While 2017 has been a contentious year for American politics and social turmoil, it has been an undeniably great year for games. Mercury Steam has had an especially successful release already this year with their officially sanctioned Metroid 2 remake, Metroid: Samus Returns. However, the studio has also published and developed another game this year in Raiders of the Broken Planet, a cooperative shooter with an interesting permutation on the 4v1 gameplay idea.
Silver & Black Attack
The game has a structure that can be most easily compared to Battleborn’s campaign, episodic missions that demand coordination between players to defeat waves of AI-controlled enemies and complete various objectives. But Raiders offers a unique, ambitious take on Hero based gameplay. For starters, there is a melee combat system composed of strikes, dodges, and grapples. This is built in a rock-paper-scissors kind of way (strike beats grapple, grapple beats dodge, dodge beats strike) and is easy to get the hang of, but it can also leave you wide open to attacks from other enemies if there is more than one in your vicinity. This can be especially troublesome if your picked a Hero with a low amount of max health as you will die very quickly from a hail of bullets as you try to predict the best way to counter the guy trying to pummel your face. Melee attacks are also the ONLY WAY TO GET AMMO from enemies. This is a game best played with a group of 4 to avoid being the sole target for the mobs that will rush in, but it would’ve also been nice to be able to solo these missions on your own without these annoying deaths so you will be more familiar with the structure of what to do when you are ready to hop online.
Each character also has a unique weapon as well as an active and passive abilities. Weapons vary in damage and effective distance but I would personally recommend sticking with a hero with high health and a close-range weapon such as Alicia. She’s also capable of wall jumping and slowing her descent by aiming, allowing for aerial attacks. Other heroes like Hans have a jetpack and heavy machine gun, ideal for mid-range engagements; and Harec who uses a Sniper Rifle and can teleport away to maintain distance. The cast of heroes has variety, but some of the maps for these missions don’t seem to always take advantage of these more situational abilities. Some areas will be small and clustered with obstacles and spawn points that surround the team immediately; making it nigh impossible for long range and transport ability heroes to contribute in a meaningful way. And since you can only get ammo from melee finishers, playing a sniper class is very ill-advised since you will die almost instantaneously from another enemy shooting you offscreen.
A Real “Fixer-Upper”
Typically, in 4v1 games like Evolve or Dead by Daylight, one player takes control of a lone all-powerful being or monstrosity that requires precise teamwork to bring down. In Raiders, one player is instead teamed up with the enemies and works with them to stunt the progress of the other four players. It can be fun to work against the team of four as the antagonist has unlimited respawns, unlike the other team. But it can feel pretty unsatisfying since you are unable to focus your AI teammates against certain heroes completing objectives, they’ll usually go for the closest enemy they see instead. On the flipside, having an antagonist player in your match feels more like an annoyance rather than an obstacle to overcome. It can sometimes seem as if this mechanic was tacked on rather than a well thought out part of this experience.
Speaking of things in this game that could use more work, let’s talk about the progression system in which you unlock skins and upgrade your abilities. There are 4 different currencies used to do these and understanding what each does can be hard to keep straight. Faction and Character Points are used to upgrade effectiveness of abilities and weapons, Mercury Points upgrade cosmetics, and coins are used to upgrade weapons and purchase temporary access to new missions. This system along with the dearth of missions currently available to players makes this a very hard package to recommend to anyone who might be fascinated by this interesting, yet poorly executed concept.
While there is some interesting world building going on and the character designs are all unique and aesthetically pleasing, the foundation of Raiders of the Broken Planet is fundamentally broken. It is incredibly frustrating as you can see the slightest glimmer of a neat game beneath the surface, but so many problems hold it back from being the experience it can be. If Raiders was given more development time and re-balanced to let all heroes be viable choices for missions, there could’ve been something truly unique and special here to complete Mercury Steam’s 1-2 punch of awesome releases.