Game playthrough: Shattered Planet

I discovered Shattered Planet during a steam promotion of roguelike games, my favourite genre. The best thing about them is the possibility of short playtimes making for progress, a must for a new father.

It’s a turnbased scifi discovery game set on world of isometric squares. I’m going to share my first impressions.

The game is introduced with a friendly narrating voice. Apparently I’m a clone that was released too early. I might die… but that’s ok.

Interestingly, I found that reassuring. Where normally a foreshadowing comment on death can be sinister, I found this the opposite. Death happened, and was just a part of the world I’m in. Good writing on the part of the developers.

Initial exploring brings no surprises. The game has range of vision mechanic, most squares have dead ends in the first stage making the exploration consist of a series of islands linked by small straight chains of land. Tiles are mostly grassy, with some white mushrooms as impassable barriers

I see a helmet. I grab the helmet! A message flashes up describing the helmet. “New entry discovered. 15 more entries until reward.”

More friendly voiceover. No explanation of what the reward might be.

I see a green bug. It’s on the screen with me, but not really interacting. The voice warns I might die! I’m advised to attack the bug. The bug hits me for very minor damage and I squash it like a… bug. Bye bye bug. New entry discovered. 14 more entries until reward.

I notice red eyes on screen in unrevealed areas of the map. Evidence of other bugs. Sparkles reveal location of gold triangles – presumably money.

I track down some money and bugs. Get money, more relatively painless fights. No healing mechanism detected. Hmmm.

I notice eyes on part of map I’ve already discovered. There’s a “fog of war” effect. I move closer. The eyes turn out to be purple bugs. They look angry and move with purpose. They start chasing me from across the map. I run. I lose one but have to fight the other. More damage received, but still alive. I receive reward progress for meeting the purple bug. Fighting the unknown is good in the long run.

Next I find an object that turns out to be a burrow for bugs. I encounter a sleepy bug just waking up. This time I’m given option (in text on the screen) to fight it or feed it. Tired of fighting, I choose to feed it. The bug decides to be my friend, but is attacked by another bug for the food. I’m not able to intervene in the fight. When it’s over, I’ve got a new, albeit weakened, companion. I’ve also got reward progress, naturally. Trying out new things is good in the long run.

My bug and I explore some more. We run into no more fights. Shortly I find a white square with a metallic edge, which I find to be a teleport space. My chatty friend mentions he’s proud of how far I got, and that he knew I could do it. I’m really starting to like the guy. I also get reward progress for finding teleport space, and promise of an undefined other reward (possibly money) for amount of squares discovered. Go through the teleport into into… an underground lab.

In a way, this is more of the same. It’s the same exploration process with a different tileset. This time I’m making my way through square rooms with occasional patches of wild thorny growth to suggest a disappeared civilisation. I find the teleport very soon. I resolve to explore more before stepping through. After all, I want to earn that reward, whatever it’s for!

I find gold. I find a square with a gun turret, which ignores me. Insulted, I attack the turret with my bug’s help. The gun vaporises the bug. The gun vaporises me. My chatty friend congratulates me as he(?) was sure I was going to die 2 minutes ago. I feel comforted. I’ve done a good job. I reawaken in what chatty voice describes “our beautiful ship”.

On the ship is a range of tools to improve my abilities and buy equipment before venturing down to the planet again. My friend is standing at a console and smiling in a distracted fashion. I’m excited to explore and wonder whether my next trip will be the same or very different.

Long term, Shattered Planet is a series of visitations to the planet, which is different every time. Landscape textures change and different enemies appear. Each landscape will tend to have a set of usual inhabitants, but there are always a few unpredictable wild cards. If I have a complaint, it’s that there’s a complete lack of emotional tension. Sure, I’d like to survive but as my green friend says – it’s ok if I don’t. I’m always interested in the way games frame their challenges. Admitting death is at best is a minor inconvenience is a brave notion, but I’m not sure it works as a motivation for play. If death is ok, why should I work to survive?

In my teens, a friend and I played with the random dungeon generation tables in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. We didn’t really have a regular playing crew, so we’d spend hours rolling up rooms, encounters and treasures on random tables, playing our brave adventurers through each situation until we died. This was a very enjoyable pastime for a couple of nerdy kids, and Shattered Planet reminded me of those days. I can’t say anything significant happened during the play, but I had a good time. For a dad needing a few minutes of downtime between helping put the baby to sleep and sleeping myself, what else do I need?

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About seanmurgatroyd
Library (Shared blog): http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Personal including infoculture, book reviews: http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Music: http://seanfishmusic.wordpress.com/ Last.fm band page: http://www.last.fm/music/Seanfish @seanfish

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