Old school meets new school in RiftStar Raiders, a top-down, sci-fi themed shoot ’em up. Climax Studios’ twin stick shooter is fast paced, incredibly challenging and comes with a high skill cap. So hop in your spaceship and get ready for one intense ride.
In RiftStar Raiders, a hive-mind of alien AI, who go by the fluffy monkier of “Warswarm,” have waged war on humanity. It falls to you and your ragtag team of Raiders to take them out. You and up to 3 friends take on the roles of rogue pilots, your classic Han Solo types who’ll accept any mission as long as there’s enough money involved.
Essentially, it’s a bullet hell with shoot and loot mechanics that looks and sounds great on paper. The graphics are amazing, a blend of 3D and 2D animation. It sports an excellent sound track and you can’t beat the classic top-down point-of-view. Unfortunately the game falls short in other, more crucial areas. The biggest offender being the controls.
The two stick mechanic doesn’t work so well in zero gravity it seems. Similar to the 1979 arcade game, Asteroids (click here to try it!), your ship drifts out of your control every time you fly in a certain direction. This is a huge deal when you’re trying to avoid enemy fire, navigating through a mine field or both! Overshooting where you’re trying to go, even by an inch, can get you killed in games like RiftStar Raiders.
I felt like a buffoon trying to fly and shoot at the same time as well. My aiming was atrocious. I was drifting and missing all over the place. There is a fix for this though, albeit a bad one. Players are able to stabilize their ship and move at a snail’s pace. This makes it easier to aim and navigate through environmental hazards but sacrifices speed and dodging capabilities; a hard call to make if you’re being swarmed by enemies.
The enemies, comprised of space pirate gangs and hordes of aliens, along with the game’s nine different stages are another of RiftStar Raiders‘s frustrations. The sheer amount of baddies and level hazards make the game so damn hard. While I hate losing/dying as much as the next guy, I rarely ever get so frustrated with a game that I just want to quit playing. I rage-quit RiftStar Raiders at least six times during my review process; twice during the tutorial.
I understand the game is meant to be challenging, most games are to some degree, but when you overcome a “hard part” you’re typically filled with relief and accomplishment. For me it was less relief and more a desperation to finish. I wanted the level to end because I had restarted so much already. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself, “If I die one more time I’m done with this game.”
Playing with friends didn’t help ease the difficulty either. In fact, it made the whole game a lot harder. While I only played with one other, RiftStar Raiders can support up to four players at a time. The extra ship was just a nuisance though. We essentially gave the enemies more targets to hit and ourselves less room to maneuver. We had a bad time. Videogames have the right to be challenging, unforgiving even. But when you’re doing everything you can in a game and it’s still not good enough, playing becomes frustrating and borderline unenjoyable.
That’s not to say RiftStar Raiders didn’t have its high points though. When I wasn’t swearing at the screen after dying for the umpteenth time, I was busy modding or upgrading my ship (which was awesome). If a player manages to complete a mission, they get access to all the perks and upgrades they picked-up along the way.
Each ship has three sections that can be modified: weapons, shield and engine. Gamers can mix and match different equipment to find a combination that suits their playstyle or current mission the best. Perks are another customization element and can affect a variety of things in combat, such adding crowd control effects to your attacks or increase your damage. Adjusting my ship’s load-out was hands down my favorite part of RiftStar Raiders. I only wish I was able to do it more often…
While I clearly had issues with RiftStar Raiders, others may not. I stand by my criticisms of the controls and extreme difficulty but with enough practice and LOADS of patience, I’m sure anyone can master the mayhem and find the enjoyment that eluded me. Pick it up today on the PlayStation Store for only $19.99. You can also play RiftStar Raider on Steam and Xbox One. I highly recommend you try before buy though. A demo is available on each platform. Best of luck! You’re going to need it.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Good Game. Bad Issues.
Gameplay - 6.5/10
Design - 8.5/10
Challenge - 10/10
Maybe I just suck but RiftStar Raiders was too difficult for me to enjoy. Difficult controls led to a frustrating gameplay experience. But for those willing to stick with it and show RiftStar who's boss, you'll be rewarded with beautiful visuals, deep ship customization and classic gameplay all packaged in a one-of-a-kind shoot and loot experience.