by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
The Lost (Planet) Legacy
It might not have been anything groundbreaking, but I really enjoyed Capcom’s Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. The game had its flaws, but it also showed a lot of promise. Players were given the harsh environment of the freezing, lightly colonized alien planet of E.D.N. III, and forced to battle monstrous creatures known as the Akrid. The aliens were varied and challenging, offering truly epic battles, and the need to constantly keep collecting thermal energy kept the pace brisk and danger always palpable. The game spawned a sequel, Lost Planet 2, which felt to me like a step in the wrong direction. The gameplay remained largely the same, but the game threw out any identity it had previously built. The game focused on co-op instead of a normal single player campaign, thawed off big chunks of the planet to reveal jungles, and bounced the player around among numerous soldiers instead of focusing on one. On top of all that, the game had the personality of a burnt out candle. Despite the series’ missteps, however, I am pretty darned excited for Lost Planet 3. The franchise has been handed from Capcom’s in-house development team to the Western studio Spark Unlimited, and it looks like they are expanding the series, bringing in the sense of wonder from the first foray, while changing most of what made Lost Planet’s sophomore effort largely forgettable.
Although there will be more than enough alien bug squishing to satisfy even the most violent of gamers, the focus in Lost Planet 3, seems to center around a new protagonist named John. This entry in the series takes place before the events of previous titles, when humanity is in its earliest stages of exploring E.D.N. III. John is no space marine, or a space pirate, or a mercenary, or anyone else that should have any business blasting away baddies. Instead, John is merely a laborer that operates a non-combat mech until he can afford to get home to his wife and child. The whole situation aims to give the game something both its predecessors lacked: some genuine atmosphere. There is always an air of, for lack of a better word, mystery. E. D. N. III is still a planet-sized puzzle to humanity, and uncovering it is equal parts frightening and empowering. Even though the Lost Planet games are best known for their huge scale, this toning down from Space Pirate civil wars to one man’s quest to survive makes the game much more personal.
Getting Down and Dirty
Because players are controlling mere mortal with a simple mechanized robot instead of an immortal space marine with an interplanetary death machine, the game has some survival-horror bits mixed in with the action. While he prefers roaming the frozen tundra of E.D.N. III with his mechanical helper, many locations require him to traverse on foot. While blasting things in their red-hot weak points is still plan A, it’s not too infrequent to have to resort to running for your life when too many Akrid pop out from the darkness. In fact, these moments often bring the recent Dead Space 3 to mind in a mostly positive way.
Of course Lost Planet 3 is not a survival horror game, and for every time players need to be cautious and run there is another time when they will be able to pin down the foot of a building-sized Akrid with one hand and drill into its belly with the other. These changes in pace, shifting from hunter to hunted and back again in mere moments, should go a long way to keep the pace of the game unpredictable.
Ugh, Winter is Coming
There are, however, a few concerns that I have with the game. First is how the cold is handled. Previously, thermal energy was always something that had to be on players’ minds. Players had to either kill or find stashes of it often enough to avoid an icy death while outside. While some may have found the system annoying and unnecessary, I thought it was an interesting element that added to the sense of tension of the game. Lost Planet 3 still aims to put focus on the brutal cold of E. D. N. III, but it has changed from an active experience to a passive one. Players will no longer have to seek out thermal heat. Instead, certain moments such as John’s robot freezing up will be scripted. I am sure it will lead to some cool nerve-wracking moments.
Secondly, in much of the footage shown so far, the battles with the Akrid seem to be much faster. This could very well be seen as a positive addition by some. I rather fancied the longer, drawn out and tactical encounters that were commonplace in the past. Hopefully there are still plenty of monsters that require more than just a quick trigger finger to take out, but I have not seen enough of them yet. I would hate to see the tone of the game’s general combat, one of the things I think the franchise has always done well, in favor of trying to make it more like most other third person shooters.
For the most part, Lost Planet 3 looks to be the game that Lost Planet 2 should have been. E. D. N. III is back in all of its icy glory, the Akrid are as monstrous as ever, and players are being given control of a protagonist with a complex personality and motivations. Hopefully the game is able to keep up the atmosphere that it has shown so far for the duration of the game, and deliver a story that rises above clichés and sci-fi camp.