This game first caught my eye during the Summer Gamefest Demo event in mid-2020. It ran poorly but the hybrid RTS building, Tower Defense’ish, Twin-Stick Shooter gameplay was fantastic feeling. The full game is finally out and it’s bigger, deeper, and better than I could have ever dreamed of and it’s available day one on Game Pass for PC, Console, and Cloud. Here is the Xbox Era review of The Riftbreaker from developer EXOR Studios.
Gather, Build, Kill, Repeat
In general, I do not like games that feature resource gathering and base building. I did review Halo Wars 2 earlier this year and the simplicity of that title went a long way towards making me enjoy it. That’s why I am stunned that the incredibly complicated and in-depth base building mechanics of this title have, instead of turning me off, made me fall in love with it. This game is immense in it’s depth for building up your base as you are attempting to colonize a distant world. Let’s get into the basic premise.
You play as a human trained to use her sentient mech suit and build up a portal system so that teleportation through this rift can allow for human colonization of the alien planet. To accomplish this goal however you will need to gather resources and build up structures in a clearly defined path to complete the game’s campaign. There is also a prologue, which has been available for free for quite some time, that serves as an excellent tutorial to the game’s systems. A big feature here is the survival mode, which allows you to attempt to hold out as long as possible on four different biomes. You can choose from various difficulty options or customize them to your preference.
The Joys of Industry
No matter what mode it is things start out the same with you setting up a headquarters were you will respawn if your suit becomes critically damaged. Everything in the game runs off of resources, the first of which are Carbonium and Ironium. At the very beginning you’ll have to mine it yourself but quickly you unlock the ability to have it automatically gathered. This, like almost everything, requires power though. You’ll have to setup a full power station and grid system for every main and satellite base you create. This is matched with an enormous set of three research trees. There is no research resource requirements for the most part other than time or having previous research nodes complete. Campaigns are meant to take a long time, with some research taking multiple hours of in-game time to complete.
An example being the Gas Power Station. To get this you must complete multiple research nodes, these give you things such as liquid pumps which you place in the acid pools around the map. Those pumps then need a pipeline to be attached which you run to a gas filter pump, which you then run to the gas power station. It’s one of an incredibly varied number of systems and sub-systems that is introduced to you slowly enough so that it never felt overwhelming, and I am someone who quickly feels overwhelmed in this genre. I do think that all of this depth in the building system is helped by the excellent twin-stick shooting that the game has on offer as well.
Killing in the Name Of…. Colonization?
Part of the research tree deals with weaponry, why do you need weaponry? To deal with the local flora and fauna of course! You start out with a basic kit with each arm having up to three weapons at any time. These weapons as well as your mech suit itself can have various mods implemented as well which helps vary up the build to your preference. There is a good variety of enemy types and things can become quickly overwhelming until you have the stronger weaponry unlocked. Thankfully the B button is your movement skill and that starts out as a very handy dash.
The flora part of your weapons is the fact that, much like with the fauna, whenever you knock down trees or cut through grass you gain biomass. There are generators and other technology which can use this biomass for multiple purposes such as providing energy for a base. It can seem tedious at first, but as you progress through the build tree these two resources become invaluable for keeping your bases in top shape.
There are also quick inventory slots which are mapped to the left and right bumpers. Holding each brings up an A, B, X, Y menu that lets you quickly use what you have assigned there. Things from healing items to mines and so much more also help add a layer of depth to the gameplay. All of these systems are greatly helped by the graphical sheen and (almost always) excellent performance of the game.
Gorgeous Graphics & One Incredibly Annoying Bug
The Riftbreaker is an almost completely straight down camera, and with a native Series version it ran at a flawless feeling 60fps with a high resolution which was a massive improvement from the SGF demo a few months ago. Textures look great, animations are good, and the color palette is vibrant. Few titles of this genre have ever looked this good, but it’s not all great. The game uses an autosave system while also allowing for manual saves. The issue comes from that fact that it hitches for a solid second or two every single time it autosaves. Even after a hundred times of this it was still jarring. I’m not sure if it’s something that is easy to fix, but I really hope they do before too long.
Outside of that though everything from the lighting system, the particle effects, to varied look of each biome is outstanding looking. Sadly this isn’t matched in the voice acting department. It’s not offensively bad or anything, but it really sounds like people reading from a script. It didn’t detract from things for me, but it didn’t add much to them. Music though, now that is really good. I remember first hearing the soundtrack for the game over a year ago when it was put up on YouTube by the developer and it is a great mix of sci-fi synths that does add quite a bit to the experience.
I went into this title hopeful but unsure of what to expect. I’ve come out of my time with the game stunned at just how damned fun it is. It is such a wild mix of incredibly deep base building with light tower defense, and excellent twin-stick shooting. The type of game idea that you smack your head and go “of course, this is brilliant”. Having it be available day one on Game Pass everywhere (PC, Cloud, and Console) means there is no reason you shouldn’t give this brilliant title a try if the premise of it holds any interest to you. I promise this game is something special.