You are an explorer, and the best job you could find is working for Kindred Aerospace (proudly, the fourth best interstellar exploration company in the galaxy). That’s the setup for Typhoon Studios’ “Journey to the Savage Planet,” which co-founder and creative director Alex Hutchinson calls an “earnest comedy.”
In practice, “Journey to the Savage Planet” looks like “No Man’s Sky,” if Hello Games had aimed for a focused, 10 to 12-hour experience. Players won’t be leaving the planet they’re tasked to map, but they will be harvesting resources and fabricating upgrades using a 3D printer on their ship.
Hutchinson cites “Metroid Prime” (along with “Far Cry” and “Subnautica”) as influences for the game. The bright, lively visual style is inspired in part by “Men in Black” and “Ghostbusters.”
The soundtrack is twangy, along the lines of “Borderlands,” but far more upbeat. There’s also a happy AI that offers a virtual pat on the back every time you’ve achieved an objective. It’s a charming, welcoming aesthetic that harks back to the 16-bit era’s cheerful offerings.
“It’s inspired for me by games I played on the Super Nintendo and Amiga 500,” Hutchinson says. “They’ve always been optimistic and bright and fun vacations to go on as opposed to escaping yet another nuclear winter. It’s an adventure game, so you’re going here for positive reasons.”
The game opens with a cheery video from Kindred CEO Martin Tweed, reminiscent of fictional company Buy ‘n’ Large from Disney’s “Wall-E.” Tweed extols the virtue of Kindred’s work and you’re off to explore a supposedly uninhabited planet fit for human habitation that has clearly been home to sentient creatures at some point.
Throughout the game, players will progress through three different biomes as they climb a tower looming over the planet. Along the way, Typhoon is peppering the colorful terrain exploration, combat, and puzzle challenges. The adorable creatures that roam the land are ripe for kicking into puzzle elements, after being lured by Kindred’s synthetic food product, a grey blob of Grob.
You’ll only have access to one gun during the game, but “Metroid”-style upgrades and a host of gadgets round out the experience. These include Pomegrenades that grow in the wild, goo that can be used as jump pads, a grappling hook you’ll craft on your ship, and an overcharge for your gun that can additionally be used to ricochet and hit a host of creatures.
New live-action advertisements for cosmic consumables play upon return to the ship. The other featured in the GDC demo was an Adult Swim-style commercial for the Grob food substance. The humor hits the right notes, helping build out “Journey to the Savage Planet’s” world as a complement to the action.
Typhoon isn’t targeting the $60 game market intentionally. The team is being methodical about its design so players stick with it.
“It’s not a full-price game,” Hutchinson says. “It’s an indie title. We want people to finish the game.”
To facilitate that, “Journey to the Savage Planet” will have objective tracking. Players won’t be wandering aimlessly around the world.
“It’s the right balance between huge, super-open exploration a la ‘Subnautica,’ and then more directed experiences that don’t have any room for player expression,” Hutchinson explains.”
Even though Typhoon is giving players a little nudge, there’s plenty off the beaten path to explore. Hutchinson says that he’s taken the opposite path from former employer Ubisoft, which believes that “hidden content is wasted content.” Expect easter eggs and hidden jokes throughout the game.
Typhoon has been working on “Journey to the Savage Planet” for about 18 months. Hutchinson and his partners, Reid Schneider and Yassine Riahi, put up the initial capital themselves. They brought some investment funds from friends and family, but things took off when outside venture capital investors took an interest.
Maker’s Fund, headed up by Jay Chi and Michael Chung raised $200 million in 2018 to invest in entertainment properties around the world. In addition to Typhoon, Maker’s Fund is backing “Surgeon Simulator” developer Bossa Studios and esports matchmaking company FaceIt.
Typhoon picked up a publishing deal with 505 Games, which is also handling Remedy’s “Control.” 505 Games is all-in on the Epic Games Store, and both “Journey to the Savage Planet” and “Control” will be PC exclusives on that storefront.