Hands On With The Lost Planet 3 Demo
After a brief cutscene in which we see one of Jim’s messages to his wife, followed by a breezy introduction to key NPCs (including a techie who clearly occupies the Q role in this game), Jim learns that one of his fellow miners, a bitter Frenchman who plays up gallic haughtiness to surprisingly good effect, has recently suffered an attack from one of the bigger Akrid, and is refusing to go back out into the wastelands. Jim takes his commission for the promise of double pay, and the main playable mission began.
The purpose of the mining mission was to locate a huge reserve of Thermal Energy and claim it for the mining company. As such, we wandered around the snowy wastes, eventually coming to a large cave that, once claimed, melted all ice to reveal it was actually the interior of a crashed space ship. Jim gets out of his mech suit at this point to explore it. The ship itself is tantalizing evidence that despite claims to the contrary by the mining company, human beings actually have visited the planet prior to the mining company’s establishment there. While the demo never provides a resolution to Jim’s WTF about that, all signs point to this being the game’s central mystery.
Gameplay has been mixed up for the third entry. The mech suits from previous games return, but this time we see their origin: They were actually giant mining mech designed to shield the miner from the environment. Presumably, they will be weaponized at some point in Lost Planet 3 but during the build I played, they contained a claw on the left arm, and a drill on the right. In order to convey the sense of scale – these mech are something like 20 feet tall – the game switches to first person perspective whenever you’re inside one of them. It actually works very well, and gives a sense of being remote from the larger environment in the same way being inside a submarine feels.
Like Lost Planet 1, Players are able to leave the suit, generally whenever they want (though it’s ‘locked for your safety’ at certain key moments), in order to explore the world on foot. These segments are largely linear, but an excellent chance to get a sense of how brutal the planet is. A constant blizzard, random attacks by Akrid, and so on make for an interesting visual spectacle. While out of your suit, you can look for Thermal Energy, the resource returning from Lost Planet 1. This time, the game promises a less punishing resource system. While the specifics weren’t revealed, it was hinted during the demo that instead of having to constantly manage Thermal Energy to use certain weapons and equipment, they’ll be used to upgrade and purchase new items instead.
Speaking of attacks by Akrid, combat, frankly, is a bore. When you’re in the mech suit you’re well protected and can simply grab Akrid and drill them to death. However, the majority of battles in the demo were on foot, and every one that I experienced had the same basic pattern: dodge when attacked; hit the attacker’s weak spot; repeat 2 more times until the enemy is sufficiently weakened to activate a brutal, Akrid-killing cut scene. This pattern was literally followed for every significant battle (smaller Akrid can typically be dispatched with a single blast from Jim’s trusty shotgun). Even the gigantic, armored Akrid Jim will eventually face on foot follow a similar patter. And should you die and start from the same checkpoint, the enemy will attack you in exactly the same way as before, meaning that victory is ultimately not about skill, but about memorizing patterns and getting your timing right. This became sufficiently tedious as to make me lose interest in anything combat related.
Some additional notes:
* During loading screens, in order to stave off boredom the screen instead displays a randomized depiction of life for Jim in the icy hellhole. One showed him undergoing a psych evaluation. Another was a message from his wife. Yet another a brief explanation of how the mining/claiming system works. It’s a small thing, but expanded the world enough to make the long loading screens somewhat bearable.
* The color palate, while better than anything we’ve seen in the series, is still very close to monochromatic. Icy blue permeates everything, and earth colors, including people, tend to have a muddy, washed out look to them. This is probably simply because of how early it still is in Lost Planet 3′s development.
What we saw was admittedly brief, but as it currently exists, Lost Planet 3 comes off like a cross between Dead Space, and Red Faction: Armageddon. This suggests players shouldn’t expect anything particularly original, because at least for now, there isn’t. More troublesome, combat is boring, bordering on excruciating, and the monsters appear simply to be neverending repetitions of the gross slobber beasts we’ve seen in a million other recent sci fi settings.
However, it does look as though the mistakes of Lost Planet 2 have been jettisoned completely. The game looks to emphasize story over combat, and seems to have created a character you can actually sympathize with. I won’t lie: I hated Lost Planet 2 so much it soured me forever on the series. But Lost Planet 3, despite some annoying problems, looks to have the potential to be fun, if a little generic. I’m actually looking forward to seeing more of it as development progresses.