Does anyone remember No Man’s Sky? The overly ambitious game which launched to negative reviews due to under-delivering on almost every promise it made during development (until it was revamped around 2-3 years later)? Well, imagine that game, only with working co-op from day one, a hand-crafted world (rather than a procedural one), hilarious and strange in-game adverts, and rogue-lite/Metroidvania-lite gameplay. Are you thinking about it? Well, that’s Journey to the Savage Planet in a nutshell.
Developed by Typhoon Studios (who have recently been acquired by Google for Stadia purposes) and published by 505 Games, Journey to the Savage Planet surprised me in a number of ways as I played through its colourful and strangely beautiful world. I went into the game knowing next to nothing about what I was about to experience, other than the trailer we received last year, what I left with was the desire to never stop playing due to how fun and addictive it is.
So, let’s see why…
Kindred Aerospace, the 4th best interstellar exploration company, has sent you, it’s faithful employee, to an uncharted planet which is located far, far away in the corner of the universe; somewhere. Your task is quite simple, go out and explore the planet you’ve been assigned to and see if it’s a good candidate for humanity to survive on. As far as I’m aware, there’s no disaster or immediate need for the humans to leave Earth, Kindred Aerospace simply wants to expand the number of planets which we inhabit to a figure that’s bigger than one.
As you set out to scan and document all of the various flora and fauna upon this planet, reporting back your findings to Martin Tweed, the CEO and Founder of Kindred Aerospace, you quickly realise that this strange new world isn’t as peaceful as you’d hoped. Although the world is currently occupied with its own range of hostile and peaceful ‘creatures’, you’re commanded to further investigate (at the risk of your own health) due to a discovery you make, an unknown tower which has clearly been built by intelligent beings.
With a story which spans across four distinct biomes, each with a bunch of secrets to find, enemies to slaughter, unknown things to document, and ‘powers’ to unlock, Journey to the Savage Planet will intrigue you and tickle your thirst for exploration…
Journey to the Savage Planet is a first-person exploration adventure game which plays a lot like No Man’s Sky, only without the space travel and mining of resources (sort of). As mentioned above, your task is to document everything you see such as plants, machinery, structures and any living beings you find as you explore the four biomes of the planet that’s been assigned to you. Each location requires you to find new upgrades so that you can reach new pathways, harvest various materials by killing enemies and shooting deposits, and generally trying to stay alive as you find, and activate, all of the teleportation stones until you eventually find the one which takes you to a new biome.
I know the game technically isn’t one, but I see Journey to the Savage Planet as a rogue-lite in a way, you go out into the world, do your best to find things and discover new abilities, then you return to your ship in order to spend your acquired resources and upgrade your suit. Then, once you’re all kitted out, you return to the planet and progress a little further thanks to newly installed rocket jumps, double jump, a new weapon, etc… so I guess it’s also a little bit like a Metroidvania as you also can’t proceed until you’ve found and unlocked the new abilities. Journey to the Savage Planet is the pocket knife of genres!
The game even borrows a mechanic from a series people don’t like games being compared to, if you die whilst out in the field then you’ll lose all of your harvested materials. When this inevitably happens, you must return to your point of death in order to recover them before you die again. Amusingly, once you’ve returned to your death site, you’ll find your lifeless body still lay upon the ground. At this point, you can take pictures of it and/or bury it shamefully before you move on to seek revenge against that which killed past-you!
Oh my, where do I start with the combat? It’s both frustrating and one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. Let’s start with the negatives, as a console player there are certain things which developers usually implement to help out us fellow controller-wielding gamers, Auto-aim being one of them. This doesn’t mean you’ll lock onto the enemies at all times, you’ll simply automatically aim at the enemy when you first hold down L2 to aim. Now, I ‘think’ Journey to the Savage Planet has this mechanic but it’s not that useful as a lot of the enemies are very fast and move around a lot. So, you’ll find you have to manually aim for the most part – something which would be fine with a Mouse and Keyboard, but it can get a bit fiddly later on.
The enemies I had the most trouble with were the bosses. These require you to constantly move whilst also looking for an open spot so that you can shoot their small weak point. One comprised of multiple Vulpix-like creatures running around and charging at you, with their only weakness being small pads on the rear of their tails which are almost constantly moving. I managed to kill them and move on, thanks to the infinitely respawning health-trees in the area, but it took me a long time due to the precise free-aim required.
Other than those few instances though, the combat is a lot of fun and a solid mechanic. You regularly upgrade your gun so that it provides more of an impact and you also unlock the ability to hold and store various ‘items’ which you pull off plants and find after shooting cocoons. So, although you initially start with a gun, you’ll soon have seeds that allow you to scale large structures, bombs, acid balls, and more.
However, the best attack is clearly the slap/kick you perform on the smaller creatures, specifically the Pufferbird. Seriously, I’ve not had this much fun since slapping the Grunts in Halo many, many years ago. As they are small, round, ball-like creatures, you can kick them around like a football, having them launch off cliffs, hit the wall or return to the ground with an impact enough to cause them to splatter, or feed the hungry machines as it gobbles them up. The sad thing is, a lot of these innocent creatures are harmless and won’t touch you unless you attack first. But, we’re not here to make friends, we’re here to kick things around and cause havoc… aren’t we?!
Journey to the Savage Planet is a very funny game, I found myself chuckling along quite often as I played through the story. There are a number of infomercials which play each time you return to your ship, each one even crazier than the last. I don’t want to tell you all of them but there’s one about grinding together various meats to make your own ‘Meat Buddy’ that looks like Milo (from Bad Milo), a cloth which you shove into your facial orifices to clean your brain and even a ‘Sea Monkey’ kit which breeds small humans that you can place in a mini-mall as you watch them shop – with bonus ‘Black Friday’ mode.
The sheer absurdity and craziness of these videos reminded me of a few of the clips from Control, another 505 Games published title.
The fun begins with the character creation option though. You never see your character as you’re always wearing your helmet, you also never speak, so why does it matter what character you pick? I suspect that’s the joke! You have a collection of some fine-looking candidates (which I’ll put above), all looking like they’ve stepped out of an 80’s glam-rock music video (one also looks like the human version of Herbert from Family Guy and another is straight from Carmageddon!). I wouldn’t be surprised if these images are actually the devs! However, in my playthrough, I chose to be a dog because why not!
Now, I don’t know if it’s because I chose to be of canine variety or if it’s just a coincidence, but when my character runs out of breath, gets hurt, or grunts, it sounds like a dog. It could just be me thinking it sounds like one because of the choice I made, but I firmly believe that there’s a good boy in my spacesuit, stood on its hind two legs as it goes exploring for its master.
Living Photo Mode
There was a patch which dropped around a week ago which added Photo Mode to Journey to the Savage Planet and it’s brilliant, although it has one catch… Basically, you can jump into the mode whenever you want by pushing Options then Photo Mode, but be sure not to do it when you’re near enemies or in a compromising position. You see, Journey to the Savage Planet is a consistent game, even in single-player and disconnected from the internet, you can’t pause – If you hit Options, the game will continue only you’ll now have the menu in front of you. As such, Photo Mode operates the same way.
So, whilst you’re zooming in and out, picking from one of the fun filters (CRT, Noir, or Comic Book), and lining up your shot, the enemies will continue to seek you out and kill you, often ruining your perfect picture. As a gamer playing the game in single-player, I would have liked the game to actually pause both when taking a picture and pushing Options, but as the game is designed with co-op in mind, I can see why it doesn’t (as it would disrupt the second players game). I’ll put some examples of the same image with various filters above and below this section so you can see how cool they look.
If the developers or publishers read this, I do have one request. If we can’t ‘pause’ the game to take a picture, and you’ve managed to get the game to render in real-time with these fantastic filters, can we play the actual game with the filters constantly turned on? I love the Comic Book look to the game as it makes the colours pop even more and certain creatures and objects look a lot better in this mode. I can’t recall any game which has previously allowed you to play the game whilst displaying the various filters, but I feel this one should be possible due to the fact ‘life goes on’ when in Photo Mode and it isn’t frozen like in every other game with the mode activated.
Journey to the Savage Planet allows you to play through the entire game in either solo or co-operative mode. Now, unlike most games which offer this option, I’ve not noticed any challenges or situations where two people would be better than one, so if you’re buying it to play solo, you’ve not got a harder shot at completing the game. I personally didn’t get the chance to play in co-op pre-launch as it’s online only and there’s no matchmaking, you need to invite the other person – meaning you need to know who they are or have talked previously about playing the game.
Co-op isn’t really anything I’m too fussed about, so I won’t be using it, but if you and a friend pick up this brilliant game, it’s great that you have the option to play together should you wish to do so.
Visually, Journey to the Savage Planet is one of the most colourful FPS games I’ve played for a while, with a great combination of strange and cute in terms of the creatures you encounter. The various biomes all have their own distinct look and feel, populated by both new and unique creatures and variants on the ones you’ve seen previously. Although some may only be a pallet swap or the new version now wears a hat, they all have their own bios for you to read and chuckle at as well as new strengths and weaknesses to look out for, meaning you’re constantly having to unlock new abilities and tools to take out the new versions.
The world itself is glorious. I found myself simply climbing up to the top of the highest peak and looking down at the world below just so I could take in how good it looks. As each of the biomes are hand-crafted, and not procedural, everything has been planned out so that progression is rewarded with new abilities and discoveries, rather than stumbling upon something much earlier than you should do. I also, surprisingly, never found myself getting lost, despite the limited guidance the game gives you. Sure, as your scanners pick up on interesting things you’ll get an arrow appearing at the top of the screen, but the portals aren’t usually marked and I never had an issue finding them due to how easy it was to manoeuvre around the world.
The voice acting/FMV videos are both very funny and well produced. The adverts can be watched whenever you want (after you’ve seen them once), a feature which I’ve made use of quite a bit as I love the silliness of them – they remind me of Tim and Eric’s ‘Cinco’ adverts. In terms of the in-game narrator, there’s an option to have it be a chatterbox or only talk when it has too – I strongly advise you put it on chatterbox as it comes out with some funny lines and sarcastic commentary.
The one disappointment (kinda) is the music, or should I say lack thereof? Don’t get me wrong, exploring the planet is great and very atmospheric due to the sounds of the various creatures all around you, living out their lives and getting on with life. However, I would have liked a little more music outside of the subtle sounds of the wind, drones, and creature noises – which I believe are pre-recorded but it could be dynamic. The title music is great though.
Journey to the Savage Planet is a fun and rewarding exploration-based FPS with the option to play with a friend. It’s an adventure which you’ll be thinking about when you’re not playing it, wondering what lies ahead in the areas you can’t yet explore whilst imagining the kinds of creatures you’ll find living there. The colourful and whimsical nature of the game will leave a smile on your face, whether you’re kicking around creatures smaller than you or simply burying the remains of your previous attempt at life, it’s just so much fun! You’ll come for the colourful adventure and you’ll stay for the addictive and charming gameplay.
Those who like No Man’s Sky will love Journey to the Savage Planet. Sure, it’s not got the billions of planets to explore with the procedurally generated worlds, but it’s got rewarding exploration, interesting creatures, upgradable skills and gear, and a funny and witty story, oh and working co-op on launch…
Journey to the Savage Planet£24.99
- - Very colourful and well designed biomes
- - The combat is solid and there's plenty of upgrades and enhancements to find/unlock
- - The creatures aren't only cute and whimsical, they have great bios when scanned which are fun to read
- - The filters in the Photo Mode look really good, I just wish we could play the game with them permanently enabled
- - Can play the entire game either solo or in online co-op mode with a friend
- - Aiming is a little tricky in boss fights with the controller
- - No actual 'music' in-game other than ambient noises