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Journey to the Savage Planet - Xbox One X

This game was a breath of fresh air. The art style was superb, the pacing is remarkable. Compared to any other game in this genre, or any sub-genres, or even related genres, it does so many things right and very little wrong.  It's quite fun.  You'll definitely learn how the game works quickly, and that's wonderful because you can then jump right into action.  In the beginning there is a huge emphasis on exploration, and you will want to explore. Guided by a goofy robot companion named EKO, you travel across wildly different biomes, often entwined with each other. The wintery area opens up into a green, wooded path. Soon after you are climbing mountains and rocks, dodging pitfalls and lava pools. These areas are very colorful and well-designed. There are collectibles right out in the open to build up your arsenal, but rewards are plentiful for people who decide to search the areas thoroughly. There is seemingly no terrain you can't traverse, which is a welcome change. The movement tools it gives you are smart and allows you to feel powerful, quick, and adventurous. I often found secrets by jumping over a wall or a far drop that didn't seem like it was the intended route, but they let me do it anyway, which I love. I wasn't hampered by invisible walls or arbitrary blockades. Plus you discover new traversal tools so quickly that you don't feel like you're missing out on anything.  The combat is introduced slowly, and overall it's not too combat heavy. It definitely picks up in the later sections and there are a few gauntlet-style challenges, but overall a good balance. You start off slapping and kicking enemies. The fast paced and maniacal slapping you do took me off guard and it made me laugh out loud the first time I did it. The gun play is simple, but effective, and you get fun and powerful gun upgrades to help you. The other modes of attack are much more diverse and interesting. You get throw able items in your left hand ranging from simple bait or sticky traps, to acid and firebombs. There are some enemies which require acid to destroy their armor, but otherwise the freedom to use your objects was pleasant and engaging.  The story is simple, yet executed marvelously. While other games present their tales with a heavy hand and a dull, pedestrian prose, Journey to the Savage Planet felt cared for and distinct. The company your character works for, Kindred Aerospace, sends live-action videos to you from their CEO, Martin Tweed. Typically I would gloss over something like this, but it was so well done that I watched every video even the fake advertisements they make.  It was well-acted and well-written, and the tone hit somewhere right between serious and goofy that made it enjoyable throughout.  When you're out traversing, your helpful ship computer talks to you as you scan things and discover new areas.  The tongue-in-cheek dialogue and characterization really hits the mark being outrageous and cheeky without being trite and overbearing.  Even the low-brow stuff was welcome.  Somehow a creature farting and the random, quirky slime food names aren't tacky and insipid.  The game is just so charming and genuine that it works out. 

Collecting items in games is my least favorite thing. It is always tedious, monotonous, and usually arbitrary. Journey to the Savage Planet finds a groove that manages to lessen the tedium of gathering all the different resources.  There are large resource veins that you'll find just from meandering around the lush worlds.  I never felt like I had to go out and collect more, because I was always finding a decent amount in my travels.  It made searching for the requirements for upgrades way better without having to endlessly grind.  Exploring just to find new areas over the course of the game went quite well with collecting what you need.  The completion grind will hit you if you try getting all the orange goo and completing the Kindex, the in-game catalogue of your adventure.  The orange goo was too numerous.  If you want to collect them all, you need 100, and you stop getting rewards after about 50. There is an upgrade for your scanner to let you know when ones are close, but the game would have been better served with a different upgrade and less orange goo.  There is also a scanner upgrade for alien tech and artifacts.  Unless you are meticulously scanning everything, you will miss out on something and have to check a guide.  Overall not that egregious.  It isn't necessary to collect everything, and you can certainly complete the game without doing so, but the gameplay was so fun, the movement and travel options so well done, and the hope of having another video from Martin Tweed waiting for me, compelled me to collect everything.  There is a camera option that I only briefly looked into.  It doesn't interest me overall, but it adds to the game for people who are interested in it.  You can get free control of the camera to take pictures of the environment and your character in it.  You can choose many poses to have the character stand in, and have options for editing the pictures.  They also have a co-op mode that I did not elect to use at all.  The game sets you up with a common atmosphere, but again they do it well.  The sci-fi elements were a mix of "corporation that doesn't care about you sends you into space," and "ancient advanced alien lifeforms left stuff here."  They're not too heavy-handed with either so it works.  There is a lot of mystery, which serves the story well, and adds that little extra flavor to the exploration.  The world is an interesting remix of design.  The world is actually a series of smaller land masses, floating in space, but close enough to be able to easily traverse from one to the other.  The worlds are connected in different ways: larger worlds that expand all over, smaller worlds that expand more vertically, groupings of small worlds that you have to travel between with your tools.  The music transitions well from atmospheric and soft to twangy and quick when you encounter an enemy.  It made me put on my headset to play because I wanted to hear the best parts of the soundtrack louder and more clearly.  There are a series of teleporters you can activate, which makes getting to each area easy and rewarding.  The movement options they give you are snappy and consistent.  The booster pack is smart and responsive, the grapple works effortlessly and strictly, and the rail glide is always helpful.  Platforming in a 3D game isn't usually so rewarding and easy.

There sidequests are actually fun, challenging, and diverse.  If you decide to complete them, you get more upgrades for your equipment, and they are more in-depth and interesting than a standard fetch quest.  You have to take live samples of some enemies, forcing you to get close.  You have to use creative ways to kill a certain enemy or several at once.  The scanning feature overall was quick and easy to use, which made it less of a chore, but still a chore overall.  You don't really get anything for scanning other than to be able to access information in the Kindex and to get 100% scanned.  Scanning for the sake of scanning is boring and I hated having to backtrack to try and find the one or two things I missed in an area because I was enjoying myself actually playing the game.  I went in to Journey to the Savage Planet without knowing anything about it, and came out a huge fan.  I really enjoy almost every aspect of the game.  The artstyle, the gameplay, the story, the atmosphere, the pacing, the music; all done well and satisfying.  The negatives are slight and can be overlooked because it is simply fun.  I thoroughly enjoyed this game.  You can tell that the people who made the game care about it very much, and it made me care about it, too.  Check it out, you won't be let down.  

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