Journey to the Savage Planet, made by Typhoon Studios, is an adventure game that takes you to an unexplored world filled with bizarre creatures. It also presents several puzzles to solve and secrets to find. But, is it worth your while? Let’s find out in our official review.
Note: Although the review build does have access to co-op mode, I was unable to test it since it still required populated servers. There was one major issue that I experienced during the review process, and that’s when my save got wiped after the game had updated. We’ve tried to clarify this matter with the developers.
Journey to the Savage Planet: The story so far
In Journey to the Savage Planet, you are but a lowly scientist-slash-explorer in the employ of Kindred Aerospace (the “4th best interstellar exploration company,” as proudly announced). Stranded on the planet A-RY 26, it’s up to you to catalog different alien species, find fuel to return home, and uncover the ancient mystery that surrounds the world. Very little about the core narrative is explained to you at the onset, and you’ll mostly need to find clues on your own via scattered artifacts.
Throughout your, uh, journey on this savage planet, you’ll also receive additional emails and videos, mostly fluff, from Kindred Aerospace boss Martin Tweed. Your talkative AI companion, EKO, provides jokes and quips as well. EKO’s bubbly and giddy personality will remind you of characters such as Borderlands’ Claptrap or Destiny 2’s Failsafe.
In terms of voice work and additional dialogue, Journey to the Savage Planet relies more on humor and quirks as opposed to exposition. Some might even make you chuckle such as the hilarious video ads for the microtransactions-filled “MOBA MOBA Mobile” or strange household products.
New Man’s Sky
Though EKO will likely remind you of other characters in various games, and Journey to the Savage Planet‘s art design might also be reminiscent of titles such as Borderlands, its exploration and information gathering mechanics are more akin to No Man’s Sky. After all, the premise isn’t so different: you’re stranded on an uncharted planet, you’ve got a visor that can scan alien flora and fauna, and you can gather different types of minerals.
The main difference, however, is that there’s no survival aspect to it. For instance, you don’t need to manage your oxygen levels or carrying capacity. You mostly eat orange fruits because they either heal you, or they increase your health and stamina.
Upgrading your character is also fairly straightforward. Many of the gadgets you obtain such as jetpacks, stomping boots, or gloves that can hold different types of elemental bombs are obtained as you progress through the game’s short campaign.
You reach one of the altars or fonts of power, you extract a strange, liquid substance, you fast travel back to your Javelin ship, then you craft a gadget via your ship’s 3D printer. Repeat the same steps until you’re done with the story.
Additional upgrades for your Nomad Pistol — your sole firearm in the game — can be purchased using the minerals you’ve gathered. But, you’ll hardly ever go for higher-tier stuff. The reason for this is because many are locked behind your Explorer Rank.
Remember that part about cataloging species? That’s one of the requirements to increase your Explorer Rank along with bounty-type tasks such as “kill five mobs via the detonation of one other mob.” If you’re not the type likes to get sidetracked, then you won’t be increasing your rank soon. That can also lead to a slight disconnect between progression and your main objective. As you can see below, I had already finished the main story but I was still at Explorer Rank 1:
Secrets of the Savage Planet
In Journey to the Savage Planet, a playthrough would only take around six hours, give or take. It’s possible to breeze through the campaign without issues. Likewise, you can extend it by looking for secrets in every nook and cranny.
Yes, Journey to the Savage Planet does have several secrets hidden in its four main locales or biomes. Unfortunately, many of them are not integral to progression. Some might just give you an extra “level-up fruit” or a collectible.
Similarly, it’s easy to bypass them since there are times when you won’t have the tools necessary and you’ll have to come back later. The downside is that the game has no world map or minimap. If you wanted the convenience of marking down a secret or a side task, well, too bad.
It’s quite odd since you’re also told by EKO that there are little robot workers called “Cartographers” to help you craft upgrades via the 3D printer. I wondered why they couldn’t craft a map instead.
Once you’re done with Journey to the Savage Planet‘s story, there’s very little content that’d make you want to come back for more. My mindset simply went from, “I’ll come back for this later” to, “Where was that area again? Nevermind, I’m almost done anyway.”
Shoot those Angry Birds
Journey to the Savage Planet does have a bit of action. You can slap and kick the various types of “Flufferbirds” around, or you can shoot them with your Nomad Pistol. Since it’s the only firearm, it becomes tiresome to use after a while. Going “pew pew” with the same pea shooter to “hit a mob’s glowing spot” gets old rather quickly. As for the elemental grenades you find? They’re only useful for a select few puzzles or enemy types (like sub-variants of Flufferbirds).
Likewise, the game’s 30 or so alien species, most of which are palette swaps of the ones you’ve already encountered — ie. a handful of Flufferbird variants, a couple of Jellywaft types — tend to lack variety.
The same can be said for the actual boss fights. There are three bosses that you’ll encounter while completing the main objective in Journey to the Savage Planet. Their mechanics are fairly rudimentary and almost too easy to a fault. You can see one such example below from the Cragclaw boss encounter.
In fact, the toughest challenge I faced was against the Floopsnoot Matriarch (the second boss) and that was because of the platforming mechanics. There were times when button prompts for grappling didn’t appear, and moments when my character wasn’t able to mantle on surfaces.
One more thing of note is that Journey to the Savage Planet has a Photo Mode feature. Regrettably, there are a couple of missed opportunities:
- It doesn’t automatically pause the game.
- You don’t have any additional actions such as emotes or dynamic poses.
Although there may be those who’d play Journey to the Savage Planet‘s co-op mode, I do believe many will try to experience the game solo at first. You might want to use Photo Mode to recreate dynamic and action-packed moments such as this one from a promotional image:
Unfortunately, you’ll end up having this kind of image instead:
Your character will stick to a default stance. You’re always locked in place, arms out like a cowboy holding a gun, just standing idly while the rest of the world continues moving around you; enemies can even attack you while you’re fiddling around. There are no cosmetic customization options either. Your unnamed space wanderer and the generic environmental suit will look the same from beginning to end.
There was also a bug that I experienced, one where my character ended up as if on the receiving end of a backbreaker. That persisted wherever I went each time I opened Photo Mode until I restarted the game. I may have considered contacting Father Damien Karras, too.
But what a majestic planet it is
Going back to platforming mechanics, I’ve griped a bit about these in one boss fight. Still, it has to be said that Journey to the Savage Planet provides one of the most brilliant platforming experiences in any game I’ve played recently.
Yes, even with all the criticisms outlined above, the main draw of Journey to the Savage Planet is its vast levels with multiple interwoven areas that can be reached and explored. The rule of thumb is: If you see it on the horizon, there’s a good chance that you can get there.
The first biome (seen in the featured image) shows you a massive, ominous tower in the distance. You’ll probably think that it’s part of another level. Not quite. You’ll eventually reach it as you climb, jump, and make your way around jagged cliffsides, snow-capped mountains, and lava-filled caverns.
Let’s say you look across the vast expanse with nothing but the sky and numerous floating islands. Well, guess what? You can find your way to all those floating islands in due course by “skating” on peculiar vines.
At times, there are background elements such as barnacles that let you toss a Grapple Seed; this creates a node that you’ll hold onto. Otherwise, you could just throw a blob and use it as a trampoline.
In certain areas, you’ll also spot ferocious-looking “Meat Vortex” plants blocking your path. Slap a Flufferbird to send it flying and the path is opened after it gets chewed to pieces. Creative puzzle solutions and activities such as these are more unique and engaging than the rudimentary back and forth just to get upgrades, bounty-type tasks, or lackluster combat.
Journey to the Savage Planet‘s level design is oftentimes just downright fantastic and beautiful. There are many instances that make you stop and marvel at the scenery. As mentioned in our technical review, the requirements are not too demanding and I didn’t experience any major performance issues either (barring the sudden save wipe).
The visuals and landscapes are so vivid and, dare I say it, out of this world, that it manages to thrill, excite, and create wonderment. Simply put, Journey to the Savage Planet provides a sense of scale that truly leaves you in awe.
Journey to the Savage Planet: The final verdict
Journey to the Savage Planet still managed to pique my interest primarily because of its art and level design and its platforming mechanics. Typhoon Studios wanted to capture the essence of adventure games of yore, and they genuinely succeeded.
Gigantic, breathtaking levels and various items to help you navigate lead to enjoyable gameplay, punctuated by humorous quips and fluff materials. It’s a dash of Super Mario, a bit of Castlevania and Metroid, with elements of No Man’s Sky and the silliness of Borderlands interspersed in between. Journey to the Savage Planet can, indeed, captivate you at first glance.
Of course, the longer you look past these momentary glances, the more you’d notice its flaws and rough edges. From unchallenging combat and a lack of enemy variety to the absence of maps, a dynamic Photo Mode feature, and rewarding secrets, you start feeling disappointed. Then, once you’ve taken a longer look and wish for more, it ends abruptly. You’re left thinking if there’s a compelling reason to come back. We can only hope that future content or free updates would alleviate these shortcomings.
Journey to the Savage Planet launches tomorrow, January 28, 2020, via the Epic Games Store. You can purchase the game for $29.99.