Review – The Riftbreaker
I’ll be completely honest with you and admit that I am not the best at base building, tower defense, strategy styled games. I love me some XCOM and Desperados III, but have never been good at the strategy games that require real-time resource, building, and army management. So why am I the one playing and reviewing The Riftbreaker? Well, I fell in love with the game the moment I tried it at E3 2019. It smartly blended so many genres into one package that it offered plenty of what I do like, with what I’m not great at. With this blend it gave me the opportunity to learn some stuff while also having fun destroying the native alien flora and fauna. So, did the final game live up to what I wanted from it? Yes, yes it did.
In The Riftbreaker you play as captain Ashley S. Nowak, an elite scientist/commando inside a powerful Mecha-Suit of which she named “Mr. Riggs”. Your goal is to travel to Galatea 37, a distant planet at the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, with the purpose of building up a base that will allow travel back to Earth and further colonization. Apparently Earth has been run down so much with over manufacturing that we now have to colonize other planets. With Mr. Riggs you will need to explore this planet, build bases, study its plant and animal life, and confirm whether Galatea 37 will be suitable for human life.
As I mentioned above, the entire goal starting out is to explore and build a base so you can start a base camp. When starting a new game you’ll start in the same biome, but the layout is randomized every time. This does make it harder for simple guides, but generally you’ll have similar resources at hand. The Riftbreaker will take you through quite the in-depth tutorial, teaching you about the various systems and at least the basics of your starting base and equipment. One thing I did appreciate is that even once the tutorial was finished, there were still objectives guiding me towards the next key buildings I should be working towards.
Once I had my rudimentary base set up with some feeble walls and a few turrets, it didn’t take long for me to get my first taste of the combat. As you build, upgrade, or stand around too long you’ll get attacked by a horde of the local aliens and they are no joke. Fortunately, the waves only get harder as you continue to level up your headquarters. Leveling up your headquarters is what will unlock higher tier items and unlock additional building that you will need as you progress. This was a nice change for someone like me who takes a bit longer to feel out and plan my next step. I would still get attack by waves, but they never got more difficult until I was ready to move to that next stage.
I’m glad the progression works like this because there is a lot you have to build, upgrade, and resource before moving on to the next base upgrade. The game never forces you to upgrade until you’re ready. Instead you’ll just keep getting hit with enemy waves and natural disasters like meteor showers and earthquakes that will set you back a little bit. There will also be more uninhabitable biomes like deserts and volcanic areas that will bring their own types of environmental dangers.
There will be a point in the progression where you will need to start checking out other portions of the planets. To build specific buildings you will need various resources that can only be found in different biomes. Some of these biomes come with intrinsic dangers like extreme heat. You’ll need to prepare for this in various ways. For example, the volcanic area had specific plants that were able to give off a cooling mist to fight against the heat. I had to stay within these cool areas as I went around scanning the plants to research them and unlock items that would block me and my base from the heat. I also had to prepare my weaponry, mods, and abilities to fight harder enemies.
This is where a novice to the resource management like me got a bit overwhelmed. Once you have multiple home bases spread across the various biomes all with their own types of dangers and resources to dig for, it just became a lot to manage. At this point I didn’t feel like I was going at my own pace, it was constantly hoping between biomes fighting hordes, rebuilding, and replacing resource gathering. Obviously, there are plenty of defenses that you can build that should be able to take on most attacks, but its a lot to handle getting it all running perfectly.
Luckily, The Riftbreaker has some fantastic combat that is always engaging no matter the situation. Mr. Riggs comes equipped with some basic weapons and moves. You can also equip any weapon to the left and right arm and you can use them together at anytime. Certain weapons will be better used against certain enemies. For example, the small wolf like aliens move together in huge packs. While they don’t do a ton of damage by themselves, get surrounded by hundreds of them and they’ll take you down. For these enemies the sword and flamethrower make short work of them.
There is a huge variety of enemies that you will find as you explore the regions and look for additional resources. Some looks like creatures right out of Starship Troopers, others are massive rock golems, cloaked Predator looking enemies, giant fire slugs, and so many more. The fights against hordes are a ton of fun as the game throws hundreds of enemies at you and things get hectic as chunks are flying everywhere. You will need to be on your toes while exploring, but luckily there are a ton of unlocks to research and craft.
As you continue to explore you will come across some strange alien pods, or even wreckage from crashed asteroids that will grant you some special moves and upgrades. These specific ones can only be found out in the wild and not in the research center. The upgrades can include things from a simple dodge roll to being able to activate a jump move that sends out a massive shockwave. You will also collect mods from fighting enemies that will alter your weapon stats or Mr. Riggs stats. The research center will unlock various weapons and weapons types that include flamethrowers, rockets, spears, rifles, chain guns, and so many more.
What makes the combat and hectic horde fights so much more enjoyable is that The Riftbreaker runs very smoothly. It’s a good looking game and it’s not afraid to send out hundreds of enemies at once. I didn’t notice a single major hiccup on the PC or on the Xbox Series X during any of the fights. Even when my base was being raided and tons of particles, turrets, fire, and alien guts and body parts were flying around on screen. The only time the game would hiccup is when it autosaves, and I do wish that was smoother.
As I just mentioned above, The Riftbreaker is a good looking game, great even. It has such a vibrant color pallet and art style that it really felt like I was in these over the top alien lands. The art design all around for the bases, biomes, and enemies is superbly done. All have distinct looks that don’t muddle together, and are impressive. The lighting and shadow work is also very impressive, especially at night. Night time get pitch black besides your bright piercing light on Mr. Riggs that sends shadows from the flowers and aliens all over.
The enemy design is extremely varies with only a few of the enemy types getting a reskin for different biomes. Otherwise there is a huge roster of nasty enemies that will want you to stop destroying their home world. Biomes themselves all look and feel different from lush jungles to the volcanic areas. The physics also play a big role in how nice things look. As you chop down trees and enemies the chunks go flying. You can even set fire to the plant life and it will spread and turn into ash. Overall, the visuals are very impressive and I always enjoyed the new things thrown at me.
The sound design isn’t as impactful to the overall game, but it certainly is no slouch. The soundtrack offers a nice range of lighter exploration music that helps spurs on that adventure feeling. While the big threatening booming tracks help you feel the weight of the massive impending hordes. The general sound effects of the bases, weapons, and aliens, are all well done, in their own rights. The bit that is a let down is the voice acting, it just isn’t up to par with the rest unfortunately.
Despite my lack of experience with base building strategy games, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Riftbreaker. The way it smartly balances out its story progression and combat made it more accessible to a player like me, while still offering plenty of challenge later on. While I do wish the act of balancing so many home bases and resources was easier, overall the blend of genre’s gave me shots of hectic fun with my growing pains of learning the best tricks. This will be a game I will continue to go back to.
I love the visual variety offered with the individual biomes, enemies, and general building equipment. It’s clean, vibrant, and visually appealing all around.
The crazy mix of genre’s works really well here to keep things fresh, frantic, and busy at all times. Organizing and keeping track of resources from different biomes could be easier.
The sound design is great with an intense soundtrack and effects during horde attacks. Sounds of gore and aliens screeching is well done.
There is a really nice process that eases you into all the systems at play here and they all work really well to make a fun experience. However, frequent base attacks and managing other biomes can be tedious.
Final Verdict: 8.5
The Riftbreaker is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X and PC.
A copy of The Riftbreaker was provided by the publisher.