Journey to the Savage Planet is a game that, in some ways, is shockingly similar to No Man's Sky. They both share a similar conceit: the player is dumped onto an unknown planet with only their wits and several high-tech pieces of exploration gear to determine whether or not this particular world is fit for human consumption. There's lifeform scanning, harvesting, the construction of more tools, and survival, too, all elements that were part of what made No Man's Sky so tantalizing before it launched in 2016. The elevator pitch for Journey to the Savage Planet starts like a rehash of the same ground.
Luckily, it's the details that separate developer Typhoon Studios' first foray into the gaming world from its competitors. Whereas No Man's Sky is sweeping, broad strokes of space exploration, Journey to the Savage Planet is more restrained: there's only one world to explore, and it won't take players nearly as long to unearth many of the title's secrets. There's no space exploration element as a selling point, with the titular savage planet serving as more than enough environment to keep would-be settlers occupied. Most importantly, though, Journey to the Savage Planet has something that other exploration games tend to lack in a pervasive and impossible to ignore charm.
During our hands-on with the title at E3 2019, we were consistently impressed by the ways in which the universe of Journey to the Savage Planet establishes itself as so much more interesting than a typical survival and exploration game. The first-person exploration title is housed on the world of AR-Y 26, where an employee of Kindred Aerospace, the fourth-best interstellar exploration company in the galaxy, is attempting to decipher whether its worth settling. There are only four interstellar exploration companies in the universe of Journey to the Savage Planet, by the way. It's those small and dry bits of humor that immediately set the game apart, whether its the game's fantastic script or goofy mechanics, like slapping smaller aliens into a pile of goo or launching them into bigger predators as a distraction.
We found more than just laughs on AR-Y 26, though. At its core, the heart of Journey to the Savage Planet is a charming but detailed exploration game, the kind that unravels slowly and satisfyingly. We started out just looking for some fun, punching small aliens along the way, but as we delved deeper into our nearly hour-long look into the game, we found something unexpected: investment. Something about the world grabs you and doesn't let go. There's so much to scan, more to observe, and mysteries that leave players with just enough details to make them want to look harder.
The actual gameplay is also way more intricate than it appears at first glance. In combat, dodging enemy attacks can be crucial, with some of them only exposing weakpoints after a successful dodge. It's kind of like a slower and less-detailed Monster Hunter in that way, since enemies are often an easy way to harvest the necessary components of whatever upgrade is needed. Collecting materials is dynamic, with the most enticing ones in dangerous areas that require wit and reflexes to reach. There's an upgrade system that lets players prioritize which elements of the game they want to focus on, and there's an underlying story about terraforming and human greed at play, too, though we're unsure how deep that runs given our limited time with the game.
According to reports, Journey to the Savage Planet appears to be a game that will take around 15 hours to complete. Given that we've only seen one hour, there's a lot that could still go wrong. Maybe the writing doesn't hold up all the way through, or maybe the dynamic and shifting environment becomes stagnant as time progresses. Those hypotheticals shouldn't dull the sense that Typhoon Studios is working with something special, however. The game ticked all the boxes that many wanted addressed in the early days of No Man's Sky, and while they aren't the same game, the sense of wonder that exists when exploring the more refined and restricted world of Journey to the Savage Planet is one that doesn't come around often. With so many major games coming late in 2019 and into 2020, there's a chance this title will get lost in the shuffle. Don't let it. Journey to the Savage Planet has all the makings of a sleeper hit, the kind people will be kicking themselves for not playing earlier once it becomes more popular.