The Lighthouse Customer: Planet Explorers

By Christopher Livingston on March 24th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Could you dinosaurs move? I'm TRYING to EXPLORE.

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, exploring a planet in the appropriately named Planet Explorers.

The title of the game is direct, to be sure. In Planet Explorers, a planet exploration game by Pathea Games, there is a planet, and you explore it. If that doesn’t sound like enough, there’s also resource gathering, crafting, building, and tons of alien creatures to discover, by which I mean “slaughter and turn into money.” Get ready, innocent alien planet! Humans have arrived, and we’ve brought hunting, real estate development, and capitalism.

There’s a little movie explaining the game’s central predicament, but here’s the abridged version: some colonial spaceships have crashed on an alien planet, so get out there and start exploring! Well, start exploring in a bit. First, there’s my shipmate, Gerdy Hooke, to attend to. She’s injured, see, and needs me to do her a bunch of favors, like chop some wood, fetch some water, and make a campfire, all in service of introducing me to the game’s crafting system.

Drinking alien seawater is good for injured people, right?

Using a tool to chop down a tree and using the tree to make a tool to chop down trees better is a perfectly recognizable activity in today’s crafting games, but there’s something a little odd about it in this particular case. Here I am, an astronaut from an advanced civilization that has mastered space travel, and yet I’m whacking trees with the most primitive of whacking instruments. Does our colonization ship not have a compartment full of wrist-mounted laser cutters? Do I not have a cybernetic implant that allows me to summon a swarm of hovering robotic lumberjack drones? Just because Bones from Star Trek got marooned on a distant planet doesn’t mean he immediately resorted to leeches and trepanning, right?

In the shadow of my interstellar spaceship I hack at a tree with a sharpened bit of another tree.

At any rate, I’ve soon crafted a primitive sword and shield and I can begin my true mission: exterminating every single alien lifeform with medieval violence, like a real explorer. And there are so many to kill! Lobster-like creatures scuttle from the ocean. Bipedal lifeforms stroll casually across the plains. Gentle herbivores waddle through the alien grass. And I run from one to the next, wantonly slaughtering them for their inside-parts.

Is this cowering creature intelligent? Let's have a look at its brain!

The reason I need to kill and harvest so urgently is that my injured shipmate, Gerdy, has a number of things I need, like crafting recipes, food, tools, and space-bandages. Another thing Gerdy has is the sheer fucking temerity to charge me for those supplies like she’s running an interstellar Rite Aid [Boots. –British Ed]. The currency of this planet has already been decided upon, and that currency is hunks of alien meat, which seems presumptuous considering we haven’t been here long enough to even try a mouthful. To afford Gerdy’s goods I need the freshly-hewn flesh of alien beings, and so the callous slaughter begins and continues until I begin stumbling across a few aliens who are considerably better at killing me than I am at killing them.

Give me all your meat and you won't get hurt! OW THAT HURTS!

Given my deserved comeuppance by an angry alien birdbear, I take a break from attacking everything and expend a little spaceboot-leather locating the survivors of other downed colony ships. They’re doing a lot better than I am: instead of just a simple campfire, they’ve set up an actual camp which becomes our home base. Once again, despite the catastrophic crash and reversion to wooden tools, my civilization’s rampant capitalism has survived, and I’m able to spend my grisly meat collection on improved armor and a new sword from another colonist’s shop. Naturally, everyone has errands they need me to run, but I’m feeling restless and want to do some unfettered planet exploring, as promised in the game’s title. So, off I run to let these greedy merchants pace around, wallowing in their uncompleted tasks.

I am here to kick ass and explore planets and I have not run out of planet yet, clearly.

The alien planet stretches out before me, quite a massive bit of map to traverse on foot. There are interesting rock formations, alien plants to pick and pluck, and an eye-popping selection of lovely space-dinosaurs ambling along. I run among them, gawping at the larger ones and attacking the tiny ones that look defeatable. The sun is shining, the grass is waving, the wind is OH GOD A GIANT ALIEN DINO-BIRDMONSTER LANDS ON ME AND MONSTERS ME TO DEATH

I'll revive in 3 seconds. Restarting my heart might take a few more.

I barely had time to get a picture of it (too busy dying and being terrified) but you can see my tiny, incapacitated body below the word “Revive” and above it, only the lower half of a simply enormous winged, beaked, clawed flying screeching dino-nightmare. This development is both troubling — my exploration will clearly be quite fettered after all — and awesome, because holy shit! Giant flying dinosaurs! I am so down with that.

I respawn back at camp and immediately run off again. I’ll be more cautious now, but I’m also excited to see what other alien beasts prowl the planet, scour the skies, and do something that begins with ‘O’ in the oceans. Occupy? Occupy the oceans.

I call the big one Bitey. I call them all Bitey, in fact.

There are plenty of interesting creatures to find and to be found by. Some tall, slender, and peaceful unless attacked. Some fast, vicious, and attacky, even when not attacked. At least one, a giant crab-spider, only comes out at night. Some are even actively friendly: the little biped, like the one I callously slaughtered in an earlier screenshot, actually rushes over to help me defeat another fuzzy birdbear. Others are unending in their desire to kill me to death, such as the one that appears to be part musk ox, part flamethrower. It spits fireballs and pursues me relentlessly for miles until it accidentally hits and angers a lumbering green rhino-dinosaur the size of a Panzer tank. I use the distraction to flee out of range.

This is a nice one. And boy am I glad of it.

I also come across other survivors. A guy named Chen Zhen says he’s a weapons specialist, and attempts to tell me more but I interrupt him because SELL ME WEAPONS IMMEDIATELY. I’M GETTING MY ASS KICKED OUT HERE, ZHEN. I’m excited to find he has guns and ammo for sale, and I buy some, and then try to kill him so I can take everything else he has. Tragically, I cannot kill the human gun store that is Chen Zhen, so my bloodlust will have to remain confined to aliens.

HAND IT OVER, ZHEN, AND NO ONE GETS HURT. EXCEPT YOU PROBABLY.

After a day spent running around the grasslands, I’m keen to check out some other biomes, though typically when I travel a great distance from camp I run into more powerful and hostile aliens that I have not done nearly enough crafting or buying to defeat. Nicely, though, the game also has an adventure mode, which lets you select the type of planet and climate you want to visit, and starts you out in an established colony where you can quickly buy goods, enlist AI squadmates, and get to essplorin’. There’s multiplayer available if you’d prefer to get your ‘splores on with friends or strangers.

New biomes, new aliens, new meat-money. Cha-ching!

The game also has a building mode, which I only briefly toyed with, which you should thank me for because I have no talent for construction. If you saw pictures of my Minecraft crap-shack your eyes would burrow backward through your skull in revulsion. You can drag the blocks you’ve mined and place them right into the world in 3-D space, which is pretty nifty.

So maybe it doesn't drive. But it LOOKS boss.

Finally, there’s a mode that lets you create custom items like weapons and vehicles which you’ll then be able to craft in-game, though when I tried to build a car out of a giant gold brick, four tires, and a massive laser cannon, it didn’t recognize it as a working vehicle. Gee, I can’t imagine why.

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29 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Stellar Duck says:

    “Lobster-like creatures scuttle from the ocean.”

    Dad-a-chum? Dum-a-chum? Ded-a-chek?

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      Good books.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        Generally, yea, I think so. Though I can’t help but think that the meta stuff and King inserting himself in the story got a bit up its own ass towards the end. Despite that, I enjoyed it though.

        • Lemming says:

          I didn’t mind the meta stuff. I did mind the Harry Potter stuff and the fact King can’t do a good ending for toffee. The last book is a cavalcade of disappointments.

          Concerning Dark Tower lobster creature possible homages (and lets’ face it, it’s tenuous given that lobster monsters from the sea are as old an idea as time itself), I think Fallout 3’s Mirelurks were my favourite.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          This.
          The first four books were my favorite things. I waited so long with so much enthusiasm for King to finish the series that there wasn’t much the last three could do besides disappoint.

  2. GDwarf says:

    Sounds very much like Monster Hunter and its ilk: Some exploring, mostly so you can find monsters to kill that are turned into goods to be used to craft/buy better gear so you can kill bigger monsters.

    • pepperfez says:

      It would be nice if this one stuck as close to its name as Monster Hunter does.

    • Niko says:

      I doubt Planet Explorers have combat mechanics that come even close to Monster Hunter’s, though.

  3. Geebs says:

    It looks like “Philip Schofield: Extinction”. On that basis I may have to give it a try.

    • Lemming says:

      Perhaps it’ll explore the mystery of why only his hair colour seems to age. I still remember him from the the Broom Cupboard days with Gordon the Gopher.

  4. Cvnk says:

    I gave the demo a good run last weekend. It wasn’t too bad but I think it would be awesome as an MMO (mostly because of the time I spent in Wurm). It would be nice to work with a large group of people to build something.

    I rather enjoyed the mining/digging mechanics, especially once I figured out how to control exactly which volume I was mining/digging. Once I started figuring out how to excavate in a controlled manner rather than just randomly eating away chunks it turned into a pretty satisfying experience. I’m really curious how they are managing all that data though. You can dig and mine pretty much anywhere and can go down quite deep. The “cubes” seem fairly small (smaller than Minecraft’s) and each one goes through several states as you’re mining it before it disappears and the world is quite large so I imagine there’s a ton of data to manage.

    I wasn’t a big fan of the “design your own car” aspect but maybe that was just because I wanted to move on with the missions and didn’t feel like figuring out the process through trial and error (plus it gets stuck on terrain and your NPC followers).

    • Premium User Badge

      Bastimoo says:

      In the current liveversion the crafting is rather easy, put a plate, connect it with 4 wheels, assign 2 as steering, put cockpit, engine and fuel cell on it, off you go!
      NPCs follow your car around really quick and I did not get stuck (yet, fingers crossed).

  5. Jac says:

    Are the planets actually spherical? Would be cool if you could dig straight through a planet and end up on the surface the other side of the world. Although molten cores might put a dampner on that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bastimoo says:

      At the moment they are not, at some point of time you can’t dig deeper. Don’t know if they plan to change that

  6. John Connor says:

    Is this game multiplayer?

    • mechabuddha says:

      “There’s multiplayer available if you’d prefer to get your ‘splores on with friends or strangers.”

      ~Christopher Livingston

    • Belsameth says:

      Yes. Its fairly broken and pointless at this point tho. Can’t save worlds (or not easily, as I haven’t found it yet), there is basically no goal or purpose or, really, anything, and thanks to a global shop you don’t even have to hunt for “money”. Just chop trees, sell the wood and use that to buy whatever you need.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bastimoo says:

        While there is no real point in multiplayer at the moment (Hey minecraft! Seemed to work for millions of people) the world is autosaved inbetween and is saved once the host enters the multiplayerlobby and clicks ‘delete’ on his own server, just like shutting it down. If you want to load the map you create a server with the same name.
        Not really a hard thing to do and mentioned in the forums a couple times. Do your research next time :)
        The shop is necessary at the moment, since some resources seem bugged, which is not nice indeed, but it’s an Alpha afterall.

        • Belsameth says:

          Yes, I did that. Was rather fun. The “house” I build was saved but since the terrain was genned again it was now a couple of meters under the ground.

          I get that it is alpha, hence the “at this point”. And yes, I am well aware of Minecraft but I am saying PE hasn’t reached that point yet. I’ve faith it will tho!

  7. plaYer2k says:

    Started working on the street, earing about $1 per “Client”. Can easily earn $20 per day and $500 per month. I can structure my own day and got a free cardboardhouse, that is pure luxury. Also feels very rewarding, You only need a reliable smile or stench and money is flowing.
    *obligatory URL*

    • Likethiss says:

      Har har.

      Edit: Reply system is weird, was supposed to be directed at that extremely funny bot mimic plaYer2k…

  8. Sc0r says:

    Spent most of this month playing it.
    I created cool stuff http://i.imgur.com/6ZcaQ63.jpg
    reported a million bugs and AI issues http://puu.sh/7xH9p.jpg
    and generally had a lot of fun doing story mode.
    I hope the multiplayer lives up to it at some point!

    • gschmidl says:

      The Blair Witch Project in that second image?

    • Belsameth says:

      Thats quite the epic helicopter. Care to post the ISO?

      Thats one of the things I love btw. The item/vehicle edittor is really powerfull and people can very easily share their creations with the creatively handicapped like me.

  9. HugsForEveryone says:

    I’m sure the game is fun and will be even more fun for a lot of people once it’s completed. But for once, I want to explore new and fantastical worlds without being driven to kill all animal life for their innards.

    • arisian says:

      You don’t really need to kill all the animals for food/money; while the balance is obviously still a work-in-progress, running around killing everything is absolutely not required to succeed. There are a few quests that require you to kill some (extremely hostile) enemies, and you’ll find yourself getting attacked by predators often (though it’s sometimes possible to outrun them, or just let them kill you and re-spawn back at camp). But I generally avoid attacking anything that doesn’t attack me first, and personally find the game more fun that way (chasing down everything that moves is way too time consuming and grindy).

  10. Listlurker says:

    With all the rampant creature-slaying; primitive tools; baseline crafting; and barter, the early game sounds more like a medieval-era game in SF clothing. Perhaps they should’ve done this as a fantasy game instead?

    I appreciate the article, but I don’t think this game is for me. “Explore strange new worlds, and slaughter everything you see”. I’ll leave that to the Warhammer 40K afficianados. :)

  11. Bart Stewart says:

    Not only was this informative, it was quite funny. Best laugh I’ve had in days.

    If the capitalism-kicking (apparently a work requirement for writing for RPS) isn’t too frequent a thing, I look forward to more by this writer.

  12. SilverDragon says:

    Aye planet explorers is a great game though it still has many new areas/quests to add along with a new continent to the north were supost to travel to eventually and the usual alpha feature polishing/bug fixing, it is a solid game well worth what ive paid for it.
    I am also not that great at building cool things with the editer however there are many that are and you can easily find/download and play around with the cool things they have made by picking them up here http://isoplanetexplorer.com/iso_list.php
    Currently we can make swords, shields and bolth air and ground vehicles with plans to eventually have seacraft and armor crafting as well as larger structure construction.
    I really can’t wait for more development in this game as it has quite a bit of potential in bolth its single player and multiplayer aspects.