Hey. You guys ever play the Lost Planet games? I never played the first one but I did play the second. Heads up, it's aged like Melanie Griffith. But the third installment wasn't half bad. Stick around and I'll tell you why it could be worth going back to now.Lost Planet 3 is a third person shooter from Spark Unlimited and Capcom and was released in 2013. Players are put in the role of Jim Peyton-Family man and independent contractor who takes a job on a far away, frozen world in order to bring home the bacon and do his part to extend the livelihood of humanity that exists on a dying Earth. Jim is sent to E.D.N. III along with his Utility Rig, a big walking mech that serves a sort of Swiss Army Knife. Loaded with tools the rig can be used to help build a colony and harvest "T-Energy" for the company that runs the operation, Neo Venus Construction or NEVEC as it's called in the game. The energy source being gathered is versatile and powerful and could help save the Earth once it can be harnessed.
Jim is of course met by challenge after challenge and is constantly assailed by weather, wildlife and homesickness. Eventually he finds out there's more to this whole project than meets the eye and thus the plot unfolds.This is a prequel even though it's numbered three in the title. It's a bit of a pet peeve, that number three, but ultimately of little consequence once things get started.
E.D.N. III is a world of ice and little else. The designers really put together a believable space for the player to experience. It's easy to get the feeling that this planet is nothing but biting cold and misery. Wind blown ice and snow is common place flowing over the glacial surface under a setting of perpetual early morning. And indoors aren't much better. What I would think of that comes closest to relating is the rebel base on Hoth in Star Wars. It's naught but carved ice walls and some spartan structure that's only there to perform its functions. In fact the base is made from pieces of the crashed ship that NEVEC initially sent to explore the possibility of a colony.
Storms rage on and off across the surface and they're something to behold. Roiling clouds, lightning and thunder, extreme winds blowing chunks of ice through the air that crash into Jim's rig audibly and with force. But when the weather is clear E.D.N III is a devastatingly beautiful place. The sun, though far away and dim shines and the ice glows a haunting blue; an effect that's furthered when entering an ice cave. The views are long across the plains and the higher up Jim goes the further he can see. Standing on cliffs it's possible to see the clouds of near frozen fog in the valleys below and far off storms flash lightning. All around is ice and snow but the game world, as small as it is never feels plain.
Of course E.D.N. III isn't just dangerously cold, there are also the Akrid. If you ever played the previous titles you'll be familiar with that name. They're the indigenous life that's basically out to kill anything they come across, and honestly they're a little underwhelming.
Now don't take that too poorly. They're still mostly cool creatures with strengths and weaknesses denoted by their orange markings and can be pretty challenging to fight. They just don't feel as epic as the Akrid in Lost Planet 2. The scale is generally smaller and tends to focus on swarms of enemies rather than the enormous screen-filling leviathans that helped make the previous title feel so awesome in its day.
Average combat however is just that, average. Shoot at the monster and dodge its attacks until it dies. It's not particularly bad or boring but it gets repetitive over time and becomes more like just another obstacle in the way. At least there are plenty of weapons to obtain and upgrade.
I suppose you could look at that a couple of different ways though. On the one hand you could say that this is a lack of polish and much more could have been done to make combat more engaging. On the other, you could look at it as being immersive. Put yourself in Jim's shoes and realize that he's been here for months and months doing the same thing day in and day out. It would make some amount of sense for combat to become work-a-day.
The problem really comes with combat while in the rig. There are only a few animations that are reused in every battle fought while Jim is piloting. Patterns become evident, they never change and that admittedly gets boring pretty fast. Not to mention the rig moves at the pace of farm tractor not wanting to get anywhere in a hurry. It's a big lumbering machine after all, but it's just a bit too slow; barely faster than Jim on foot in fact.
Unfortunately Lost Planet 3 is also pretty bad at documenting how to use the rig's upgrades. Some are fairly obvious, press "Z" to fire the claw winch, press "X" to use the shock jumper. But others, like the melee upgrades, I never figured out. You can upgrade the rig to utilize a double arm swing, sort of a "Hulk smash" overhead bash the rig performs. However the game never tells you how to do that. Same with the shoulder rush upgrade. The instructions just say it takes careful timing with the "T" button. But I was never able to use either of those upgrades even after looking up how other people had found out how to use them.
General Game Play
Over all the pacing the game can be pretty slow at times and that can make for a dull feeling. Jim's pay comes directly from the T-Energy that he gathers from combat and the T-Posts he plants to gather energy over time. As the game wears on Jim will have to empty the posts again and again back tracking to areas he's been to several times before fighting the same enemies he fought before etc. That can get repetitive. Luckily fast travel is available so you won't have to slowly go where Jim's already been before; if you don't feel like it.
There are also missions to revisit certain places and collect specific items. Luckily those are mostly optional to the story as a whole, but you might as well do them as they don't take very long and the rewards are decent.There's also the matter of the game as a whole feeling like it just needed something more here and there. It doesn't hurt too much as far as the story plays out but in general I just felt like some areas felt rushed maybe, or even like the designers took something out that should have stayed in. Which is a bummer because E.D.N. III is a pretty interesting place when you play the game.
Coronis Base, that's where the colony ship crashed, serves as the hub for play and everything else fans out from that point. Jim spends his down time there and it's where the NPC's reside. Located inside are shops for weapons and upgrades as well as the quest-givers and some collectable items. The player is free to roam the halls at will and talk to whomever they like. It mostly feels like a working base and of course most of the story comes from here.
Characters and Story
Here's where Lost Planet 3 shines. The cast of characters is relatively small but they all have individual personalities that are very believable. Jim has a clear devotion to his wife back on Earth and they share messages throughout the game. He'd rather spend all his time in his rig than be anywhere else. After all he designed and built it himself and that connection makes him loathe to be separated from it. Eventually he and the head engineer Gale form a friendship based on that kindred spirit. Phil Braddock, the operations manager of the colony forms a friendship over time with Jim. As do the other characters. In particular a competitive friendship is formed between Jim and Laroche, another rig pilot.
One guy I wish there was more interaction with is Crazy Neil. He's an Australian colonist and worker who loves the cold. He wears short sleeves and spouts quips every time you see him. But unfortunately he's only seen a total of two times. The writers do a great job at making the cast of characters feel like a family unit.
Writing is especially good in this game. It's really what makes it worth playing I think more than anything else. The writers by the way, Richard Gaubert, Orion Walker and Matt Sophos are also known for games like Batman: Arkham Origins and The Last of Us. So... yeah.
I won't spoil the story of course for those who haven't played but it unfolds in a very cinematic way. Some things are predictable to be sure but lots of it takes place in such a way as to make the player feel like they're actually a part of something. And with the characters developing like they do it really helps to bolster the effect. On top of all that, the voice actors really do an excellent job in their roles.
Lost Planet 3 was released in 2013 and is rendered in the still quite powerful, Unreal Engine 3. The amount of detail that engine can handle and stay optimized is pretty remarkable and it shows in this title.
As I said above, the game world as a whole isn't really that big. It's a series of smaller areas stitched together by caves that serve as transfer points. The old school Zone style. But the detail in each level is pretty spectacular. If you pay attention and really look, the ice has depth and transparency. The lighting and bloom effects give a real sense of environment. Textures are [mostly] sharp and the evidence of tiling is minimal.Character models are individual, at least for the main characters. Others are a bit more generic looking but still fit the world they live in.
Over all, details have held up very well over the last few years.
Sound and Music
Sounds go far to making the world feel like a real place. The winds, the snow crunching under Jim's feet, the heavy stomping of the rig, the ambience of the thunder rolling in the background, even the dead pure silence in some areas. It all goes toward making the player feel like they're standing in a deeply cold and lonely place.
Music is also handled pretty well. Jim's rig essentially has an mp3 player on board and is preloaded with some canned music the game provides. But through menus you can play your own music from your system while you're trudging around in the snow. The only down side is that the areas are mostly too small to listen to music in its entirety. I chose to just turn it off and enjoy the ambience.
So would I recommend Lost Planet 3? Yes. As long as you're into narrative and cinematic story telling you'll like this game. Some parts feel slow and some of the base design will make you wonder what the devs were thinking. Particularly the unnecessarily long run to the science labs to pick up missions from Dr. Kovac. But all in all the very detailed environment and immersion that can be felt while piloting Jim's rig over the frozen, desolate plains of E.D.N. III is worth experiencing.
Could it have been better? Absolutely. A fully open world with a rig that's just a little bit quicker at getting around. A little more diversity in Akrid types. Maybe a little deeper combat system. A name that doesn't lead people to think it's a sequel and not a prequel. Some extra animations for rig combat would be nice. I think this game got some pretty mixed reviews and it's easy enough to see why some liked it and some didn't. I doubt we'll see a true sequel... and I don't know maybe that's fair enough. But like I said at the start, Lost Planet 3 isn't half bad.
I'd say pick this one up on sale if you're interested. It's still $25 on Steam and I'd say it was worth that fully if it wasn't for the sometimes less than stellar combat. I also can't say anything toward the DLC or the multi player since I never tried any of it, but the game itself is worth having and playing for the campaign alone. Pick it up if you haven't got it, and check it out if it's been sitting in your backlog.
System Requirements for Lost Planet 3 are as follows
- OS: Windows XP
- Processor: Dual core CPU 2.5 GHz
- Memory: 3 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® 9800 or better, ATI Radeon™ HD 4770 or better
- Storage: 16 GB available space
- Sound Card: Standard audio device
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: Quad core 2.7 GHz or better
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 460 or better
- Storage: 16 GB available space
- Sound Card: Standard audio device