Journey to the Savage Planet reminds me of a lot of games. Immediately upon exiting my spaceship, I'm told of a tool I have for harvesting plants and weird creatures; a scanner to collect data. I can get into trouble with the round bird critters if I aim my gun a certain way. The world I'm on is very, very colorful. The sense of humor is light and tongue in cheek. If this all sounds familiar, that's because we've all played this sort of game before. In Satisfactory. In No Man's Sky. In Astroneer. Even, to an extent, in Destiny.
But this is Journey to the Savage Planet from Typhoon Studios, and this is our first hands-on with the vibrant, cheeky adventure game. As promised in trailers, you're a new recruit to the Kindred Aerospace Pioneer Program, dubbed as the "4th Best" space exploration corporation. Your goal is to explore an uncharted planet, catalog what lives on it, and deem it habitable for humans. Or not.
Its world is immediately eye-catching, and it's definitively not procedurally generated unlike most others in the sci-fi exploration genre. Climates change from bristling cold to tropical paradise with a hop across the planet's islands, and the creatures change to match. In one instance, when crossing what I thought was a frozen lake, the ground beneath me shattered. I had to take out some flying octopus things, and that was that. The problem is, that was the most exciting part of my whole demo.
Journey to the Savage Planet is one of those aimless sorts of exploration games. There are waypoints you can follow, sure, but your own curiosity is the main drive. For instance, I found myself in a giant lava-flowing cave at one point. I hopped across some rocks to get to the other side, neglected to find anything interesting with my scanner in the new area, and turned right back around to leave. My time with Journey to the Savage Planet was a lot of that; going somewhere, not being sure what to do even as I sifted through menus and objectives while aimlessly scanning things, before giving up and moving along.
For pure exploration game fans, I'm sure there's a lot to love. The environments are pretty; there's a lot to craft and mysterious things to chase down. It's the sort of game that's admittedly hard to demo, as we were given relatively free reign in a sliver of a world with a few recommended objectives, like crafting a hook that can grapple to certain flowers.
Unfortunately, the objective markers were obtuse and the descriptions in menus unclear, so I never got around to crafting that grappling hook. It told me to find some element, without telling me where it comes from. I aimlessly wandered around, shooting flowers and other plants in the hope I would find it, but had no luck. Luckily, I at least completed another objective, as I happened upon a strange alien-built stone gazebo, which I scanned and thus unlocked a new teleportation point so I could easily zip around the planet.
I also found a sentient flower mini-boss that spit things at me. I was advised by a nearby representative to sneak around and whack it rather than take it on aggressively. Combat in general feels fine, if not a little one note. Without a larger sense of what I'm building toward, gathering goods and cataloging flora and fauna didn't have much impact.
The biggest takeaway I had from Journey to the Savage Planet was a pervasive feeling of deja vu. In my notebook, I scribbled "I have played this game before;" not in a literal sense, but in an "I don't know what the hook of this game is" way.
I thought back to other adventure games of its type. No Man's Sky's hook is the vastness of its procedurally generated universe. Astroneer's angle is its pastel colors and overall chill vibe. Satisfactory has its factory building focus in between the vibrant planet exploration. The humor in Journey to the Savage Planet also reminds me of Destiny at its worst, like the pestering A.I. Failsafe on the planet Nessus. Even Obsidian's upcoming The Outer Worlds shares a color palette that has made me confuse it with Journey to the Savage Planet on multiple occasions. We'll see if Journey to the Savage Planet shakes out a more memorable identity when it releases in 2020 for PC on the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.