At first glance, this looks like a game for, um, younger gamers. My son-in-law told me that he was playing the PS4 version and told me that the game was available on GamePass (for Xbox). After he said a few things about the game, I said I’d download it and check it out.
This isn’t a “kiddie” game. Oh, there’s a lot of “cuteness” to some of the wildlife and the gaming environment is very colorful, varied, and looks outstanding in 4K.
So you’ve kinda crash-landed on the planet you were sent to explore and determine its suitability for exploitation by Kindred, the company who sent you there and there’s not supposed to be any intelligent life on the planet. Sounds easy, right? Nope. Well, the initial part of the game – examining your busted spaceship and exploring the first three areas is easy and gets you used to the controls for moving, jumping, shooting, and a weird combo of punching and kicking. You collect enough minerals – carbon and silicone – to build a gun and having the task to scan everything that can be scanned, you’re off to explore the planet which seems not to be as devoid of intelligent life as you were led to believe.
This is one of those games where as you proceed, you need to gain skills and other updates. As you move into the first big area to be explored, there are some things you won’t be able to do until you acquire other skills – and all of the areas to be explored are like that. There’s stuff you need to collect – like orange goop that you both locate and eat to level your character up, giving him more health and stamina. Every time I find some goop and eat it, I have to laugh – the character sounds like a sick dog and is kinda gagging on the goop. Fall off of something that’s high enough and the character sounds like a dog that just got kicked or something (no real animals are harmed in this game, by the way). I was expecting to hear my character say stuff like, “Yuck, ew!” when eating the goop and saying “Ow!” when he falls from too high a place.
Lots of falling in this game. Lots of plants and animals who are trying to do you in. Hidden items all over the place and some that require special items to get to and then special skills are needed to handle the special items. You have to locate transportation devices and activate them to move around the planet easier especially after leaving the Landing Zone – that’s the first part of the planet you explore and it’s connected enough so that you can go through that area without using a transporter… but you still have to find and activate them… and you’ll be glad that you did.
There are primary tasks you have to do as well as secondary tasks but, for shits and giggles and to make the game more interesting, there are “scientific experiments” you should complete to move to a higher level of explorer and to open up more tools and stuff you’re gonna need.
In the first, oh, day or so that I played this game, I died more than I have playing any of the Borderlands games and Minecraft combined. The good thing, if ya can call it that, is that when you die – and you will most certainly get offed – you can go back to the area you died in and recover any items you had or, gulp, bury your body and collect some stuff. I’ve fallen off of stuff, jumped for places and just flat out missed them or screwed up the landing and by the time I shut down the game – and out of sheer frustration over a boss battle I’ll get to in a moment, I decided that I didn’t like my son-in-law all that much for introducing me to this game.
But I like it. The first boss you have to defeat is a crab-like monstrosity you have to battle while he throws stuff at you; you either have to duck, jump, or move to another platform of rock while doing your best to, at first, shoot three glowing thingies on its body. While there’s a pattern to the boss’s attacks, it’s still not easy to shoot what needs shooting and, in the final phase of defeating this boss, you get five things that have to be shot.
It took me getting killed like 20 times even after I saw the pattern to realize that I was already carrying something that would, temporarily, stop the boss’s attacks… and I was kicking my own ass for not thinking about hitting it with the sticky stuff I’d collected way back in the first part of the game. He was literally blowing me up, burning me with fireballs he’d launch in the second battle phase; knocking me off the rocky platforms into the lava at the bottom, which had me wishing I had some Minecraft sand or gravel to get rid of.
Yeah… it was that bad. Killing some of the bad creatures isn’t as easy as shooting them and many of them shoot back; some you have to hit with an “acid bomb” to dissolve their protective coating before you can shoot them, some you have to use a plant bomb on and some, when you shoot them, well, you don’t want to be up close when you do because they explode like an atom bomb and if the blast doesn’t kill you, you might die when you hit the ground after being tossed high into the air. There’s this one critter that’s a big plant with an eyeball; it scans the area and if it sees you, it starts dropping bombs on you so you have to sneak up on it and poke it in the eye to kill it so you can move on. The bad part about these is that if you linger too long, it’ll be back and will have to poke it again to get out of the area.
I’m running around the planet, collecting stuff, doing the tasks and as with many of the games I play, I got to a point where I said, “Fuck the missions – I need to collect more stuff and get to the next level of explorer!” This is one of the things I both love and hate about playing a new game – figuring out the best way to go about playing it. It’s for this reason that I have a second Xbox profile that can play the same games my main profile can play…
So I can replay the game and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes I did the first times. If you don’t have your Xbox set up to do this, you might want to consider doing it and no matter what kind of games you play. It doesn’t cost anything – you just need a Microsoft email address to set up the second gaming profile.
The second boss is even worse than the first one. This one looks like a giant, one-eyed worm and there are a lot of smaller one-eyed critters that pop in, whack you with a long tongue, then disappear and it is fucking annoying and distracting because the bigger version is also whacking you with tongues that pop out all over its body… and while you’re jumping from platform to platform trying to shoot the glowing spots on its body.
That fucker killed me more than the crab boss did. I finally realized that I had to ignore the little versions, pay attention to where the plants that renews your energy are, and just worry about hitting the glowing spots. But in the second phase, some of those spots are covered with “amber” which means you need to throw acid bombs at the spot first then shoot it. There’s plenty of acid bomb plants… but you gotta be quick to get to them and sometimes, it’s a bitch finding them all and you’re running and jumping around trying to find them while being constantly under attack.
The final phase is worse. The attacks really step up on you, but if you stay calm and focused you can make it through this part although there were a few times when I got to having one last place to shoot… and I died and had to start all over again. Once, I almost threw my controller because I finally killed the thing… then mysteriously died… and had to start over again.
Did I mention how much I don’t like my son-in-law?
But I finally defeated it and to put it into perspective a bit, when I faced this boss on my second profile, I only died twice before defeating it and one of them was my fault – didn’t get to the energy-renewing plant in time.
Now, once you get past this boss, the rest of the game isn’t that bad although there are a lot of challenges and bad beasties you have to deal with because you have to power up the mysterious tower, get inside, and find whatever’s in there and bring it back to Kindred. I kept dying – trust me, you actually get used to it and even expect it – but it was mostly by falling when the grappler – which you earn along the way – just fails to connect or you do a double jump… and fail to stick the landing. The critters are bad enough and there’s one that looks like a frog built like The Hulk that’s a real bitch to kill but a bit of concentrated work gets rid of him but I didn’t think being in the third part of the planet was that bad…
Until I got into the tower. Well, wait a moment… unlocking the other two power sources wasn’t easy and especially the second one. The first was easier – break through a cover that takes you down and remove some things that puts the device in motion… then you gotta leap from moving platform to other platforms to get to the top… while lava fills up the chamber so you can finally activate it. Yep… died a lot in there, too.
The second one is worse because all manner of critters are attacking you as the area you’re standing on moves upwards and even when you manage to survive that, the stupid thing lets loose some bubble-like things you gotta avoid or you’re gonna do it all over again.
You get through all of this and can get into the tower – finally. Oh, I wanted in there badly! And once I got inside, I wished I hadn’t. It was pretty rough moving through multiple levels inside the tower, all kinds of stuff trying to kill you while you’re trying to find and destroy items that will allow you to get to the next level. I died a few times – but not as much as I did prior to getting to this point – and finally made it to the final boss.
That’s when I realized that I hadn’t done enough stuff in the early phases of the game to be able to defeat the final boss. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t do that would have fully leveled me up and given me more stuff to fight with so I abandoned the final boss fight so I could go back to the beginning of the game to do the stuff I should have done.
Oh, and I started a new game on my first profile, too. I used what I had learned putzing around on my first profile on my second one and that’s going better… much better. So, hopefully, by the time I get to the final boss via my second profile, I will be better armed to do battle. Maybe.
Why? Because I don’t have anything better to do, you know, being quarantined and all that. I like this game… and I hate it. My son-in-law, when I tell him how I’m doing with the game, laughs a lot and of course he thinks it’s funny because he’s not playing the game. We did play it together at first – he showed me some stuff he’d already learned but as far as I know, he hasn’t been back to play although if he’s been playing on his PS4, I wouldn’t know it. He should be very glad we don’t live close to each other… extremely glad.
Would I recommend this game? Sure – it’ll keep you busy and it is challenging and, for now, if you have GamePass, the game is free – doesn’t get any better than that.