Parental Warning! This game is NOT for kiddies or those with sensitive eyes and ears. I had to hit mute quite quickly during the first main cut scene of the game. Arse shots for you, me, and everybody.
Your ship swoops in, teleports you down to the surface of the planet, then leaves in as quick a fashion. A formless voice gives you a set of instructions, a little bit of exposition, then you are on your merry way. No, this isn’t a stealth Destiny article. This is the opening moments of MercurySteam’s Raiders of the Broken Planet.
I like to believe that Harec, the leader of the Raiders – who are an ill-fitted, partially formed, band of hired guns, rogues, and worse – has a stash of videogames somewhere in his living quarters. Chief amongst those is his Metal Gear Solid collection, for which he draws inspiration when designing his raiding gear – Harec is an uncanny blend of Snake from both MGS4 and Phantom Pain. His desert-appropriate attire, form fitting stealth suit, sniper-rifle, techno-eye patch and more.
During the tutorial section, which is a part of the free to play section of Raiders, the inspiration of other games shines through. Though, not as heavy as MGS, you can’t help but feel the developers played a good chunk of Borderlands, too. Absolutely zero of this is a detractor, far from it, it adds to the title.
The hook and line of Raiders is the combat, though challenging at times – mostly due to enemies being far to numerous for a single player – it is the lifeblood of this intense third-person shooter, designed to be played asymmetric. Raiders takes the player and their team (if you can find any players via matchmaking) to various locations on and around the planet, which is broken by the way, to recruit more of the arguably less nefarious people to their cause, whilst also seeking a mysterious group called the Protectors.
Core to the combat is managing your Aleph – seemingly pronounced olive – this will allow your unique character abilities to be more or less effective, depending on your stress levels. My favourite character, Alicia, recovers her HP at an increased rate and her agility is also improved with good Aleph management. Those reasons aren’t why I prefer to play as Alicia, it’s her attitude and weapon of choice, both can be described as shotgun.
Combat is also the sinker, as really isn’t as expansive as it first appears. Yes, you can unlock additional weapons, blueprints and the like. However, I rarely felt they made the combat much easier. This could be again due to most of my time being spent solo? I sure hope so.
An absolute saving point for Raiders of the Broken Planet is the Antagonist portion of the asymmetric gameplay, which does match make a little more often than the protagonist side of the coin.
You can queue to join the enemies on any given mission, which outside of the tutorial is five, and aim to stop the Raiders from achieving their mission. Sounds simple? It most certainly is, yet is very effective. You can select static spawn points around each stage of the level, then from there it’s all bets are off. Do you head back and wait for the Raiders to be weakened by the overwhelming attacks of the enemy? Do you go balls-to-the-wall attack yourself, with the aim to just keep them in place long enough for the objective timer to countdown to zero? Or, do you wait until they are all on the lift to the next area and unleash a devastating attack to reduce their life-pool by 4, then repeat another handful of times?
Answer: All of the above. And it feels insanely satisfying knowing you are ruining the game for four, most certainly lovely, people who managed to get into match made games before you!
Speaking of matchmaking, the queue system in general is good. You can queue for each map individually, and you can blanket queue as the Antagonist. In theory this will allow for rapid games. That theory isn’t sound, however. I found that queueing for all available maps as a Raider, I often had queue times of over 20 minutes. Whereas either adding the Antagonist to the mix, or queuing pure as the big A, had me in-games in under 5 minutes, if not even quicker.
Why is it so bad, then you are connected with the Windows 10 players, too? Hmm. I’d have to say it is because of the initial difficulty of the free to play section. I’d have struggled to want to pay the £10 (or the regional equivalent) after the brutal opening levels. Over the coming months, Raiders will be fleshed out with additional paid content packs, all of which seem to offer an equal amount of content to the Alien Myths pack, which picks right up after the tutorial and opening level.
Whilst queuing for games, you can go visit the archive section of the menus, it is filled with so much story and detail. From the discovery of Aleph on a moon of Saturn, not IO, to the evolution of the warring factions that establish the lite-governments of the Broken Planet.
For me, the hidden gems within MercurySteam’s Raiders of the Broken Planet is the cinematography and hugely fleshed out universe that is on display. Cut scenes are as brutal as the gameplay, in all the right ways. I don’t think I’ll be unseeing a steel harness over a penis, attached to a prisoner’s chair, paired with dance music, for a long time!