EXOR Studios has made a name for itself by mixing genres. Zombie Driver mixes combat racing with a zombie apocalypse motif. X-Morph: Defense, although its name is a clear call to X-COM: UFO Defense, is a mix of a tower defense game and a twin-stick shooter.
This time around, EXOR has dropped three genres into the pot – a tower defense game, an action RPG, and a base-building RTS. The result is The Riftbreaker, a game that has potential it never fully realizes.
Riftbreaker's base building and deep tech tree are reminiscent of Factorio, and it's this main game mode that provides the game's framework story.
You are Ashley S. Nowak, the titular “Riftbreaker”. The dialogue with Mr. Riggs, your mech suit, implies that humanity has mined the Earth and encountered some sort of natural disaster involving the Yellowstone supervolcano. Unsurprisingly, people worked to develop dimensional jumps to cross the Milky Way and steal resources from other planets to prevent their advanced civilization from collapsing.
Or so it seems. The writing is a hodgepodge of cliches and non-sequels, so it can be hard to keep up.
Either way, the planets humanity lands on aren't thrilled with the intrusion. In each situation, hordes of space bugs periodically descend on your base as you colonize, and the game gives you an assortment of defenses to repel them.
Between attacks, you move your robot around to oversee the repair and upgrade of an increasingly complex base, but none of that is with Factorio's brilliant automation systems that make this game so playable. to infinity.
And finally, your mechsuit also serves as the means by which you explore the map, unlock more resources, and push towards the ultimate goal of building a dimensional rift to Earth – apparently getting there is a one-way ticket until you can acquire on-site the means to return home.
Unfortunately, this requires a huge amount of resources and a lot of repetitive grinding just to complete a mission. And the problem is, it's just not fun, although 91% of Steam users seem to disagree.
It doesn't help that the voice acting is stuffy and the story elements are off-putting, quickly surfacing questions like "are we the bad guys?" on the human society you are meant to help.
The day-night cycle seems to continue, and rather than creating a sense of dread at night and forcing the player back to base, it causes the normal, repetitive gameplay loop to take place in such an environment. dark that you can't see what you're doing. That's fine in an RPG. It's unforgivable in a basic RTS that doesn't use the night as a narrative device.
And as one Steam reviewer pointed out, every time the game throws a natural disaster at you, you'll spend all your time finding and fixing every misplaced electrical connection, pipe, and piece of wall instead of exploring and progressing. .
Automated repair bots exist, but they consume so much energy and have such a small area of effect that they're too inefficient. It's just a busy job. And the moment your base gets big enough to pass through the middle of the game, it creates a real obstacle to preparing for the next alien attack.
The missions themselves are also way too long. Any good RTS campaign breaks down its overall goal into easily digestible chunks that you can play in an hour or two and then do something else. The Riftbreaker is a game that is actively hostile to anyone with a life. You can gain time at any time, but there are no natural exit points or lulls in the game to do so.
Almost all other genres have this reverse. In turn-based games, you can save before pressing the End Round button and resume later. In RPGs, you turn in a quest, then save and exit. In sports and mission simulation games, you play a game or complete a mission (like hauling a load of cheese in American Truck Simulator) and you stop.
The Riftbreaker has no such thing; it just throws you mission after mission, objective after objective, almost as if it fears that once you turn it off you won't want to turn it back on.
- Mixes a variety of genres
- Fast and frenetic gameplay that never lets go of the accelerator pedal
- Gorgeous graphics with all the bells and whistles you expect in 2021
- None of the genres are fun per se
- Frustrating obstacles that only prolong playtime
- Hostile design that makes it difficult to balance playtime
- Byzantine UI
- Dull tutorials
- Poor voice acting and no player engagement with story and world
To their credit, EXOR Studios blended three distinctly different styles of strategy gaming into one package. For hardcore fans of the genre, this might just be the Reese's gaming mug they've been waiting for.
But for some people, this game is just going to feel like a chore and leave them cold – like me. A demo is available on Steam, so you can try it out before you go.
[Note: Exor Studios provided the copy of The Riftbreaker used for this review.]