The titular savage planet you explore is AR-Y 26. This unassuming name hints at just how little your company thinks of the place. Much to your surprise, not only is it teeming with life, but a giant spire towers over your landing spot, indicating some form of advanced civilization. However, there’s no sign of that species anywhere, so your scouting mission quickly gets a secondary goal of figuring out what happened – a mission that becomes more enticing as you learn about the planet and the creatures that came before you.
The early objectives in this first-person experience are centered on getting your bearings and scanning the surrounding area, which is about all your equipment allows for. However, exploration quickly proves rewarding. For example, I found (and ate) a mysterious orange goo behind a waterfall, bestowing permanent health and stamina upgrades. In addition to 100 orange goo pods, you also find alien alloy (which can be used in crafting), as well as resources dropped by creatures and caches. Cracked walls, high ledges, and grapple points hint at secrets worth exploring, with lore-based discoveries like alien tablets and explorer logs that provide you with videos and messages explaining what happened before your arrival.
You can craft a better battery for your pistol, plus thrusters that give you a double jump, but new crafting options open as you complete sidequests. I love having the option to expand the crafting tree to reach more meaningful rewards like an explosive charged shot, more powerful bombs, and even interface overlays that reveal the locations of nearby collectibles. Even if you don’t want to deviate from the main mission, you still unlock handy traversal abilities like the ground pound to smash through brittle floor, or my personal favorite: a grappling hook to swing from specific points like Spider-Man. Each of these upgrades opens new possibilities for exploration, giving you a reason to return to areas you thought you finished.
As much I enjoy discovering the various secrets, the act of reaching them isn’t always fun. First-person platforming is difficult to get the hang of due to your restricted field of vision, making some platforming sequences harder than they should be. Another problem is the gunplay, which is adequate at best. While your primary weapon is upgradeable with faster reloads, increased damage, and a bigger battery, shooting enemies never feels fun. Aiming is imprecise no matter how you tune the sensitivity, and hitting moving or small targets often proves even more upsetting than the challenging platforming sequences.
If you’d like to chart the planet with a friend, you can jump into an online co-op session. Players scale to the host’s abilities, meaning your friend who hasn’t played more than a couple of hours has access to all the late-game gear you’ve unlocked. While the two co-op explorers aren’t able to play off each other in any meaningful way, having an extra gun in encounters or an extra set of eyes to spot secrets is immensely helpful.
Journey to the Savage Planet presents you with a well-constructed world full of fun collectibles to hunt down and interesting wildlife to survey, but the way the world design encourages and rewards exploration is its biggest accomplishment.