There are so many different things going on with The Riftbreaker that it’s hard to know where to start: it’s a bit action-RPG, a bit real-time strategy, a bit tower defense with a touch of twin-stick shooter. It’s an interesting cocktail: two parts Starcraft, a dash of Dungeon Defenders, a jigger of Diablo and garnish with Super Stardust. But there’s no hangover here: The Riftbreaker is great fun.
CD Projekt Red wasn’t the only Polish developer making waves at E3: just take a look at The Riftbreaker developers EXOR Studios. They’ve built an impressively in-depth mashup of gameplay systems that still manages to have its own character, its own unique feel, despite so many of the individual elements being familiar from other titles.
I sat down with Wojciech Lekki, CEO of EXOR Studios, at E3 2019. He guided me through an impressive new demo of The Riftbreaker where I traversed dense biomes replete with natural life, heavy industry, and swarms of deadly red creatures called canoptrix. Players assume the role of Ashley Nowak, an elite commando who happens to be a talented scientist trying to colonize a distant planet called Galatea 37 and build a portal back to Earth. Luckily, she’s got a hulking mech suit that makes the task of crushing baddies and navigating this deadly foreign world a bit more manageable.
My first task was to fortify our home base with towers that would keep the bloodthirsty canoptrix at bay. There were all sort of structures I could build in the game’s fairly extensive building menu, but we opted to keep it simple with some literal tower defense. Then, as the canoptrix descended on our base, it highlighted one of the cool things about this game. I started hacking and slashing with the huge sword, then suddenly morphed to twin-stick shooter mode as I started firing rounds from the rifle in my other hand.
I could even hot swap it out for a rocket launcher that was slower but deadlier. I like how The Riftbreaker seamlessly transitions between all these different styles of gameplay: one moment it feels a bit RTS with base-building and resource gathering, the next it feels like a Diablo-style isometric hack and slash, the next a twin-stick shooter. It feels very fluid.
As we traveled to a node pumping out resources and building materials, I had to power it up with solar panels, and again to fortify this mini-base to prepare for attack. Lekki explained that, while they understood they were taking elements from many different genres and combining them (and yes, Starcraft was certainly an influence), they wanted to make something that felt completely different to play, whatever its exterior image might convey. With another wave settled and our resource node secure, I traveled back to our original base, where we proceeded to be swarmed by an unstoppable wave of ghoulish canoptrix as we fade to black and the demo ends.
The demo wasn’t perfect: it could use a more unique visual identity, and there wasn’t much enemy variety in the waves that bombarded our poor buccaneering scientist-turned-renegade-commando. But EXOR Studios have nailed the most important thing: it was a blast to play. Here’s hoping the final game will be able to manage the fascinating mix of gameplay elements that made my time at E3 with The Riftbreaker so enjoyable.
Expect to see The Riftbreaker release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2020.