The free to play space is a burgeoning one on Xbox. The pay format may seem like a cesspool of quick and lifeless cash-ins on phones and tablets, but it's much better represented on consoles. The latest of these free to play games, Raiders of the Broken Planet
, alters the usual pay model by giving players an unlimited, achievement-enabled, co-op ready prologue entirely for free and hoping you like it enough not to buy skins or weapons, but to buy the rest of the game. It's safe to say if you bring a good team into the prologue and enjoy it, you may get great use out of the game's paid episodic campaigns. However, it's important to note the game's several issues before you board the ship routed for the Broken Planet. Raiders of the Broken Planet
is a third-person shooter that takes place in a violent world where bands of raiders and a megacorporation duke it out for the titular Broken Planet's natural resource, aleph. With aleph, soldiers become supersoldiers, energy is harnessed, and power can change hands depending on whose stockpiles are biggest. The setting is hard to nail down in familiar terms. It feels vaguely like Mad Max
but with more of a cyberpunk leaning. The cast of anti-heroes is distinct in both fashion and function. It wouldn't make too much sense to call them "ragtag" because they're definitely not lacking in their abilities, although they are still considerable underdogs given their foe.
The characters are class-based. When playing on co-op, no two people can play as the same person. One character is slower with a chain gun and the ability to shove enemies away with a massive bubble ability while he soaks up extra damage. Another, the one as whom players control in the free prologue, is more stealth-like with a sniper rifle, exacting and covert. Their archetypes fulfill familiar tropes, but that's actually a good thing compared to the personalities they're given. No character is a shimmering, square-jawed good guy, which is fine and really par for the industry's course, but they are irredeemable even in their efforts to be interesting. The story through the prologue and its first of four campaigns — the other three will release episodically at later dates — is full of cliches that gamers or just sci-fi fans will have seen elsewhere plenty of times.
With the narrative not being the game's real focus and far from one of its strengths, the attention shifts to the much more enjoyable gameplay. Again, you won't be given much of what you haven't seen before with objectives that often resemble horde modes, bomb runs, and boss battles, but the gunplay is well developed across the several characters available. In turn, this allows for a well-rounded team of four to have a lot of fun with the game, despite its lack of new ideas. It can be really tough without a solid team of four. Enemies scale in numbers and damage absorption based on the team size, so playing a full game with a few teammates who don't pull their weight can feel impossible at times. It's actually not so tough in solo play because the game scales down to oppose only you, although like pretty much all games that can be played solo or in co-op, it's generally better played with partners.
In terms of visuals, Raiders is the most AAA-looking indie perhaps ever made.
' community size and its matchmaking process both put a hurt on the prospects of getting into a group of four. Early in its lifespan, it's been hard to find a game often. When you are launched into a lobby, note your teammates' gamertags or find them in the recent players menu after the mission is over, because the game inexcusably boots you and your teammates back to your isolated menus, leaving you to find one another — or just any others — again. You can party up with friends to ensure you stay as a group post-match, but anyone who doesn't will need to hunt down teammates after each and every mission is over.Raiders
is at its best when you can find a game and can do so with three others that can handle themselves. It's just disappointing that, so far, these are major hurdles. That's probably owed in part to its status as a partial freebie. It welcomes anyone to give it a try, which means the community has not yet weeded out the free to play players from the more serious paid players. This distinction is not relevant to other F2P games, but it does matter here given Raiders
' unique pricing model of a free first chapter and a paid second chapter that unlocks only when you complete the first chapter.
Even for the paid crowd, the game has issues that can't be overlooked. Beyond the cooperative mode there is a 4v1 mode called Antagonist that allows the fifth player to fight back against the others. It uses the same missions and just inserts one human player among the deluge of red shirt grunts. You'd maybe think having so many AI husks on your side would balance the game but it doesn't really. It feels more like you're the sole survivor in a multiplayer match where the other team still has four players left. Unlike in other such modes, like those in Evolve
, in Raiders
you aren't an overpowered behemoth, you're just another of the same characters from whom your opponents choose their own. This competitive mode will need tweaking.
If the day comes when Raiders' several issues are repaired, what will remain is a fun, albeit cliche, co-op shooter.
Another issue is the game's character progression and customization options. Simply put, they aren't explained. There's a card system, several currencies (some of which can be bought with real money), and a slew of icons that mean nothing to you because the game doesn't tell you anything about them. You may appear as though you have several booster cards from which to assign to your characters, but for whatever reason — I literally have no idea why — you can't do so. They seem to be unlocked. They don't tell me I'm lacking the funds or options or level to use them. They simply can't be utilized. It could very well be a bug, but the game's explanation of this process is so lacking that it's impossible to say.
For achievement hunters looking perhaps for some free to earn gamerscore, look elsewhere. Raiders
' list won't give you any for playing on solo and you can earn very few without buying the first campaign. That's not to say this is another blemish on the game; it's simply the truth, for better or worse. All of the list is made secret, although they contain no spoilers and many of them demand a grind of many matches and hours. Beating the first and right now only campaign, Alien Myths, in solo play, won't net you the gamerscore for doing so. You have to beat it in online co-op. Despite the fact that the game already offers a boosted 1,420 gamerscore, very little of it can be earned quickly or without buying into the game's campaign.
SummaryRaiders of the Broken Planet
is a game that can be fun, but only if a number of prerequisites are met. It is essential that you find a trustworthy and competent team of three others, just as it is desperately needed for the developers to better explain the game's customization and currencies. It's actually remarkable for a game to offer in-game purchases but fail to make them enticing. Even if you wanted to spend real money on Raiders
, you wouldn't easily know what you're interested in because none of the options are explained. MercurySteam promises Raiders
is a living platform that will look very different a year from now. Thankfully, that means a lot of these issues could disappear by then. Nothing the game does wrong, outside of its characters and story, is irreversible. If you like third-person shooters it's worth grabbing a team and trying out the free prologue for yourself. Just be aware that there are parts of this game more broken than the planet on which it's set.
- Solid shooting mechanics in and out of cover
- AAA visuals in an indie package
- Lots of fun with good teammates
- Tough to find and keep games going with low player count and problematic matchmaking
- 4v1 Antagonist mode feels unbalanced
- Unredeeming characters in a trope-filled story
- Fails to explain many of its unique systems
The reviewer spent 8 hours on the Broken Planet, often scrounging for Aleph and a good team alike. He collected just one achievement for 20 gamerscore. An Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.