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The Riftbreaker

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: EXOR Studios


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'The Riftbreaker'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 14, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

The Riftbreaker is a base-building survival action/RPG where you take on the role of an elite scientist-commando, standing proud in her Mecha-Suit, ready to explore the dangerous lands of an alien planet, Galatea 37.

EXOR Studios loves shooting stuff. Zombie Driver shows that the studio can handle vehicular slaughter with the best of them. X-Morph Defense showed that it has the chops to give tower defense some spice with twin-stick shooting abilities. Its upcoming title, The Riftbreaker, tries to add some more thought to the carnage, and based on the pre-alpha demo, the game is off to a great start.

The premise covers some well-worn sci-fi territory. You play the role of Ashley Nowak, a scientist who has been chosen to explore the planet Galatea 37. Unlike other missions, this is not only a one-person expedition but also a one-way trip. Her mission is to establish a base on the planet and build a portal back home, so others can come through for further colonization. While the territory may be hostile, she has the support of her suit, which lets her single-handedly build bases and outposts and provides some defense when necessary.

In the opening level, it becomes apparent that The Riftbreaker takes on two different gameplay mindsets: real-time strategy (RTS) and action-RPG. When you touch down on the planet, you're told to build a base, which means locating an element deposit and building around it. Buildings need power, so you need to manage that resource, and there are several options, from using natural resources like solar and wind or using the resource that you're already mining. Defenses also come into play, and it needs both power and AI cores to operate correctly. You'll soon find different resources to mine to create new buildings, and you'll worry about how to network everything together so you are using resources efficiently and managing outposts to maximize your intake. For those expecting a simple RTS, the juggling of these several elements may throw you for a loop.

While the base-building and element-gathering will be familiar to RTS players, it deviates from the genre's norms. For starters, the game is slower-paced, so you aren't rushing through the process of building and gathering. You also aren't going to worry about population caps, since you'll never build barracks or other forces. That also means no need for hotkeys to manage units, so forces won't be rebound to the wrong group. On that note, the decision to make yourself a one-man army and cursor has the side effect of making the RTS portion control perfectly fine on a gamepad. It may seem sacrilegious to PC players, but thanks to the slower nature of the title and the thought put into making the menu system work with this method, it's a nice compromise for those who are interested in the genre but can't work with the keyboard/mouse combo.

The other game type that influences the title is the action-RPG, albeit in twin-stick shooter form. Genre veterans may lament the fact that this is a completely solo affair, but the game makes up for it by giving you the ability to dual-wield weapons and switch to a multitude of them. Loot is also handled differently, as you aren't hunting down armor and weapons but alien minerals and body parts. These become the ingredients you need to craft your own weapons, so while you miss the thrill of picking up something immediately cool, you won't pick up heaps of junk in the process.

It only takes one level to show that the blend of gameplay styles works well. Depending on how you built your base, it can more than hold its own against small forces, but even a poorly built base can withstand some damage before falling apart. That aspect frees you up to concentrate on shooting, and like the company's previous games, you feel powerful even when you're using the weakest weaponry. The mix of defense sections and exploration keeps players engaged, but we need to see more of the campaign to see whether that engagement persists.

Aside from the introductory mission, the preview build contains what the developers feel is The Riftbreaker's highlight: survival mode. The demo allowed for one hour of game time to build up your forces and try to outlast wave after wave of freeform tower defense. The mode plays well enough for solo skirmishes, but one element we couldn't try out was Twitch integration, where people watching the stream could influence the game to either make it easier or harder on the player as the match goes on. Of course, that's all dependent on whether the game gains an online following, something that can't be predicted at this time. For now, the gimmick is intriguing since there aren't too many other titles in any genre that do this, but it is good to know that the gameplay remains solid enough to carry the mode, even if the audience isn't there.

As far as graphical presentation goes, The Riftbreaker is impressive. While the mech and the creatures look good, the more impressive aspects of the game are in the environment. The lushness of the vegetation along with their reaction to your movements is something you don't see too often nowadays. It gets more impressive when you see that same vegetation react to your attacks, and the weather system is breathtaking to witness due to its dynamic nature. Aside from the particle effects being handled well, what's also impressive is the multitude of creatures at any one time. All of this ran butter-smooth on a GeForce GTX 1070 with a Core i5-7600k running at 1440p, and with the game's system requirements being quite low, this might be a game where it might not require too much horsepower to run it at high frame rates in 4K.

Right now, The Riftbreaker feels good. The base-building feels deep, even if it doesn't have everything expected from a typical RTS title. The combat feels tight even at your starting level, and your myriad of abilities makes up for the lack of a multiplayer option. The effectiveness of the Twitch portion of the survival mode is up in the air until this is released, but even if that doesn't pan out, the campaign looks to be as substantial as it is beautiful. Look out for more on The Riftbreaker as it tries to nail down a release date.

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