Jim Peyton’s wife, Grace, keeps him warm in the ferocious cold of E.D.N. III with her easy smile and knowing looks. Even though she’s off-world, her video messages are enough for Jim, the star of Lost Planet 3. He’s here to do a job, earn some credits, and get back to his family.
It’s easy to see the wild west influences of Capcom’s co-developer, Spark Unlimited, in Lost Planet 3, which launches on August 27th in North America. The developers at Spark return the series to a more primal, personal space, more in line with the cult hit original that eschews Lost Planet 2’s tropical detour and large-scale cooperative design.
The core of Lost Planet 3 is Jim. He’s a no-nonsense guy — well written, acted, and instantly likeable. He’s thrust into his role on E.D.N. III as a rig pilot and construction expert, but he’s soon slinging guns and sipping on hot soup to bat off the native critters and cold, respectively. He carries a pistol he’s not afraid to use, and he’s willing to tackle the hard jobs at a moment’s notice… assuming there’s hazard pay involved.
Lost Planet 3 has a surprising amount of heart for a game set on an unforgiving alien world. The science operation that’s set up shop on E.D.N. III is filled with memorable characters, Jim included, and provides a much-needed sense of sanctuary. The team is here to find a new form of energy and save the crumbling governments back home.
Spending time at the Coronis base means upgrading Jim’s rig, buying weapons, getting job orders, and talking with the staff. It’s not exactly Mass Effect, but these new character-centric moments provide welcome respite between missions. Then it’s back to work on the planet’s surface as Jim hops aboard his rig, fires up the engine, and stomps out into the snow to make vital repairs and hunt the Akrid (see: critters).
Piloting the rig brings Lost Planet 3 into first-person, mech simulation territory — a major departure from the third-person camera views that marked the other two games. Inside the cockpit, Jim’s largely safe. He can listen to the music Grace sent him while he trudges through storms, completing jobs and collecting Thermal Energy.
The rig lumbers about with a palpable sense of weight, and pebbles from storms leave chips and cracks on the windshield. This mech feels real and substantial, lending an air of authenticity to the experience. And when the native Akrid get riled up, Jim’s rig has a powerful claw and drill designed to rip them limb from limb, and a weapon locker on each foot. Because sometimes Jim just needs to hoof it.
When Jim rappels down the front of his rig, the action switches back to a third-person camera. He’s more vulnerable when he’s outside, but he’s also more mobile. And as long as he stays in range of his rig’s “umbilical field,” he gets data streamed to his HUD, including an invaluable minimap and a weapons loadout. But the moment he has to duck into a cave, or stray too far — which will definitely happen — that field flickers and fades. And that’s when E.D.N. III starts to feel really scary.
Lost Planet 3 caters this action in smart servings, with trips back to the Coronis and enough side-missions to vary the pacing of the campaign. In some ways Lost Planet 3 feels like an open-world game, considering the amount of choice players have in picking their next job. And while it’s not quite as open at the start, there are enough collectible goodies and hidden secrets to keep serial explorers content.
And those secrets are worth getting to. Finding specialized components can enable rig upgrades that protect Jim from the ravages of E.D.N. III. But to find them, Jim needs to fight through nests of Akrid — creatures that force a variety of combat situations. Notably, Lost Planet 3’s aliens feel less like a host of mismatched monsters and more like a cohesive ecosystem of predators.
Some Akrid swarm up and around Jim, others hang back and lob sizzling secretions through the dark. More still will prowl and pounce, forcing Jim to empty a few shotgun shells or chuck a grenade. And, true to series form, you can expect to encounter Akrid that redefine the meaning of the word “vast,” including one crab-like brute that burst from the ice, all snapping claws and glowing eyes.
Of course there’s more to E.D.N. III than Jim is lead to believe. All too soon, Jim faces the possibility that there’s something else on the planet other than the Akrid and the crew of the Coronis. But Jim has a hot cup of coffee to keep him going, and thoughts of his beautiful wife living far, far away on an increasingly desperate Earth. That’s more than enough for any man to earn a living and, in Jim’s case, stay alive.