E3 2019 Hands-on: The Riftbreaker

If there’s one thing that attending multiple E3 and PAX West expos has taught me, it’s that the Polish indie games scene is thriving. Over the past few years, both expos have had a booth dedicated to titles coming from a country that isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when one thinks about gaming (aside from CD Projekt Red, probably).

I’ve had the opportunity to try out a number of these Polish indies in the past, from the historical drama of We. The Revolution to one of my first VR experiences, Detached. At E3 2019, developer EXOR Studios was repping the Polish games industry with their upcoming title, The Riftbreaker.

My experience with the game was mostly guided, as I played through the demo with the studio’s COO Paweł Lekki giving me pointers.

The Riftbreaker is a mash-up of a number of genres; Lekki described the game to me as a Action-RPG Base Builder. Toss in some Tower Defense and perhaps some Real-Time Strategy, and you’ll have what my impressions were after my hands-on time. The game had me constantly switching up between building defenses, setting up tower turrets, mining materials, and straight-up hack-and-slashing enemy hordes.

The demo set me up in a pre-built base with essentially unlimited building materials, and Lekki walked me through how to build walls and turrets, suggesting places where I should put them up (as, of course, he knew this demo quite well). He then directed me to head to another area on the map – a newly-discovered resource area where I had to build a mine and set up an outpost base.

Getting from point-A to point-B meant fighting some monsters, and hot damn were there a lot of them. I had access to a few weapons: an automatic rifle, a rocket launcher, a beam sword, and a shield, of which I could only have two equipped at a time. Weapons were activated using the trigger buttons on the controller I was using (Xbox One in this case), and once I had the hang of things, I was cutting through the hordes like a hot knife through butter. I’m sure that my character was buffed up for the demo as well, but I did suffer a couple deaths. These weren’t all that painful though, as I simply respawned back at the main base and hiked right on back out again.

I arrived at my destination, built the mine, and starting building some defensive walls…but I was too slow. Night fell, and with it came a massive swarm of monsters. I hadn’t finished my walls, so I had to tough it out and fight off the creatures. Riftbreaker doesn’t allow one to build and fight at the same time, so plugging up the walls wasn’t a simple option.

From here I unlocked an option to warp between my newly-built outpost and the main base, and I went on a couple quick monster-extermination quests before the end of the demo came. Returning to my base, Lekki warned me that I had better build up my defenses quickly. Taking his words to heart, I built up as many walls and turrets as money could buy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as the screen soon filled with an absolutely massive wave of monsters. They made short work of my pitiful defenses and took me down, as the screen faded to black. Of course, this crazy rush of enemies was done on purpose to cap off the demo.

The Riftbreaker, from my initial impressions, seems like it’ll be a strong game for RTS fans looking for a narrower focus and more player agency in their games. I personally enjoyed being out in the field taking down enemies more than I did the base-building aspect, but that’s less a fault of the game and more where my interests in game mechanics lie.

I do think a mouse and keyboard setup would’ve benefited this game more; the number of buttons used to toggle between different modes and loadouts just screams that there’s not enough buttons on a controller for this game. Luckily, the game is getting a release on Steam, so I presume this issue will be resolved by simply playing the PC version.

The Riftbreaker was definitely one of the more polished indies I had the opportunity to try at E3 this year, and I look forward to seeing what else the game has in store upon its full release.

The Riftbreaker was developed and will be published by EXOR Studios on PC, PS4, and Xbox One sometime in 2020.

Screenshots courtesy of EXOR Studios.