Have You Played… Shattered Planet?

Shattered Planet [official site] is an attractive isometric sci-fi roguelike that captured my heart for a while after release. I mostly played on a tablet, whopping aliens during long flights and train journeys, but the PC version is not without charm.

At the beginning of each short run, you create a new character, but you can use resources gathered during your last attempt to buy equipment and items. The whole game leans heavily on randomisation, not just in its map layouts, but in the objects you receive – purchases are from slot machines rather than merchants, and you never know quite what you’re going to get.

Once in the field, you need to do what roguelike heroes do: move forward and downward, and loot or kill everything you find. Except, not quite. It’s possible to sidestep lots of possible combat encounters, either by using equipment that disguises or ingratiates, or simply by keeping your distance. Shattered Planet, then, becomes a game about picking your fights. Mostly, it’s about unlocking things though.

You’ll find mini text encounters, pets, enemy creatures, weapons, hats and more. I haven’t discovered everything yet – you can track what you’ve unlocked easily in the central hub – and that’s because the game always eventually seems like an exercise in clicking without thinking. Handsome it may be, but eventually it’s a random soup of pleasant bits and pieces, with very little tactical control. Your survival is determined by the equipment you receive, the layout of the maps (which, though visually appearing quite open, are essentially rooms connected by corridors in the traditional style) and the enemies thrown at you. Some smart ideas, such as a growing shadow-muck that spreads through each map, corrupting creatures and making them stronger and fiercer, keep my interest, but the overall flow of the game is almost passive.

I’ve spent hours with it though and if there were to be a follow-up with a little more freedom to build characters of my own choosing, I’d be very happy to take it for a spin.

7 Comments

  1. Eight Rooks says:

    I have! And I pretty much agree with this appraisal of it. Pleasant, nice production values, laudably light-hearted, a great time-waster, but kind of… lacking in anything to give it any real staying power, be that aesthetic, mechanical or whatever. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes roguelikes and isn’t too puritanical about the genre, but I’d tell them not to expect their mind blown.

  2. Zaxwerks says:

    It was a nice time-waster on the iPad for a few hours but then it just got repetitive and I thought “what’s the point”, and never played it again.

    • elden says:

      What’s the point of any game, really? A game that doesn’t hold one’s interest does not necessarily lack a “point” (i.e. goals).

      • poliovaccine says:

        Actually, I’d contend that holding your interest is exactly the point of, and arc of evolution to, games in general. The fundamental problem of human existence is how to spend your time. “Fun” is one of the more universally acceptable answers I’ve found for that issue.

  3. Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

    I actually own both the Android and Steam versions of this (Humble Android Bundle, I think). It was pleasant enough on the phone, but its clunkiness (of the phone, I mean) led me to try out the PC version and…Eight Rooks is right, “no staying power”. I probably would have played more of the mobile version, had I had a better hardware.

  4. quotidian says:

    The thing that turned me off about this game is that it seemed pretty much impossible to get very far without spending a bunch of time on the treadmill unlocking various items and upgrades.

  5. Unsheep says:

    Disagree, like most roguelikes it’s only fun for a few hours. As with Sunless Sea it quickly becomes extremely tedious.

    Finding roguelikes that are fun to play in the long-term,and thus be worthy of your money, is very challenging.