Gut Check – Journey to the Savage Planet

On its surface, Journey to the Savage Planet looks like another survival game, albeit in a beautifully rendered world, but that would be selling the whole game short.  In Journey to the Savage Planet you play as an unnamed and mostly silent protagonist who works for a space exploration and colonization company and is tasked with exploring and cataloguing new worlds.

You do this through a combination of traversal, crafting and using your various tools to scan and document everything you can see.  It can feel a little overwhelming in the opening minutes because everything around you is foreign and new to you, but that quickly subsides and gives way to the joy of exploring this intricately designed world.

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As the title of the game surely implies, a lot of the stuff on this planet is eager to kill you, but not all of it is inherently hostile.  The first beings you come across are these adorable, round little bird cyclops things that are harmless.  Unfortunately for them, they become a puzzle solving mechanic pretty early on.  I came across several blocked passages that would only open if I launched one of these innocent birds into the gaping, toothed maw of the creature blocking the way.  But you can’t stop progress can you?

That leads into one of my favorite parts of Journey to the Savage Planet, which is the sense of humor on display.  The first thing you see is a shoddily produced, full motion video orientation video starring the CEO of the company, touting how they are now the 4th best space exploration company around.  You also get sent various ads produced in a similar fashion that are pretty good as well.

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Even the things I don’t normally engage with, like emails in games, are genuinely funny and worth reading.  One of them described how I was in almost $500,000 of debt that would take approximately 50 years to pay off, will now only take 47 years to pay off, thanks to my new job as a spaceman.

The best, but maybe even the worst thing Journey to the Savage Planet allowed me to do was select my character portrait from a veritable rogues gallery.  I of course chose the dog, which on its surface was hilarious, but the follow through might be a little more than I can take.  You see, picking this dog-stronaut, while hilarious, now means that every time my character makes a grunt from jumping, climbing or getting hit, it’s replaced with the dog version of that sound.  This has become extra incentive for me to not get hit so I don’t have to hear pained dog noises.

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“But what about the actual game,” I hear you ask.  The long and short of it is that while it’s too early for me to definitively say one way or another, I can say that it’s a lot of fun to play and has yet to be overly difficult or punishing in any real way.

Considering that Journey to the Savage Planet isn’t actually a survival game, but just uses some of those mechanics, a lot of it ends up feeling more like an action or adventure game.  Instead of managing hunger, ammo or the usual myriad of resources, the game simplifies it all into a health bar, stamina bar, and a handful of resources.  It’s less focused juggling a bunch of meters, and more about just uncovering the mysteries of the world.

Mechanically, everything works the way you’d hope it would, making traversal pretty easy while the shooting feels tight and responsive.  There has yet to be a moment where I’ve felt outgunned or unequipped to handle a threat.  There was a “boss” fight that involved 3 armored dog creatures that would hurl rocks and charge at you that got a little hairy, but there’s always plenty of health around, and they had massive glowing weak spots on their tails.  Though I don’t think the combat is the main draw for me anyway.

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Instead, I think it’s the story that’s really got me hooked.  When you arrive, you’re led to believe that all the planets the space company sends its employees to are devoid of higher beings.  Your planet however, has a massive man made tower in the middle of it, that no one was aware of.  This leads to the CEO urging you to go explore it and unravel the mystery, but that dude is shady as hell, so I think that there’s something else going on.

After my hour or so with Journey to the Savage Planet, I’m left wanting to uncover more of it and see where the story goes.  You can play cooperatively through the whole story with a friend, but I believe you have to start a coop game to do so.  I really like what Journey to the Savage Planet put forward in its opening hour, and I will certainly be playing more of it when I get the opportunity.

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