Set on the far-off planet Galatea 37, The Riftbreaker cast your as an elite scientist/commando – clearly the coolest person ever – sat inside an impressively yellow advanced Mecha-suit. Alongside it’s bright, enemy-friendly colour palette, it’s got all the things a Mecha-suit could need. It protects you from inhospitable atmospheres, has all the tools to build up your base, lets you grab resources, and can do all of this while holding off the local inhabitants until you can hightail it back to Earth.
Every environment you find on Galatea 37 is procedurally generated, and can consist of a variety different biomes, stretching from arid deserts to frosty mountain ranges. They all look cool, and suitably alien. Your job is to establish bases at different locations all across Galatea 37, giving you the opportunity to extend your economy, gather rare resources, or simply explore remote locations while blasting some aliens.
Your Mecha-suit is known as Mr Riggs, and in the course of the full game you’re going to be able to outfit him with all sorts of new weaponry and equipment to boost your chances against the local wildlife. Since you’re a scientist-commando, you can research new armaments by studying the local flora and fauna, and the minerals you extract from the ground, giving you a gigantic robot leg-up in your fight to colonise the planet.
The pre-alpha build we had access to gave us a taste of what to expect, with an introductory mission letting us get to grips with the controls and base building systems, followed by an almighty Survival encounter that shows off the game’s impressive tower defence/horde mode chops.
The Riftbreaker sees you constructing your base in classic RTS style. You’ll need to mine resources, which is as simple as sticking a mine on top of a rich vein of minerals, but then also think about the power grid needed to get those mechanical extractors moving. There’s a variety of interlinking systems at play; you have to not only pick the right type of generator – wind is easy to come by, but doesn’t provide that much juice, and solar panels don’t work at night – before then making sure everything is hooked up to the power grid.
Despite the different facets to base construction, it’s all done in a tidy and efficient manner. You can drag to build extended walls and barricades, or drop defensive towers wherever you like – as long as they have power of course. The visual language means that you’re never at a loss as to what facilities you have access to, and the clean and simple interface will keep you building right up until it’s time to defend.
You have a much more hands-on role to play beyond just picking and choosing walls and turrets, with your Mecha-suit capable of dishing out a planet-sized amount of destruction. That’s handy when The Riftbreaker regularly throws legions of angry alien inhabitants at you. These immense hordes crash against the walls of your base, threatening to overwhelm them at any moment, unless you wade in and help put a stop to the assault. They look fantastic; think games like Days Gone zombie hordes, or the World War Z movie, where the enemies are a literal torrent, and you’ll be pretty close to the mass of xenos coming for you.
The pre-alpha build starts you off with a powerful mini-gun for ranged combat and a vibro-blade arm for when things get a bit close for comfort, but no matter which way you’re dishing out the extra-terrestrial pain it’s frantic, weighty and satisfying. As you upgrade your base, you can begin to research other weaponry like laser blasters and flamethrowers to make sure you’re in tip-top fighting condition when the bad guys roll around.
The Survival mode proves to be a brutal testing ground of your base building, upgrading and combat skills, and the almighty torrent of alien creatures that come for you truly put you on the defensive. You just have to hope that all your preparation has paid off. There’s a good chance that by the time you reach the final wave you’ll be stretched to your absolute limit, but even with the odds stacked against you it’s brilliantly compelling stuff.
The Riftbreaker already has all the makings of a sci-fi tower-defence, base-building classic, offering a wealth of variety via its procedurally generated landscapes, backed up by its smart integration of RTS-styled systems and enjoyable, visceral combat. I can’t wait for more bug-battling base building when the game comes out later this year.