The Riftbreaker preview: Base-building and tower defense in a vast alien jungle

Riftbreaker Main Image
Riftbreaker Main Image (Image credit: EXOR Studios)

In The Riftbreaker, you play as Ashley S. Nowak, a scientist, and commando equipped with a Mecha-suit that has been titled, Mr. Riggs. After taking a portal to the distant planet of Galatea 37, you have a simple task: gather enough resources to build a complex series of generators, completing a base that can create a new portal, and get you back home.

Tower defense games generally follow a simple pattern, requiring you to build up elaborate death mazes of turrets and traps while drawing in vast numbers of foes. The Riftbreaker puts an intriguing twist on that concept, as you are forced to balance upgrading your mech and powering your defenses with working towards the main objective. If you're a fan of tower defense or even real-time strategy games, this is one worth taking a look at.

Brace for impact

Unfortunately, the indigenous lifeforms aren't going to just let you gather resources in peace. They'll attack in swarms, and I mean truly massive swarms. Hundreds upon hundreds of gnawing, bashing, slashing, charging, acid-spitting creatures will attack your base in regular intervals. The more you build up and upgrade your base, the more the creatures are drawn to attack.

Riftbreaker Destruction Image (Image credit: Windows Central)

Riftbreaker Combat (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

There are multiple difficulty levels to play around with, and even Normal can be challenging, so if you're feeling overwhelmed too quickly, don't hesitate to try the easiest setting out. The other settings seem solid enough, with a handful of graphics options but nothing too in-depth. There is controller support, as well as full button remapping.

When starting off, you can hack or burn your way through the dense overgrowth to gather some resources. This makes for a fairly compelling gameplay loop. Making progress on your objective attracts more attention from alien creatures, which requires stronger defenses, which takes more resources. If you're getting overrun, you'll have to spend more resources building everything back up again, and so the cycle continues.

The full game will have a campaign to go through, but for now, there's just a demo and Survival mode. The demo gives a quick rundown of how everything works while Survival mode tasks you with building a base and getting a portal up and running.

In addition to upgrading your defenses and managing your base, there are also new weapons to craft and upgrades to unlock, most of which require special materials you can't just mine from large deposits. That means if you want better gear, you have to risk going out into the wild.

Riftbreaker Construction Image (Image credit: Windows Central)

Riftbreaker Upgrade Menu (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

Reveling in destruction

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One of the biggest draws here in the large-scale devastation, which is powered by EXOR Studios' in-house engine. It doesn't matter how many trees stand in your way. You can chop through them or simply burn it all down. This means you can wander as far as you want from your base and always hack your way back. If an alien swarm is bearing down on your structures and you're too far away, you can teleport in on any portals you've constructed. It's a nice way of managing exploration with defense since the latter gets pretty hectic at times.

The massive amount of havoc you can wreak stays true for the enemy swarms as well. You're one woman (and her mech) against hundreds or even thousands of swarming monsters. Using flamethrowers, blades, machine guns, and more, carving a bloody swathe through these different creatures is satisfying but never easy.

There'll be a variety of different biomes in the full game, but right now, it's just a jungle. Given the emphasis on hacking through the dense overgrowth, I'm curious exactly how well the other biomes will play, but more options is certainly appreciated. Some of the terrains that are promised for the final release include volcanic and snowy settings, which I'm eager to see and explore.

Final thoughts on The Riftbreaker

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The preview build of The Riftbreaker is certainly promising, though far from complete. I'm curious exactly what form the campaign will take, as well as how long it'll be and what kinds of missions will be present to instill some variety. Still, the base gameplay loop and setting are already impressive, so there's a lot of potential here.

The Riftbreaker is currently scheduled to release sometime later in 2020 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

PC Gaming


Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.