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    dkirschner's The Riftbreaker (PC)

    [December 10, 2021 04:12:29 PM]
    I've been playing this a lot the last two days. It's a crazy hybrid of tower defense, RTS, action-RPG, a horde mode, and more genres. I have never played anything quite like it. The closest thing overall might be Sanctum, which is a tower defense game where you also control a character, though it was tower defense and FPS, whereas this is tower defense/horde mode and top-down action-RPG/bullet hell. The humongous research tree is bigger than anything I've ever seen in an RTS and can only approach Path of Exile's skill tree in size. My initial impressions were surprise that everything clicks. You might think that all these genres can't be mashed together, but they are mashed really well.

    If you play the campaign, you'll quickly realize that the story is bland though. It's just a pretense for base building and killing aliens. I read a review that said if you watched Avatar and rooted for the industrialist colonizers, then this game is for you (although the main character, Ashley, at once cares for the environment and destroys it, supposedly in service of extracting resources for life on Earth). You are plopped down on a planet. Your goal is to explore, catalog alien life, extract resources, and then get the hell out of there. You pretty quickly get the objective to get back to Earth, but that requires three other sub-objectives to build components of the teleporter that will take you to other biomes on the planet to face new environmental and faunal (is that a word?) challenges.

    One main part of the game is base building. In this, the game is very much like an RTS. You build buildings, which unlock other buildings. Research down the skill tree to unlock upgrades and still more buildings. Extract resources to power all the buildings. Everything can be upgraded several times, and all these upgrades require ever more rare and difficult-to-extract resources. You'll create numerous mining outposts just to harvest xyz types of resources, which eventually involves you juggling your main base and a lot of other outposts at the same time, warping back and forth to maximize production and check on your defenses. In the base building, there are obvious Factorio inspirations. You know, those games where you maximize efficiency for automation and production and you see screenshots of people's games and you wonder how much time it took them to plan so precisely, as if they traced a blueprint on grid paper on their computer screen and filled it in.

    The tower defense is part of the base building. You're going to get attacked (often) by hordes of aliens from all directions, so you need to build walls around your base, build towers (all the types, all the upgrades), make sure those towers are powered (yes, you have to manage a whole power grid), make sure those towers have ammo (yes, you have to build ammo storage; in fact, you have to build storage for just about every resource), and make sure that you can get through the wall to fight the aliens directly (don't forget your gates!). I never really made it far in the tower building department, as I preferred to take on the aliens myself. Well, maybe this is because I was no good at building my base...

    Aliens attack in waves. You can clear them out on the map, but they respawn, and still new waves will attack your base. These waves quickly become massive, overwhelming. It was quite frustrating for me. I am on the "build a uranium outpost" level and I cannot get ahead of the alien swarms. I have established a perimeter around my base, but I can't build power arrays and towers fast enough before the next wave comes. I held off a couple with relatively minimal damage, but the last wave just annihilated my base. I mean, they destroyed my whole eastern wall, most of my solar power generators, my power storage, my outpost building, a bunch of factories and power plants, a bunch of power grid connectors. It's very demoralizing having to rebuild the entire base. And then, when you build it back, the aliens just come full force again. One thing that this game could benefit from is having a list of currently built buildings, or some indication of which buildings you are missing. It does well to show you when a building lacks power, and some other notifications, but after my base gets halfway destroyed, there's so much shit on the map that I am not sure which buildings were actually destroyed. I have to go through and catalog everything to figure it out, which is probably why I am unprepared for the next alien wave!

    I was having early success taking on the attacking hordes myself. You control a big mech with a cool arsenal of weapons (all of which must also be researched, crafted, upgraded, equipped, and modded). The flamethrower is great for swarms of weak enemies, mines are useful for extra defense, beefed up machine guns will annihilate some ranged enemies, and so on. The top-down bullet hell/action-RPG combat is fun, smooth, and challenging. There are a ton of weapons, upgrades, and mods. But eventually, the enemy number became too great and I could only hold off so many, while the rest destroyed my base.

    I could continue rebuilding, learning from my mistakes, maybe making my base smaller and building more walls (as I saw people doing on stream, building walls like 4 thick), but man, it's frustrating! There was a level I was playing yesterday where you are learning how to pump mud into a water purifier, which you then route to a building that basically plants plants (for you to harvest after you've built a harvester building). In this level, you have to run a pipe almost the whole length of the level. This sounds easy, but it took me probably 3 hours. First, I was running the pipe through quicksand, which destroys it after a while (it took me some time to figure out this was the cause of my destroyed pipes). Second, aliens periodically attack your pipe (I learned to set teleporters along it so I could zip to the problem areas). The mud problem was solved by re-routing the pipes around mud. The alien problem was solved by, well, running up and down the length of the pipe repairing it and killing aliens, back and forth, back and forth, until I finally didn't have any holes in the pipe.

    I think that, overall, that last example sticks with me the most to sum up The Riftbreaker. It's exhausting. Stressful. Frustrating. It's also very neat, but it is still all of those annoying feelings. I am also aware that it may take upwards of 40 hours to complete the campaign, which as I said earlier you are not doing for the story. The gameplay has to carry it. I would be more motivated to stick it out, to retry more times, if there was some interesting story thread, or if there was some mystery or question to be answered. There's not though! I can see the next 25 hours clearly: I'll continue unlocking everything in the skill tree. Once I finally get my uranium outpost up and running, I'll have to do the same thing for two other rare elements. I'll scan a million plants and animals (this is really boring), constantly fight while exploring the maps (this is already getting old because the enemies are so plentiful and aggressive), constantly defend my bases, and eventually open the rift back to Earth.

    I'll keep this installed for the duration of my Game Pass time just in case I am inspired to go a'base building, but may not come back to it.
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    dkirschner's The Riftbreaker (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got frustrated

    GameLog started on: Thursday 9 December, 2021

    GameLog closed on: Sunday 12 December, 2021

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Hectic, hard! ----------- Exhausting!

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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