Shattered Planet is a "roguelike" RPG game with a focus on exploration developed and published by Kitfox Games. If going through my discovery queue on Steam is any indication, there are two things that developers love to put on that service: voxel building games, and "roguelikes." Both have become highly-saturated genres, and populated with a lot of games that frankly ask for more than they are probably worth to the average person. So with a higher price tag, Shattered Planet was one I left to a sale. Should I have? Perhaps not! I'm pretty glad to say I was pleasantly surprised with Shattered Planet, and I don't think I would have regretted paying full price for it, despite the fact that it did still have some flaws.
Shattered Planet is a pretty faithful "rogue-like"
I have to admit, I've become quite wary of "roguelike" or "roguelite" games on Steam of late, because I go to them with an expectation they will be a similar version to or a "lite" version of the Rogue-series games of old, and most of them that adopt that tag are anything but these days. It's generally simply become a way to describe a generic RPG, platformer, or bridge construction simulator which has a few procedural generation bits stamped in to pad the game time out. Yeah, I suppose my position there bleeds through in those previous sentences like red win on a brand new white dress, but it's something that's come well-earned with the dearth of utter drek on Steam.
"Roguelite" has become a term for a game that basically banks its variety on a string of suffixes and prefixes and palette swaps that pass for variety, as opposed to a variety in actual game mechanics. Shattered Planet skillfully avoids that trap, with a series of very different enemies, each which behave in each ways, and the palette-swapped enemies at least have some different art to them as well.
That enemy and weapon variety certainly helps the game
That really is the bugbear of many of these games: the lack of actual variety in enemy/weapon/map designs, but there's a lot to like in Shattered Planet. The game has some actual depth in those characters available, both in terms of the player characters (with a handful of classes and several appearances to choose from for each of them), the various enemies and NPCs (not everything is hostile!), and weapons. There's some obvious fun that's been had with the development of the game that carries over to the "flavour text" as well, something that might grate on or irritate some, but I kind of enjoyed, in a dry chuckle sort of way. There's a variety of life: mutants, sea crabs, carnivorous plants, murderous robots, and wandering tribesman, just to list the early ones so as not to give the kind of spoilers that get me spat upon in the street.
The central premise of Shattered Planet provides a very neat encapsulating way, if a somewhat generic one: the planet you are tasked with exploring is, as the title alludes, "shattered" - being slowly destroyed by a spreading entity called "the Blight" by the game. There's a fair bit of lore in the game that is actually quite interesting, though as I said, I like not getting spat upon on the street, so I won't spoil it here! Nonetheless, while there are a few common enemies, and enemy types, there are also plenty of unique ones and I think the game finds a good balance. That "shattered" bit of the planet helps explain the disparate tile maps, and the procedural generation is pretty tight - none of the maps generated over many hours of play were broken or had problems in any significant way.
Likewise, there are quite a variety of weapons across the game, most of which are unlocked from stores during missions or likewise pickups, which then unlocks them to be created at random on the ship you have between missions. You have two currencies - scrap, which is used to upgrade your clone out of the missions and buy items during the missions at shop npcs, and crystals, which are used to buy special items and new weapons and armour while out of mission. So finding those store kiosks across missions, or new pickups as you travel (or from special items which involve a stat roll to interact with) are your primary means of unlocking things, and that comes across my first major problem with the game.
Since the meta progression of the weapon unlocks
is at the mercy of the RNG, the game's meta progression can feel stodgy
This is perhaps the most uneven experience I had with Shattered Planet, and it stood out for me because the rest of the game had a lot of polish and a lot of attention given to being very tight. Shattered Planet has taken some lengths to make sure that you don't get screwed over by random effects, such as keeping explosions that destroy random tiles from completely removing the path to the teleporter to the next level, and similar things, so the meta progression often hitting that wall so to speak, it stood out somewhat.
Bad runs are just something of a factor in any roguelike game, and probably an integral part of the experience, honestly, and to be fair to Shattered Planet, it very much seems to capture the FTL experience, where even the failed missions seem interesting and fun. This is why it stands out to me to have runs where I don't find one of those new unlocks, because exploring more of this little world is the primary draw to Shattered Planet, and the game does that very well with a good mix of tongue-in-cheek humour, genuinely interesting lore, and a few ominous bits that are quite aptly kept rare to keep from blowing that big secret, as it were. It's a game that seems to understand moderation in such things, and it does that quite well, except with those unlocks. Quite puzzling really, but not a game-breaking criticism by any means.
The main design problem is that with a meta progression,
you can very easily end up doubling-down on a losing streak
As I mentioned previously, the crystals are the main way to get items to bring into missions - you only carry over items from a previous mission if you survive it, and the game is built around the idea that you won't. As such, the main objective is to collect as much scrap and crystals as you can to upgrade and get new items, since those do carry over, and while scrap is fairly common and you won't find yourself often not able to upgrade some stats upon returning, but I had a few missions where I didn't have items, since those are bought with crystals, your main source of which is smashing crystal items that then give you the currency crystals, and the appearance of those are random. The game is wise enough to give you a certain amount of crystals for every level after a certain point, but if you can't make it that far, you're just sorry, out of luck.
That said, those are really my only two real problems with the game. It exudes a high level of polish, the art design is pretty slick, the controls are responsive, and I didn't come across any real bugs. It made for a fun exploration-based RPG game with some interesting lore and some tight mechanics, and I quite enjoyed my time with it.