Even if it inevitably recalls Subnautica or No Man’s Sky, Journey to the Savage Planet remains a relatively original title, which we take pleasure in browsing despite its few imperfections. Thanks to the fauna and flora of the planet AR-Y 26, the scenery is guaranteed while the exploration benefits from a well thought-out level design. The developers of Typhoon Studios do not have to be ashamed of their creation, even if their humor sometimes misses the mark and if the interface remains perfectible. As for the lifespan limited to ten hours (excluding acute collection), there is no real reason to complain.
The Adventure begins
Journey to the Savage Planet is the very first game from Typhoon Studios, a Canadian company founded by former employees of Ubisoft, Electronic Art and WB Games Montreal. The studio has recently been talked about a bit in the news since it has just been bought by Stadia. Its next productions will therefore most certainly be exclusive to Google’s cloud platform. In the meantime, owners of PCs, PS4s and Xbox One can already enjoy an exotic, humorous and rather pleasant exploration game.
The adventure begins in a spaceship which has just landed on the mysterious planet AR-Y 26. As an employee of Kindred Aerospace (voted fourth best interstellar exploration company!), You are responsible for checking whether this new world is likely to welcome humanity, which never stops depleting the resources of our good old Earth. While a video message from the CEO of Kindred explains the ins and outs of your mission.
So, when you are asked to choose your portrait, it is a beautiful gallery of heads of ahuris (even morons) that appears in front of you. Among these is even a dog’s head!
if you choose to embody man’s best friend, you will hear a typical canine gasp when you sprint too long. In addition, the on-board computer has a messaging system that will ultimately prove to be good for flooding you with spam, while fully barred advertising videos are regularly broadcast on the various screens of the passenger compartment. The humor in these ads is sometimes successful, sometimes ‘meta’ (the presence of multiple microtransactions in ‘Mobamobamobamobile VR V17’ is presented as a positive selling point) and sometimes frankly in bad taste. There is a bit of food and drink, and not all jokes work.
The artistic direction, however, works perfectly well. Bright colors, variegated flora and strange fauna effectively evoke a distant world, as No Man’s Sky and The Outer Worlds have well understood in the past. DA success is all the more important as the gameplay puts a special emphasis on exploration. The player is free to complete the various quests (main, secondary, experimental, and global) in the order he prefers, and to wander as he pleases in this semi-open world. Only the construction of ‘metroidvania’ decor sets limits, since it will be imperative to unlock certain powers to access certain areas.
Very good environments design
Far from being randomly generated, the environments were all designed ‘by hand’ and therefore always offer something interesting to do or see. The gameplay is similar to a survival game. If one of the main objectives is to scan a maximum of elements of the local ecosystem, it is also necessary to recover different resources (carbon, aluminum, silicone and extraterrestrial alloys) intended for the 3D printer of our spaceship. This miniature factory makes it possible to manufacture various tools and equipment improvements, including a pistol and a grapple. The latter makes it possible to hang on to certain particular fixed points, but also to ‘surf’ on certain ramps in the manner of a BioShock Infinite.
Once again, everything is done to encourage exploration. If they are secondary, the fights are still very present. On the one hand because the game often encourages you, and even forces you sometimes, to slaughter the innocent creatures of AR-Y 26, which allows you to recover a good bundle of resources. And on the other hand because the planet also shelters aggressive animals, against which you will absolutely have to fight. Some of them can only be eliminated by drawing on very specific weak points, a principle which is systematically taken up again for the few bosses who punctuate the adventure.
More anecdotally, it is also possible to slap and kick the smallest creatures. In order to vary the pleasures and to be able to cross certain passages, it is necessary to collect different ‘weapons’ in nature: bait to attract animals, gooey to immobilize them, acid fruits to dissolve the shells, fruits allowing to deposit points of grip for the grapple on certain surfaces, electric fruits, explosive fruits, etc.
This point of gameplay also gives us the opportunity to address the few faults of the game, since we can only carry a very limited number of each tool. So it happens for example that we find ourselves in front of a passage that can only be crossed with the help of an electric fruit and that, if we do not have it on hand, we must then make laborious back and forth journeys to find some.
The backpack system that must be recovered each time you die is also imperfect. Sometimes the bag is placed in a place that is difficult to access, or too far from the place where you actually perished, due to the verticality of the environments. The interface also deserved more care, especially on PC since keyboard navigation is not at all practical (while the keyboard / mouse is preferable to the controller during the exploration and combat phases). All this prevents the game from being a total success, but does not handicap it too much.
After having defeated the final boss at the end of ten hours, we also take pleasure in continuing the exploration in order to unearth all the elements to collect, and in particular the barrels of fuel which allow to come back on earth. .and thus trigger a second display of the end credits!