Xbox One, PS4, PC
January 30, 2020
Humankind is advancing and seeking a new home beyond the stars. As a new recruit to Kindred, the 4th best interstellar exploration company, it is your job to explore your designated planet and send back data to Earth. Ill-equipped for the task ahead of you, you’ll traverse the strange planet, scan its flora and fauna, develop new tools and upgrades, and uncover the mystery of this alien world.
Journey to the Savage Planet is a wondrous, vibrant, and hilarious game. It borrows elements from survival, FPS, RPG, exploration, and narrative titles and combines them into a game I have trouble putting down. Are you ready for a savage journey? Paradise awaits.
At its core, Journey to the Savage Planet is a game about exploration and research. It’s your job to collect as much data about this alien world as you can to find out if it’s a suitable place for human habitation. You’ll explore your surroundings, scanning the environment, and being guided by a friendly AI giving context to everything you do. The game is also fully playable cooperatively, an awesome feature for this type of game but one I unfortunately did not get a chance to test before the release of this review.
The game starts off very strongly. The in-world storytelling coupled with the sense of wonder you get from exploring this open and alien environment is very compelling. The game is immediately reminiscent of Subanutica, which puts it in incredibly good company. There’s something awe-inspiring about the level of detail and visual stimulus to the world around you. Having the freedom to explore at your own leisure, collect resources and learn more about this planet is powerfully evocative. The game also doesn’t weigh you down with resource management or hunger/thirst meters, and instead allows you to play at your own pace, enjoying the colourful stimuli and the weird wonders.
While the game is wondrous, it also manages to be comical. The AI narrating your journey always managed to put a smile on my face and the creatures I came across in the wild were equal parts intriguing and hilarious. Early creature designs included a spherical bird known as a Pufferbird that can be kicked across the landscape. There’s also Baboushkas that scream and run away when you get close, and split off into smaller Baboushkas when damaged.
You’d think that the game wouldn’t be able to engross you into its world while simultaneously making you laugh at its designs, and yet Journey to the Savage Planet does so superbly. There’s a quirky sense of humour backed up by a strong sense of design that had me lose track of time while I was engrossed in this alien world.
The humour doesn’t end with creature designs either. The writing within the game is incredibly strong. Whether that’s your AI navigator giving you humorous tips about the flora and fauna as you scan your surroundings or whether it’s the ludicrous in-world advertisements that play each time you return to your Javelin. Journey to the Savage Planet had me genuinely laughing with its intelligent and expressive humour.
Journey to the Savage Planet rewards you for exploration. The game can be described as somewhat of a collectathon, with hidden resources and secrets scattered all around you. The game isn’t too open-ended either, with quests and a structured narrative carrying you from one place to the next. It manages to find a fantastic balance between the freedom of an open world survival game and the structure of a narrative driven adventure. I always wanted to explore my surroundings to find all of the goodies the game was hiding because I was being rewarded with tangible advancements within the game such as increased health, stamina, and resources to craft upgrades. Simultaneously though, I was also intrigued by the game’s narrative and the strange structures and mysteries found on a planet that was suppose to be devoid of intelligent life.
Unlike other open world games, you’re also not weighed down by a mini-map that guides you to the next piece of busywork or collectable. Finding secrets is completely up to the player’s ability to take in their surroundings and notice areas off the beaten path that can be explored. At some point throughout the game you can craft an upgrade that lets you scan your surroundings for these resources, which unfortunately did reduce that feeling of reward and accomplishment for me.
Journey to the Savage Planet also does a really good job of keeping you engrossed within the world and not stuck in menus or cutscenes. Everything plays out in front of you right from the get-go and even the most ridiculous of happenings are treated with in-game explanation. Consuming alien goop hidden around the world increases your health because it alters your genetic structure and gives you hardened tumours that boosts your resilience. Respawning and fast-travelling is explained as a cloning process, with your friendly AI reminding you that after 50 deaths and respawns you’ll no longer technically be yourself due to slight alterations to your makeup each and every time. Even if it’s ludicrous, I always felt immersed in the world.
As the game progresses you’ll move into new regions of this planet, find new creatures and biomes, and continue your journey of scientific discovery. Hostile mobs can be dealt with via energy weapon and previously inaccessible places will open up once you acquire the necessary skill. Journey to the Savage Planet excels at keeping things fresh and keeping you feeling as though you’re constantly progressing.
I do feel as though some of the latter parts of the game aren’t quite as strong as the earlier parts however, with the sense of wonder the game so expertly instils not maintaining for the entire experience. That’s not to say later parts of the game are bad, not by a long shot, but the structure of the final areas does feel less varied. I didn’t connect as strongly with the linear, branching paths that are introduced in the final biome and even the closing moments weren’t as strong as the game’s opening.
With all of that said though, Journey to the Savage Planet is still a unique game that I found absolutely captivating. Throughout the whole experience you’ll find a level of polish and attention to detail that I was simply not expecting. It would be so easy for a game like this to fall into generic or amateur territory but this game doesn’t even come close. If you would have told me there’d be an indie game being developed that features interplanetary exploration, resource gathering, and in-world full motion video (FMV) that attempts to be humours, I would have told you that game was going to be bad. I would have also eaten my words.
- Absorbing and engrossing world
- Genuinely funny
- Colourful, vibrant and quirky designs
- Strong sense of progression
- Surprising attention to detail and polish
- Doesn't maintain sense of wonder through to completion
Journey to the Savage Planet borrows from a bunch of different titles and genres but combines them in a way that makes a unique and engaging experience. The game is a testament to how a focused vision backed up by a talented team is a winning formula for game design. I found the game captivating, enthralling, exciting and wondrous. It’s a game I won’t soon forget and intend to return back to with a coop partner for another session of otherworldly exploration, humorous shenanigans and punting Pufferbirds across the gorgeous landscape.