The Lost Planet series has a bit of a funny place in the gaming market - with fairly low sales, they have reached something of a cult status, and with me being a part of that niche market, I was glad to hear that Capcom decided to have a third crack at Akrid hunting on E.D.N. III.
However, there’s a bit of a divide between the fans of Lost Planet – some loved the original’s freezing climate and narrative-driven campaign, while others fell for the lush environments and arcade-style co-op story mode - I’m one of the few people I know of that actually loves both, for all of those reasons. My ideal Lost Planet title would be the setting and storyline of the first, with the additional co-op and replay value of the second. So when I heard that Lost Planet 3 would be a prequel set in the extreme conditions of the original, I was interested to see what it would bring to the series. This week, I got my hands on a copy to find out.
Lost Planet 3 stars Jim Peyton, working as a contractor for NEVEC (Neo Venus Construction) on the first expedition to the ice planet E.D.N. III, where they hope to find a new source of energy to solve the problem of a crisis-stricken Earth. Their answer comes in the form of Thermal Energy, a source of energy held within the bodies of the hostile Akrid creatures that inhabit the planet’s surface. As NEVEC work to find an efficient way of harvesting T-Energy, Jim finds himself uncovering dark secrets held by NEVEC and the truth behind their activities on E.D.N. III, whilst striving to build a life for his wife and son back on Earth.
Developed by Spark Unlimited rather than Capcom’s internal team, the game’s visuals look great, and while it’s apparent that there’s a slightly different style to the visuals, the characters look good and there’s a definite continuity of the original Akrid designs and various other aspects of the game world, so it feels like part of the same universe.
As soon as I gained control of Jim, it was immediately noticeable that Lost Planet 3 feels quite different from its predecessors. The camera is a lot closer to Jim’s back, and the gun control feels more in line with games such as recent Resident Evil titles or Dead Space, which new players might feel more familiar with in comparison to LP1 and 2′s more unusual control styles. Also changed is the grapple ability – while previous games allowed the protagonists to zip themselves to pretty much any surface, LP3 replaces this, allowing Jim to grapple only to set points for more streamlined progression through the environment. I also noticed that Jim feels somewhat slower than in the other games – his standard “running” speed feeling actually a bit *too* slow, with me feeling that I have to hold the sprint button at all times to get around at a good pace.
The result of the game’s control changes make Jim feel a lot more vulnerable than usual Lost Planet gameplay. While progressing through the icy environments and Akrid-infested facilities, it feels as though every enemy is a potential threat, and the bigger Akrid are hulking behemoths that greatly overpower you. With a slower character and no freeform grapple, well-timed evasive rolls are important for avoiding many attacks, while of course plugging away at their orange-coloured weak-spots whenever you get a chance.
Ammo is limited for Jim’s primary weapons, and can be refilled by picking up ammo caches littered around the environment. His pistol, however, has an infinite supply of ammo for when things get tight. New to the series is a new combat knife as part of your arsenal, but the knife if restricted only to defensive QTE style sections when Akrid get a little too close. Of course, there are a variety of weapons to choose from – Jim can hold two primary weapons at a time, and more weapons are unlocked as you find or purchase new weapons.
While Thermal Energy is usually tied to regenerating health in Lost Planet, it is instead used as currency in LP3. Between missions, Jim can spend time in the NEVEC base, where he can spend T-Energy on new weapons and upgrades, talk to his colleagues and pick up any optional missions to earn some extra cash. The other characters are fairly diverse and some are more memorable than others, but it was a really nice to see a young Gale Holden - the father of Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions’ protagonist - included as a connection to the original game.
As always, a large portion of the game involves trudging through various environments taking down groups of Akrid, but LP3 introduces the Rig, a huge construction mech. Lost Planet 3 consists of an assortment of areas on a world map which you can travel between using fairly linear routes that are only traversable using the Rig. When piloting the Rig, action is controlled in a first-person perspective, with its various tools at your disposal. While NEVEC prohibit the weaponization of Rigs, the arms, drills and other tools are available for dishing out damage to Akrid as well as getting around – allowing you to take down some larger Akrid with relative ease after learning the basics.
For the most part, the Rig acts as a “metroidvania” style progression system, with each upgrade obtained during the story allowing access to new areas. While I liked the concept of a “mobile base” with combat capabilities and exploration, the reality of the matter is that 90% of the time spent on board involves stomping slowly through fairly bland caves until you reach your destination. There’s some occasional radio conversations and video messages to keep it interesting, and you’re even provided with an on-board music selection, but I couldn’t help noticing my interest drifting onto other things while I held the analogue stick firmly in the “up” position until I got from point A to B at times.
+ Back to the harsh climate loved in Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions
+ E.D.N. III’s icy environments look great and the game’s visuals are solid
+ Return to a stronger narrative compared to Lost Planet 2.
- Combat has been changed to a more typical third-person shooter style, losing the “Lost Planet” feel in the process
- Travelling both in the Rig and on foot can become tedious at times
- Lost the co-op features and replay value that Lost Planet 2 brought to the series
As a fan of the previous two games, I was disappointed with the gameplay changes that Lost Planet 3 bring to the series – rather than building upon the core gameplay features and upgrading the exciting action gameplay I’ve grown to love, the game instead seems to conform to a more typical third-person shooter style and sacrifices many of the features that make the series stand out as unique and exciting in my eyes. That said, as an individual title it’s a good-looking game with solid gameplay, so fans of third-person shooters might enjoy the experience – and as a prequel wouldn’t need to have any prior knowledge to understand the story. For me, however, the changes to the format have taken the game too far from its roots to enjoy it as a Lost Planet title.