The Lost Planet series is a strange one. The first game was the brain child of Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, and while it wasn’t perfect, it definitely had it’s charm. The second game took it in a completely different direction with a focus on co-op and multiplayer. To continue the tradition of always changing what Lost Planet is, the third entry in the series is a story driven prequel being developed by the California based studio, Spark Unlimited.
In Lost Planet 3, E.D.N. III (the planet you are on in the first two games) is still nothing but a big ball of ice. The Neo-Venus Construction company (NEVEC) have been sending teams of minors to the planet to dig for delicious minerals. You play as Jim, a Kurt Russell-in-The-Thing-like bearded fellow who is working every contract he can get his hands on to send money back home to Earth to support his wife and son.
Jim sort of lives out of his rig, like Stallone in Over the Top. Only, instead of his “rig” being a semi-truck that he travels from town to town entering arm wrestling competitions in, Jim’s is a giant mech used for drilling. Unlike previous games, the mechs have not yet been outfitted with weapons. In fact, they explicitly say in the story-line that is against regulations to do so.
The good news is it still has a big ass drill on one of the arms.
The PAX demo for Lost Planet 3 was pretty decent in length. It gave a feel for how you pilot your rig around the planet, which switches you to a first person mode. You definitely get the sense of being in a massive machine as you clunk your way around the icy world, grabbing pistons that have frozen in place and moving them so you can get out of your base, bashing through ice with a swing of your drill, then later using that same drill as it was intended, to do major damage to large enemies. Oh, and mine for ore probably too.
To give you an excuse to run around and shoot things, the demo necessitates getting out of the mech to accomplish story objectives. If you have played Mass Effect 2 or 3, you’ll have a good bead on how the shooting mechanics feel in Lost Planet 3. It’s something to do with the character movement and the feel of the guns. Noticably absent was a cover mechanic, unless I just completely missed it somehow.
Another returning feature of the Lost Planet series is the sweet grappling hook. In the demo, there were pre-determined points where you needed to use the grappling hook to ascend ledges and later repel down to new areas. While the demo was a very tight story segment, the game proper is supposed to be more open and mission-based. I’m hoping this means we will have the opportunity to explore with the grappling hook mechanic.
Interspersed throughout the mission, diary entries and recorded video calls to and from your family occasionally pop up while you drive your rig to the next way point, giving the player more backstory. It was nice to see a family man in the drivers seat instead of most games where your character seems to have no important familial connections. The stakes of just staying alive seem higher when someone out there is depending on you to not die while doing your job. Of course, being a parent myself I am completely biased on that point.
Lost Planet 3 seems to be shaping up pretty well. There were definitely some rough edges, most notably the boss fight where there was no animation for being knocked out of your rig by the massive space crab. If you got hit enough (indicated by a health bar), you would suddenly and instantly be back to the third-person on foot mode and have to get back in your rig to try again.
There isn’t an official launch date yet, so here’s hoping that by their Q1 2013 launch window they’ve put together the full package of space mining goodness we’re hoping for.
Lost Planet 3 is slated to drop Q1 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.