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Exploring a colorful and gross alien world in Journey to the Savage Planet

One of the first things I discover on the Savage Planet is an enormous skull, so big I can walk through its mouth and wander around inside it like a cave. There I kill a few flying octopus monsters—I tried to come in peace, but these things jumped up attacked me first—and then I see a gigantic pink uvula dangling from that roof of the skull's mouth. I leap up, grab onto the fleshy uvula (it's roughly the size of my own head), rip it loose, and quickly eat it. 

Well, why the hell not? I'm stranded on this strange alien planet so I'll take my meals where I can find them. And it's certainly not the most disgusting thing I'll do while I'm here.

I recently got to play a short demo of Journey to the Savage Planet, a first-person exploration game planned for 2020. (Note: the video above (and here on YouTube) and gifs on this page aren't from my playthrough, the footage was supplied to me.) It's the first game from Typhoon Studios, which was founded by former creative director of Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed 3, Alex Hutchinson, along with other industry veterans from EA and Warner Bros. As an astronaut and pioneer for Kindred Aerospace—they're the fourth-best interstellar exploration company, which is really confidence-boosting—I'm tasked with exploring and cataloging everything on this wild planet to determine if it's suitable for colonization by human beings.

I wouldn't even call this planet a particularly savage one, really. There are some hostile creatures here, like those hovering octupi who attack me whenever I get close. I can (usually) sidestep the gross black goo they spit at me before it splatters all over my face and make short work of them with my space gun. I'm already feeling like Kindred Aerospace's fourth best astronaut.

I do occasionally hear a deep and ferocious roar in the distance... but how dangerous could whatever is making it be, really? Everything else here seems either indifferent to me or just plain scared. I laugh when I approach some short purple dinosaurs and they flee from me, shrieking in fear, sounding for all the world like a maid in a 1950's slapstick comedy who's just seen a mouse in the kitchen. Turn on the sound in the gif below and you'll see what I mean. Aieeeeeee! 

There are also pufferbirds hopping harmlessly here and there, round little creatures that mean me no harm and who are easily splattered into glop by my gun and led around by the promise of food. I carry cans of compressed cheese with me in my free hand, and when I throw them the pufferbirds scuttle over to eat it. This is useful when I need to, say, trick the pufferbirds into flocking into the maw of an alien plant with spinning fan blades for a mouth. Those pufferbirds are very trusting right up until they're liquefied, safely disabling the fan-plants and dousing the area in bird guts.

The planet may not be terribly savage at the moment, but it is an extraordinarily bright and colorful one, like one of those especially lovely planets you happen upon in No Man's Sky where the weather isn't toxic rain and the trees aren't hideously ugly. The Savage Planet isn't procedurally generated, though: it's handcrafted and it's the only planet you'll visit in the game.

It's also a bit tricky to navigate. Savage Planet has a first-person platformer feel to it, with cliffs and ledges and areas that take some puzzling over before you can figure out how to reach them. I find myself trying to reach a peak and having to circle around and try different methods of hopping and climbing to reach it. And ultimately I don't have much luck scaling the looming cliffs, usually plummeting back down and having to circle around again to try to spot an easier route to the top. 

One of my first tasks is to find the necessary resources to craft a grappling hook, which I assume will make getting around much easier, but I keep getting sidetracked by alluring new areas of the planet. Which is a good thing! Alien planets are meant to be explored and I don't want to simply follow a quest marker for fear of missing something unusual or interesting. 

Seeing as how I'm armed with a scanner I naturally want to identify and catalogue every species I can (again, shades of No Man's Sky). During my demo I never even get around to crafting my grappling hook, but in an extended spelunking expedition into an underground cavern I do find a sort of spore grenade, which I can fling into the world and create a giant springy growth I can bounce around on. There is also a mysterious glowing altar deep underground that I can't figure out the purpose of during my brief demo.

I'm eager to see more of Savage Planet. It's not meant to be a particularly long game—Hutchinson has described it as "a focused, really high-quality slice of what would traditionally be considered a triple-A experience." In just the tentative bit of exploring there seemed to be all manner of different biomes to discover, and I'm intrigued to do more leisurely exploration, especially to find ways to scale the cliffs, explore more dungeons, and meet more oddball creatures like the bad boy you see above.

Journey to the Savage Planet is due out in early 2020, and it'll be available on the Epic Games Store.

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.