Many of us here as Gamespace might describe a video game convention as a whole new world so what better time to get hands-on with a whole new world? We landed on 505 Games Journey to a Savage Planet.
Originally unveiled at The Game Awards 2019, with a trailer you can check out below, Journey to the Savage Planet is the first foray for Typhoon Studios and an unusual survival sandbox. Sick of life on Earth, you play the part of a faceless explorer. Transmuted into a human popsicle by the Kindred Corporation, you’ve been shipped out on an intergalactic mission to explore a world that might serve as the future home of humanity. The pre-amble that awaited us when we sat down to begin our adventure at EGX Expo gives the impression that we are in for a hardcore sandbox survival, stranded without backup on the far edges of the galaxy. Thankfully that expectation couldn’t be further from what we got.
One Giant Leap
During any new job, you’ll expect a welcome from the company, be it a pamphlet or a regimented training video. Before we got started in our new home, we were met by an informational video and a robot with enough snark to make Glados cringe. The first few moments before launching ourselves into the great unknown didn’t just set the scene they set the tone for the entire adventure. A kitsch cardboard cut-out infomercial from head office intermixed with an AI that knows it is more important than the meat bag being sent outside were just a few of the touches that made me acutely aware that Journey to the Savage Planet doesn’t take itself or your impending fate too seriously.
If you’ve had a chance to watch the initial trailers, it is clear that Typhoon Studios are not out to make a Black Death. Instead, the new world that we stumbled out into was a gorgeous, briskly animated landscape that was full of weird wildlife. New explorers are encouraged to take a first-person view of the new environment they stumble into. Plants made of orange crystal and animals that look like a cross between a plodding eyeball are some of the less outlandish residents of the area we explored. While the main aim in Journey to the Savage Planet is to survive the onslaught of the local wildlife and your own incompetence, there are other things to do. Explorers will love the range of landscapes open to crawl around. Caverns, rock faces, and environmental puzzles were scattered across the planet and the variety of unusual life makes the whole game a joy. A huge variety of predatory floating squids and carnivorous tentacle plants ramble across a range of biomes. Ice caves and verdant cliff sides are split up across some satisfying verticality and push players up and over just as much as they squirrel off into the undiscovered underground. It all makes for a nice variety to jump right into and keeps exploring engaging.
This description of an alien world might adequately describe any number of outlandish games. From Trove to No Man’s Sky, there are a ton of frontier worlds waiting for gamers but Journey to the Savage Planet stands out for a few reasons. First of all, is its attitude. I’ve already described that Journey is a comedy. This is re-enforced as the Kindred Corp’s onboard AI tries to steer you around the world while being condescending enough that you know you’re just the trained monkey. Die and you’ll be reminded that you’re mostly disposable. Meat bags can be reproduced with almost complete accuracy. Wildlife, similarly, has a cartoonish quality to it. Little Pufferbirds loiter around aimlessly, waiting to be blown to bits in a hail of green goo or even slapped into submission. It is surprisingly satisfying to kick an exploding animal onto a gelatinous mould and have it soar off into the horizon before showing the ground in a hail of fluorescent fluids. The ludicrous design, heightened physics, and a snarky AI companion make this adventure feel like a Saturday morning cartoon survival sim as much as anything else.
Exploring the wider world and uncovering new mysteries is a relatively easy action. The control set in Journey to the Savage Planet maps easily to a standard Xbox style controller and isn’t overwhelming by any means. While getting around is intuitive enough, the number of additional tools available is sufficiently well balanced that Typhoon didn’t feel the need to add in a radial dial or inventory system. This streamlines the exploration process and allows players to focus on either freeform play or achievement hunting as they see fit. Whether it’s laying down bait to blow up a group of animals, or blinding them to implant a tracker, the number of these achievements is already pretty long.
Progression and Gameplay Cycles
You will, of course, be expected to catalog your findings, allowing Kindred to analyze the planet for useful resources and providing you with options to regenerate your health. Just, don’t try to eat any flora that has its own teeth. In order to provide a progression line for players that aren’t ready to scan everything, Journey to the Savage Planet deposits several in-game currencies. Aluminum, Silicon, Carbon, and Alien Alloys are riddled across the land and in the remnants of expired wildlife. Mining the local rock isn’t nearly as fun as watching the wildlife explode but both provide these raw materials. Assuming you don’t die and have to be reprinted back at a base, then you’ll be able to haul your loot back to a Kindred 3D printer and produce a wealth of items to assist you on this new Eden. It’s a relatively simple loot and build cycle that could desperately use an easier way of accessing your respawn point, but that’s the kind of niggle I’m sure will work itself out in the long game.
What’s impressive about my time with this journey was how flexible the gameplay appears to be. Sandbox exploration and freeform play are joined by a solid narrative arc. With an unexpected alien presence present during my own expedition, I was tasked by the CEO of Kindred, with finding out what was going on. Narrative style missions still provide a great level of freedom and don’t give you much more than an end goal, allowing players to take on a challenge at your own pace. In the end, what I found was an outlandish sandbox game with the same sense of its own ridiculousness that landed with NCSoft’s Wildstar. In my own short jaunt across a brand new world, it became clear that I was just going to have fun serving the Kindred Corp any way I wanted.
Journey to the Savage Planet is coming to the Epic Store, Playstation Store, and Xbox Store on 28 Jan 2020. If you are interested in this alternative to serious sandbox games and could use a bit of fun on the final frontier, check out the official website now.