Journey to the Savage Planet co-op multiplies the goofs without sacrificing its soul

Regardless of quality, almost every game is more enjoyable in co-op. Great times can be shared through the controller as well as pain, tapping into a communal form of bonding that video games excel at. Resident Evil best showcases this as its terrible (RE6), middling (RE5), and excellent (Revelations 2) installments are all slightly better with a friend. Journey to the Savage Planet may not have zombies but it is launching with a cooperative mode that gently drops one more person onto your titular savage planet. Not much changes in the game, but it still seems to abide by the rule that co-op is mostly an additive experience.

This is because the game doesn’t radically alter itself to accommodate another human; they just traverse the planet alongside you. You appear to get the same world to explore with the same objectives with a tethering leash that’s either nonexistent or extremely forgiving. Not having to stay within a tight radius matches the game’s freeform approach where you’re encouraged to go out and document the local wildlife.

ALSO: How Journey to the Savage Planet was inspired by archaeology and Assassin’s Creed 3

Exploring is still where the game shines as its beautiful, modestly-sized world is digestible and filled with dorky wildlife that’s begging to be tampered with or kicked. Chaining together reactions from its naturally grown throwables or crafted gadgets breeds this sense of unpredictability that makes the player-driven comedy work in a way that’s consistent with the game’s attitude. That unpredictability is multiplied with another person, as they can also be tossing their own acid booger grenades unbeknownst to you and cause more hilarious mayhem. It becomes exponentially more goofy with someone else, which is what a co-op mode like this should add.

Journey to the Savage Planet Co-Op Preview | Getting by with a little help from a friend

journey to the savage planet co-op preview

Executive Producer Reid Schneider was my partner during the demo, being on the unfortunate receiving end of many of my poorly (or expertly) timed explosive reactions and backhanded slaps. He spoke about how Journey to the Savage Planet’s newly announced co-op is always better a friend and is what makes a fun game even more fun.

“Co-op is a good amplifier,” he said. “If a game is fun by itself, it is always more fun with a friend. We put a lot of focus so you can enjoy the game in single-player. Alex [Hutchinson], our creative director, worked on Far Cry 4 and we worked together on Army of Two [The 40th Day], and Alex is a really big believer in what he calls ‘intimate co-op.’ If we could bring that to the game and have friends laughing together on the couch [Editor’s note: co-op is online only], we felt that would be a cool experience for people.”

Even though the team announced it as a single-player title, the idea has been in their collective minds for quite some time. The hard part was just trying to figure out how to implement it without breaking the core solo experience.

“We actually knew we wanted to do it from the beginning,” he explained. “We wanted to really make sure that we could do it from a technical perspective so people will have fun with it. And you never want to break the single-player just to add in a feature. So we always felt that if we could add it on, it’s just gonna be another way for players to play and have a good time.”

Since it is just about the same game, it doesn’t break the multiplayer. Unless you truly want to try to make this an isolated space sim — which isn’t quite what the game is going for — Journey to the Savage Planet almost seems better as a co-op game since you two can tackle the multiple open objectives at the same time and cut down on running back and forth. You can also revive each other; a huge bonus for some of those tougher fights. Death isn’t too punishing in either mode though as you’ll just resurrect at your ship and be tasked with retrieving your gear, Dark Souls-style.

Journey to the Savage Planet Co-Op Preview | Not sacrificing its core

journey to the savage planet co-op preview

Unlike some of those aforementioned Resident Evil games, the co-op here doesn’t water down the game’s core. Absorbing the world doesn’t lose its awe with another person and still has all of the same qualities it did during E3. Its controls, vibrant art design, liberating sense of freedom, humorous style, and promising upgrade loop thankfully look to remain unsullied by its multiplayer mode. It’s an open enough premise that can easily facilitate another person without sacrificing its values.

Developer Typhoon Studios’ decision to add co-op to the game doesn’t expand the game’s scope too much. After all, its relative brevity is what the team has been emphasizing since not everyone has the time or will to dump time into games with hundreds of hours of content. Schneider said it would be a 10 to 12-hour campaign with plenty of replayability and this tighter scope means the team felt that a $30 price point was “sensible” for the game, as well as its lonesome January 2020 release date. Given how it is trying to buck trends of living forever inside of your system, this date and price point seems like smart positioning since a game like this could get lost in a busier month.

Journey to the Savage Planet is a title that appears to be like it’ll be strengthened by that focus. Wandering around the open world and completing objectives was soothing and satisfying in a way that would probably be overwhelming in a bigger game. It allows the experience to have an upgrade loop of a more linear experience while also being able to enjoy the freedom of an open world that is, again, on a smaller scale. And while the final release will have to have enough surprises in a world that holds up after a few hours, at least it doesn’t look like that will be soiled by another person. Well, unless your friend is an asshole. But at least it’ll be funny.