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Est. April 2016. III Version 2.0. III

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RIFTSTAR RAIDERS
Top down indie action that makes a good impression.

REVIEW
By JAY TEE
28/02/18

At first glance, RiftsStar Raiders is a curious proposition. A top down sci-fi dogfighter that we’ve seen plenty of times before, clearly influenced by similar titles like Velocity 2X and PixelJunk Shooter. The visuals are serviceable; a sort of futuristic, haphazard look designed to make everything appear as though it’s falling apart at the seams. As for the backstory, the Warswarm have invaded the Spiral Arm, and the Raiders from Arcadia are all that stands between… and so on and so forth.

So, nothing remarkable then. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find a surprising amount of nuance to the combat. There’s also a pleasing array of customisation options, letting you outfit your ship to your liking. The four player online co-op is a nice touch, but the lack of local shared / split screen play is criminal in a game like this. You get the sense that ambition may have outweighed the budget, and despite a short runtime and some cut corners, there is fun to be had here.

THE BASICS - Pilot various ships in this top down shooter, with four player online co-op, upgradeable skills, and constant streams of loot.

PLATFORMS - PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

PLAYERS - Offline - 1, Online - 4

CO-OP? MULTIPLAYER? - The campaign supports 4 player online co-op. No matchmaking. Invite only. No local co-op.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT - None currently announced.

TARPS? - At the bottom of all our reviews, you’ll see a series of absurd looking images (with equally stupid, in joke laden names). These are the TARP badges, which represent our ‘Totally Accurate Rating Platform’. They allow us to identify specific things, recognise positive or negative aspects of a games design, and generally indulge our consistent silliness with some visual tomfoolery.

REVIEWS KEY:

The Look - Art style, graphics, and overall presentation.

The Feel - Gameplay mechanics, controls, and learning curve.

The Sound - Music, sound effects, and dialogue.

The Experience - Anecdotes and random thoughts.

This shot, taken from the main menu as the ship in question zooms into view, is a nice touch, and a hint that RiftStar has more going for it in terms of production value than most indie titles.

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE!
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET US @JAYTEE_GA, OR E-MAIL: EDITOR@JTGA.CO.UK.

The BEST WITH FRIENDS badge is earned if a game is significantly more fun playing with people you know, either in campaign or online.

The PICK UP AND PLAY badge is for when a game is better suited to brief, impromptu sessions that give a quick blast of escapism.

The LONE WOLF badge tells you that a particular game can only be played, or is more enjoyable, when
you’re flying solo.

The DEEP DIVE badge is a heads up that what you’re about to play is a huge undertaking, and best enjoyed in extended periods.

The KITCHEN SINK badge is an indication of a game that is
bursting at the seams with content (either on disc or DLC).

The BAM! DONE! badge lets you know that within minutes of picking up the controller, you can play this like a pro.

The HOT POTATO badge makes a really clear statement: this
game is making waves, and it’s
definitely worth a  look.

The LEARNING CURVE badge is awarded if you’ll need to allow a fair bit of time in
order to fully
grasp the controls.

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FINAL SCORE:

TARP BADGES:

The SCEPTICAL FACE badge is for when a game doesn’t leave a strong first impression. Perhaps more
time is needed to decide?

The LEFT FIELD badge is awarded when a game surprises us by being really good and it hadn’t previously been on our radar.

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The BARREL OF LAUGHS badge is for when a game boasts a keen, sharp wit and several laugh out loud moments.

The BIG STINKER badge is awarded when a huge AAA budget title turns out to be a letdown that leaves us feeling cold.  

The BOOTS ON THE GROUND badge is for a game you need to play as soon as possible. Don’t leave this one for your backlog!

The SMALL FRY badge is for a title from a smaller development team that is absolutely worth your time and should not be ignored.

The LOBBY LAG badge is for when the multiplayer side of things is lacking features, and/or runs very poorly.

The SLICK RICK badge is earned when the soundtrack, effects, and / or overall audio design is fantastic across the board.

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The IT’S A TARP! badge is awarded when a game offers a real challenge, in single player and/or multiplayer.

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The JUMPED THE TARP badge is for a game that has had one too many sequels, and should be radically rebooted or retired completely.

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The WEAPON DROP badge is for a game that features superb weapon / item design.

The YOSHI’S EYELIDS badge is for a game where the facial animation leaves much to be desired…

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Jay Tee.

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… MORE TARPS WILL BE ADDED SOON!

BACKGROUND EXTRAS - There’s a lot of detail in the background of each level, which similar games have a tendency to overlook. The detail is impressive, with large dreadnoughts jumping into view, astronomical phenomena pulsating in the distance, alongside lots of cool atmospheric effects. Plenty of nice visual touches here.

TECH HICCUP - We’re testing the PS4 version of the game, played on a PS4 Pro. Every now and then, during heated combat exchanges, the framerate can take a nose dive. There is clearly some optimisation work needed here, and while none of it is game breaking, a performance patch would not go amiss.

SAUCER SECTION - The ships you pilot are undeniably cool, thanks to a clean art style supported by colour and decal customisation.

RiftStar Raiders isn’t perfect. But look beyond the lack of online matchmaking and uneven balance, and you’ll find a simple, fun space shooter that you won’t regret playing.

RAISE SHIELDS! - Piloting your ship is weighty and responsive. The controls take some getting used to, and you’ll find yourself pulling off the wrong acrobatic manoeuvres on more than one occasion. But the feedback from shield impacts, and the feeling of momentum from a well timed boost, elevate the gameplay above standard fare.  

PEA SHOOTER - Although your trusty fighter is fun to fly, your weapons lack a certain punch. This seems at odds with the deliberate choice to make your craft feel like a bruiser. A grappling hook (for puzzle solving and retrieving oodles of loot) spices things up a bit, but your offensive options generally fall flat.

SPLINTER CELL - Watch out for mine fields. And sudden spikes in difficulty. Three deaths and it’s mission over.

TEXT MESSAGE - Generally speaking, there isn’t a huge amount of voice work in the game. Considering the action gets increasingly bonkers as you progress, it would have been nice to have had more spoken dialogue during gameplay. It doesn’t spoil the experience, but it would have helped kicked things up a gear.

AUDIO SERENITY - On the whole, RiftStar Raiders has excellent sound design. From subtle background effects, to menu transitions, to in game action, there is a lot to like here. A lot of smaller titles forget the importance of good audio, and I’m happy to report that everything in this department is on top form.

SAY WHAT? - The story is largely forgettable. Once you dive into your first mission, you’ll just worry about shooting things.

MINES OF DOOM - I’ve alluded to this already, but right from the get go, there are some insane spikes in difficulty that pop up out of nowhere. You’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed by superior firepower, even in the opening moments, and don’t even get me started on the first minefield you come across. Threading that needle was very frustrating.

JONNY SIMPLETON - The A.I. does one of two things. Hold it’s position and steadily bombard you, or rush you and attempt to overwhelm. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, as the focus is clearly on making sure the player is being challenged at almost every turn, but variety is the spice of life. Some different tactics could have mixed things up a bit.

BOSS FIGHTS - Difficult without being annoying, and satisfying to finally defeat. Brilliant. It’s a shame there’s only nine missions!