JOURNEY TO THE SAVAGE PLANET
Astronauts needed, no experience necessary
Publisher 505 Games Developer Typhoon Studios ETA 2020
Exploring the vastness of space is no trifling matter – it demands precise skill, expert knowledge, and the very best of equipment. Well, normally at least. Journey To The Savage Planet dares to ask the question, what if a rank amateur set out for the stars with nothing but a head full of dreams, a pocket full of hope and the backing of the world’s fourth best interstellar exploration company?
The answer is, er, die a lot. This first-person survival adventure tasks you with exploring a colourful, bizarre and, yes, deadly alien world. But far from feeling punishing, a comedic spirit turns every death into a punchline, after which you simply reform back on your ramshackle ship.
It’s the debut of Typhoon Studios, a small team of 24 devs who all hail from prestigious triple-A backgrounds. The creative director Alex Hutchinson, for example, previously led the way on Assassin’s Creed 3 and Far Cry 4, and others on the team have worked on the Batman: Arkham and Splinter Cell series – so the studio’s got no shortage of talent.
Dropped onto the ‘savage planet’ AR-Y 26 by your employer, the rather suspect Kindred Aerospace, your ultimate goal is to determine whether it’s fit for human habitation. That means traversing the landscape scanning and cataloguing flora and fauna – and making sense of a strange and massive structure you discover along the way.
That description might be conjuring up memories of No Man’s Sky, but the developer’s goal is to create something small and focused, not a sprawling, procedurally generated epic. That restrained scope aids the game’s comedy leanings, allowing Typhoon to craft all sorts of little moments of humour for you to run into. That especially includes the constant commentary of your AI companion, EKO – their clueless attempts at advice make a fun change of pace from the typical cool and competent robot partner. Weird science During our hands-on, we’re tasked with a few different objectives, though we have the freedom to pursue them in whatever order we choose. Each seems to open up new possibilities and approaches to the world. First, we take on a mission to create our own grappling hook – once built, we can swing gracefully around and access previously unreachable areas. Second, we seek out and scan alien teleporters that dot the landscape. Once catalogued, these function as fast travel points, allowing us to get right back in the action when we die – another friendly touch that allows us to take death in our stride.
Despite the high mortality rate, it’s not a particularly violent game – the focus is very much on exploration and discovery over combat. While you do get a gun, it’s the only weapon in the game, and any greater stopping power will only come from giving it occasional upgrades.
That said, our last mission makes it clear that some of the wildlife is just too rowdy for peaceful coexistence. We’re forced into a duel with Cragclaw, a hulking, crab-like monstrosity. Though this confrontation has the feel of a boss battle, it’s as much a test of our platforming skills as our aim, as we hop and crouch to dodge the alien’s slow, sweeping attacks.
As the beast falls, we’re left eager to see more of this weird planet. Clever design makes even our ineptitude just a part of the fun – we can’t wait to see how we’ll die next…
“Despite the high mortality rate, it’s not a particularly violent game”
Above The planet is covered in strange animals and plants to discover.
right You only get the one gun, but it looks pretty groovy and can be upgraded.