RiftStar Raiders is a 3D top-down, shoot-and-loot ‘em up from Climax Studios, made for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Climax Studios have crafted an impressively beautiful style, blending a 3D foreground with a dynamic, faux 3D, background. Combine these with the subtle soundtrack, creates a beautiful ambience that forges the illusionary depth of RiftStar Raiders’ spatial environment.
The game operates in every sense like a bullet-hell shooter, from level design, to enemy placement, to difficulty. Luckily, the game controls superbly. RiftStar Raiders runs very stably, with no latency in control input. It is clear that the developers have put a great amount of care and effort into making sure that movement and combat is as fluid as possible. For a game that heavily relies on player reaction, this is great. Even more so when taking into consideration that RiftStar Raiders is extremely difficult and, at times, straight-up unforgiving.
To have the best time managing the difficulty of RiftStar Raiders, full comprehension of the controls and their nuances is almost a necessity –you can’t get by through spamming the combat dodge manoeuvre. When each event inevitably descends into the frantic fight for life battle, the player will need to be in full control of their evasive and shooting skills to make it through.
RiftStar Raiders gives the player the choice between a few different mapping options for the controls, however, for some players these options may not feel as intuitive as they could be. The game could benefit from having the opportunity to create personalised control layouts for each player to map for themselves, although this doesn’t detract from the experience of the game. The gameplay is very all-hands-on-deck, the control layouts are very simple to pick up, apart from the minor hiccups that can occur when the player becomes finger-tied.
There are a few times when the intensity of the gameplay does not compliment the aesthetic of the game. For instance, there are times when it can be difficult to know how to progress due to the similar colourations in the asteroids; pair this with a barrage of enemy ships, depleted shields and low health and it’s a recipe for a bad time.
There isn’t a set difficulty select option for the game due to the online functionalities, ensuring that everyone is facing the same perils. However, the game does give the player the chance to implement constraints in their gameplay. RiftStar Raiders gives the player the opportunity to change the number of lives they set themselves for events. This can be as lenient as up to five lives, or as unforgiving as no lives at all; so, consider tweaking this if you’re finding the default three lives too easy or hard.
Self-imposed challenges are important within RiftStar Raiders. The core game is relatively short, and while each stage shakes things up very well with the objectives and scenarios, the game only offers ten different events to play through. Without the player imposing challenge on themselves, either by beating their previous times, improving their kill to death ratio or just earning more money, there isn’t much to keep players coming back to the game.
The game still offers a great deal to those who seek a good challenge. With the focus of the multiplayer aspects of the game, there is even more challenge online. The focus that Climax Studios have made on multiplayer is extremely well-done. The game is, for the most part, made manageable for solo players while also maintaining challenge and enjoyment for people to play with friends.
This enjoyment is key when it comes to progression in RiftStar Raiders. The game boasts a huge amount of customisation options for players to indulge themselves in. They have to ability to change the entire loadout of their ships – from weapons, to shields to hull shape and design.
Each loadout consists of four different options to decide upon: two main weapons, a shield and thrust system. With up to four different customisations of each loadout option, excluding the hulls and banners, which are limited to one, there is a lot of opportunity for experimentation with the loadouts that player wants. If the player wants to hit hard and hit fast, or hit accurately and tank damage, they can choose the loadouts that best suit the event they are on.
Alongside the different loadout options that the player can select from, each option can be upgraded further, either allowing for perks to be placed on each option. For example, perks that increase a weapons rate of fire, or damage output, or perks that can occasionally emit a shockwave when using the thrusters.
While fun to experiment with different choices, these customisations do not come cheap. Each of these perks and upgrades cost an increasing amount of Starbux the more that are placed on one loadout option. To fully pimp yourself out, requires a lot of in-game currency, known as Starbux. This, in turn, requires a lot of grinding to obtain.
With friends, or as a way to kill time, this grinding could become really enjoyable. However, with the game’s increasing difficulty, the player will most likely find themselves replaying one or two levels over and over again until they’ve earnt the money they need. This incessant need of grinding, to make your ship the best it can be, feels more like padding than anything more meaningful.
RiftStar Raiders has difficulty spikes that could definitely turn average gamers away. However if you’re up for the challenge, or you and a few friends have some time to kill, the game can be a literal blast! Plus, with the amount of depth to the customisation the game can keep completionist busy for plenty of hours, so long as you don’t mind replaying the same levels over again to earn the Starbux you need for that upgrade.
RiftStar Raiders is available for purchase now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC via Steam.