In an period when Hades can win IGN’s Game of The Year award for reinventing the roguelike wheel, and extra simple video games like Dead Cells stay enjoyable after numerous runs, PixelJunk Raiders is a significant disappointment. Regardless of a definite visible fashion harking back to trippy synthwave albums or Moebius work, PixelJunk Raiders (maybe the final Google Stadia exclusive) fails to differentiate itself from the competitors in any significant means. It does put forth some creative concepts, however on the similar time stumbles over the fundamentals an excessive amount of for them to matter.
As a fresh-faced bounty hunter, it’s your job to rescue a bunch of desert-dwelling aliens from squid-faced baddies. However beaming down there within the flesh could be silly, so that you’ve acquired a restricted variety of digital avatars to finish your mission. It’s a skinny setup, however actually a well-known one. Sadly, it doesn’t actually go wherever, and also you’ll typically hear the identical traces out of your swarthy mentor congratulating you on nabbing some treasure.
PixelJunk Raiders Gameplay Screenshots
At first look, PixelJunk Raiders (which bears no significant connection to the long-running PixelJunk franchise aside from that it’s from the identical growth group) makes an excellent first impression. The randomly generated alien worlds you beam all the way down to are awash in a mixture of brightly coloured, clearly outlined landscapes that virtually pop off the display screen when bathed in moon or daylight. Huge deserts give option to lush forests and unusual alien structure, and I used to be intrigued after I first found an underground bunker buried among the many sand. A stable synth soundtrack helps maintain issues feeling “alien.” Big stone pillars draw your consideration skyward, the place the faint outlines of different planets and moons remind you of simply how small you’re. Although every map is fairly large, big area cubes and plumes of smoke above every main location assist to maintain you from getting too misplaced.
When you get a bit nearer to the motion, issues crumble. Every city you come throughout appears virtually an identical, save for the format of the buildings. Raiders desires to provide the impression these form aliens had a considerably bustling group, however the drab exteriors and cookie-cutter market stalls, pottery, and interiors do something however. It doesn’t assist that the rooftops of most cities – the place a whole lot of powerups and different essential objects find yourself – are simply barely out of attain of your triple-jump, requiring you to both discover a small ladder on the facet of a wall or use the wildly inaccurate tremendous soar whereas ducking and weaving round enemies.
Discovering sufficient survivors to rescue could be a chore unto itself. Although Raiders makes it clear what number of survivors are in every location and highlights survivors you’ve already seen whereas being busy combating aliens, I typically discovered myself having to circle settlements a number of instances and dig by means of numerous an identical buildings to seek out the final one I used to be lacking. And in case you had been anticipating the act of rescuing these kindly people to be fascinating, witnessing the identical animation of grateful aid every time makes it really feel such as you’re rescuing a bunch of Chuck E Cheese animatronic characters. That’s in case you may even rescue them within the first place, since having even one enemy close by will block you from finishing the interplay, and also you’ll be pressured to go looking for that little jerk in the identical laborious means.
The identical sense of repetition applies to all of PixelJunk Raiders’ different areas, together with forests and alien cities that climb 100 yards into the sky. From afar, they’re initially tantalizing, however when you get deeper in and understand how repetitious the surroundings is (and the way enemies may get caught between timber or inside a drive subject, making them more durable to seek out and kill), it rapidly loses its luster. The identical goes for underground bunkers that comply with a painfully comparable format and supply comparatively meager rewards.
The one shiny spot of exploration was when a plume of smoke often led to not one other flat, uninteresting city however what gave the impression to be the lethal aftermath of a battle between a couple of different bounty hunters like myself and three big humanoid enemies. Whereas the prospect of a mysterious encounter fueled my creativeness, and stumbling upon it felt like a really one-of-a-kind probability, it finally by no means led to something significant.
Fight misses the mark as properly: your battles with enemy aliens large and small really feel a mile large and an inch deep, and it’s the place most of PixelJunk Raiders’ points rear their ugly heads.
Given its roguelike nature, I used to be keen to forgive Raiders for being remarkably punishing proper out of the gate. Firstly of a mission your bounty hunter is supplied with little greater than their fists, three lives, and a well being bar that will get worn out in about as many hits. In concept, this encourages you to discover the desert wastes and open up historic vases or loot enemy our bodies for swords, daggers, hammers, or shields. In apply, you are extra typically simply accumulating gems that don’t instantly serve any goal. Precise weapons are notably more durable to seek out, and until you choose a selected perk, you find yourself shedding every little thing upon your painfully sudden dying.
The weapons themselves are hardly distinguishable from each other. All swords, regardless of how fancy, end in the identical flurry of strikes, and two-handed hammers appear to stun enemies a bit higher however aren’t rather more helpful. While you add in the truth that they’re so fragile that they lose 1% sturdiness for each strike, it’s even worse. Should you weren’t into weapons breaking in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you’re going to completely hate it right here.
PixelJunk Raiders’ fight will not be precisely a tower protection, and never fairly aggressive Darkish Souls swordplay, however a poor mishmash of the 2 that mixes pretty normal melee combating with setting traps for enemies. You’ll be able to lock onto a goal, though I discovered doing so to be stifling as a result of the way it restricts your motion, and also you’ll commerce swings with them earlier than their apparent wind up finishes and so they slash you. One on one, it’s comparatively mundane stuff, speeding to deplete their well being bar earlier than they will take a sizeable chunk of yours. When contending with teams it’s far tougher, particularly as soon as long-range and larger enemies get added to the combo. It’s a good selection (my favourite being the Wild Wild West saw blades that pop up out of the sand and attempt to mow you down) however as soon as you determine their one or two tips, fight not often manages to shock. A floaty sense of motion (which is just aggravated in case your web connection stutters) stored it from ever feeling like I used to be rising as a fighter.
I discovered setting traps to be a barely more practical, but equally irritating strategy. Mines are efficient at wiping out teams of smaller enemies, or placing a critical dent in bigger ones, however kiting enemies into them is a uninteresting and irritating expertise, made even worse by the truth that it’s laborious to gauge how distant it’s good to be to keep away from getting caught in your personal blast. Additionally, as soon as they’re gone, they’re gone, together with a mistakenly positioned mine you dropped within the warmth of battle.
Imprints – digital clones of varied enemy varieties that combat for you – are equally ineffective. They’re okay at distracting a couple of enemy grunts with bodily or elemental injury, but it surely’s not often sufficient to skinny out the bigger horde that’s always, relentlessly chasing you down.
Different objects allow you to soar excessive into the air or launch a large area-of-effect assault after defeating sufficient enemies. It provides fight a bit little bit of an additional aptitude, letting you ground-pound downwards into an enemy’s cranium or totally banish a large again to its dimension, however solely when it really works as meant… which isn’t typically sufficient.
Prepared Participant None
Weighing down the already mediocre fight is an aggravatingly barebones improve system. In between missions, you’ll be able to improve your bounty hunter with alien DNA that gives passive bonuses like poison injury or a berserker standing that rewards aggressive play with further injury for 10 seconds. Software program patches are interchangeable upgrades that permit for issues like wielding hammers, totally different assault varieties, and elevated well being or stamina. The issue is that each one of those patches really feel essential to the fight loop Raiders throws at you, so lacking a number of appears like I’m taking part in with one arm or leg tied behind my again.
Some seemingly important skills are locked behind these patches, like the flexibility to loot your corpse and retrieve all of your remaining gear and foreign money, or the flexibility to wield one thing like a defend in your left hand. And but, the speed at which they’re doled out is sort of stingy, forcing me to make powerful selections – which might be good besides they’re between issues that really feel like they need to have simply been put in from the get-go. Do I increase my well being so I don’t die in a single hit, however lose all my gear? Or do I make myself a glass cannon and belief the digicam gained’t entice me right into a nook for a swift finish? These aren’t enjoyable inquiries to ask, a minimum of on this roguelike.
Whereas out on a mission you will discover upgrades to your agility or uncooked assault energy, however by no means sufficient to really feel like they’ve made a lot of a distinction in the way you combat.
Maybe probably the most poorly balanced a part of PixelJunk Raiders’ improve system is the truth that you’re completely, positively buried in gems and treasure that may ostensibly be used to create extra highly effective weaponry – good luck discovering the console you want for it, although. Within the greater than 20 hours I performed, I very not often ran throughout a weapons station, however discovered numerous vases within the desert that gave me gems as a substitute of ready-made weapons. Actually, it was like Raiders’ economic system didn’t know what its shops had been doing.
One mark of a very good roguelite development system is encouraging that “yet one more run” feeling, if you’ve burned a pair hours leveling up however assume that this one – this one – would be the one the place you actually pop off. A part of that magic is when the highway from begin to dying is lengthy sufficient to really feel like a significant impediment to be overcome, however quick sufficient to really feel manageable. PixelJunk Raiders scoffs at this notion, with missions typically dragging out for possibly 30 minutes, possibly even an hour in case you die and need to restart. Staring down a mission goal to rescue greater than 20 survivors, I felt queasy realizing I’d simply be at it for a day if I died instantly at any level in fight. In the long run, no quantity of expertise factors, alien treasure, or upgrades felt definitely worth the time I’d need to put right into a mission. Let the evil squids have the planet if they need it so unhealthy.