Of the many games out there that could receive the sequel treatment I think the fact that the Lost Planet series was set to continue with Lost Planet 3 surprised a lot of folks. There’s no denying that the first Lost Planet game was good, but Lost Planet 2 was just kind of there and the lackluster sales almost signified that the interest people had in the series was beginning to decline. But alas, Capcom opted to continue the Lost Planet series with a third entry and after playing the demo of Lost Planet 3 at E3 I’m kind of happy they did such a thing.
Ok, so Lost Planet has always been about three things: shooting stuff, battling the conditions of a snowy environment, and battling massive bosses that look like they belong in a Godzilla movie. In Lost Planet 2 Capcom decided to give us two of those things amped up to the next level while tossing one major element (snow) in the garbage, which may or may not be why Lost Planet 2 kind of sucked and was generally boring. Giving us too much of one particular thing can be good or outright bad at times but the snow based return of Lost Planet 3 does herald a return to form which does bring quite a few new elements to the table.
A reboot of sorts, Lost Planet 3 does one thing exceptionally: it keeps everything simple and goes back to what the series is known. Gone is the overly stylized world of Lost Planet and so are the snow pirates, at least for now. I’m sure there’s going to be some big bad in Lost Planet 3, but if there is it likely won’t be a crazy bald dude that looks like he was ripped out of anime. Instead of following directly in the steps of the first Lost Planet, the new entry in the series is going for a more personal tale that is filled with the required drama to make an entertaining experience but at the same time is filled with action and quite a bit of mystery.
Upon starting up the demo of Lost Planet 3 I was introduced to Jim, the protagonist of the game who is a miner of sorts on the snowy rock that is EDEN III. The introduction to Jim is rather interesting since he wasn’t revealed by blowing up half a dozen Akrid but was instead shown via a video he recorded for his family back home on Earth. The familiar family oriented sentiments in the video likely won’t please those who have a low tolerance for narrative with a slightly saccharine “I miss my family” element, but in the context of Lost Planet 3 it works since the game is somewhat grounded compared to past installments.
Following the introduction of Jim, I was able to see what the rest of the world was like and how developer Spark Unlimited was addressing things. Certain elements of the Lost Planet universe appear in Lost Planet 3 such as T-ENG, suits with glowing orange segments, and the Akrid, but everything has been fine tuned to feel unique yet it doesn’t miss that entertaining fantastical touch. While I wasn’t able to gleam a lot from what Spark Unlimited and Capcom are prepping for the story, it does seem like it’ll be filled with more mystery and better character interactions, whether it’s with Jim’s boss or fellow miners like LaRouche, a French bloke who of course has a slight attitude but is nonetheless likeable.
Story has never really been a strong suit of the Lost Planet series but I was impressed with what the demo presented. The interaction Jim has with people felt normal and doesn’t have stilted dialog or terrible voice acting that’s one step away from being full blown cheesy. Even better, there appeared to be the seeds for a grand mystery afoot in Lost Planet 3 involving a strange derelict ship that Jim found at one point in the demo. No, the ship wasn’t filled with alien eggs and a giant space jockey, but it provided a really cool segment and hopefully it’ll be something that pays off in the later stages of the game by providing us a plot that is neither boring nor predictable.
As we know the Lost Planet series has never been about constant yapping as it isn’t a freaking RPG. Lost Planet has always been about blowing up giant insects Starship Troopers style and in Lost Planet 3 the game has taken a different but nonetheless interesting approach. First off the big make or break moment for some people may be how the game is handling the mech quotient of the game. Mechs and Lost Planet go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly but in Lost Planet 3 there’s only one mech at our disposal, the massive rig Jim refers to as his baby. A tall bi-pedal mech armed with a drill weapon, Jim’s mech plays a huge part in Lost Planet 3 as it’s the main source of navigation and it’ll shield him from the not so pleasant conditions on the planet.
Controlling the mech switches the game to a first-person perspective which is a first for the series but it feels right at home. The point of view whilst controlling the mech may have people worried the game will become COD: Alien Snow Edition, but the pace was very slow as to properly represent the fact that I was controlling a huge steel mech. Attacks with the mech were simple as I just had to use the shoulder buttons to grab or drill and the X button to do a basic slash attack so nothing is over complicated for the sake of being difficult. It’s a bit odd not to be zipping around the battlefield in a mech as was the case in the previous Lost Planet games, but the mood the mech in LP3 establishes is nearly unparalleled since it created both a sense of awe through seeing the sun light pop through clouds and dread at the notion of seeing the temp be -25 degrees.
As cool as it would be for Lost Planet 3 to solely take place within a mech, that sadly isn’t the case and it does feature some “traditional” on-foot sections. Lost Planet’s core on-foot combat has always revolved around using various guns to blast fools with and using a grapple hook to reach high places. Both of those things are present in Lost Planet 3, but the game has taken a more serious and dare I say it survival action type vibe compared to past installments.
My first combat encounter in the Lost Planet 3 demo made a point to show that this wasn’t a “normal” Lost Planet game. After being jumped by a panther like Akrid, I quickly had to tap the X button and then had to point a targeting reticule on an enemy so Jim could attack it with his knife. Yes, a QTE is followed up by a limited combat scenario but that isn’t the complete core of LP3. After successfully dealing with the first enemy I quickly had to fend for myself as three more appeared, all of whom made the process of de-icing my frozen mech that much more troublesome. Shooting with Jim’s standard rifle was easy and it was possible to defeat the Akrid without going into the QTE battle, which was mostly just an occurrence if I didn’t dodge fast enough and got hit.
What was more interesting was the next combat encounter I had which was with a massive boss who may or may not have been a giant enemy crab. Keeping with the tradition of the Lost Planet series, and video game design tropes, I had to blast the massive glowing orange spots to deal massive damage and defeat the boss. Playing the boss battle some of the weaknesses of the game were apparent such as Jim’s slow movement to properly flank the boss and the expected camera problems one would encounter when battling a huge creature in a small confined area. The boss itself was pretty basic, but I did run into a few different ways to defeat it as shooting both claws off did make it more of a bother as opposed to leaving one on and shooting the weak spot on the back.
After dealing with the icy crab I encounter the more horror like section of the derelict ship. Abandoned and presumably ancient, the ship had no presence on it save for a few corpses and the sudden arrival of a weird creature that looked like the distant cousin of Krang from TMNT. A very fast critter, this new baddie, who may or may not be an Akrid, would leap around Jim’s face to activate another QTE in which I once again had to target the enemy with a reticule to land an attack. Not successfully hitting this meatier version of the facehugger would result in Jim being choked to death in a way that actually made me chuckle whilst playing.
Right now, at least based on the demo, the combat of Lost Planet 3 is in a very interesting situation as it’s neither completely action packed nor is it completely horrifying on the same level as the Dead Space series. The QTE sections weren’t too frustrating or annoying, but once I went into the derelict ship section they did become bothersome if I missed my initial attempt at nailing the critters with my shotgun. The demo did end in a grand fashion with a massive mech vs. Akrid battle which was unique, but my main worry is whether the three foundations of the game (mech combat, on-foot combat, survival action exploration) will be varied enough to keep people entertained for eight hours or more.
I couldn’t tell walking away from the demo if Lost Planet 3 will be revered the same way as the first game is, but I was impressed with the general direction the game is going in as it’s not a carbon copy of what has been alreadt established. With a nice visual approach that brings a tremendous amount of beauty to the landscape of EDEN III, the only constantly odd thing about Lost Planet 3 was how Jim can survive sub-zero weather conditions without a helmet. I know it’s nitpicking, but such an omission does downplay the immediate urgency the game conveys during certain sections.
Aside from a few elements that ought to be ironed out in the coming months, I think Lost Planet 3 is shaping up to be something that doesn’t happen too often these days: a unique action adventure game. The commitment to tell an actual story and try moderately new gameplay mechanics, at least for the franchise, is commendable and it could end up in the first completely successfully Western based endeavor Capcom has done this generation.