist or antagonist.
My first impressions of Raiders of the Broken Planet leave me wanting to really spend some time with the title. My concerns about longevity and balancing can’t really be answered until the servers go live on Friday but with a free demo and a low price point for the first campaign I really do suggest checking out MercurySteam’s Raiders of the Broken Planet. Keep that browser locked to MMORPG.com for a full review coming soon.