Also on: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Typhoon Studios
Journey to the Savage Planet is a frustrating game. Not because it?s that hard (it?s not, at least not intentionally), and not because it?s broken (at least not too much). No, it?s frustrating because it?s so close to being a good game, and you can see the tweaks that would have made it a good game…but absent those tweaks, it all just feels like a giant missed opportunity.
The pattern for the whole game is set early on. You leave your ship. You see a bright, beautiful world around you, populated by bizarre creatures and crazy plants. Your ship?s moderately funny navigator guides you to what you have to do. Then you have to collect a few things, return to your ship, create something, and then go back out into the world and go a little bit further to do the same thing over again. Basically, it?s explore, collect, return, craft, repeat.
Given that Journey to the Savage Planet is an exploration game, that first part is great — exactly what you?d expect. The world you?re exploring lives up to those first vivid moments. You scan in all the different flora and fauna, and get a sense of what this new world has to offer. It?s pretty cool to discover everything.
The problem is that you spend so much time on the rest of that pattern — with a heavy dose of repeat, and repeat, and repeat — that it quickly loses its lustre. Sure, the game opens up some shortcuts now and then, but they don?t get around the problem that Journey to the Savage Planet is one big loop. I?ve seen some people describe Savage Planet as a Metroidvania, and it?s accurate…much to the game?s detriment. When you?ve made a world this interesting, it feels silly to lock so much of it away until you reach arbitrary checkpoints, particularly when the game?s design means you?ll go back and see the same parts over and over and over again. The world?s interesting parts seem a lot less magical when you?re seeing them for the dozenth time, you know?
Another aspect of Journey to the Savage Planet that probably should have been left on the cutting room floor is the combat. It?s not that it?s unrealistic or totally out of place, since there are undoubtedly wild animals that would attack any new animal that came into their domains (though I?ve got to admit that, as an animal-loving vegan, some part of me balked when the very first thing you have to do in the game is punch adorable little animals until they explode in a shower of green go). No, the reason it shouldn?t be here is because it sucks. Aiming your weapon is a chore, and the game doesn?t allow you to be nearly as precise as you need to be when some of those enemies are actively trying to kill you. Given that the combat doesn?t add anything, it probably could have been taken out — or at least de-emphasized — without the game being any worse for wear.
It also would?ve searched the purpose of removing some of the more noticeable glitches I experienced. Multiple times, the game told me that an enemy had spotted me as its awareness level hit red…and then it would just vanish. This was especially annoying when I had to beat three monsters and only two of them were actually present (that time required quitting the game and starting over from the last save point), but, in general, it was pretty useless to have a warning hovering over your field of vision for a monster that didn?t exist with no way to get rid of it.
I?d like to say that was the only bug I encountered, but that wouldn?t be true. At one point I got stuck inside a monster that was attacking me — l could see it rotating around me, trying to attack, but it couldn?t actually do anything, and it only harmed me when I tried to move. Similarly, there were a couple of other points where I turned in an apparently unexpected way, and parts of the world around me just ceased to exist. These weren?t game-breaking moments (eventually, the monster around me gave up and tried attacking from another angle), but they were noticeable enough that they diminished my enthusiasm for the game.
Admittedly, by the time those glitches started really bothering me, it was only after I?d gotten sick of the tedious gameplay loop and the lousy combat. In another world, where Journey to the Savage Planet was better designed and combat-free, I could see them being easy to wave off. In this world, however, where the game needs those tweaks, they just add up to the feeling that this whole game is one big missed opportunity.
505 Games provided us with a Journey to the Savage Planet Ps4 code for review purposes.