You’ve heard the premise of Journey to the Savage Planet before: humanity travels to the far reaches of space to discover weird and wonderful things. It’s a tried and tested science fiction formula, but in 2020 you’re going to need something unique to stand out from the crowd. In the past 3 months alone, No Man’s Sky has continued to grow and The Outer Worlds served up its own colorful corner of the universe.
If No Man’s Sky offers unbridled exploration and The Outer Worlds is Fallout’s younger, funnier brother, Journey to the Savage Planet wraps all of the above in a neat and unashamedly satirical package. It’s equal parts a game about discovery and finding out how odd and gross all those discoveries are.
Journey to the Savage Planet Review | A spaceman came traveling
You’re the newest recruit of Kindred Aerospace’s Pioneer Program, the “4th-best interstellar exploration company” in the cosmos - over-eager CEO, Martin Tweed is keen to remind you of that. The Pioneer Program shoots explorers into the galaxy in search of potentially habitable planets. Your job is to log each world’s animal and plant life and look for potential threats. As the game’s title suggests, your designated planet - AR-Y26 - might not be the most hospitable. So, you’ll also have to fight off anything that’s overly aggressive.
Finding and collecting materials forms the center of Journey to the Savage Planet. It just so happens that, in order to do so, you’ll need to murder most things you find. You come across alien fauna and lifeforms as soon as you step outside your ship. As adorable as the wildlife is, all living things contain carbon: one of your primary materials. You can feed animals an all-in-one food mass called Grob and wait for them to fart out carbon in return, but it’s easier to give them a strong backhand to the face.
AR-Y26 is bubbling with so much weird and wonderful alien life that, early on, I felt pangs of guilt as I mercilessly harvested them for my own needs. Especially when the game seems self-aware of that fact. Your AI companion E.K.O prefers to make jokes about everything you scan rather than provide you with vital information, proving to be about as useful as Claptrap in Borderlands (and equally as entertaining). Even the wildlife seems to know about my pendant for discovery-followed-by-destruction, a few of them running for the hills at first sight of me.
From small steps to giant leaps
You must slaughter the planet’s inhabitants, as collecting materials allows you to upgrade your existing weapons and gear. More substantial upgrades - such as a grappling hook and jetpack-assisted double jump - require harder-to-find substances embedded into the story as side missions. Attaining these will unlock previously unreachable areas of AR-Y26. While item and ability progression isn't anything new to RPGs (not least ones with saturated color palettes that are set in outer space), Journey to the Savage Planet does well to evolve how you move through its world. Once you get familiar with the jetpack boost and upgrade the grapple hook, a new biome opens up into an expanse of floating platforms. Moving between them combines the fluid traversal of Mirror’s Edge and the winding skylines of Bioshock Infinite.
You don’t need every upgrade to progress, which is a blessing given how many things you could collect. There are a total of 100 alien goop pods which increase your health and stamina. There are 20 alien teleporters that let you fast travel between locales. There are alien logs, video recordings and field studies to conduct… and that’s before you think about resupplying your fuel reserves.
Combat routinely intersects exploration and halts the collectathon. While nothing to write home about, the combat feels substantial and even challenging at times. You constantly wield both a weapon and an item, the latter offering a range of enhancements similar to Bioshock’s plasmids. Most are quirky alien renditions of standard items, from bait to bombs and poison grenades. There are some unique entries too, including a grapple seed that creates anchor points on appropriately sticky surfaces and a gelatinous blob that creates mini trampolines to help you scale high walls.
More to explore
Apart from the staggering of biomes, you’re left to move through AR-Y26 at your own pace. There are no real plot developments to hunt for, but straying away from the beaten path gives Journey to the Savage Planet more opportunity to show you its character. The game’s charm stems from wanderlust, new materials are merely a bonus for choosing to explore an interesting corner of the world.
Of course, not all bonuses take the shape of upgrades. Return to your ship’s computer regularly and you’ll be asked to fill out employee satisfaction forms, rating your sense of security from ‘Great!’ to ‘Below Average’. Find and eat enough orange goos and E.K.O will explain that you can sustain more damage because your bones are being enveloped by alien tumors. The game is filled with self-aware nods and tongue-in-cheek quips that keep it thoroughly entertaining.
In space, no one can hear you...
There’s one thing missing from Journey to the Savage Planet and that’s a soundtrack. The only accompaniment to your exploration is a rather tired sounding guitar loop. Things pick up when you encounter enemies but this has the opposite problem - the music continuing 30 seconds after you kill the last enemy. In a game focused on discovery, I can understand the decision behind a gentle accompaniment to your journey - Minecraft and Breath of the Wild being prime examples. In this case, I felt like the game was missing some musical oomph that matched the charm of its characters and environments.
Other drawbacks are extremely minor, like one underwhelming miniboss fight and some limited objective markers. The multiplayer element is fun for those looking to explore AR-Y26 with a friend, but it doesn’t change anything in terms of gameplay - making it seem more like a last-minute attempt at improving replayability than another way to experience the game.
Journey to the Savage Planet Review | A planet turned party
Typhoon Studios has crafted an alien world that’s thriving with life and built a story that relishes destroying everything in it. Some collectibles may be a step too far - I collected just 32 out of 100 alien goops and felt suitably equipped to deal with enemies - and there are no hints to help you out with field research. If you’re willing to go for 100% completion, though, Journey to the Savage Planet will take you some 12 to 15 hours, which isn’t bad for the game’s $30 price tag. It might not be a grand space epic, but it’s an enjoyable frolic in one peculiar little corner of space.
TechRaptor reviewed Journey to the Savage Planet on PC via Epic Games Store with a copy provided by the developer.
- AR-Y26 is vibrant and beautiful, a planet teeming with cute-looking prey and challenging predators.
- Ability progression is well-paced, the jetpack and grappling hook make roaming the world great fun.
- Humor runs throughout, from your AI companion to messages from Space Kindred’s CEO, Martin Tweed.
- Soundtrack is uninspiring.
- Multiplayer doesn’t add much.