You might already be familiar with Raiders of the Broken Planet if you’ve seen our EGX 2017 interview or our Game Chat feature. If not, Raiders is a unique shooter independently developed by the folks at Mercury Steam (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow & Metroid: Samus Returns), which places a focus on intense, asymmetrical multiplayer missions.
Ongoing development is the reason you aren’t reading a full review, though we’re nonetheless going to take an in-depth look at what Raiders currently has to offer.
The titular Broken Planet is the Universe’s single source of Aleph, a powerful resource that attracts droves of Raiders to its surface in an attempt to claim it for themselves. War breaks out between the invading factions, and thus, a simple premise lays the groundwork for a well-humoured story told through a cast of flawed anti-heroes.
Mercury Steam are committed to implementing feedback from the established player base in order to build a better game together. The developer goes as far as to say they expect Raiders will look very different a year from now.
Over-the-top dialogue and confident delivery imbue the ugly, foul-mouthed characters with an eye and ear-catching quirkiness that should grow on you in time. Though the Raiders are undoubtedly the stars of the show, the game as a whole is awash with a bizarre and grotesque aesthetic that takes inspiration from the likes of Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Mad Max while feeling unique in itself.
Story segments are kept relatively light, due to multiplayer serving as the backbone of the experience, but there’s plenty of lore to read up on in-game as you wait on matchmaking. On that front, while finding a match on a Prologue level is snappy, expect to wait a while longer when looking to play the paid Alien Myths campaign. It’s not terribly bad, thanks partly to Windows 10 players getting in on the fun with cross-play, but it can be annoying to wait it out and then spawn into a laggy session due to the antiquated peer-to-peer hosting.
Going solo to bypass this is an option, but not a particularly attractive one. The premier way to play is 4 vs 1, as the game blossoms twofold with the addition of close cooperation and challenging competition. There are currently seven Raiders to choose from, each of which have a simple, customisable loadout that consists of a primary weapon, an ability, and passive buffs. While it might not sound like there’s much at your disposal, considering many games offer sidearms, grenades and ultimate abilities, there’s still a definite knack to mastering each of them and best fulfilling your role within the team.
Playing your part while remaining focused on the current objective is vital; enemy grunts and the player-controlled Antagonist respawn endlessly, whittling the Raiders’ limited life pool away as they delay. Constantly facing heavy opposition often makes the frenetic combat encounters - in which you might carefully shoot from cover, break away to run and gun, then launch into a rock, paper, scissors-style CQC encounter (dodge beats strike, grapple beats dodge, strike beats grapple) - a messily-choreographed, desperate struggle for survival. Expect to do your fair share of dying, though accept that and persevere and the victories are extremely gratifying.
Constantly facing heavy opposition often makes the frenetic combat encounters a messily-choreographed, desperate struggle for survival.
In the event that the endless action becomes too stressful, either in reality or in-game, hiding will lower your character’s anxiety and allow you to go unseen for a while. All combatants in Raiders use Aleph to boost their combat performance, though a notable side-effect sees physical exertion betray your position, even through walls. While maintaining an entirely slow and steady approach isn’t necessarily realistic, you’ll definitely want to take a breather when you can to regenerate health and, critically, afford yourself an opportunity to stealthily take down an enemy in melee combat, replenishing a portion of your limited ammo supply in the process.
The same exact rules apply when you play the role of Antagonist, as you select from the same group of standard Raiders, rather than a separate suite of baddies with their own weapons and abilities. This is atypical of asymmetrical multiplayer games - just look at the likes of Evolve and Friday the 13th, both of which see the solo artist play as a comparatively overpowered monster - and somewhat stacks the odds against you in Raiders, even with the AI on your side. Winning as the Antagonist isn’t out of the question, and playing the part is still intense fun in spite of the slight imbalance, but we do feel this is an area in need of tweaking.
Raiders’ fun factor combines with a drip-fed rewarding of currencies - which are used to upgrade and customise character loadouts, whereas flashy skins require a further paid currency - to make its levels highly replayable. Varied enemy types and objectives keep things interesting as you bounce between missions, with repeat runs often proving more satisfying as you strategically pick a Raider (provided someone else doesn’t annoyingly insta-lock them) and tactically handle now-familiar layouts to ace sections that had initially proven to be a real struggle. The lengthy boss fights never cease to be an entertaining spectacle, either.
Once you surmount the initial weirdness and learning curve, which can, honestly, be quite off-putting, you’ll uncover something unique and exciting in Raiders of a Broken Planet, which is one of the reasons we handed over our Best Newcomer Award at EGX. Mercury Steam have taken risks to produce a commendably different entry into a crowded genre, that only looks set to improve as it continues to develop with the input of its community.
The Domaginarium describe their third-person horror platformer as (old) Tomb Raider meeting Lovecraft, in space - a pitch we found difficult to resist. With The Nightmare from Beyond’s final release slated for Q3 2018, the current Steam Early Access build is far from content complete, but does it seem poised to deliver on the promising concept?
The Domaginarium describe their third-person horror platformer as (old) Tomb Raider meeting Lovecraft, in space - a pitch we found difficult to resist.
As Sanja, a young D’nyg woman in search of her sister, Dajana, you’ll traverse environments that seamlessly shift from stoney fantasy to techy sci-fi. While starting out linear, things open up to reveal some solid, looping level design that’s complimented by platforming and light puzzle solving elements straight out of a classic Tomb Raider game (as promised).
The disparate-yet-connected world, which houses interesting architecture and artefacts that make it enticing in the absence of impressive graphics, definitely has us curious to explore more in the hope of uncovering how exactly the scattered sections came to coexist. It serves as much more a driving force than the beginnings of the bland story, which isn’t helped by a reliance on nonsense fantasy terms that haven’t yet been explained.
As a D’yng, you're marked with tribal patterns that emit a neon glow, dimly lighting your way through the bleak nightmarescape. When you encounter the mysterious creatures within, you’ll need to hold your breath to extinguish the light and sneak past them, avoiding a swift and inevitable death.
The one creature you directly encounter can’t be combated - though you do get some bombs used to open a shortcut later on, so it’s possible you might eventually be able to put these to use - and is obscured by a black smog to preserve an air of mystery, with otherwise indirect encounters seeing you relentlessly pursued or your ankles snapped at from an off-screen presence to push you through platforming sections at pace. What you don't see is often more unnerving than what you do, and that's the case here.
The disparate-yet-connected world has us curious to delve deeper, serving as much more a driving force than the beginnings of the bland story,
If you're caught, you’ll need to go back to the last manual save point. These are fairly frequent, so you’ll never lose too much progress, and help to highlight the game’s '90s inspirations by feeling very Resident Evil.
Weighing in at around two flawed hours, what we essentially have at the moment is a paid proof of concept demo. As a result, we’d recommend waiting to see how The Nightmare from Beyond develops before laying down your hard earned, especially considering the price isn’t set to increase once the game leaves Early Access. There’s reason to remain optimistic in the interim however; The Domaginarium have put in a decent first showing and hold both a commitment to frequent updates and a development roadmap that looks set to iron out the acknowledged issues.
The Nightmare from Beyond is scheduled for release in Q3 2018 on PC, PS4 and PS Vita. It’ll set you back £14.99 or your regional equivalent.
Of all gaming’s many genres, fighters are my least favourite. They’re just not my forté. Back in the early 2000’s I was known to boss a game or two in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and going back further still I could just about hold my own in Street Fighter II on the SNES thanks to some full-on button mashing (so many blisters!) but my appreciation for fighters piqued with those two.
Even a rookie like myself had no trouble dismantling the AI opposition, which got boring very quickly.
It’s not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with Pokkén Tournament DX, it’s just the demo’s lack of online multiplayer did not feel like the best way to advertise the game’s arrival on Switch. Failing to include an online component was a particularly significant missed opportunity, as even a rookie like myself had no trouble dismantling the AI opposition, which got boring very quickly.
The unpredictability of human combatants is, in my admittedly limited experience with the genre, what makes fighting games - and multiplayer in general - engaging, challenging experiences. A simple control scheme coupled with a surprisingly in-depth tutorial means Pokkén Tournament is very easy to learn, but with the demo’s lack of a human element, it was impossible to tell if it would be difficult to master.
Yes, the Joy-Cons do facilitate couch co-op, and getting two Switches in the same room would also allow you to take part in local multiplayer matches in the demo, but unless you’ve got people on hand ready to jump into a game at a moment’s notice (and of a similar skill level) these weren’t really viable options.
In the end, the Pokkén Tournament DX demo served only to reinforce my desire to see Nintendo pull their finger out and get Super Smash Bros. onto the Switch in some form. If not as a new entry in the series or some sort of virtual console offering of Melee, then at least a port of the Wii U’s release, another well-received title from the doomed console’s back catalogue that remains frustratingly out of my reach.
MercurySteam, the Spanish developer behind Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and the upcoming Metroid: Samus Returns, are venturing into uncharted territory with Raiders of the Broken Planet. A self-published, multiplayer-focused third-person shooter set to release incrementally beginning later this year, Sam and James recently spent some time with the closed beta - here are their thoughts.
James: Whenever you pick up a game you go in with certain expectations, but not knowing a lot this time kept those preconceptions to a minimum. Cover shooters were huge when I first got into gaming and, having largely been away from them for some time, I was excited to try a new twist on the formula. First impressions? I’d say it has my attention.
Sam: After actually going hands-on, I was initially torn over whether or not the game was a little too different. Raiders just about necessitates rock, paper, scissors-style brawling and engaging with a difficult stealth system in the midst of its relentless firefights, so it was a little jarring to find usual shooter tactics didn’t work very well in themselves. It definitely took some adjusting to on my part, but it was good to be forced out of my usual comfort zone.
James: There’s certainly a learning curve, in fact we were both reminding ourselves that our characters actually had individual powers and skills to use in battle, since it’s so easy to slip into old habits and play it like any other third-person action game. It remind me of when I first played the underrated Wanted: Weapons of Fate and kept dying over and over because, due to it’s in-your-face style, I failed to remember that I could use cover. Similarly, here I was a little too bold with my playstyle and it was often my undoing.
Sam: I found that the bizarre cast of ugly, foul-mouthed antiheroes were totally out there; they all play in very different ways, some of which weren’t to my liking, but once I found a character that I clicked with - and, just as importantly, we found a four-player team composition that we clicked with - I thought the game became really rewarding, especially when tackling boss encounters.
James: They certainly didn’t have much charisma between them, but I suppose if Raiders has a penchant for challenging expectations, perhaps something a bit different is refreshing? I’m waiting to be convinced on that front. Nice to have cutscenes to bring them to life a bit, just a shame they don’t grab you like their contemporaries might. Gameplay is king though and in action the moments where the characters’ skills started working together was promising.
Sam: One of the game’s big draws is the promise of 1 vs. 4 asymmetric multiplayer, but we’ve seen this can be a dubious prospect with flops like Evolve and Fable Legends. While I enjoyed both of those games for the most part (I got some time in with Fable before Microsoft pulled the plug), Raiders doesn’t seem nearly as committed to the idea. Levels play out in much the same way for the group of antiheroes whether the enemy is bolstered by a human player or not, while the antagonist doesn’t see any significant gameplay overhaul. What did you think of it?
James: I’d agree. Nothing much stood out that made the encounter decidedly dicier with a human opponent involved compared to just AI - perhaps because the AI hit the spot? Hopefully with a bit more time the nuances will start to show through and there’ll be some more variety to the PvP elements.
Sam: Raiders seems to me like a game that will grow more and more engaging as you engage with it more and more, learning new characters, strategies and compositions all the while. This is a perfect fit considering, if all goes well, players will dip in and out of the game over a period of time with the release of each new campaign. I’m quite optimistic on the whole - are you?
James: It’s definitely got a lot of ingredients, perhaps a few of them aren’t quite cooked yet, but I think the recipe is right. The way the developers are approaching it seems sensible, and actually quite exciting coming in on the ground floor. Hopefully as the community grows and develops a voice it will help to smooth some of the rough edges.
Have you played the Raiders of the Broken Planet beta? Whether you have or haven’t, feel free to join in on our game chat by leaving a comment with your thoughts on MercurySteam’s upcoming shooter.
Last weekend saw the second Global Test Punch (that’s a limited time demo to you and I) for Nintendo’s next first-party release on the Switch - ARMS. The motion control-friendly brawler looks like a natural evolution of the fondly remembered Wii Sports boxing minigame at first glance, but what’s it like to play? We trapped Liam and James in a room to talk it over.
Liam: As someone who is usually rubbish at fighting games, I somehow found myself in the unfamiliar situation of being one of the top players in a lobby at one point. Although great for the self-esteem, it wasn’t so good for getting into a match, as all the other players who could come close to matching my amazingness were otherwise occupied. Floating helplessly gets old fast, and while it’s cool that you can see how much real-time damage other players are taking in their separate battles, it would have been good if there was a proper spectator mode to pass the time.
James: I found the standard one-on-one battles bland but really important to get the hang of the game. Once you’re in there with more than one opponent, or a specific objective, things get hectic - fast!
Liam: I think I enjoyed the 1v1 matches the most, but it really depends on the quality of the opponent facing you. The modes featuring three or four players, while fun, could quickly get confusing, and they couldn’t beat the tenser battles one-on-one matches offered. Being backed into a corner with only a fraction of health left, only to emerge victorious thanks to some well-placed punches and flurry combos was awesome. Having multiple players in the same match made more sense in the more arcade-like modes, such as the one that has two teams trying to smash the most targets from opposite sides of an arena, or where a group of you would face off against an incredibly tough AI metal robot head creature.
James: Fighting those AI giant robots with about six ARMS each was pretty tough. Staying mobile and remembering to actually use the jump and dodge buttons was a constant struggle in that one especially. Some of the more specific custom modes worked better than others, I feel like the quicker characters had a big advantage most of the time. I didn’t play on a pro controller but the button mapping looked really odd…
I was surprised I was happy to forgo a more traditional setup in favour of motion controls for as long as I did.
Liam: I didn’t get a chance to try the game outside of motion controls either, which is a shame as I’d like to have seen how curving punches with a standard controller setup was going to work. I was surprised to find I was happy to forgo a more traditional setup in favour of motion controls for as long as I did, and for the most part, they worked quite well, with the only real issue I experienced being down to me forgetting to hold the Joy-Cons in the proper starting position.
James: So I guess the real test at this point is - does this demo make us want to buy it?
Liam: I can see this being a great party game, something to pick up and play for an hour or so when friends or family are visiting, but I don’t know if can see myself air-boxing solo in front of the TV very often, even for online matches with friends. In fact, using the motion controls anywhere outside of the living room is a definite no, unless you’re happy to be the crazy guy no one wants to sit next to on the commute to work. Unless Nintendo fail to deliver some form of Smash Bros. on the Switch in the near future, I can see this one passing me by.
James: For me, this was always an outside chance from both a competitive online play and a messing-about-party-style title - as you can see it sort of working in either camp but not really committing either way. It’s not as accessible as Splatoon 2 has been so far, from a similar amount of playtime from its demos, which makes me worry the barrier of entry will be too high to really get people on board and make competitive play interesting. That said, there is charm here, in an unashamedly Nintendo sort of a way, so something in the back of my mind whispers “Oh go on, get it anyway!”
What do you think of ARMS? Did you try the Test Punch? Will you be picking it up? Let us know in the comments.
The beta for CI Games’ Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 - the series’ first entry to boast “AAA production values” - goes live exclusively on Steam today. Having had an early look at the build, we’re left impressed by what could be the sleeper hit of the year.
Note: The game is now scheduled to launch on 4 April.
The beta’s first mission, Blackout, reminded us of Call of Duty 4’s iconic All Ghillied Up as we crept and clambered our way through a decaying apartment block. The tight corridors and small rooms weren’t by any means ideal stomping grounds, so utilising Scout Mode for careful traversal was a necessity. While it’s a similar mechanic to Batman’s Detective Vision, it isn’t quite the same solve-all, offering only hints as to unmarked enemy locations by visualising sound cues. After reaching our perch upon the roof, we located and assassinated our high-priority target before zip-lining the hell outta dodge; a cleaner exfiltration than Price and MacMillan suffered, we’re sure you’ll agree.
Through a budget injection and some strong influences, CI Games look set to make Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 a realisation of the series’ strong potential.
Next up was Cut Off, in which you’re assigned the task of manually realigning three satellites so that allied forces can intercept Separatist communications. It’s much larger in scale and draws another favourable companion, this time to one of Metal Gear Solid V’s base infiltrations. You’ll interrogate enemies for valuable mission intel, namely patrol and item locations, before repositioning their bodies to cover your tracks. Certain environmental elements can be tampered with to distract your opposition, but due to the scale of the base and the timed nature of an impromptu objective it’s likely you’ll be spotted. In this case we elected to go loud and eliminate any immediate threats, before utilising hiding spots to wait for things to blow over.
Breaking out a secondary weapon isn’t all bad, as switching up tactics now and then helps in the levelling process. Specific acts fittingly fall under the Sniper, Ghost and Warrior skill trees, earning experience and eventually skill points that improve and unlock abilities to aid in each area, ensuring you can always play to your strengths.
A tangible level of challenge made both missions compelling, but outside of their structure the open-world draws another, less-favourable comparison. The available secondary tasks - points of interest, outpost and item caches - each mimic Far Cry’s busywork and in much the same vein could become tiresome in time. That said, it’s all optional content and the sandbox setting is both easy to traverse and more than justified in affording the player great choice of approach.
While we’ll reiterate the game is in beta - and properly, it’s still two months out - the current technical performance left a little to be desired. Our resting frame rate sat ~80, yet there were sporadic and baffling drops to ~20 during even mundane scenes. Some items couldn’t be interacted with; locked and loaded weapons would frequently appear to be out of ammo until switching them out and back in; on one occasion the perspective even got stuck in third-person, forcing us to reload with nought but movement now functional.
None of its issues significantly impact the overall experience, however, and they can only be ironed out between now and launch come 4 April. Through a budget injection and some strong influences, it appears the developers at CI Games have been afforded the opportunity to make Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 a realisation of the series’ potential. The beta certainly earned it a place on our radar, and we’d recommend you find space for it on yours.
The funny device you see me holding in the picture below is the PlayStation Aim, which really complements Farpoint, as it will other first-person shooters I'm sure. Shots had a satisfying stability despite reliance on your own intuition and accuracy, and this was largely down to the Aim and its impressive receptiveness. Ammunition was scarce here, and I often found myself running out relatively quickly, so being able to shoot with precision was imperative in these combat situations.
Weapon switching is accomplished through tapping the Aim controller behind your shoulder to mimic the action we've all seen on-screen a million times, but there's a simple pleasure in acting it out yourself.
At times throughout the demo, I found myself strafing at peculiar angles to often regain a straight path, as trying to combine head and Aim tracking in tandem proved challenging at first. Eventually, this became second nature, despite my panicked bullet-spraying when overrun with hoards of spiders. A cool, calm and collective composure is necessary.
Unfortunately, during this particular demonstration the intrigue that Farpoint built in encouraging me to explore its world was for nought, because I was instead thrust between different locations and my immersion was routinely broken. The game may still in beta, but my general consensus is that Impluse Gear have only scratched the surface with what they want to achieve.
If you're are a fan of an arcade-y style of game, you may want to keep a close eye on this one. It has the foundations to be a strong anchor for PSVR providing we see something fresh over the coming months; be it new weapon types, explorable terrains, or perhaps new enemy types. At this stage of development, It faces criticism of becoming repetitive too early, and soon the novelty of VR will wear off, and Farpoint will need to offer more incentives to maintain the player's intrigue.
The platform itself is a perfect way to accelerate your gameplay experience, literally offering your own virtual playground. The headset has a solid and substantial design, with an adjustable focus lense and head support for comfort and stability whilst you play. What's reassuring, is that the headset is relatively comfortable to wear and does not restrict your manoeuvrability whilst playing, provided your time spent playing is moderate.
Although the weight of this headset isn't drastic, I feel it may become uncomfortable if used for longer than an hour or so at a time, but this will vary from player to player, and PlayStation do suggest that this is not intended for long sessions. Headaches are not a good consequence!
In addition, Motion Sickness was a brief side effect I encountered. This lasted only a few minutes just after I'd started playing, but I feel this is something you will need to consider before purchasing, especially if you're particularly susceptible. In light of this, Sony have said that PSVR will run with a 120hz refresh rate which will help, but the more I found myself playing, the more I became accustomed to it.
There are many advantages to PSVR including its price, accessibility and design. I feel like it will make a solid entry into the PlayStation repertoire, and a fantastic addition to your gaming set-up, but, essentially, it is not a necessity.
PlayStation have recently announced locations in the UK where you'll be able to try PSVR for yourself before release, so if you're keen, keep an eye on the website for more details regarding these locations soon.
PSVR is set to release on 13 October this year, whilst Farpoint doesn't yet have a release date. Are you excited about them? Let us know in the comments, on the forum, or via social media.
Eager console gamers the world over were able to get their hands on Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall 2 during the weekend, in the first of two open multiplayer tech tests.
What are your initial thoughts on Titanfall 2? Let us know in the comments.
*Skill is subjective.
Compulsion Games’ We Happy Few turned heads at Microsoft’s E3 press conference this year. The alternate history, drug-fuelled take on 1964 England was a breath of fresh air amidst an otherwise familiar lineup of games. Thanks to an early access release, people wouldn’t have to wait long before they could get their hands on it, either.
The showing was a sure-fire way to grab gamers’ attention, but, as we’ve seen time and again, hype can court controversy.
A similarly sizeable issue is the weighting of loot drops, as you’re occasionally tasked with crafting a certain item to progress. Finding the relevant ingredients took us hours of scouring the same area in one instance, the required material often spawning in nonsensical places you wouldn’t naturally think to look. Progress should never hinge on random chance, it’s incredibly frustrating and unfair.
Despite its undoubted foibles, we’d like to allay some fears by reiterating the obvious: We Happy Few is in its infancy. Finding issues now isn’t only to be expected, but should be welcomed and fed back to an attentive Compulsion Games in aid of building a stronger final product.
What’s more, the better-implemented systems in place make for an already engaging package on the whole. Procedural generation alters the entire layout of the retro-futuristic world - as well as encounters and objectives, to a lesser extent - to quell frustrations and increase replayability as you independently learn the harsh rules of the game through its permadeath system. A cast of simultaneously amusing and disturbing NPCs occupy the shifting landscape, spouting referential gibberish that highlights the level of social decay in Wellington Wells’ thoroughly beguiling dystopia.
Even for its strengths, paying money to access a preview build isn’t something we’d ever really advise. Considering it redacts narrative elements outside of a few select tidbits, it's inherently flawed, depriving many users of what they most want. Whilst you should approach this build with caution as a result, don’t be put off by hearsay, there’s no reason to worry about We Happy Few at this early stage.
We’ll have more on We Happy Few as it develops, as well as a review when it releases next year, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’ve played it, let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our forum.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst teased the gaming community at large over the weekend with a Closed Beta offering its opening levels and a chance to explore the city. We had a look around and James has captured our thoughts on what is shaping up to be one of EA's biggest releases this year.