An RPG roguelike in the weird reaches of space
Clone_001 has made 50 trips down to the uncharted planet and has died 50 different ways. I initially planned to change her name after each death, to honor the fallen. But now I imagine every clone is given that moniker to trick them into thinking they are the first, that no horrible fate befell anyone before them, that this science expedition will be noble and safe and mostly mineral-collecting. Never mind that she’s outfitted with a battleaxe and biker helmet instead of a microscope.
Some of her deaths are noble. Most are embarrassing. She tried to help a Nest Guardian in need; it turned on and trampled her. She dropped an explosive container at her feet. She jumped off a cliff while low on health. She was mauled by a defective vending machine. These things happen in Shattered Planet; they come with the bizarre and always-surprising territory. What matters is that Clone_001 (v51) gets some sweet swag out of her predecessor’s demise.
Our clones repeatedly risk life and regenerated limb in an effort to map the massive surface of an unexplored planet. Their work is technically never done since the world is procedurally generated and changes with every visit. Sometimes a clone will beam down onto a section of dusty red dirt populated by cycloptic crablets. Other trips begin in a tranquil green field surrounded by mushrooms and docile mutant natives. All sections of the world, regardless of scenery, are afflicted by a mysterious black bile known as “the blight” that is slowly oozing across the planet’s surface. Anything that enters this shadowy consumption becomes tainted and hostile (moreso than usual). Our ultimate scientific goal is to analyze and cure the blight, but mapping the planet and murdering its unfriendly creatures helps pass the time along the way.
Exploration and fighting are done in turn-based fashion on the planet’s grid-like surface. Every step, attack, or action—such as using bandages—takes one turn. Enemies and other alien creatures roam the planet at the same time as your clone, so each time she takes a step, they will as well. Hostile creatures will pursue your clone if they spot her, but it’s also possible to avoid battles with well thought-out maneuvering. Every section of the planet contains a number of rooms and hallways filled with flora, fauna, items, and events, as well as a single teleporter that leads to the next level.
Delving deeper into the planet presents greater challenges, but also bigger rewards. Scrap metal and crystals are scattered about that can be used to upgrade your clone and purchase equipment, respectively. Random events—such as rescuing an orphaned crablet or fending off leechlike blobs—offer opportunities for companions or stat boosts.
Of course, these are only fleeting. Shattered Planet is technically a roguelike, and with each failure your clone loses all items and equipment she had with her on the planet’s surface. That friendly crablet pet, that pair of aviator shades, that light saber: they’re all left behind and only her personal stats and collected currency remain. You’ll have to use the crystals you found to create randomized equipment—deciding only on bronze, silver, or gold-level items—that she’ll be decked out in for the next trip down.
The trip itself is the reward, though. Returning to base mostly empty-handed, having died a tragic death because you forgot there was a laser turret just beyond the fog of war—it’s not that upsetting. The joy is not in what you bring back, but what you experience on each exploration. I found a backpack on one level and was given the option of scavenging its contents or playing with them. Choosing the former earned my clone the title of “Joyless.” On another expedition, a disembodied skull winked at me and later reappeared, besotted with my clone. I’ve found everything from sushi to action figures while wandering around, and have never had the same experience twice.
This is after many hours, and many clone deaths, within Shattered Planet‘s current beta. While a few expected pre-release bugs remain—like never-ending battle music and invisible enemies that are just floating health bars—the current iteration feels nearly complete. The economy in what is planned to be a free-to-play offering is surprisingly generous, with its two currencies readily available during planet excursions. Everything from the persistent level-up system to the per-stage item randomization (hence the occasional accidental-self-immolation) works together to allow forward momentum and novelty. We can’t wait to see where this month’s final release takes us, along with our next 50 clones.