There were so many moments while playing The Riftbreaker where I stood on the precipice of annihilation – my resources dwindled, my base relatively defenseless as I struggled to put out fires, and tens of thousands of aggressive aliens marching in my direction. Whether I’m managing resources, building my home base, making upgrade decisions for my mech, or battling hordes of enemies, this top-down RTS / shooter hybrid rarely leaves me feeling at ease, in a good way. Even with several unfortunate mistakes and a smooth history, surviving on the skin of my teeth through meticulous time management and split-second decision making made it all worthwhile.
As a frontiersman sent to colonize the unexplored planet of Galatea 37, you run in a mech and have to establish a base of operations, survive the incredibly hostile local flora and fauna, and open a portal back to Earth before they eat you several. thousands of monsters (or have a panic attack in real life). The characters and story are smooth and forgettable and feel like an afterthought primarily used as an excuse to give you increasingly challenging objectives to complete. The writing and voice acting in particular are often ridiculous, and the main character, Ashley, is as interesting as a sheet of drywall. But The Riftbreaker succeeds in so many other ways that it was pretty easy for me to ignore the horrible jokes playing in the background.
The Riftbreaker is incredibly ambitious, combining the best components of a dozen genres to create something multifaceted and memorable. It has base building and tower defense components, survival elements like resource gathering and management, an RPG-like crafting and gear system, and top-down combat with loot. One moment you are spending resources to build a power plant to power your ammo factories like in an RTS, and the next moment you are running around shooting and dodging hundreds of enemy attacks the way of bullet hell. You must also find and configure mining operations in resource deposits and build defensive towers to automate some of the responsibilities of protecting your bases from incoming attacks.
That hodgepodge of mechanics inexplicably combines very well. It can certainly get a little overwhelming at times, but the superbly crafted campaign guides you in small bites so you don’t break and cry (at least not right away). It continually pushes you to learn new mechanics as you face increasingly hostile creatures and environments. For example, one biome is so hot that building any structure is impossible until you master cryogenic cooling technology, while another has explosive mines hidden underfoot throughout the level, making exploration incredibly dangerous.
Each area has its own unique set of problems and resources that can be leveraged to upgrade your equipment, your defenses, and get one step closer to opening a rift back to Earth. The desert biome is covered in quicksand and fiery sunlight that can burn its base to the ground, while the volcanic biome obscures your vision with ash clouds and causes huge fireballs to fall from the sky. Some of these areas make it extremely difficult to establish a foundation, but when you beat the odds and get another resource on your tool belt, it’s incredibly rewarding. Who doesn’t want to feel like the ultimate interplanetary survivor?
Screenshots of the Riftbreaker review
Unfortunately, one of these areas is too ambitious with your enemy’s design and ends up being relatively broken in practice. Poisonous swamp, which features a deadly plant slowly taking over the entire map, seems like too much for my high-end PC or current-gen consoles. Visiting it causes tons of crashes and even makes it impossible to save your progress until you complete your objective and teleport back to a different biome.
As you explore different biomes and lay foundations in each of them, base building and resource management also get exponentially more complex. Eventually you will have to jump between biomes and bases to manage each of their resources, upgrade their buildings and face waves of enemies and environmental catastrophes between each of them. It got so complex at the end of my game that I actually created an Excel spreadsheet and digital checklist to help me remember which biomes I was drawing resources from and which foundations needed improvement; that was fun for me, but it talks about how it can be difficult to keep track of these things in-game.
This proliferation of resource and base management can be very rewarding, but also very stressful. My final hours with the campaign had me on my feet and sweating profusely as I watched the numbers go up and down and juggled 18 different projects without enough time to accomplish them all, not to mention the looming armies approaching my location from multiple fronts. It’s the ultimate test of readiness, time management, and high-stakes combat, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But when I finally emerged victorious, I felt a surge of achievement and satisfaction that is hard to come by.
However, if you want to adjust the difficulty, The Riftbreaker has tons of options to customize your experience, including changing the frequency and strength of enemy attacks and other random encounters like weather events, and increasing the abundance of resources available for you to harvest. . I was proud to have finished the campaign leaving this setup as is, but for those looking for a less stressful experience, it’s pretty impressive that these options have been included.
And when base construction and resource gathering items become a headache, there are massive armies of enemies to take on in excellent bullet-hell action that puts your skills and gear to the test. You will encounter the occasional horde as you explore and colonize new areas, but the real challenge lies you when armies gather and rampage through your defenses in hopes of destroying your base and ending your attempts to colonize this hell.
While you can build defenses, you will only take direct control of the mech that you use for construction, exploration, and combat. Defensive barriers and turrets can take on smaller groups of enemies attacking your base, but getting directly involved is absolutely necessary to survive large-scale skirmishes. There are a wide variety of weapons you can equip your mech suit with, each with its own advantages, disadvantages, and resource costs. The flamethrower is excellent at taking out swarms of weaker enemies at close range, while the railgun does massive damage at long range. Each weapon can also be modified with different effects or bonuses and can be supplemented with equippable abilities and movement abilities that transform you into a one-woman army.
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Your mecha can wipe out thousands of enemies in minutes, but you can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s almost impossible to be successful without the help of defensive towers, which have an equally wide range of options including launchers. missiles, turrets, etc. layers of mines, attack drones and long-range cannons. Each tower has its pros and cons and many play a vital role in keeping your base intact, but not all defenses are especially feasible. For example, the heavy artillery cannon packs a punch, but is nowhere near worth the resources needed to keep it on fire. Managing ammo cost, electrical needs, and resource requirements to keep your base well defended without breaking the bank is a constant balancing act, one that only becomes more challenging as time passes and your appetite for resources. rises to incredible heights.
Unfortunately, during the second half of the campaign, when your enemy mechs, turrets, and armies are at their maximum density, large-scale battles left my poor frame rate in shambles. These choppy moments aren’t the only issues either, as I encountered a host of bugs and performance issues throughout my 50-hour runner-up game. In areas where you are approaching the maximum build limit, for example, The Riftbreaker begins to crash relatively regularly, causing a frustrating loss of progress. Sometimes the towers would act erratically and waste all my ammo shooting at a wall or I was not allowed to place a building without hitting the build button repeatedly. None of these issues especially spoil the experience (aside from the buggy swamp area I mentioned above), but they definitely added annoyance to a difficult campaign that already had me on the edge.