The Riftbreaker Is Exactly As It Says On The Tin
It's always difficult to review games that I have a polarizing opinion on compared to the majority. To put it bluntly, it feels horrible, like eating a bowl of salad and washing it down with bitter tea. I felt a similar emotion when I recently did a First Take on Resident Evil Village, a game that received mass acclaim. Yet, here comes Mr. Nay being a sourpuss because the game didn't reflect on him the way it did for others. Thankfully, being a human who has a gauge on what they like and dislike, there are games that simply won't vibe with me. Unfortunately, The Riftbreaker is such a game although I understand its fanbase.
Exor Studios, the creative minds behind The Riftbreaker, is best known for other top-down games having one or two things in common. Either the player focuses on base-building or contends with copious amounts of violence. In the case of The Riftbreaker, the player is tasked with both. In terms of the latter, players may be familiar with Zombie Driver HD, a game where the player lives their best Carmageddon life with zombies. It is from this violence that I feel may be The Riftbreaker's strongest suit. But let's start from the beginning.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Excavate
Players will control the protagonist, Ashley S. Nowak, as she pilots a mecha known as "Mr. Riggs," landing on the unknown planet Galatea 37. Her task involves linking a rift portal between Galatea 37 and Earth, which requires an incredible amount of resources. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of Galatea 37 aren't going to take kindly of Ashley's invasion of their planet. This results in various wildlife threatening her livelihood, forcing her to rely on her capabilities as a scientist to craft buildings to survive.
The gameplay is reminiscent of other strategy games like Warhammer and Starcraft, using resources to craft bases, turrets, walls, and energy depots. Excavators are built to speed up the proficiency of mining, which in turn leads to a faster rate of building. As Ashley explores the planet, she'll find other mining depots in which she can set up small bases of operations. At any point, Ashely can use rift portals to travel between bases, developing an ecosystem as the player gets a hang of the controls.
Everything You Do Needs Foundation Before Fun Can Be Had
Players can begin the game with a prologue before jumping into the campaign, which is almost a requirement in order to understand how The Riftbreaker is played. Players who have played the free demo may have already experienced the Prologue, but for me, it was the first time experiencing the game at all. The mecha AI and your crewmates will introduce you to buildings and controls as they go along.
The issue is figuring out the controls to get objectives done. Building a base of headquarters is easy enough, but asking the player to build excavators, energy sources, tower defenses, and armories while preparing for an impending attack becomes overwhelming. Eventually, it's up to the player to fill in the blanks on how things are done. For players not used to this genre, expect to lose some buildings as you scurry alongside the map while your mecha yells in your ear.
The Riftbreaker Has A Steep Learning Curve For The Uninitiated
When you're not gaining resources, crafting buildings, defenses, and praying enemies don't destroy your hard work, you're doing the dirty work. The "dirty work" is easily the game's crowning moment as you mow down hordes of alien mutants with weaponry. Your mech is equipped with a blade for close quarter combat, a beam, flamethrower, Gatling gun, and other tools of destruction.
To replenish ammo, you need to build an armory to do so. To power the armory, you need energy sources. To build energy sources, you need resources. To gather resources, you need to build excavators. To build excavators, you need resources. The cycle continues, forcing the player to play a part of the game that they may not enjoy in order to resume mowing down wildlife.
While The Riftbreaker May Be Your Cup Of Tea, It Wasn't For Me
This is where I'm at an impasse because reception for the game has been positive from reading Steam reviews. The majority of the players loved the "ease of access" for crafting buildings. Maybe this was a sign that I was an idiot because I felt it was more fun blowing monsters up. I struggled with what others deemed simple, but it's not all negative. The Riftbreaker is a beautifully stunning game, with environments ranging from the tropics to amber volcanos.
When it rains, weather particles reflect the environment, and day and night cycles are distinguishable from each other. The graphics are amazing for a studio as small as Exor Studios and the combat gameplay is addicting. Unfortunately, to fully enjoy The Riftbreaker, it must be the total package and not just as a mech fighter. With time, the determined player can learn the nuances of The Riftbreaker and discover the game as wonderful as it is. For a "first impression," in my opinion, it leaves a lot to be desired.
The Riftbreaker is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X.