Shattered Planet – What We Think:
Shattered Planet from Kitfox Games can be best described as a Sci-Fi isometric RPG with roguelike elements. It’s a challenging, free-to-play game that is all about exploration. Its art style takes cues from Final Fantasy Tactics with its grid-based planets and sparse backgrounds. The slow, methodical pace of the game and combat reminded me a lot of Dungeons of Dredmor. So, hold on tight, strap in and venture forth into the unknown randomness that is Shattered Planet.
Your job is to research randomly generated planets all in the name of science, which mainly involves killing feral alien species. The goal of the game is to survive as long as you can. The narrative is light and never really creates a compelling backdrop for your exploration endeavors. You can choose to play as a male or female character which is cloned so that when you die, you are still your character. It creates a narrative reason why your character still exists when you die, but beside that it also creates a roguelike mechanic.
Every time you die, you lose all the equipment you had on your character at the time, except for the Scrap and Gems you found. Your character’s stats carry over to all other clones. Stats include Strength, Wits, and Health.
Besides the obvious effects of upgrading Strength and Health, upgrading Wits helps you evade enemy attacks. All of these stats can be upgraded by using the Scrap you picked up while exploring. Upgrading your stats is essential if you want to survive longer. Besides Scrap, Gems are very crucial as well. Gems allow you to synthesize new equipment. Using 5 Gems allows you to synthesize a lesser tier randomly generated item while 20 Gems and 50 Gems allow you to synthesize more effective items.
The game, if you haven’t yet so deduced, is very stat focused; equipment you synthesize will all have stats, for example – weapons might give you +10 Strength while it’s equipped. There is only one slot for armor, which is simplistic, but ultimately feels very limiting. Although it helped alleviate the frustration of losing good equipment when you die – since you’re only losing one piece of armor and one weapon, it feels limiting. The game would have been better off allowing me to put on all types of equipment, allowing me to create my own gamble when entering a randomly generated planet.
Planets will mainly consist of aliens to kill but also feature Scrap, Gems and Liquids. Liquids are one-time use items that turn out to be huge gambles. Since you have no idea what they do, they can give you a temporary stat boost, heal you, poison you or be used on enemies. I once picked up a Liquid that when thrown to the ground, caused an explosion, destroying portions of the world which I could no longer step on. Liquids help mix up the moment to moment gameplay by adding a unknown, risky aspect.
Walk The Line
Though worlds are randomly generated, not all are that different from one another. The maps will all eventually feel the same after around an hour of play; the terrain will be textured differently and the map layout will be different every time, but they never are interesting areas to explore. Planets are non linear, claustrophobic, flat spaces that require you to find a Teleporter in order to progress to the next area. You can’t stay and explore a given area too long because the terrain will slowly turn black over time. Stepping on black terrain hurts you and sometimes it spawn a monster that will attack you. The game forces you to traverse through areas quickly, that combined with your incentive to find Gems and Scrap, creates good tension.
Moving around is done by touching where you want your character to go. Attacking is done by tapping on a nearby enemy. Moving around the world and attacking feels fine and works well for this type of game. The game feels semi-turned based. After every attack, movement or action, the game world is effectively paused. The best way to describe it is that enemies will only do something after you have, like taking turns. The game creates this real time turned-based combat system that is competent and familiar if you’ve played other roguelike games. I would often plan ahead when I saw enemies, making sure I got the drop on them before they got the drop on me. The combat is underplayed, but I felt could have been expanded upon with special combat abilities.
What makes the game more difficult, is the lack of defensive actions and abilities. You can’t block incoming attacks, you have to stand there and take the damage. And with no way to create health packs or beneficial Liquids, it can be frustrating especially when faced with two or more enemies attacking you at the same time.
The biggest problem with Shattered Planet is that it’s a grind-fest; you eventually feel like you are doing the same thing over and over again, Most of the time you’ll go on a planet, die and lose all your equipment and get no Gems or Scrap in return. Many times, I found myself going onto a planet with no equipment on me. The game is punishing and ends up feeling unbalanced as no matter how many stats you increase, some enemies will just demolish you right away.
Free to Pay
Given the nature of this free-to-play game, it has an in-game marketplace where you can buy Scrap and Gems to make your time with the game easier. The best F2P games don’t punish you for not spending money in their in-game stores, instead, they offer you incentive to pay. It’s a difficult balance to get right. The game would have been better suited if it gave you more Scrap, more Gems while you played it. It does give you bonus items for playing everyday, but it’s not enough to keep you playing or help mitigate the monotony. Instead it feels like the best way to play it is to use the in-game store. It’s no surprise to me that the game is so unbalanced this way, since the in-game store icon is the biggest icon on the UI.
It has neat concepts like randomly generated areas to explore, random Liquids, and a solid combat system foundation, but it all feels like a wasted opportunity to create something truly great. If the game was balanced more and not so skewed to serve that certain free to play crowd that doesn’t mind spending money to progress, then it could have been a lot more fun. Where it stands, Shattered Planet is hard to recommend as a game to sink your time into.