By Alex Wakeford
An alien planet fit for humanity to settle. An intrepid explorer. A heroic journey.
Journey to the Savage Planet is about none of these things.
You are a disposable explorer for the fourth-best interstellar exploration company. The alien planet you’ve been sent to (tasked with cataloguing the planet’s flora and fauna to determine if it can be exploited by the company) is hostile and shows evidence of a mysterious civilisation that previously lived there…
In an action-packed year set to be full of games vying to become your hobby, Typhoon Studios has kicked off 2020 with the perfect debut – an endearingly earnest game that respects the player’s time and puts a unique spin on the familiar.As this sector of the industry grows with more and more talented developers and studios delivering more games than we’ve got time to play, first impressions really matter – especially when it comes to a brand new IP.
Formed in 2017, Typhoon Studios was founded by Alex Hutchinson, Yassine Riahi and Reid Schneider. Having worked on franchises like The Sims, Batman, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Deus Ex, and many more, they bring over three generations of experience on acclaimed titles to something fresh and original.
Whenever a new IP is formed and presented to people, I tend to think about the kind of question it’s asking us that gets the imagination going.
At a high level, Journey to the Savage Planet asks us:
“Do you like aliens? Exploration? Vibrant colours and corporate satire?”
And it is indeed set on an alien planet, you will be spending a lot of time exploring, the visuals stand out for their wonderfully garish aesthetic, and there’s an abundance of space capitalism that’s ruining the lives of many – including your character.
But Typhoon doesn’t really see fit in making those things the main draw of the game. These are simply the ‘facts,’ things we’re perfectly familiar with.
The question that Journey to the Savage Planet asks is…
“Have you ever made progress in a level by encountering a cute, ball-shaped alien… then punting it with your foot twenty feet into the air and watching as it descends into the spinning, bladed maw of a carnivorous plant before exploding into goo?”
That’s perhaps the best way to summarise Journey to the Savage Planet. Typhoon understands what you’re familiar with and they play with that while adding a new layer or dimension to these things through their philosophy towards how they’ve crafted this game.
You’ll feel echoes of many games before it – design inspiration from Metroid, tonal and visual similarities with No Man’s Sky and Borderlands, Kendall Savage’s (great name!) marvellous performance as the AI ‘EKO’ recalls Failsafe from Destiny and GLaDOS from Portal, even the live-action videos we saw most recently in Control…
The latter is something that I find particularly delightful. Where Control uses these live-action videos to establish both a sense of reality and weirdness, the B-movie aesthetic of how Journey to the Savage Planet implements them perfectly sells its satirical tone.
It’s equal parts hilarious and horrifying in how it’s used for incidental worldbuilding you just don’t want to look away from, especially when it comes to the ‘Meat Buddy’ (this explanation for co-op is something else!)
We’re on the cusp of the next generation, and Journey to the Savage Planet is perfectly positioned – as the first major release of 2020 – to feel like it’s imbued with the best of its peers, while offering its own unique charm.
(Did I mention the Meat Buddy… oh my god, this is comic horror…)One of the key differences Journey to the Savage Planet has with many of its peers is that there is no map at all, which makes an unbelievable amount of difference to how exploration feels.
This was a conscious design decision to ensure that you are not just navigating from points on a map to fill out a checklist of activities.
I love games that want to throw me into their world and never let me leave it by giving me an expansive map with numerous things to do… but something that happens when you get older (and is also a pattern for those getting deeper into the gaming industry) is that you just don’t have the same amount of time to play games that you used to.
Lately, I’ve been gravitating a lot more to shorter games. ‘Episodic’ experiences that allow you to dip in-and-out of them without worrying too much about where you were the last time you played (like Sea of Thieves, Trine 4, and Void Bastards). Condensed emotional stories which allow you to either complete them in anything from one sitting to a-dozen-or-so hours (GRIS, Fractured Minds, and Kentucky Route Zero).
Journey to the Savage Planet offers ‘organic’ spaces in a compact world where each area is something you get gradually more familiar with. This emerges naturally from the central loop of the game: exploring, finding resources, depositing them back at the ship, and returning (often with a shiny new upgrade) to progress.
As a result, Journey to the Savage Planet is notably a game that respects the player’s time.
You won’t find yourself encountering any superfluous padding, you won’t be spending hours grinding for materials and experience, and you certainly won’t be paying any additional money for boosts and resources.Journey to the Savage Planet stays true to its promises. The way it engages you as a player is with delightful earnestness, taking you by the hand into a playground and just letting you go off and enjoy yourself.
It’s ‘economical’ in every sense of the word and this approach is one that will leave you satisfied with a complete experience, while also wanting more.
On that score, you can jump back into the game with a friend and make different decisions throughout the story.
For those interested in a game where the focus isn’t purely on shooting everything in sight, you’ll be spending much of your time scanning and cataloguing the flora and fauna of AR-Y26, as well as figuring out how to traverse its colourful, lively setting.
Oh, and (as you may have noticed) it’s got photo mode too!
For a retail price of just £24.99, this is one of the best deals you’re going to see this year!
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As the newest recruit of Kindred Aerospace – the 4th best interstellar space exploration company – your job is to determine if the planet ARY-26 planet is fit for humans. You may be short on equipment and experience, but good luck!
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