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Lost Planet introduced us to a frigid world full of hostile alien creatures, snow pirates, and a cool mix of on-foot and mech combat. Lost Planet 2 refined some things, included more varied environments, and put a big emphasis on cooperative play. The next main entry in the series is Lost Planet 3 and while the previous games were developed by Capcom, the development of 3 was put in the hands of Spark Unlimited. It was published by Capcom, and released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in August, 2013. For this review, I played the PC version. Lost Planet 3 takes us on another frigid adventure on the planet E.D.N. III. It does feature a multiplayer component which I didn’t get to try so this review will only focus on the single player portion.
Lost Planet 3 is a prequel, set years before the events of the first game. The story centers on Jim Peyton, a man just trying to support his family. He joins an expedition funded by NeoVenus Construction (NEVEC) to mine the resources on the planet E.D.N. III. They hope to tap into the planet’s Thermal Energy which could solve the Earth’s energy problem. As the colonists performs their duties, they have to frequently fend off attacks from the Akrid which are hostile alien creatures that inhabit the planet. As time goes on Jim discovers information about a previous colonization attempt and a conflict ensues between the colonists and NEVEC. Excluding the spin-off title, I think Lost Planet 3 has the best story in the series. To me, the plot seems much more coherent and focused than those of the previous games. I thought the voice performances across the board were good overall, and the performances for several major characters are extremely well done.
Lost Planet 3 is third-person shooter and action game. Like the previous games, you will get to run around and shoot things and grapple around but the mechanics feel streamlined. The game even features a cover mechanic but you can only snap to certain things during certain encounters. You can also perform a roll or evade move which proves to be extremely helpful during battles. Thermal Energy is no longer required for certain weapons or Vital Suits nor is it consumed to regenerate health. In fact, there are no Vital Suits and health regenerates automatically. Thermal Energy is simply a form of currency and like the previous games, is released from fallen enemies.
One of the core elements of the previous games was Vital Suits so it is a little disappointing that they don’t make a return. The Vital Suits were one of the reasons I felt Lost Planet and its sequel were somewhat unique. Vital Suits are mechanized suits equipped with weapons and the mix of on-foot and mech combat was simply cool. For story-related reasons, I can accept their absence in 3 but from a gameplay standpoint, it’s a bummer. However, Jim does have his own Utility Rig that he can pilot and outside of needing it to complete certain objectives, it’s primarily for getting around. It never becomes a weaponized combat machine like the Vital Suits but it can be used to engage enemies. It can drill into foes, smack them around and block attacks. It also self-repairs so taking damage never becomes too much of an issue. You can access and swap out your weapons from your Rig and every time you enter your Rig, all your ammo is replenished. Furthermore, it can play music. As you progress through the story, the Rig will receive new abilities and you can spend the specialized components you acquire on Rig upgrades.
The big thing with Lost Planet 3 is it’s open-ended nature. As you progress through the story and complete missions, you’ll discover new areas and eventually unlock the ability to fast travel. There’s two major areas in the world that act as what I’ll call hubs where you can interact with NPCs, accept missions, and spend Thermal Energy to purchase weapons, ammo, and upgrades. You can take on side missions and despite the fact none of them are very interesting, they are worth completing because of the rewards like enhanced vitality and special ammo types.
Most of the time, you’re free to explore the world at your own leisure and can accept and complete missions whenever you want. However, the story missions are much more enjoyable than any of the side missions and the only reasons to explore the world and complete side missions are for the rewards and Thermal Energy. Lost Planet 3 is still very much a story-driven experience. That said, the mission design does feel uninspired and sometimes repetitive. The story missions that take you on a quest to investigate something and/or to new areas are always more enjoyable than the ones that have you planting T-Posts, retrieving energy from them or defending the Rig from waves of enemies as it drills into the planet.
E.D.N. III is a frigid planet. There’s several what I’ll call regions to explore separated by load points. They’re not massive but altogether make for a large enough world that I was grateful the game lets you fast travel. Most of the regions have an area or two off to the sides to explore but there’s usually not much to see or find. If it wasn’t for the ability to fast travel, getting around would quickly become tedious and boring. It’s safer to get around in the Rig but it doesn’t move fast so traversing any kind of long distance, like moving across multiple regions, will end up feeling like a slog. Ultimately, the world, itself, isn’t really worth exploring. You can kill tons of enemies for Thermal Energy to buy everything but that will get old pretty quick and when playing on the Normal difficulty, you don’t need every weapon and every upgrade to progress. They can make things easier but aren’t necessary. You will come across some weapons in the environments and find audio and text logs and lying around that flesh out the plot and backstory but nothing super interesting ever happens in the world outside of missions.
I am happy to report Lost Planet 3 does have enjoyable gunplay. There’s nothing groundbreaking here but there is a decent amount of firepower in the game and all of the weapons do feel satisfying. You can purchase upgrades to improve them in some way and some weapons can fire special ammo types. Most of the enemies you encounter are the Akrid and they come in different forms and when you get the DNA-tag ammo for the pistol, you can use it to tag enemies to learn more about them. Like the previous games, you want to aim for the obvious weak points and one cool feature is that you can throw grenades into the mouths of certain Akrid and that’s always rewarding. Towards the end of the game, you’ll engage human enemies and they’re not quite as enjoyable to fight. In fact, these battles are very underwhelming and simple. Pop-and-shoot, pop-and-shoot. Just stay behind cover and pop out when they do and then blow them away. They’re not very bright and often run right out into the open.
Lost Planet 3 does retain the series tradition of major boss battles and most of the bosses you engage are large and look cool. You’ll get to battle them on-foot and in your Rig. I enjoyed the on-foot battles more and for a couple of a reasons. One; the battles felt more intense and two; fighting in the Rig is slow, a little clunky, and shallow. The game will prompt you to block or perform certain attacks or fire the winch and it’s just a matter of getting the attack pattern down and going through the motions repeatedly until the boss is defeated. On-foot, you can move around a lot easier, you’ll have access to different firepower, and you’ll have to know when to evade. I just think it’s more enjoyable.
Visually, Lost Planet 3 looks excellent. The environments are very well crafted and do a job at capturing the whole creepy ice-cold world feel. The texture work and lighting are solid and each region manages to successfully convey a sense of frigid hostility. The character models look great although, outside of pre-rendered cut scenes, some animations during interactions can appear stiff. The cool-looking muzzle flashes, explosions, and Akrid enemies exploding into a shower of Thermal Energy are just some of the reasons why the gunplay feels satisfying. Another reason is because the weapons sound great. Most weapons have a nice kick to them. The gameplay is accompanied by a very good soundtrack. A lot of tunes are ambient and moody which really helps drive home the creepy hostile atmosphere. When the action picks up, the music usually picks up and the more dramatic and intense tunes help heighten the tension during battles. On the technical side, the game ran silky smooth and I encountered no major bugs or issues.
Ultimately, I like Lost Planet 3. It’s not the greatest third-person shooter I’ve ever played but it’s not the worst, either. I’m not even implying it’s a bad game. Honestly, I think it’s above average and most importantly, fun to play. I think its open-ended nature could have been handled a little better and the mission design feels uninspired but the gameplay did manage to keep me engaged from beginning to end. Furthermore, I think the story is best out of the three main titles. The narrative remains focused and the story beats always left me curious as to what was going to happen next. I do welcome the streamlined controls and mechanics. I think the lack of Vital Suits is a bit disappointing but contextually makes sense. However, their absence is definitely felt because the mix of on-foot and mech combat is what made the previous games really stand out, at least in my opinion. The Utility Rig doesn’t really make up for their absence but it is kind of cool lumbering around in a giant mechanized suit of armor. It’s just a shame it’s not as fun as piloting a weaponized Vital Suit.
Lost Planet 3 is the kind of game I would recommend getting if it goes on sale. It’s not incredible, it’s not terrible, but it’s worth playing through at least once. It introduces some new ideas and concepts but I don’t think it reaches its full potential. Regardless, if you enjoyed blowing away the Akrid in the previous games, there’s plenty of that here and it’s accompanied by a decent narrative so give it a shot if you’re interested.