Spanish developer MercurySteam are best known for their work on the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series. Now that their collaboration with Konami is over, they’re working on an original property called Raiders of the Broken Planet. This class-based cooperative shooter allows four players to team up together (story-wise, they’re a ragtag group of warriors that don’t really get along but are fighting for the greater good) and take on various missions.
I managed to play as most of the characters available in the beta, and MercurySteam have done a really great job in creating a diverse cast of characters. While I found all of them to be pretty unlikable in the cutscenes, they were all fun to play. Each character has a different gun (everything from a sniper rifle to a machine gun is available), and special skills that can be triggered by pressing the right bumper. My favorite character was a machine gunner that had a jetpack that he could use to fly around the environment. This allowed me to escape moments of chaos where my cover wasn’t getting the job done.
Aside from a very brief tutorial, there were only two missions included within the beta. That was still enough for me to find out that Raiders of the Broken Planet is a very challenging game. Characters go down after just a few shots, so using the game’s auto-cover mechanic is a must. It is sort of forgiving, though, as a game over is only triggered during a one-minute span where respawns are fully out and recharging. This seems like a solid compromise between being tough and allowing players to respawn, as these sections really raise the tension to a new level.
The two missions I played took place in rather small areas where my team had to fight off waves of enemies while accomplishing a goal. This often changed (one time I was defending an area, another I had to blow up an enemy that looked like a giant flying Octopus), but the gameplay didn’t really differ. We were always staying behind cover, and making slight progress to our overall goal while dealing with a bunch of baddies. Hopefully there’s more variety to the missions in the full game, as the gunplay is fun, and some extra spice to the levels would really make the package more fun as a whole.
Play the Bad Guy
A lot of MercurySteam’s marketing of Raiders of the Broken Planet has been around the game’s “Antagonist” feature. When this mode is selected from the main menu, it allows a player to join another group’s game as a Raider gone rogue. It’s not exactly four against one like the marketing claims, as the opposing player gets to join the computer-controlled baddies that would normally be in the game. This essentially makes the already challenging levels even more difficult, as the group has to deal with the standard mission with the added detriment of there being a player-controlled rival shooting them constantly.
I managed to compete in one mission as the Antagonist, and I’m not quite sold on the feature. First off, the balancing seems a bit off. As I mentioned before, the levels are already very challenging. Due to the this balancing and the fact that I had a seemingly unlimited amount of 20-second respawns after death, I felt like I had an unfair advantage in the level I played. I was able to consistently use the game’s powerful grapple move on players, which results in a one-hit kill. While they did the same to me many, many times, I eventually managed to wipe them out as they were facing off against the boss of the level, which was a generic Mr. Freeze wannabe.
I didn’t get any sense of accomplishment over this victory. The opposing team had performed far better than I had, managing to get into the boss’ final phase despite my constant barrage of attacks, and when the match ended I just felt like a jerk for ruining their mission. I had no desire to meddle in other players’ matches after that, and while the Antagonist mode is the only way to earn one of the in-game currencies, I didn’t find the trade-off worth it.
Room for Improvement
The biggest area where Raiders of the Broken Planet needs to improve is in how its story missions are laid out. Both of the levels I played consisted of several different areas that could’ve easily counted as a mission themselves, and if the team failed on the third section of a 20-minute long level they had lost all progress. That’s not a complete loss for the players as they’ll still get some currency out of the failed mission, but it’s awfully tiresome to have to replay the same sections again in order to get a second crack at a boss that defeated the team previously. Shorter levels would really benefit the game, and the layout is practically there already for MercurySteam to take advantage of.
The other huge rough spot in the beta was that successfully finding a match often took 10 minutes or more. I assume this was due to a lack of players participating in the two-day beta (I kept running into the same players), so it hopefully won’t be an issue once the game is actually released. I also question if the Antagonist mode, which seems to be the game’s main marketing push considering its “#4DividedBy1” branding, will end up being appealing to a mass audience. I didn’t have much fun playing an obstacle that was thrown in to make missions even more difficult, and it feels tacked on when compared to a game like Evolve, that was clearly created around the idea.
While there are clearly areas that need to be tweaked, Raiders of the Broken Planet‘s beta showed that MercurySteam has a potential hit on their hands. The four-player cooperative action game has tight gameplay, and an interesting premise that could lead to dozens of campaigns down the line (so far four are planned for release). I’m still not sure if the game will be able to get its hooks into players enough to have them replay stages repeatedly, but at the very least it’ll end up entertaining a group of friends for as long as the campaign lasts.
Beta code for Raiders of the Broken Planet provided by publisher. Previewed on PS4 Pro.